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A Letter To My 30 Year-Old Self

Dear Joel,

If you’re reading this, congratulations: you made it to your 30s!

You’ve officially made it through the roughest patch of your life – your 20s. You’ve come so far. It wasn’t without struggle; you had your fair share. You had some extreme highs and some intense lows, but here you are. You’ve gained wisdom and patience; yes, you did lose yourself along the way, but through the fire – here you are. How does it feel? I’m guessing you’re tired. Maybe you have a few more grey hairs? Probably some newfound wrinkles. With that, those represent battle scars – and you’ve had plenty of those.

Let me ask you something, Joel:

What have you learned?

What can you share with others?

Most importantly, where are you now?

Let me share some lessons with your 30-year-old-self that you have painfully, but successfully figured out through the trials of the past decade. Here are 10 things I learned in my 20s:

1. Listen to your mind when you have clarity.

How many battles have you had with yourself internally? A lot, and you know that. What came from all those battles? A lot of second guessing, immense stress, and Anxiety. You’re smarter than you give yourself credit for; many people are more intelligent than they allow themselves to believe. What did you get from second guessing in your 20s? Nothing. You were smart enough to know what’s right then, and smart enough now. Continue listening to what your mind and heart are telling you from the get-go. That brings us to lesson #2…

2. Trust your gut. Please, trust your gut!

You think this would line up with lesson #1, wouldn’t you? Well, you’ve learned that the two are not quite the same. You know that deep, sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that’s trying to warn you? What did you gain by ignoring it? What do you gain now? Anxiety, Depression, and Pain. It doesn’t matter what the situation is – listen to that feeling. It’s usually right. You have learned this all too well from your experiences in your 20s.

3. Don’t think for a moment that just because you are in your 20s, your life needs to be completely figured out.

How many times did you look at yourself in the mirror and say, “By my late 20s I want a nice car, a nice house, a solid marriage, and a few kids”?

Happened a lot, didn’t it? Over time, you learned that maybe these weren’t your goals, but likely expectations set by society or individuals older than you who were conditioned differently by the world around them. Take your time. Be driven and relentless, sure, but take your time with the goals you have – they will fall into place when they need to, if they need to. You know this. Just keep working as hard as you ever did. This ties well into lesson #4…

4. If you don’t like your “career”, change it!

You’ve spent so many sleepless nights spent wondering if this was all you’d ever amount to; if this was the highest level you could achieve.

You know better, and you know what you’re truly capable of – even if others are in disbelief. Chase your passions with unrivalled tenacity. You’re going to endlessly be dragged through the dirt for your ambitions, but you will be mentally and spiritually richer for your perseverance. You will realize over time that when you do what you love, your Anxiety and Depression are kept at bay. Don’t settle for less – be great. Prepare yourself for a bumpy ride, but reflect on your accomplishments when you have a moment – so far, they’re incredible.

5. Love hurts, but it’s still incredible.

Ah, this has been a tough one to grasp, hasn’t it? You are perpetually finding out what love is. You also have to learn the consequences of taking love for granted. Lastly, you have to learn what it means to be truly, utterly, beautifully heartbroken.

Why did you even keep trying, all of those years? Because you knew then, and you know now what it’s like to really be in love. Most importantly, you know what it’s like for someone to completely love you back on a visceral level. You’ve learned that you can open up to others, but trust is everything. Yes, you had your fair share of pain and truth be told, you did your share of hurting. Always bet on love, though, and protect yourself against falsities – but know that love is incredible, either way.

6. Your family is everything, and any problems you have – your family has your back.

How many times did you screw up in your 20s? Much more than you’d like to admit – but you had more than your fair share of mistakes with love, life, jobs, and friendships. What did this teach you? Throughout all of this, your family never turned their back on you. Yes, they were mad, displeased, and disappointed at times, but they never gave up on you. Not once. Your family is your safe place; your family is your home, and you learned this time and time again throughout the trials of your 20s. Never take them for granted.

7. Your mind is a beautiful place.

Do you remember when you wrote about your mind being a terrible place? You lied to yourself. Your mind is a beautiful place. It’s full of amazing thoughts and deep, powerful emotions. Sometimes it will be attacked by self-deprecation and self-doubt – but it’s really a beautiful place. Regardless of where you are in life, physically and spiritually, know that your mind is a palace.

8. Choose your friends wisely.

The people you surround yourself with are going to be the individuals that help shape your future. Choose wisely! You found this lesson out the hard way at times, but you also found out what amazing friends can do for you. Cherish that, because the impact that your friends had in your 20s is raw and real.

9. Fail often and fail hard.

Seems strange that you’d even recommend this as a lesson to yourself? You know what this really means, though. Fail hard, because when you did, you always learned something from it and never repeated the same mistake. Fail often, because you also learned what it meant to take lessons from all of your mistakes. Instead of “failing,” you always fell forward. Take something from every “failure” you’ve ever experienced.

10. Just live.

This is the most important lesson. Your name is Joel Arthur Douglas Wheeler for a reason. You have a generalized Anxiety and Depression Disorder, but you are here; right now – you made it. Through all the manic episodes, extreme lows, and suicidal thoughts – you made it. Most importantly, you lived to your 30s! So many bad days were had, but for each of them there were so many more better days. Think of all things you’ve seen, the friends you’ve made, the feelings of love you’ve had, and the feelings of success you’ve had. It’s crazy. Keep living, there is still so much more to come! Your story doesn’t end here.

(11.) Joel, you still have many, many bad days ahead – but take them in stride. These are the lessons you gave yourself. Use them, you’ve already learned so much. Remember though, you still have so much more to learn. You can reflect on and remember your worst times, but do yourself a favour – live. Remember all the great times. Be kind, be humble, be hungry, and unrelenting.


That said, Joel, congratulations. Remember these lessons. There’s a lot more celebrating to do! Remember, Classified once said:

“Life is simple, life is hard and yeah, life is fun. So enjoy the things around you before your life is done.”

Keep going.


About Joel Wheeler

Sales Manager for a local supplement company by day, free thinker and mental health advocate by night. Joel has become outspoken about his day to day struggles about mental health and has brought him to Healthy Minds Canada to share his stories with the hope to help others and offer support.

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