A short story about turning 31

I’m turning 31 today.  My alarm goes off at 7:30.

It’s been four weeks since I’d had to wake up so early. Yuck. In my head, I know 7:30 isn’t that early. But it is for me right now. Just coming off winter vacation, I still hav’t recovered from New Year’s Eve. Not that I really did anything for New Year’s Eve – I was in bed by midnight, after all. But somehow, I’ve still been on a schedule of sleeping at 2:00 and waking up around 10:00. I hit snooze and let my alarm go off a few more time. Turning 31 in the winter is hard.

I don’t need to be up at 7:30. 8:00 is even enough time to get ready. Even 8:30. After playing around on my phone for a few minutes, I’m too hungry to just lay around any longer. I sit up and put my slippers and sweater, pulling myself away from the warm blankets.

I’m 31 today.

The second year of my fourth decade of life. If I lived to be 93, today would be my one third mark. If I lived to be 62, I would be half way there. That’s a sobering thought. Should I be having a third-life crisis? A mid-life crisis? Nah, not yet. I’ll probably live to be 124, so today I’m only finished one fourth of my magnificent life. Maybe I’ll have a quarter-life crisis. I don’t even know what that is. Maybe I made it up. Today, I’m only turning 31.

Maybe now is the time when I start to seriously question my life choices, not that I haven’t done that already. What have I accomplished? What have I learned? Did I take the right major? Why didn’t I study physics? Or information technology? Should I move back to Canada someday? What career am I going to have? Is it so horrible if I don’t want to have kids? Why am I so lazy? Wouldn’t it be ironic if I died exactly on my birthday? My husband doesn’t like it when I say things like that, but I think it would be kind of funny.

In the kitchen, I find that my husband is already awake.

How nice of him to take the day off work today. For me. Even though I still have to go to class this morning. He greets me with a big birthday hug, and I’m happy. Marrying this man is something that I have definitely never had second thoughts about. He offers to make me pancakes or bacon and eggs, but I stupidly recline the generous offer. I just go with a bowl of cereal. Boring. I put some raisins in it. Slightly less boring. We talk for a bit about what I want to do when I get back from class, though I’m not even sure what I want to do. There aren’t any movies out right now that I want to see. I do know that I want to eat chocolate cake and eat barbecue.

Back into the bedroom, I sit on the floor to put on my make-up.

I’m turning 31 today, and I look at myself in the mirror. Why did I wait so long to care about my skin? I should have been moisturizing years ago, not be sporadic about it. Now I look at the little lines under my eyes and wonder if they would be less visible if I had taken better care of my skin in my 20s. I try not to let superficial things like this bother me, and to be honest most of the time they don’t. But I must admit, they seem to have sprung up just last year. I’m not particularly insecure about getting older. I guess I’ll just try harder from now on. Whether or not it will make any difference, I don’t know. Best to just to own my age. I’ll try.

I finish putting on my make-up. I’m not very talented at this either, but I think I can get the job done well enough. Then I straighten the kinks out of my hair for from yesterday. No way am I washing it two days in a row.

I finish getting ready and pack up my school things.

It feels weird to be the one leaving the house in the morning while my husband stays home. I walk to the subway station and go downstairs to wait on the platform. I check Facebook on my phone as the train rumbles underneath the city. There are a couple birthday messages already. I usually hide my birthday from Facebook the couple weeks around the day. Something about having it public is awkward to me. Maybe I don’t like the attention. Or the sense that people feel obligated to write something. For the last two years I’ve left it visible, though. At school, I’m surprised to get birthday greetings from a couple people in person.

After class, I head home right away.

I just want to spend the rest of the day with my husband. I get home earlier than I planned. He is still out. I play on the internet and send him a message telling him I’m here. He gets home soon with the familiar bag from the cake shop that has my favourite chocolate cake in Japan. “What’s that?” I ask, knowingly. “Nothing!” He jokes. We sit at the kitchen table and talk about what to do. I wanted to have barbecue for lunch, but the place I wanted to go to doesn’t do all-you-can-eat during lunch, and I feel like eating all-I-can-eat today. I decide I want to eat a “turning 31” cake now and then go to the restaurant for a late lunch/early dinner.

So, we eat cake. I take a nap. Then we go out.

The weather is nice today. Cold, but nice. It’s sunny and not too windy. There is still snow left on the ground from the weekend. Hanging around in the places that don’t get a lot of sunlight, though it is melting quickly. There’s already a lot less that there was when I left the house this morning. I don’t mind the snow. When I don’t have to drive in it, that is. Growing up in Canada, it was normal to have snow on my birthday. I have a lot of fun memories playing in the snow. Someday though, I want to have a summer birthday. To be in a hot country on my birthday. I wouldn’t have to wear sweaters and jackets and boots and gloves and scarves, or limit my activities to indoor things.

We walk to the station, for no real reason than just for something to do before we eat.

It’s nice to do things together during the day when everyone else is at work, so I just want to spend time together. We both have food on our minds though, so we soon go the other direction toward the restaurant. It’s around 3:30, so it’s sort of a strange time to eat a huge meal. But we’re adults, and we can do whatever we want. The place is not busy, so our food comes quickly. We order different slices of pork and beef, and of course French fries for me. I start to get pretty full after eating for an hour, but my husband keeps going. He’s really good at taking advantage of the all-you-can-eat service. It’s funny, whenever we leave that place he always has a very visible food baby.

The restaurant is in the mall, but we decide not to walk around much today.

There’s nothing either of us need or want. We both agreed years ago that we didn’t need to buy each other gifts. The best thing we can do is just do fun things and be together. Anyway, I want to go home and watch a movie. I’m not sure which one yet though. So, we walk home, stopping at the convenience store to pick up some snacks for later. I see someone has built a snowman on the side of the road. Thank you, stranger, for doing that.

Back at home I open up my iTunes to look for any movies that might be interesting while my husband sets up the speakers.

In the few minutes it takes to get everything ready to watch a movie I think about where I am in life, and say to myself that I’m in a good place. I’ve done a lot so far, I’ve seen and experienced a lot, and I’m not in a place of boredom. I’m still learning and growing and experiencing new things and changing, and that makes me happy. If I think back to myself 15 years ago, I never would have imagined that I would be turning 31 in Japan, soon to be starting a PhD, and married to a wonderful man. Though perhaps that is what makes life so much fun. The fact that you don’t know where you will be or what you will be doing in the future.

I didn’t do anything particularly extravagant today, but then again I’m not an extravagant person. I grab a few snacks, turn on the heater, and get comfy on the couch with my husband. Today was a good day. 30 was a good year. And I hope, turning 31, this next year will be just as great.

Read: 31 things I’ve learned in 31 years


Jennifer has lived in Japan for a total of seven years. She has travelled, taught English, studied Japanese, completed a Master's Degree, and travelled some more. She currently calls Nagoya her home, where she lives with her Japanese husband.


  1. Pingback: 31 things I’ve learned in 31 years – JenStewie

  2. Happy belated birthday, Jen! What an awesome post. I love the way you describe things. You certainly have done a lot! It is incredible where life can take us.

  3. Cousin Brian Reply

    Lovely peice of prose jen. (Jenny? Jenn? Or jennifer? I don’t know if you have a preference for a contraction or not, but I know many people do. -also I really want to add -san to whatever it is! Jenny-san! But I digress) i too often muse about my impending demise, and my speculation often includes a bus. It annoys a lot of people (I’m okay with that) who don’t get that its funny. Sure, maybe not funny ‘ ha-ha’ but funny-Peculiar all the same. Actually, 1/4 life crisis is kind of a recognized Millennial thing….

    • Thanks! Jenny is actually the one nickname that I do NOT let people call me. So not that, please and thank you. Right! It’s not ‘ha ha’ funny, but at the same time, it’s funny, I haven’t really figured out what will happen to me yet. Maybe some type of brain-eating worm…or alien abduction.

    • No matter. You can still read about Japan even if you are not in Japan. I hope you find something interesting. Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad I found your blog, too.

  4. Pingback: 31 things I've learned in 31 years - Stewie Overseas

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