real life

"My life at 38 looks so different to my life at 30. Here's what I'd tell my younger self."

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During isolation, we've all had plenty of time on our hands for deep thought and reflection.

It's been both a blessing and a curse. But for the most part, it's been a moment to stop and take stock of where you are in life, and what you've learned along the way.

One big thing I've been reflecting on is how my life has changed throughout my 30s, and what I would tell my (slightly) younger self. I'm 38 and run my own interior design business. My life looks very different to what I expected, in the best way possible.

Here are five things I would have told myself back at 30:

1.    Trust your gut.

In my late 20s, I'd have laughed in your face if you said I'd be working from home later in my 30s (and enjoying it). My life up until then had been go-go-go - I'd worked numerous jobs from running a ski chalet in the French Alps to working in hospitality in the Whitsundays to planning weddings in Melbourne, where I live now.

Trusting my gut has led me to places I'd never have thought. I would tell my younger self to be open-minded to the idea that your gut feelings may change. But you must trust them.

Intuition is a real thing. I've had so many moments where logically I knew the right decision, but deep inside my intuition was telling me differently. From jumping off the train one station earlier because of the guy giving me weird looks and creeping closer to me, to knowing it was time to end a friendship or relationship. We all have it and if you truly learn to listen to it when you need to, you can alter your trajectory.


2. You can always change your plan. It's not locked in.

While on maternity leave after having my second baby, I reflected so much on how unhappy my work life and future corporate career prospect was making me. While checking my computer one day I came across a five-year plan I had worked on with a previous mentor of mine. 

It stunned me. I had ticked off everything I had wanted to achieve, and I hadn't looked at it in years. It was time for me to make another one.

With the security of my corporate role and on maternity leave, I dove deep. I really thought about what it was I wanted to achieve over the next five years of my life and figured out a plan.

My first step was to study a Diploma of Interior Design. I absolutely loved every minute of it. It sent me off in another direction altogether. And that's OK! I'd tell my younger self not to sweat it. Your dreams are there to be updated.

The options to change careers is often easier than you think. For those of us who are spending more time at home (whether due to isolation or for other reasons), you can even do it from there.

One of the easiest ways is via Open Colleges. As Australia's largest, private provider of online vocational education, Open Colleges has been helping Australians reach their potential for over 125 years.

With a range of nationally accredited courses across health, childhood education, business, technology, trades and design there's an option to suit you.

No one is going to hand you your dreams, you have to do the work and recognise what they are, then fight for them. You won't regret just trying. What's the worst that can happen?


3. Make time for gratitude.

Gratitude? When I was younger, I didn't make time for it. Things just were.

Like that heavy dump of snow, so I could ride fresh tracks on my snowboards. Or my wine glass being refilled automatically at a restaurant.

If I've learnt one thing during isolation it's to appreciate the important things - the things I took for granted before the world made us stop everything, re-evaluate and turn inside to face our lives as we knew them.

Now, I'm practising gratitude every day - acknowledging three or more things I'm thankful to have. I'm talking about friends, family, a warm home, and a pay packet that comes in every week. Although, my younger self would never have believed you if you'd have said "There's going to be a global pandemic", either.

4. Slow is OK.

You don't need to rush. In fact, it's good if you don't. Life in my early 20s and 30s could be hectic, but these were the days before mortgages and kids and I had more time to take for me and prioritise myself.

My life had been unnecessarily chaotic. I'd been living my life that way for so long, I didn't know anything else. One thing I've learned during COVID-19 is that slowing down is right for me.

After we were released from isolation the first time (I'm in Melbourne so I'm back in lockdown again), I made a conscious effort to remind myself to take things slow, allow enough time in my day to do the things I want to prioritise.


I stopped scheduling multiple things in a weekend and it allowed my family and I time to just be. I've found peace in being, not in constantly doing.

5. You get one life, live it well.

After losing someone close to me recently, I went deeply internal. It was sudden and heartbreaking. It started to make me really evaluate my life. Pulling myself out of a very dark time, I focused on these words that kept coming to me:

You get one life, live it well. 

This little nugget of gold has got me through some hard days, but this comes back to gratitude.

Being grateful for the life I do have. And knowing what to do when I'm anxious and overwhelmed - a skill you can only learn through life experience. 

I highly recommend finding the thing that helps calm you and learn to recognise when you need it. For me now, it's being by the beach, getting the sand between my toes, having a coffee, eating an icecream or simply just sitting and listening to the waves.

Be proud of the life you're creating, and every decision along the way. You'll have so many more dreams to fulfil, and you get to choose what they are, and how you spend 24 hours in your day.

Kristen Sharkie runs an interior design business, Dear Design.

What life lessons have you learned in your 30s? Share with us below.

If you're looking for a change, enrol in an online course today at and see that everything could happen.

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If you’re looking to move up in your job or start a new one altogether, choose an online course with Open Colleges and discover that once you start, everything could happen.