Check out this month's Song Challenge
Home / Uncategorized / Case Study: The making of “When I’m 30”

Case Study: The making of “When I’m 30”

I was participating in a songwriting club and I had one week to write this song. I was given a phrase which had to be the title of the song and somewhere in the lyrics. The phrase was “When I’m 30”.  For this one, the music kind of came to me quickly.  In my first sitting of messing around, I was able to give a rough outline to the chorus and verse chord progressions and melody.

For the theme of the song, I originally was trying to go with the concept of:  If I could send a letter to a younger me – say, 10 years ago – to give myself advice about the next 10 years.  That’d be the 1st verse.  Then the 2nd verse would be getting a letter from myself from 10 years older giving me advice about the next 10 years.  That concept sort of held true but as you can see the verses told a little different story.

The chorus still took the same direction and went through many versions as I tried to get just the right words, the right rhythm and rhymes saying just the right thing I wanted to say.  This is one of the fun parts for me in songwriting.  If I hadn’t run out of time, I probably would have spent a little more time revising.  But there comes a time where you have to call it done and go with what you have.

The song speaks of the issues I’m currently dealing with in life.  It’s basically about the challenge one faces in life when choosing between pursing selfish ambition and pouring time and energy into those we love in life.

Hopefully the first verse is self-explanatory.  We’re encouraged by well-meaning adults to pursue our dreams.  But nobody tells us that the pursuit of one thing is often the sacrifice of another thing.  This is what the Chorus is all about.  Life is always about a choice.  In the case of this song, I’m talking about the choice between denying myself of my personal pursuits for the sake of pouring myself into my family.

I’m not trying to say there’s no way to strike a balance (or healthy tension) between the two.  The main thing I’m trying to say is, it’s up to you which way you choose to go and either way you go, you’ll have to make sacrifices.  The sacrifice may be your own plans or your family and friend relationships.


WHEN I’M 30 | © 2010 Ben Chilcote

When I was younger
I was told to pursue my dreams
And when I grew up
I could be who I wanted to be
But as it turns out
It’s not quite as simple as we think

Like when I’m 30 it’s not gonna be just me
I’m gonna I wake up
With others who depend on me
And all the plans I had
Will be second to everything…

There’s a battle that we face every day of our life
To either die to ourselves or to fight to survive
Either way you go you gotta be willing to sacrifice

You choose what you take and you choose what you give
So don’t wait till it’s too late to decide how to live
Wounded hearts will maybe heal but time will never forgive

When I’m 40
If I’m still hangin’ on
Gonna wake up
and half of my life is gone
Don’t wanna look down
With nothing but trophies
In my hands

I wanna know that
I’m a hero in my children’s eyes
That I never gave up
Relentlessly pursuing my wife
That even God was proud
Of my hidden life
That’s right.


You have everything to gain
And everything to lose

When you find yourself ahead looking back down the road
You may find you made it far but that you made it alone
I don’t wanna be up there if I’m up there
On my own


I was 30…

About Ben Chilcote

Ben Chilcote is a husband, dad, full-time minister and online singer/songwriter. He is a lifelong student of music and the founder of

WCS Recommends

Join the FREE WCS Songwriting Club!
Scroll To Top