Revisiting the 30 at 30 Project as a 39-Year-Old

I launched the 30 at 30 project almost a decade ago in March of 2014 in an attempt to celebrate (rather than complain about) turning 30 years old. Now, one year away from turning 40, I realize I have a little work yet to do to complete the project. While I have finished the initial portion of the project, counting down my 30 favorite musical artists, I still have three lists of 30 to write before I can officially put a bow on the 30 at 30 project.

Exactly nine years ago I published my list of “Things I Want to Do in My 30s.” I’ve lived a lot of life since then. As I enter my final year as a thirtysomething, I thought I’d take an overdue look back at what I wrote entering this decade of life, celebrate what I have accomplished, and see if there is hope left of achieving any of the unachieved things.

The following list of 30 Things I Want to Do in my 30s was first published on September 7, 2014. My italicized commentary explains the progress I have made (or not yet made) nine years later.

30. Stop biting my fingernails.
Achieved. This was a bad habit I was able to successfully stop without much difficulty.

29. Develop better posture. 
Work in progress? I notice that I wisely set the goal at “better posture” rather than “good posture,” which means it’s possible I technically achieved the goal. However, after suffering a herniated disc last month and seeing a chiropractor the past few weeks, it’s hard to give myself a full “achieved” here.

28. Keep up with technology.
Achieved. From Facebook to X né Twitter to Instagram to Snapchat to TikTok, I try to stay in the know with what the cool kids are using. I like to think I’m a tech-friendly teacher as well.

27. Wrestle my brother Mike in a wrestling ring.
Not achieved, sadly. There was a rumor that Jessie had something in the works once upon a time, but nothing ever came of it. Time is a ticking… and if you see #28 about my chiropractor, I’m not getting any younger for taking a pro wrestling back bump!

26. Take a long road trip to a place I’ve never been.
Achieved, several times over!

25. Make time for quiet reflection.
Achieved! I was not good at this in my early 30s, but I have gotten better in the last year or so. Journaling has become a treasured experience, even if I still wish I were better about making time for it.

24. Start a podcast.
Not achieved. I helped students at Prep start a couple of podcasts a few years ago. That’s not really what I meant though. My brother Mike and I had a podcast before everyone and their brother had a podcast. Unfortunately, the podcast hosting site we used went offline in May of 2009, and we never brought it back after that. I still have hope that I will stumble upon the right idea for a podcast someday, but at this point it feels increasingly unlikely that it will happen in my 30s.

23. Bowl a 200 game.
Achieved! I’ve now got double-digit 200-plus games to my name. My best was a 247 on March 8, 2018, at Polish Falcons. I also have rolled 600 series three times with a 613 on July 18, 2018, at Eastway Lanes as my best to date.

22. Run a 5K faster than I did in my 20s.
Not achieved. I’ve had a few stops and starts with exercising during my 30s; however, I have not run an actual 5K race since before I had kids. Now, I have a 7-year-old who has his first Young Runners Club practice today after school and his first race on Saturday. Maybe he can motivate me to run.

21. Dunk (on a regulation hoop)
Not achieved. Not even close. Of all the things listed here, this may have been the loftiest of goals. Absent a miraculous growth spurt at age 39, this one feels highly unlikely to happen. Bring on the 8-foot hoops.

20. Perform standup comedy.
Not achieved. A former colleague of mine left teaching to pursue standup and is awesome at it. I don’t have that desire, but I’d still never say never to a 5-minute opening set some day in the future. Between parenting, teaching, and life in general, I think I could get 5 minutes of half-decent material. And even if I bombed, well, at least I tried.

19. Take an improv class.
Not achieved. Who wants to take a class with me? Is that even a thing in Erie?

18. Get a dog.
Not achieved. Sorry, dog lovers. Sometimes priorities change. I don’t foresee this one happening any time soon. Life is too busy and too messy already!

17. Write a book.
Not achieved. If I printed all the words of the 30 at 30 project, it would be long enough to make a book, but I think it’s going to remain an online hosted project. This one remains a life goal though for sure.

16. Be aware of what’s happening in the world.
Partially achieved? I did not do a good job at making this specific, measurable goal. I’d say I’m definitely more aware than I was nine years ago, and that there are a lot of significant issues that I could reason to learn more about. So, growth with room for more growth?

15. Care about my community.
Partially achieved? Similar to 16, I think I am better about this than I was nine years ago. Theoretically I care about my community, yet in terms of my actions, it’s hard to point to a lot of concrete examples. Volunteering as a YMCA coach? Maybe? Though I probably wouldn’t have done that if my kids weren’t on the team, so that feels like a cop out.

14. Get involved in my parish.
Achieved. It helps that Jessie now works there. Still, between The Chosen, the Mother’s Day projects, and Little Hearts, I’m more involved in my parish now than at any point in my life previously.

13. Write more poetry.
Achieved. My 30s have been pretty sparse when it comes to poetry overall, but I had a creative renaissance after a trip to Greece last summer and have written several poems since then.

12. Play in a basketball league.
Partially achieved. It wasn’t a league, but I was playing basketball on a weekly basis for well over a year until we lost court access last spring. I’d love to get back into a regular rhythm as long as my legs still allow me to play.

11. Sing with confidence.
Partially achieved. With my kids, I can sing unabashedly. I’d still be reticent to do it in a crowd of adults though.

10. Host family gatherings at our home.
Achieved. Even if it’s mainly been birthdays, we’ve had fun when we’ve hosted. Halloween is another fun annual tradition we’ve had hosted friends and family.

9. Find “our place” in Erie.
Not achieved. I’m not sure anything is ever touching Gringos in Meadville.

8. Be mindful of what I eat and drink.
Not achieved. I still pretty much eat whatever I want. I don’t overindulge too much, but I also don’t often choose the healthiest options.

7. Coach basketball.
Achieved! When I wrote this list, I was only a few years removed from coaching the 9th grade Fairview boys team and thought maybe I’d continue coaching high school basketball. As it turned out, my return to coaching came when my son Ben played in the YMCA P.L.A.Y. League. I have coached him each of the past two seasons and hope to continue to do so this coming year.

6. Become a distinguished teacher.
Partially achieved. I do believe I am a better teacher than I was nine years ago. I was scored as “distinguished” in several areas on my performance review last year. I’m a firm believer in being a lifelong learner though. And there are areas for improvement that will help me be an even better educator.

5. Inspire someone in my classroom.
Achieved! I’ll never know how many, but I’ve heard back from enough students who have moved on to know that I’ve made a positive difference in the lives of some of my students, which is a very rewarding feeling.

4. Do a better job staying in touch with my siblings.
Not achieved. This one saddens me. Even though I framed it as do a “better” job rather than an objectively “good” job of staying in touch with them, I don’t think I’d give myself a satisfactory checkmark for either distinction. Two live out of town, and we all have our own list of responsibilities and things that keep us busy. That said, I wish we were closer, and I own that that starts with me being better at reaching out and making myself available for connection.

3. Spend more time with my mom and dad.
Achieved. They have embraced grandparent life in a big way. I feel so blessed to have three kids who have meaningful loving relationships with their grandparents on both sides of the family.

2. Find more married projects with Jessie.
Partially achieved. If co-parenting the kids counts, this is a big yes! They occupy the vast amount of our time. Beyond that, I don’t know that we have “projects” per se, but we have interests, namely concert-going, album collecting, and gin rummy.

1. Start a family.
Achieved! It’s hard to imagine that when I first wrote this list, Ben, Max, and Rosie were only conceptual ideas. As I write today, Ben is 7 and beginning 2nd grade, Max is 5 beginning Pre-K, and Rosie is 2. I am so blessed to have them and owe much to Jessie for birthing them. Our family has changed a lot over the past nine years, and I have changed a lot, too. For all the love I have in my life, I am so grateful!

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