I turned 30 and the world didn't end.
[Photo by Bryce Mata]

I’ve been a part of the music scene since I was 13 years old. I’m here to report that I just turned 30 and the world didn’t end. I’ve seen countless trends and friends come and go, so I wanted to share my experiences and some lessons I learned along the way.

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After graduating high school, I was worried about never seeing my core group of friends again. The slow and steady winds of adulthood would creep in, and we would drift apart. After all, most of us tend to cling to our high school years as we’re told they’re “the most important years of your life.” I’m sorry, but in retrospect, I’m calling bullshit.

Although your time in high school may be the developmental years for your temporary social standings and guide you in a direction for the future (do your homework, kids), they’re only four measly years in the grand scheme of your life. Once you graduate, you have a lot more life left to live. Bummer news for some, but you probably won’t have your friend group after you graduate…and it’s OK! That’s why we have things like Facebook to keep tabs on each other from afar. We don’t have to constantly spend time with the people who were confined together in a single building for four years for the rest of our lives. Find out who matters most to you and keep them close. It usually works out that way, anyway.

I love seeing the varying life choices and career paths my peers have taken since high school. When you’re not tied down to that social caste system, you get to create your own life. You get to rebrand yourself. You can leave your town, go off to college, just get a job or stay put and make a new life where you already are. I pursued my dreams of playing music. I was touring 10 months out of the year around the country and overseas sleeping on floors and doing whatever we could to make things work for the band.

These days, I work a few jobs to be able to fund my bands and still give me the flexibility to tour. I will always remember every interaction I’ve had in my hometown when I’m wearing gym shorts and a cutoff T-shirt showing my tattoos, looking like a scumbag compared to someone my age driving a BMW, wearing a nice suit and talking about their marriage and their kids. It took me years to realize that comparing our places in life was pointless. We each have simply found our own definition of happiness.

Social life aside, getting older in the music world has its own fair share of stress. I had the privilege of having very understanding and supportive parents, so our band got a head start compared to a lot of people in our area. We were playing together at the age of 13 and already had family friends saying they had connections in the music world to get us a record deal. When you get that in your head at that young of an age and things fall apart, you’re bound to have an unrealistic standard for how things work.

From that moment on, I began to make deadlines for myself. I kept setting new goals with a corresponding age that I needed to achieve or else I would be a failure. Sign to a big record label by the age of 18. Then 21. Once we finally got what we so aspired to achieve, we just kept wanting more and more. It really isn’t that much different than so many of us out there who feel the need to be married and have kids by the time we turn 30. Another deadline. Another number.

Hopefully, one day you’ll get the opportunity to have a discussion with your parents and learn that they’re just as confused about life as you. To some, it’s a terrifying notion, but it really should be a peaceful thought. The people who raised you, the people you may look up to the most in this world have just been hoping for the best this whole time. Times are changing, and it’s a new sense of freedom for people like us. The deadlines and the numbers are but simple guides to coast us into adulthood. Suggested, but never mandatory.

My knees sound like Rice Krispies when I bend down, and my back constantly aches, but other than the physical ailments I’ve accrued as an aging musician, I feel like I did when I first started playing music. I’m still just as excited to get in a van with my friends and play shows—even if I prefer they end earlier and hope I can be in bed sooner—I still love being a part of this world. The deeper I get into things, the more I realize it’s up to us to create our own paths.

Don’t be a dick and people will stick by your side. Be productive and work hard, but don’t obsess over deadlines and structures. Learn to accept rejection and grow stronger from it instead of letting it beat you down. I feel like I’ve seen so much, but I still have so much to learn. Maybe the younger, newer model of myself is on display in pop-punk bands and festivals, and I don’t see reflections of myself in the crowd anymore, only strangers. Younger people are still getting married and doing what they’re supposed (and want) to do, while I feel like a stranger living an unconventional life. Hitting 30 isn’t the end for me. It’s potential for another new beginning.

Give Jono a high-five during Baggage’s current tour.

07/21 — Chicago, IL @ Chop Shop
08/04 — Bay City, MI @ Excellency Music Fest