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19th Jan 2024

Thirty, flirty and thriving: Timeless life lessons from Jenna Rink as you approach the big 3-0

Kat O'Connor

13 Going on 30 is turning 20 this year and Jenna Rink is still my hero

Two decades have somehow zoomed by since the release of 13 Going on 30. The Jennifer Garner rom-com will always hold a special place in my heart. It is one of the first rom-coms I ever went to see in the cinema, even though I was probably too young to appreciate it at the time. It was the movie that perfectly captured the magic of rom-coms for little me. Not only did we have the love story between Jenna and Matty, but we also had a female protagonist with a successful career. Did I potentially sign up for journalism in college because of the movie? Possibly…

Life isn’t like the movies. We’re all grown up enough to realise that now but 13 Going on 30 taught me some pretty valuable lessons that I’ve held onto. When it comes to rom-com leads, Jenna Rink is probably one of the most likeable and relatable characters we’ve been introduced to in the movie world. She hasn’t got it all figured out, she isn’t sure of who to turn to, but she tries her best, and when a storyline like that is set in New York in the 2000s, it’s hard not to love it.

Jenna Rink taught me many things (the Thriller dance included) but I’ve put together the best things I’ve learned from everyone’s favourite fictional magazine editor.

Don’t wish time away

We see a young Jenna Rink wish she was older and cooler after a failed 13th birthday party. She wishes to be thirty, flirty, and thriving, but life isn’t as perfect as she believed it would be when the magic dust sends her 17 years into the future. Jenna’s rush to grow up is something many of us have experienced as teenagers, or even in our twenties. We foolishly think the grass is always greener on the other side, but that’s not necessarily true. Her desperate wish to skip past her younger years made me realise that they’re actually so valuable, despite being complicated and awkward. It’s cliche but life goes by so quickly and I find it hard to believe I’m closer to adult Jenna’s age than younger Jenna now.

Lean on the people who cheer you on

We will all come across people who are unkind, hateful, or just plain nasty. It’s part of life, but it can be difficult to figure out who is good for you and who isn’t in your corner. People are tricky, complex beings, and trying to understand them can be impossible at times, but one thing Jenna made me realise is that you’ll always find your cheerleaders in life and they’re the people you should turn to. Tom Tom was a bad friend to Jenna, but she didn’t know it until she was 30. Sometimes we don’t understand or believe we should have good people around us, but the moment you have that realisation is pretty special. Life is so much sweeter when you’ve got a group of cheerleaders supporting you on both the good and bad days.

Don’t take things too seriously

More people should dance around in their pyjamas to ‘Love Is a Battlefield’ by Pat Benatar. Life and adulthood is stressful, messy, and a little bit too serious for us sometimes. We often find ourselves wishing we were as carefree and naive as we were when we were teenagers, but you can embrace that childlike spirit at any age. Jenna may have been a big-time magazine editor with a New York apartment, but she was also someone who embraced the little joys like dancing to Thriller without a care in the world or eating smiley-face-shaped pancakes at your parent’s house.

Appreciate just how special second chances are

Sure we can’t travel into the future to see how our life pans out, but we can learn from Jenna. She was able to go back to her teenage years after looking into the future and she made sure not to mess things up. Jenna almost lost Matty, the love of her life, and she was given a second chance at love again when she went back to the 1980s. She realised that life is too short not to take chances, not to risk things, and not to strive for things that’ll make you happy.

If anyone needs me I’ll be watching 13 Going on 30, craving Razzles, and channeling Jenna Rink’s main character energy for the foreseeable future.