Newly 30 Kelsea Ballerini Shares Her Advice for Navigating Your 20s: 'Don't Be Afraid to Be Messy' (Exclusive)

The Grammy-nominated singer turned 30 in September, and she chatted with PEOPLE about lessons learned from her latest decade at her The Original Donut Shop Halloween party

<p>Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images</p> Kelsea Ballerini in New York City on Oct. 25, 2023

Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

Kelsea Ballerini in New York City on Oct. 25, 2023

Kelsea Ballerini has officially rolled up the welcome mat on her 20s — but that hasn't stopped her from sharing some valuable insight for all the other twenty-somethings out there.

The country star, who celebrated her 30th birthday in September, chatted with PEOPLE at her The Original Donut Shop Halloween party where she shared her best advice for navigating the daunting decade.

“Don't be scared for it to be messy,” she says. “It's going to be messy. Life is messy. I would not go back and tell myself anything. I would not go back and change a single thing. Was it all easy? No. Did I do everything right? No. Did I love hard? Yes. Did I get to travel the world? Yes. Did I stay up too late some nights? Have too much tequila some nights? And not fly home for my mom’s birthday when I should have? Yes. All those things, yes," she says. "But I rang out my 20s, every single ounce of them, and I am better because of it.”

Ballerini, who was dressed as Margot Robbie's Barbie for the Halloween fête, adds: “Don't put pressure on yourself. Everyone tells you that you have to have your life figured out. No one ever does.”

<p>Dimitrios Kambouris for Getty</p> Kelsea Ballerini in New York City on Oct. 25, 2023

Dimitrios Kambouris for Getty

Kelsea Ballerini in New York City on Oct. 25, 2023

The "Penthouse" singer rang in her 30th with friends on a tropical getaway before performing on the VMAs for her actual birthday, where she had a viral outfit change mid-performance.

As she settles into her 30s, Ballerini's arguably got it all going on, though that's a sentiment she emphatically refutes. She's not just being humble, either — she's embracing being human.

“I am so human and I'm so good with it. I don't have it going on. I really don't," she says. "I'm having wins right now that I've never had in my life. And I'm trying to not downplay those and I'm trying to be present and know that I'm deserving of that and all those things," she says. "But in the same token, I also just did a three-day therapy intensive retreat to check on myself. You know what I mean? It's a lot. It's a lot.”

<p>Dimitrios Kambouris for Getty</p> Kelsea Ballerini in New York City on Oct. 25, 2023

Dimitrios Kambouris for Getty

Kelsea Ballerini in New York City on Oct. 25, 2023

Forging fierce friendships with the right people is also something that has helped Ballerini survive this last decade of her life — one notable member of her sisterhood being Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild.

“I would die for her,” Ballerini insists upon the first mention of Fairchild’s name. “She's fabulous.”

The pair can often be seen sharing glimpses of their friendship and hangouts on social media.

Related: Kelsea Ballerini Says She Has 'No Shame' Sliding into Chase Stokes' DMs: 'I Was Living My Best Life'

“Karen does such a beautiful job of really seeking out and mentoring the community of women in Nashville. I wouldn't even just say artists. Songwriters, people in young business positions. She's just such a nurturer of truly getting more women ingrained in the Nashville community,” says Ballerini.

“I've known her for probably a decade and it really went from a mentorship relationship to... I mean, she is my sister," Ballerini continues. "We just went on a trip together last week and we started writing for the next record. It's very full circle to go from seeing someone that I bought tickets to see, to knowing them, to being friends with them, to making music with them. So it's such a beautiful journey and she's just a really good woman. She's a really good woman.”

<p>John Shearer/Getty</p> Karen Fairchild and Kelsea Ballerini in Nashville in October 2016

John Shearer/Getty

Karen Fairchild and Kelsea Ballerini in Nashville in October 2016

Ballerini is also preparing to play a special show in her hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, next week, and she's just now starting to wade back into the world of songwriting after her whirlwind year.

“I didn't allow myself to write at all in this last little chunk of time because I've really been trying to honor what this year has been and just be present and not try to keep looking forward or making something else," she explains. "I really wanted to be in each of these moments because things were happening that I never thought would happen for me."

Related: Kelsea Ballerini Reflects on 'Gnarly' Divorce at Time100 Next Gala: 'I Had Big, Complex, Human Feelings'

Now, coming off the heels of her post-divorce EP Rolling Up the Welcome Mat in February and the extended version, Rolling Up the Welcome Mat (For Good), in August, Ballerini says she's finally "coming up for air."

"I feel truly nothing but joy and appreciation for that chapter of my life. And I've talked about it more than I ever intended to. I'm a performer, and I think that's something that I really want people to know," she says. "When I'm singing these songs and I have my bitch face on, I'm not mad anymore. I'm a performer. And now I'm in a space now that I'm off the road — except for this Knoxville show — I'm having some space to breathe."

"I'm just now starting new music. And I think my only carry through is whatever level of specificity and honesty that I found with Welcome Mat and applying that to writing about my life now, which is happy," Ballerini says with a smile.

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