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Thoughts On Turning 30: Waking Up Alone

So in 12 days I’m turning 30-years-old, which means it’s all I’ve been thinking about lately, which means it’s all I might write about between now and the 18th.

As I count down the days to my born day, a lot of my friends are asking me what I am going to do, what I want to do, etc. My answer is the same one I give ever year, I really don’t know.

I think I mentioned this last year when I was turning 29, but being a summer baby and sharing birthdays with my sister who is three years younger but born on the 16th, I’ve always been reluctant to do a whole lot for my day. Also, it’s worth noting, since living in New York, celebrating my birthday has always been made easier by the fact that it usually falls on or around the same time as this big barbecue that’s held in Brooklyn every year, and most folk I want to see are usually there.

For right now, the only thing I do know I want is to wake up in my own apartment by myself on my 30th birthday.

To some, this might seem like an odd request. To others it may seem like a roundabout way of asking for two women to offer up their company around the stroke of midnight on July 18. That is not true (unless there are two girls who want to make a liar out of me).

But no, really, as I get older, the weeks and days leading up to my birthday always seem to get more and more introspective. I think. A lot. And so the solitude of waking up by myself on my birthday has become a weird sort of necessity to starting my day off right.

Throughout the majority of my 20s, I always had the pleasure of waking up to a girlfriend or a lady friend (we do know the difference, right?) on my birthday. It wasn’t until I was 28 that I experienced waking up alone that day, and I remember that year going to bed with a deep anxiety about the whole thing, as though it was some sort of poetic justice that being served onto me for all the wrongs I did.

Now as I turn 30, I kind of feel like waking up alone is what’s best for me on my birthday, even if I am dating someone at the time. The day before, the day after, I can celebrate with whoever is in my life however we would like to, but on that specific day, with the exception of the hours in between spent with people who are important, I want to wake up alone and I want to go to sleep alone.

Birthdays are intimate, man.

Turning a year older grows in significance for me every year, and these days I have become more mindful of sharing such significant moments. This was something I realized on a day that wasn’t my birthday.

I was asleep, alone in my bed. At the time I was single, but of course had a woman in my life who I cared about and I knew cared about me, but she wasn’t in bed with me. The reason, I can’t recall, but in retrospect, waking up alone was exactly what I needed.

The phone rang at an unusual time, something like 6:30 a.m. It was my brother, and it is amazing how in the two seconds it took me to answer the phone I already came to the conclusion the news wasn’t good.

“Brother,” he said.

“Yeah,” I said.

“He passed away.” The “He” my brother was referring to was our father.

“Okay,” I told him. “Give me an hour? I’ll be ready.”

We were going to D.C. immediately to meet our other brother and make the necessary arrangements. For about five minutes, I went into autopilot. I immediately got out of bed, called my mother to break the news to her, turned on my shower, and then, that is when it all hit me. The emotions of it all just poured out of me, and the only thing I was thankful for at that moment was my solitude, because this was a significant moment for me, not to be shared with anyone.

I know it seems odd and maybe even morbid to think that morning would be anything like waking up on my birthday. Turning a year older is good news, and certainly better news than receiving the news that a loved one has passed, but I bring up that memory to illustrate the importance of sometimes needing to be alone during life’s most significant moments.

The day I turn 30 is going to be huge for me, I know myself well enough to know that when I wake up, I will be the happiest man alive, but also in a level of thought so deep it’s going to make yoga masters look like they have ADD. It won’t last all day, probably just the duration of my workout, but I’m going to need that time to be alone because I’m turning 30 that day. Biggest moment of my life.



I went to Essence Music Festival and wrote about it for THE ROOT. Click here to read.

PAPER Magazine let me write the cover story of their latest issue on Swizz Beatz. Cop it at a newsstand or click here to read.

For BILLBOARD, I contributed to a package the magazine did on independent artists with a small profile I did of saxophonist Kenneth Whalum III. Cop it at  a newsstand or click here to read.

Speaking of jazz musicians, also did an interview over at THE WALL STREET JOURNAL with Christian Scott, Stefon Harris, and David Sanchez who just released their new collaboration album, Ninety Miles. Click here to read


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  • Mskim23

    As someone who shares your birthday (although mine is 2 years earlier) I totally understand what you mean about being a summer baby and the joy of sometimes waking up alone.  I didn’t think 30 was that big of a deal, but I woke up alone and I was happy; I didn’t go to bed alone the night of my birthday because everyone deserves a birthday treat I think 🙂 Anyway, happy birthday from another cool person born on July 18th

  • Guest

    Better to wake up alone alive and healthy. Better to wake up alone than to wake up with someone you don’t want to wake up to. Better to wake up alone in the comfort of your own home whether you rent or own, safe and sound-at least you’re not homeless, Afterall, Home is where the heart is. Who cares about waking up alone. There’s no law against waking up alone even if it’s for the rest of your life. Life goes on with or without someone in your life. Just enjoy your life while it last as we don’t live forever. Lastly, Happy 30th birthday in advance. 

  • Jenna

    I’m turning 30 on the 19th… I really like what you said here. Always full of wise words. Thanks!

  • esoteric

    It’s sort of like what some people say about twitter/social media… how can you live life if you’re so busy tweeting/fb/twitpic’n the moments. I welcome my born days in solitude …usually with a toast to life… because with grace I’ll get 365 and some change to get it up!
     Some Reading: Reads like you’re blazing up the print! Congrats!

  • AsoulzJourney

    I agree. My born day is the fourth of July. I have not made plans for my day in abt nine years. I like the feeling of freedom. This year, I waited til the sun went down, then had drinks and sushi with strangers!

    P.S. I usually lurk only, however, been following since the beginning. Since I’m here, I might as well tell you that your spot is one of my favs(even saw an old friend from hs post a comment). Thank you.

  • serenalove

    I’m with esoteric. I try to enjoy the moment rather than documenting it.

    I also understand necessary solitude. All men need time to think and I appreciate when a man takes that time. I am trying to do that same thing, instead of running around in a frenzy trying to please someone, I like to take my time and think and thinking is best alone.

  • taut_7

    i feel you on turning 30. i turn 30 in september. introspective like a mug. in the end i think that i’ll feel the same way i felt when i turned 29. but leading up to 30 i’ve been thinking about life a lot. 

    sidenote: i think i saw you in masquerade on thursday night. didn’t want to walk up on you and be like “yo are you jozen”. seemed like it would have been a little awkward. 

  • wahoo4uva

    I’m puzzled about how deep people get over turning 30.  I used to think it was a big deal too.  For me, it turned out it really wasn’t that serious.  Of course I gave some thought to where I was in life compared to the life I thought I would be living.  But I didn’t linger there for too long.  Instead, I felt relieved I did not have all of the things (e.g. marriage, children) I thought I was “supposed” to have by age 30 and felt grateful for the shift in consciousness and self-awareness I realized.  I’m not sure I would have experienced this awakening because the busyness of the  lifestyle I thought I would have had by then would not have afforded me time for the introspection I needed to experience those important shifts.  Our focus should not be on chronological age or time.  The should be, supposed to, could have, and thought I would have/be by now, what now kind of thinking serves us no good purpose.  Instead, we should have faith we are exactly where we need to be, all the time, in the present moment.  The significance lies there, not with age.

  • John

    Must be nice to WANT to wake up alone. No offense but Jesus Christ. I would be ecstatic if I even had a small spectrum of options.