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A Look Back On Being 30

Tomorrow (or today if you’re reading this on Wednesday, July 18), I turn 31-years-old.

This not only makes me old it makes you old as well, but that’s neither here nor there. The important thing is I survived a very pivotal age, an age that when I was going into it, I had a host of expectations and ideas about what it meant. Little did I know, it was nothing like I thought it would be.

The thing I tell about being 30 is, you don’t turn 30, 30 turns you. Because you are now this particular age, people expect things of you and you expect things of yourself. I have spent a whole year telling people who ask, I’m 30-years-old, and every single time I’ve said it, it feels like I’m lying. I don’t feel 30, for a variety of reasons, but my ID tells no lies and so therefore, people expect me to be 30, even when they have no idea what it means.

Hell, I didn’t have any idea what it meant and as I sit here less than 24 hours away from turning 31, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that this past year was akin to the Introduction to Statistics class I was required to take in college. I did not flourish, but I had highs and lows that balanced out to the point where I made it to 31 and the older you get, the more you just want to be able to say that. You made it to the next year.

I spent the majority of my 30 year unemployed, freelancing my life away while trying to figure out if I could qualify for food stamps. Times got hard. I went to housing court, not once, but twice, an experience I will dedicate a whole chapter to in that book I’ve been spending my whole life writing. And perhaps such misfortune is due to my lack of money management skills and inability to create a budget, but I also know that I’m living in apartment that I moved into when I had a job, so yeah, there’s that.

Somehow, I managed to make it and I’m able to still live in this apartment that I love. I’ve been blessed with a new job, as most of you know, and it’s so funny because as I jokingly tell people, when I went to school for journalism, I didn’t know it would turn into this. But I love it, and every day I wake up with the intent to own it and thrive at it.

Meanwhile, the personal life is, as it always was: A mess. I’ve made mistakes here too within the past 12 months. I broke someone’s heart, someone broke my heart. If you’ve read the blog over the past six months, you could get a sense of what it felt like to be in both positions. I’ve made new friends, strengthened my relationships with some old friends. With one of my best friends having just moved to New York, I now have three of my best friends of 12 years living in the city, which has been a blessing. The addition of some new friends has also made me realize, if you think you can’t make friends after the age of 30, you’ve given up on life and people far too soon.

Also, heartbreak, both delivered and received, taught me there’s some things you will never outgrow. It doesn’t get harder, but it doesn’t get easier either. If anything, heartbreak is the thing for which you will never be prepared, and so you have to accept that when it’s happening to you, time is your only remedy.

Being 30 is just an all around trip, man. I don’t know how else to explain it other than to say, you really aren’t going to get it until you’re coming up on 31. I say this because I had no idea what it meant and now, I think I do, at least a little bit.

Being 30 is not about being grown or being older by anyone’s standards but your own, and I don’t mean stubbornly so. I mean, you not only have to be comfortable with who you are, but also comfortable with changing whatever it is about yourself that needs changing. You can accept certain things about you as being permanent, but when you realize you have more years ahead of you than behind you, and that you’ve really only been an adult for nine years, saying you’re done growing is a primary example of arrested development. You can put yourself in a 30-year-old box and let it define you, or you can put 30 in a box and define it for yourself.

That is the battle I’ve had with myself over the past 12 months. Nothing makes me more insecure than when someone wants to qualify the absurdity of a mistake I made or one of my imperfections with the phrase, “You’re a 30-year-old man.” It’s as though because I’m this age I should know better. And perhaps they’re right, but honestly, as I head into my 30s officially, I realize I’m going to have to care less about what that means. I’m going to grow, I’m going to get better as a person because I care about being a good person, but I’m doing so on my own time and for my own reasons. I want more money, I want my book deal and to thrive at this job, and I wouldn’t mind just one good woman in my life. So I’m riding around and I’m getting it, but not in one scoop, rather, piece by piece. Maybe I should have had some of these things because I’m 30, but I have learned 30 doesn’t mean you have it all, it means you’re closer to getting it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have dreams and goals. My ambition is still the same as it was the day I moved to New York City, which was July 9, 2004. But I’ve also been able to understand that what really makes life beautiful is the nuances of it, the gift of the day-to-day and no matter how bad it gets, no matter how many inconveniences and hardships life throws at you, if you get another day, you get another shot to run the obstacle course of life. God’s gift to you is that new day, it’s his way of saying, He hasn’t given up on you and therefore you should not give up on life.


DO REMEMBER! My “Blogging While Writing” event is happening at the Schomburg in Harlem this Thursday and it’s free! Featuring Gene Demby of Postbourgie/Huffington Post; Rembert Browne of Grantland; and Erika Nicole Kendall of “A Black Girls Guide To Weight Loss.” GO HERE FOR MORE DETAILS AND TO RSVP!

Soundtrack to today’s post: “Maybe Tomorrow” by Stereophonics

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  • Mellisa Manson

    That spoke right to me. I’m 28 about to be 29 in a few weeks. I have been thinking about outlining a set of goals for me to accomplish by my 30 year. I look back and I wonder where the time has gone, but I also see that I’ve learned and gone through a hell of a lot to get here. I can only take that with me a turn it into something that makes these next years better than the last years. Thanks for that post!

  • Dewan

    Man, 31 and no kids? In New York City? Stop worrying about an arbitrary number and get your ass out there and have some fun. Give it a few years and you’ll be surrounded by crying babies, bills and a chubby wife–30 won’t seem like nothing. 

  • Deanna

    Great post, Jozen. Very admirable. The food stamps struggle is REAL when you’re freelancing! lol Thank you for your honesty. Definitely inspired me to keep pushing with my dreams.

  • guest

    Great post and cool song.


    I really appreciate this blog entry. I turn 33 in August and you described turning 30 perfectly. You don’t feel “old” but everyone treats you like you’re too old to make mistakes. I particularly love what you said about making friends now that you’re older. I can’t lie though I am enjoying certain aspects of 30 way more than I did my 20s. Thanks for sharing.

  • Cjames93

    This was such a beautiful post!

  • Dom

    Happy Birthday Jozen!

  • Anastasia!!!

    Hapoy Bday Jozen!!

    I’ll behind you as far as age – I turn 25 soon, and there’s something about the experiencing the last half of my twenties as well 😉

    I keep coming here and checking and being like, Where are the posts, Jozen!!? Then it hit me – Subscribe, duh!!!


  • Fredachisambi

    Turned 30 four days ago and I really needed to read this. Thank you & happy belated!

  • Treaks

    Wow I turned 31 on the 14th July. I can relate to this post. Was not feeling good about getting ‘old’ Scrolled down and then you had my favourite Stereophonics song! Man this post was definitely for me. Happy Belated Birthday !

  • Jess

    Outstanding and spot on article. My ‘significant and sometimes very retarded other’ Just turned 31 and I noticed him having an existential crisis in the year or two leading up to 30. Definitely spoke to me being on the other side of watching it happen to someone in a way.

  • Rican

    Most of my friends either just turned 30 are about to turn 30. I myself will be 30 next January. I will be forwarding this post to all of them. Thanks for this!

  • Caitlin Green

    Great post – and I’m unabashedly happy to hear that its hard for a guy too!