In my next thirty years I’m gonna have some fun
Try to forget about all the crazy things I’ve done
Maybe now I’ve conquered all my adolescent fears
And I’ll do it better in my next thirty years
-Tim McGraw, My Next Thirty Years
If you enjoy country, this song is likely ringing through your ears right now and soon to be stuck in your head. Upon turning 30, I realized that many of the things I used to think were important, no longer are. I no longer care who is having a party on Friday night or when those cute jeans will go on sale. I care about things that are less selfish and more about the world I live in. Let me disclose, it wasn’t a hard stop at 29 and on my 30th birthday I changed, it’s been happening slowly and it has taken me a couple years to realize that it was even happening.
I would rather spend time helping a new developer, completing home visits for prospective dog adoptions or spending time giving back in one way or another. I don’t know when those things changed but I know that 5 years ago they were not things I focused my time on.
Selfish Acts of Selflessness
When giving back, no matter what you are doing, there is some part of it that helps another human being or animal. Therefore, you are completing selfless acts because someone else is benefiting from your contributions. If that is truly the case, then why does it feel so good when we do it? The act of giving back is probably one of the best feelings in the world. This is why I call it “selfish acts of selflessness.” The act of doing something selfless but feeling so damn good about it that it almost feels selfish.
Find your passion
I found that giving back became more natural for me once I figured out what my passions are. It was easy for me to recognize that I was obsessively in love with dogs and that volunteering with a dog rescue was a natural fit. It took me longer to realize that I am passionate about teaching others. To be honest, this one surprised me a bit because I can be impatient. I started volunteering with Girl Develop It Minneapolis when they were first founded and loved TA-ing so much that when they asked me to teach I didn’t think twice about it. It didn’t take me long to see I loved it, I loved every second of it. Teaching women to code was so empowering, I was giving someone else the skills to do something in life that could make them more successful. Find the things that make your heart happy and do them with people that need you.
How you (and I) can make a difference
Volunteer your time
Get involved in an organization that has the same passions as you. If you enjoy food and children, volunteer with Feed My Starving Children, if you like cats but don’t like people, then volunteer with a local rescue or humane society. If you are struggling with a way to get started you can check out Volunteer Match, or if you are local to the Twin Cities, check out Hands On Twin Cities. If you still need help, email me, I am all about more people participating in selfish acts of selflessness. Don’t think you have enough free time? I have 3 kids, a dog, a full time job and volunteer with 4-5 organizations at any given time. You can make time.
This isn’t always for everyone – it’s a rare occasion where I financially donate to a cause or organization, remember, I have three kids. However, I have before and it still feels just as good. The things that have been most enjoyable for me to donate to involve people I personally know. A few examples include GoFundMe campaigns for a friend-of-a-friends dog that needed surgery or a previous friend that required IVF to get pregnant. I have also bought things like formula and diapers for single mothers in my area. You do not always have to give actual money, you can also give away items that you no longer need. However, do not give these items to Goodwill, they make a profit from them. Give your items away to local churches, homeless shelters or other organizations that help the less fortunate in your area.
Telling your friends
If you truly do not have time and money is tight, you can still help by getting others involved. Maybe someone is having a benefit, you are not able to attend due to time and can’t donate, but you can tell other people in your network about the event. You can share on social media, at work or with any organizations you may be a part of. All of us have a bigger network than we think and sometimes just sharing with a few others is enough to make a change for the person in need.
Being a nice person
I haven’t always been the nicest person and I surely haven’t always made the best choices. However, these mistakes have made me who I am today and have made me more compassionate towards other people’s mistakes. People screw up. No one is perfect. Next time you immediately jump to judging someone for their mistake, stop to think about the last mistake you made. We are all human and we need to learn to treat each other better before we can expect anything else in our world to change. It’s sounds so obvious to “be a nice person” but I find myself getting frustrated with someone because they do not wait their turn to get off the plane or jump in front of me in line in the bathroom. What if that person getting off the plane out of turn is late for their connecting flight to return home to a sick family member? What if the person budging in line has colon cancer? Yes, some of these instances might be people just being a-holes, but wouldn’t you rather someone give you the benefit of the doubt then assuming the worst of you? Kindness is contagious, let’s start an epidemic of true compassion among others.
My next thirty years
I have had some great memories and done some amazing things (like my children for example) but I plan on making sure that my next thirty years truly are the best years of my life and that I continue to spend as much time as I can helping others. Whether that be spending my time at a homeless shelter, rescuing dogs from being euthanized or teaching someone to code. And I am going to love every second of my selfish acts of selflessness.
Please comment below if you have ways that others can give back or if you are looking for opportunities to give back in your community.