Breaking the Record with Roan Yellowthorn, Part 49: It’s My Birthday

Breaking The Record 2020
Breaking The Record 2020
Jackie McLean of the indie band Roan Yellowthorn grants us an inside look at the making of an album from start to finish in her ‘Breaking The Record’ column.
Stream: “Little Love” – Roan Yellowthorn


It’s my birthday. I’m 31 today. It seems like a good age to be. I like that 31 is the number 13 backwards. Because 13 is such an important age. There’s so much growth. It’s almost like you become a new person at 13. I wonder if 31 will be reciprocal, somehow. Maybe at 31, I’ll rediscover who I was before the onslaught of hormones; my essential self.

Just jumping into the Breaking The Record series documenting the making of our album from start to finish? Read part 1 here!

I spoke to a good friend recently about how 20 feels like the oldest age. It really does. At 20, you feel ancient. Like a grotesquely overgrown child. The oldest child. After that, you start moving into adulthood and become like an infant adult. I think that, since the age of 20, I’ve felt younger every year. Younger in the sense of more free. More free to experiment and explore. To be weird. To be ‘myself.’ I realize more and more how little other people care. Really, no one is scrutinizing you. Everyone is thinking mostly about themselves. That’s normal. There’s relief in realizing this. That you are really quite free to do what you want and be who you are.

I don’t have much experience yet but, so far, I really like my 30s. I feel I am finding myself. Honoring myself and the truth of my experiences. I don’t think I’ll ever begrudge a birthday. I know how priceless they are. Growing older is a privilege. Something to be thankful for.

When I was 19, my best friend died. She was killed by a drunk driver while she was walking home – struck in the dark. He drove away. He was caught later and she was found the next morning by the newspaper carrier. I’m haunted by the image of her laying on frozen ground.

My friend, my best friend, was named Jordyn. She was 20 when she died. Always older than me, I’m 11 years older than her now. I still can hardly believe she’s gone. And, the older I get, the more I see her as the child she was. I see her, now, just as much from the vantage point of a mother as that of a peer. She was a beautiful soul. I love her and miss her very, very  much. And I’ll never understand why anyone would complain about getting older. To age is a gift.

I’m thinking about that today. About Jordyn. And how she’s been gone for 11 years.

Her funeral was on the weekend of my birthday, eleven years ago. It feels like a lifetime ago. And also like it was yesterday. I was in college. I was not doing well. I took an 11 hour journey to get home from school. I was tired and sad and angry. I remember being so angry. On the bus during one of the legs of the journey, there was a group of laughing women sitting together. It looked like they were having a great time. I hated them with a passion. I actually remember glaring at them from where I was sitting. A focused, glowering glare. How dare they feel joy.

Two days later, I was back on the bus. Going back to school. On a steady diet of Snickers bars that I maintained for weeks. It was the only thing I could stomach. I only ate one or two a day.

I have a new song out. And it’s set around that dark, sad time. It’s about a specific set of events not touched on here. But this is where some of the dark sadness that suffuses it originates.

It’s called ‘Little Love’ and you can listen to it here.

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Little Love - Roan Yellowthorn

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