Introducing the 30 at 30 Project

Six months from today I will turn 30 years old. It’s a milestone birthday, and I’ve decided to commemorate it by writing about it (hopefully on a consistent basis). As my wife Jessie will tell you, I’ve been obsessing over turning 30 pretty much since the day I turned 29.

Those who know me shouldn’t be surprised at my making a big to-do about turning 30. I’m all about memorable moments—a special sports highlight, the first time I saw a particular band in concert, or a pivotal match from WrestleMania—and 30 seems symbolic to me of a new phase of adulthood.

I am very aware of the fact that I am already, today, older than both of my parents were when I was born. Even if it’s not right at 30, this will (God willing) be the decade when I start a family. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get any bigger than that. It’s awesome, and it’s awfully intimidating. My parents set a hell of a standard to live up to.

As I wind down my 20s, I look back quite fondly on this past decade. In my personal life, I fell in love, dated, got engaged, and married to Jessie. I earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Mercyhurst. I experienced the thrill of getting hired and the sadness and anger of being laid off. I worked in corporate communications, advertising, coaching, and education. I survived an apartment fire and, together with Jessie, bought our first home. I traveled to see the beaches of Maui and the Big House in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Overall, my 20s have been really good to me, and I already see myself looking back fondly upon these years and so many memories that I have made during this time of my life.

So turning 30 comes with some trepidation. Right now thirty sounds old to me. As I replace Jamie Cullum’s “Twentysomething” with Jay-Z’s “30 Something” (warning: explicit lyrics) as my new start-of-the-decade personal anthem (and yes, I have new Matt’s Mixes in the works featuring both of those tracks) , I can’t help but admit that I feel like both Jay and I are trying a little too hard to convince ourselves that “30’s the new 20.” Perhaps that’s as it should be for there is grace and beauty in aging. And so my goal is to not just come to terms with turning 30 but to fully embrace it. I freely admit that I’m not there yet, but that’s OK. I have six months to work on it.

Between now and then (and, if I’m being honest, likely after I hit the big day on Sept. 7), I plan to write about it a lot. My plan is to publish that writing (most of it anyway) here at, public web space that I have owned and left dormant for nearly five years.

As I mentioned earlier, turning 30 has been on my mind since at least the day I turned 29. Entering the final year of my 20s, I knew that I wanted to do something unique to commemorate the milestone birthday. My birthday, Sept. 7, was also the launch date of ESPN. While others tout shared celebratory birthdays, I take pride in sharing a birthday with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. You might have heard of ESPN’s award-winning documentary series, branded as “30 for 30” documentaries. The concept was 30 documentaries in celebration of the network’s 30-year anniversary in 2009.

Five years later, I’ve decided to borrow the concept and put my own personal twist on it. I started in September of 2013, shortly after the year-long countdown to 30 began. I decided to create a special Matt’s Mix (yes, I still make mix CDs, and they’re awesome) series titled “30 at 30.” The format is simple: compile 30 CDs, one apiece for each of my 30 all-time favorite musical artists/groups.

The selection process was a serious challenge and a lot of fun, but eventually I narrowed it down to a top 30 and ranked them in order. I then set up a production schedule, backloading it so that the final several CDs would come out this summer leading up to the big date. Anyone who knows me can probably guess which artist/band is going to be number one, but I’ll give you the same challenge I offered Jessie of trying to name/rank the rest of my all-time top 30.

I have to give special credit to Jessie here because she was the one who suggested to me a few months ago about turning this into a writing project and not just a CD-making endeavor. That got my wheels turning even more, and I went on to formulate a list of lists. In the end, I came up with 30 different topics that I plan to make top 30 lists of, allowing this whole 30 at 30 project to encompass something much more comprehensive than just my music collection. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. It will afford me the opportunity to write freely much more often than I have in recent years while simultaneously (I hope) help me to get over my anxiety about turning 30 and really learn to embrace all that comes with a new decade of life.

If you’ve made it this far and are still reading this, thanks. I hope you’ll check back in from time to time—or, heck, subscribe and strap in for the full word-for-word 30 at 30 journey. In most cases, you’ll probably find some topics interesting and others not so much. But the best part about this for me is that I feel zero pressure even if no one reads a word. It’s a personal project I feel committed to, and I hope to see it through all the way to the end. If that’s Sept. 7 at midnight, fine. If I’m still having fun and writing well beyond that into year 30, well, in a lot of ways, I think that may be even better.

38 thoughts on “Introducing the 30 at 30 Project”

  1. Matt: I enjoyed reading this. I know both your Mom and Dad. Your Dad and I grew up in the same neighborhood and he along with your Mom and I worked at Loblaws together. Those were the days! There are a few more of the Nies clan that joined us there and I still have contact with a few of them these days. I also know your mother in law from working in child welfare. I remember when I was 30. It really did not bother me. Some of my friends were in a crisis mode about it. Now I am looking forward to 60, retirement, and not punching a time clock. Enjoy life. I always like to think it is not about age but rather maturity. From what I know about you I think you have a pretty good head on your shoulders. Enjoy the anticipation of turning 30. Life is good! 🙂

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