30 songs to capture 30 years.

Tomorrow is my 30th birthday.


i am now 30.

This age, which has crept up on me in a stealthy manner, seems like it means something. The other day, while driving to work, i found myself pouting, almost like a child, about how quickly time was going by.

“Why,” i asked God, not waiting for a response. “Why is it going by so fast? i’m not ready to be 30, and i want more time.”

Of course, this made me sound like i was terminally ill and preparing to leave the world, which was overly dramatic. i am perfectly healthy [although i could stand to lose a few pounds, if i’m being honest] and age is more about how you feel than the date on your ID.

But, i just LOVE life. And i want to live every moment and experience every breath, so the fact that 30 years of moments and experiences and breathing is already behind me is kind of turning my world upside down. i can’t believe it happened so fast, and i want more time.

Hence, i have created a playlist, as this is what i do while processing significant life experiences.

But rather than simply attaching the link and allowing you to enjoy the songs [if you so choose], i have realized something. Music — the melody and the lyrics and the resonating sensations that linger in the psyche long after the last chord has sounded — has a very special relationship with me.

It’s difficult to put into words, but the sensations and impact of a song reach deep within me. i know that it’s not common, because when i have looked around at shows, i feel it. The words sink deeply into my mind, and the melody echoes off the recesses of my soul. Perhaps its easiest to describe music as the rays of sun that soak into my skin on a hot summer day, while lying by the pool or on a sandy beach. It absorbs into my being, first with the heat of the sun’s warmth, and then with the bright and lingering glow of a golden tan.

i like music.

So, to that end, i have put the songs below in order of how they relate to and encapsulate certain moments of my life, along with my comments.

There are 30 0f them, but there could have been much, much more.

Please enjoy.


1) Big Jumps by Emiliana Torrini : As a child, i was quite precocious. There is a home video of me talking in which i point out every fruit tree in the yard with an attitude of finality and expertise. Too big for my britches, so to speak.

hey there, sunshine lift my heart
i know life is long, but it goes so fast
i love you, never feeling old
you never bought the rubbish that they sold.

2) Lucky Ones by Lights: Growing up, i knew without a doubt that i was living a privileged life. My parents and my siblings were people who i loved with all of my heart, and they loved me back. The freedom that i felt as a child was delicious, and i spent long summer days allowing my imagination to create whatever it wished, flat on my back in the front yard watching clouds go by.

it’s you and i against the world
hitting every green and living like we always told them
we would

all of our foolish notions, we do

maybe we’re invincible, or we’re sipping on clover
all of it a wicked moment with you


3) Pinch Me by Barenaked Ladies: I remember being 13 and hearing this song for the first time, convinced it was the perfect idyllic summer song. Hearing it as an adult brings back all the memories of those years i precariously perched between childhood and adolescence, wanting so badly to be grown up while also missing some luxuries of my childhood.

i could hide out under there
i just made you say underwear
i could leave but i’ll just stay
all my stuff’s here anyway

4) Who I Am by Long Lost Sun: Junior high was a nefarious journey of self-discovery, with uncertainty to be found around every corner. Eventually (and painfully), i realized that i could not succeed in trying to be anybody but the person that i had been made to be. It was useless to pretend i was something or someone i wasn’t. And i learned how to be who i was, even with all of my flaws and failures.
*NOTE: This song isn’t on Spotify (why…?) so it’s not on my playlist, but here’s the youtube link.


but if i hold on, hold on
i just might make it
if i keep strong, keep strong
there’s nothing wrong

here in the dark, this who i am
there may be fear in this heart, but this is who i am
so i don’t need you to be the one that saves me
when all you do is push and break me
there’s got to be something in this heart


5) Inside Out by Eve6: Another classic high school song, this one ended up on a playlist that my waterpolo team captain gave to each of us, burned on a silvery disc with barely legible sharpie writing. This may have been my first burned mix “tape,” but it was not my last. I still love this song, although the lyrics are nonsensical and repetitive. Perhaps that’s part of its charm.

i wanna put my tender heart in a blender
watch it spin round to a beautiful oblivion
rendezvous then i’m through with you


6) Youth of the Nation by P.O.D: I loved P.O.D. so much. They spoke to my teenage angst, and i had (and still have) every line of this song memorized. In fact, i used to entertain other kids on the bus by my spot-on recitation of the verses, because i truly thought i was hardcore. Also, i loved the way the lyrics speak of unfairness, isolation, and fear… honestly and in a way that begs society to try and understand the struggles teens deal with. i still do. i remember being that age and searching for meaning and hope. It was hard to find and i was afraid of the world around me.

who’s to blame for the lives that tragedies claim?
no matter what you say, it don’t take away the pain
that i feel inside, i’m so tired of all the lies
why oh why, is the blind leading the blind?
guess that’s the way the story goes, will it ever make sense?
somebody’s gotta know
there’s gotta be more to life than this
there’s gotta be more to everything i thought exists


7) Be As You Are by Mike Posner: For many years, i was determined to fight the way that God had made me. i was too tall, my hair was too weird, and i didn’t like the things that everybody else my age liked. Tired of either being ignored or being made fun of, i tried to morph myself into something that was more cohesive with the masses around me. But it was too much work to try and be something i wasn’t, and then i found myself missing the person i used to be. Basically, i decided to be a huge weirdo and just be as i was. It was a good call.

life is not always a comfortable ride
everybody’s got scars that they hide
and everybody plays the fool sometimes
just be as you are


8) Lifetime by Mat Kearney: i was just 17 when i moved to California and fell in love with everything about Santa Cruz surf culture, including one particular boy. It was one of the most memorable summers of my life, shaping my attitude about the world around me. This song was burned on a CD for me that i kept all these years. This song could play on loop all day and i wouldn’t be mad.
*NOTE: Another one that isn’t on Spotify, but here’s the youtube link.

when all is said and done and the record has been spun and the tape has been run
the CDs all scratched, it ain’t my day in the sun
what will they look back and say
was the brush of my pen the reason I got in?
what did I leave for my kin, my peers and all my peoples,
my friends and all my equals?
was I tripping up my folk or mountin’ wings like eagles?

9) 3×5 by John Mayer: That same summer in Santa Cruz, i worked at a conference center and lived in a dorm with other staff. Unversed in the ways of communal living, i blasted Room for Squares on loop that entire summer, and likely annoyed everybody within hearing distance. It was such a good album, i just couldn’t help it. And, i was only 17. i was mesmerized by a whirlwind of late nights, hot summer afternoons, and fascinating people. Quickly, i lost track of my friends and family back home (whoops) and completely immersed myself in my new world. But this was the era before internet sharing of photos, so i constantly got asked to send prints home.

today i finally overcame
trying to fit the world inside a picture frame
maybe i will tell you all about it
when i’m in the mood to lose my way with words

10) When I Go Down by Relient K: Their Mmhmm album came out right before i went away to college for the first time, and every song on it resonated with me. At this point, Relient K was indisputably my favorite band. In fact, i handprinted the lyrics to this song on a 10″ x 10″ piece of scrapbooking paper and taped it to the wall above my dorm room bed. It was a reassuring document to look at, and i liked the poetry behind the introspective lyrics. i remember thinking that i wasn’t afraid of making mistakes as much as i was afraid of not learning from them.

you give me hope
and hope it gives me life
you touch my heavy heart
and when you do 
you make it light

11) Typical by MUTEMATH: About 10 years ago, my older brother took me to see MUTEMATH perform, and i remember this song distinctly. When they got to the chorus, the crowd screamed the words like an anthem. As a woman in her early twenties, i remember being moved by how many people were willing to disparage “typical” and branch out in search of more. More meaningful conversations, more inspiring experiences, more insightful moments. MORE.

but how long should it take somebody

before they can be someone?
because i know there’s got to be another level 
somewhere closer to the other side
and i’m feeling like it’s now or never
can i break the spell of the typical?

12) Car Radio by twenty one pilots: My very first car was a 1973 Dodge Dart, her name was Phoebe. An amazing burgundy color with an extra dose of metal fleck, she sparkled like a new penny and i loved her. She also only had AM radio, which largely didn’t work. Sometimes, i put a battery-powered boombox in the passenger seat. But mostly, i drove in silence. And i liked it, because i used that time to think, without the excuse of a distraction to pull me away from the things i really needed to face. As an additional note, i saw this song performed live for the first time about 2 years ago, and i welled up. Here’s the music video.

i find over the course of our human existence
one thing consists of consistence 
and it’s that we’re all battling fear
oh dear, i don’t know if we know why we’re here

there are things we can do
but from the things that work there are only two
and from the two that we choose to do
peace will win, and fear will lose

13) So Much Love by The Rocket Summer: The summer i turned 19, i fell head over heels in love for the first time. It was amazing. Until it wasn’t. But, for those few months of California summer, we lived the dream of road trips, rock climbing, and young love. There’s nothing quite like it.

you’ve got so much love in you
i’m amazed that i’m talking to you
you look like the songs that i’ve heard my whole life 
coming true

14) Bend and Not Break by Dashboard Confessional: Before Chris Carrabba went folk and formed Twin Forks (which i recommend, side note), he made his fame by crowing desperately about lost love on many songs played on a drop d-tuned guitar. This one just happened to be the one i picked, but there are many, many more where this came from. i would know. See, the downside of falling into young love is that inevitably people let you down. When that happens, you eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and listen to Dashboard. That was the 2005 formula, at least.

NOTE: Honorable mentions include The Best Deceptions and Again I Go Unnoticed

i am fairly agile
i can bend and not break

or i can break and take it with a smile
i am so resilient
i recover quickly
i’ll convince you soon that i am fine

15) American Secrets by Parachute: You know how some songs just captivate you from the first set of chords? I guess this is one of them. As with many songs, this one came in my life with one particular person attached to it, and the fond memories flood back when i hear it. The first line of the first verse just makes me want to take a long drive down an endless road, chasing the sun and some unknown adventure. I also love the postlude, it catches the listener by surprise and can make me slightly melancholy.

had a dream, it was ours and we just didn’t know yet

16) Time and Confusion by Anberlin:  A classic song that i never tire of hearing, this is one of MANY songs by this band that summarize an entire era of my life: The mid-twenties. Characterized by wrestling with social justice issues, building my own worldview, and the standard-variety adulthood tasks of paying bills and balancing a checkbook, i was abuzz with self-actualization.

it’s not about the money we make
it’s about the passions that we ache for


17) I’m Not Your Hero by Tegan and Sara: When i tell people that i am a social worker, i will sometimes get an elevated response from people, in which they make automatic assumptions about my character. And, subsequently, my courage. One of the reasons why i really like this song is the way it places all of us on the same level. Life is a journey, and who i am may not make sense to everyone around me. Nonetheless, we are all brave, we are all afraid, we are all fighting some sort of battle.

i’m not your hero, but that doesn’t mean that i wasn’t brave
i never walked the party line, doesn’t mean that i was never afraid
i’m not your hero, but that doesn’t mean we’re not one and the same


18) How to Love by Lil Wayne: This one will surprise many. To be honest, it surprised me the first time i heard it. I was incredibly impressed by the music video, in particular. Have you seen it? The first time i watched it, tears rolled down my face. It outlines generational struggles of women under less-than-ideal circumstances, and how cyclical life choices can be. i am blown away by how many women in our society are consistently treated poorly from childhood on, and how significantly it impacts our ability to relate to others. i see the cycle of this in my work in foster care, and it is truly heartbreaking. This is an excellent representation of a rampant social problem, set to a catchy melody. It also provides an element of hope.

i just want you to know
that you deserve the best, you’re beautiful.


19) You and I by Paper Route: There have been a few moments in my life that i felt should be set to a soundtrack and put on the silver screen. Epic adventures that will stay in my memories until i am old, and be shared with my grandchildren. This song makes me want to grab the hand of the person next to me, and go do something awesome. It’s the kind of pulsating beat that makes the soul long for more.

i’ve waited for this
i’m the letter that you never sent
i’m just a shot at forgiveness
all the words now taken back
every way i need you
pull me through every memory you thread


20) Stranger Ways by Anberlin: In 2014, when this song was released, i sat in the upper level of the Amsterdam airport and watched people go by. This song played on repeat in my ears, because i loved the beat so much and i couldn’t stop thinking that i would never be in this place with these people ever again. It was one of my more meta moments. i knew that i wanted to go as many places and meet as many people as i possibly could in my lifetime.

right now you’re over there
in a social club state 
pondering the why
why are we alone
a little bit closer to finding the real you
a little bit closer to finding the truth
stranger things have happened
stronger men have answered
a little bit closer to loving you


21) Lions! by Lights: i will refer you to one of my previous blog posts for the explanation on this song. Suffice to say, it’s been a big one. As a side note, i could put 10 more songs by Lights into this list, but i am refraining. If you are not a fan already, please check her out. She’s utterly phenomenal.

you don’t have to feel safe to feel unafraid

22) Doubt by twenty one pilots: 2014 was the most difficult year of my existence, bar none. Despite all of my best efforts, i found myself drowning in a tumultuous sea of fear and doubt, as the circumstances of my life became more and more overwhelming. At the end of it all, i had accomplished something i didn’t think was possible and lost someone in a way i could not fathom. Through this, i remember driving down a long, deserted street late at night and asking God what was going on, in a less than gracious manner. i railed at all of the injustices in this world while weeping and finally coming to the conclusion that even though i was mad at God, i desperately needed Him. More than i ever had before. It didn’t make sense to me then (and still doesn’t now), but i heard this song and it said all the things i wanted to, but didn’t know how to.

shaking hands with the dark parts of my thoughts
you are all that i’ve got
don’t forget about me
even when i doubt you
i’m no good without you

23) Heartbreak Dreamer by Mat Kearney: In my third year of grad school, i heard this song for the first time and it struck me, “this is why i’m a social worker.” Throughout the song, it is dedicated to those who are broken, whether in heart or spirit or action. Whatever you’re longing for, or however you feel alone, there’s somebody out there who feels the same way. A “long lost believer.” And then, at the end, the beat continues over a segment of Anis Mojgani’s poem Shake the Dust, and these lines get me every time:

this is for the ones amendments do not stand up for
the ones who are forgotten
the ones who are told to speak only when they are spoken to
and then they’re never spoken to
speak, every time you stand
do not forget yourself
do not let one moment go by
that doesn’t remind you that your heart beats 100,000 times a day

24) Your Love is Strong by Jon Foreman: A song that never fails to soothe my weary soul, i am not immune to tears when this one is on. i have the lyrics below posted on the wall of my office. They are so simple, yet so reassuring.

two things you told me:
that you are strong,
and you love me.

25) Team by Lorde: This song is specifically dedicated to my coworkers at YFC. We do incredibly difficult work day in and day out, which bonds people together in a way that cannot be put into words. i cherish it, because those weirdos are my tribe.

i’m kinda older than i was when i rebelled without a care
so there
we live in cities you’ll never see onscreen
not very pretty but we sure know how to run things
and you know, we’re on each others’ team


26) Be Okay by Oh, Honey: Guaranteed to lift your spirits, this song encapsulates the positivity i strive for in my adult life. It’s too easy to focus on the negativity in the world around me, especially given my chosen profession. There will always be more to bring me down, if you focus on it. Choose life.

i’m wide awake, so what’s the point of dreaming
when your life is great, celebrate the feeling
can’t complain about much these days
i believe we’ll be okay


27) Every Minute by Lovelife: i recently have become obsessed with the concept of time. Some don’t want theirs, or long for it to pass while anticipating a certain event. Others fervently wish for more. None of us seem to dwell innately in the moment that we find ourselves, simply soaking it in for what it is. Perhaps turning 30 has made me more pensive than average, but i am newly determined to savor every minute of my life.

this is for every lie you told
for every grudge you hold
for every minute that you have wasted

28) I Love by Athlete: Recently, i’ve been at family events and been overcome with a sense of gratitude. i’ve actually looked around and thought to myself, “i love everybody here,” and been sentimental with how much they mean to me. i have an exceptionally unpredictable, superbly lovable crew that i get to go through life with, and i don’t ever want to take them for granted.

you say, “i love everybody here”
and i agree

29) Imagination Infatuation by Misterwives: At this point, i’ve seen this band live twice, and both times i dance around like an idiot. This song brings a big grin to my face because i am an adult, but i still have a silly imagination and sense of humor, and that’s what makes life worth living in the day-to-day. i hope i never lose my imagination, which can whisk me away to an adventure at a moment’s notice, and dream of the life i know is possible.

living is easy to do
when my imagination gets the best of you

30) Stars Appear by Adam Young: In 2016, Adam Young (also known as Owl City) released SIX albums of instrumental music [that’s 59 songs in total]. These songs would be appropriate for movie scoring as well as general listening. i have been a fan of his work since 2009, and i truly believe that his work is one of the more underrated for an artist of his talent. Each one of the albums is phenomenal, especially for nights when you want to lay awake in the dark and stare at the ceiling, or drive in your car for a long time without saying a word. i picked this one after much debate [it was very hard to choose], but i would recommend all of them.

Here’s  the Spotify playlist, so you can enjoy these songs on your own time, should you choose.

Additionally, i hope and pray that you are enjoying the moments of your life with song as well. And, that each of your days is filled with purpose.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s