My first 15 levels or so were all played with friends who were level 30.
Two things came about because of this:
1. I sucked, and we lost a lot.
2. When I started playing solo so I could get better and stop feeding, it turned out that I was pretty damned good compared to other players of my level.
Playing against better players, even losing to them, dramatically improved my game. I just passed my level 30 roommate in total wins. My friends still don't really want me playing with them, since they think I suck, but if I ever play with them again, they're going to be pleasantly surprised.
But damn, yes, that first transition to 30 is hard.