Things I’ve Realized as I Turn 30

With age, our perceptions of things change. Long gone is the innocence of the world, the simple steps in life; wake up, go to work, make money, come home and sleep. I suppose the overcomplication of adult life could be simplified down to that bare minimum, but we refuse to see things so plainly. These are but one of the things I notice as I turn 30.

Allow me to guess. You’re here either because you’re about to turn 30 or are already in your 30s, yes? Great! I’m glad to have some company.

Grab a seat and get comfortable!

And so, it begins!

Before you know it, they’re happening. The incidents are small at first — little nuggets scratching at the surface of your awareness, wanting to make themselves known. Then, you’re stepping out of the shower and you’re pelted with a powerfully sudden derp. What am I talking about? Turning 30. Yup. For someone who doesn’t place too much stock on labels, I’ve unknowingly placed one on myself. Oh, the irony!

As it’s my birthday today, let’s talk about it!

In all honesty, I never imagined being at this point. Just as it freaked me out when I turned 16, 18, and 21, I’m unnerved by the fact that I’ve managed to live for 30 years. Even though my responsibilities have increased tenfold from when I was young and I’ve a changed view of the world, I still feel as if I’m a child. It’s certainly an odd sensation. There are some things I’ve started noticing about myself and my life, however.


It drives me absolutely bonkers. Insane! I’ve mentioned to my mom a couple of times, but I swear to God that the dust here in Japan is made up completely different stuff. My image is of fine, gray layers on top of mantlepieces and dressers — the kind of stuff that would stain a white glove. The dust I barely tolerate resembles lightweight fibers. They float at the barest breath of air.

And no matter how much I clean, how careful I am not to be more of a mess than I already am, I’ll still finding dust bunnies rolling around in the corners. Not to mention that it’ll all stick to the feet of fuzzy furniture if you let it.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki on

Skin Care

This is a gray area. I care a lot more than I did when I was a teenager, but I’m certainly not at the level of some people. I thought my mom was nuts to not only care for her face while in the shower, but she’d spend so much time in the bathroom, layering on product after product. I didn’t understand at all. Heck, washing your face for washing’s sake was a foreign concept to me.

That is… until puberty struck and decided to turn me in an adult. I started washing my face in earnest and having beefs with the oil my T-zone produced on a daily basis. I was even sneaking off into restrooms to dab the excess with toilet seat covers, I was that desperate to keep my face from causing accidents.

Now, I’m washing my face twice a day, using (sometimes) cheap SPF, hyaluronic conditioner, moisturizing cream, and attacking regularly with my popper tool. Go figure.


For as much dedication I show my face (what little there is to start with), I kind of wish I showed the same amount to the rest of my body. It seems running wild is a habit I’ll never break.

I remember when I was around 10 years old when I noticed carpeting on my legs. Yikes. Because I wanted to fit in, I begged and pleaded with my mom to let me start shaving. That was a mistake, because now, I’m stuck in the stupid mindset that, if I want to look good, neat, and tidy, I have to shave.

Waxing armpits is for the birds, by the way, and I’m not even going to touch the phases I went through in regards to landscaping. Any dude that thinks they can exercise control over your body by telling you to groom according to their standards needs some serious re-education.

Overall, am I dissing shaving? No, it has its uses and many people do prefer to be slick, smooth, and shiny. Is it for me? I have my moments. The current obsession I have now is keeping my upper lip hair free.

Babies and Children

They make me happy. You couldn’t have gotten me to care for one when I was younger. Did I babysit? Sure. For money. Now? Pfft, give me all the babies! I spend my days now enjoying the energy my elementary school children have and watching my nieces and nephews grow up (by the way, did you know that’s what you call your cousin’s children? It’s the best!).

Children are indeed heartwarming. But there’s a flipside.

Being Single

After dating many times, I’ve developed poor post-break up coping habits and trust issues. It only took one more burn for me to swear it all off. In no time at all, all of the apps I had on my phone were wiped of their accounts and uninstalled. Dramatic much? I think not. When you’ve had the same conversations again and again, both in English AND Japanese, the whole idea of dating loses its luster.

I can only tolerate the same pub food for so long. And honestly? My wallet could use a break, too.

That still doesn’t change the fact that I feel lonely a lot. That empty area is glaringly obvious some days and I find myself contemplating reinstalling those stupid dating apps. The population of unmarried middle-aged Japanese men must sense it too, because the number of times I’ve been asked if I’m married, have a boyfriend, or are otherwise engaged in some way, has increased exponentially. Luckily, my close friends, family, and age remind me I have a backbone.


Speaking of backbones, do you take care of yours? Yes, I know, there’s a heated debate on whether or not supplements are even needed, but my diet sucks 90% of the time. That’s only one reason I started intermittently choking a handful of pills down in the mornings. Raise your hand if you’ve swallowed a big ass tablet the wrong way!

The biggest reason was because I developed dandruff and was desperate for a cure. Why go to a doctor when I could just follow the advice the internet gave me?

In between changing my shampoo and changing my diet, I bought fish oil, biotin, vitamin D, and multi-vitamins all in an effort to banish the nasty dancing around on my head. Did it all work? I wouldn’t mind being a test subject for a hard yes or no. For now, it all seems to have calmed down. My hair is no longer lanky, my scalp is oiling up again, and whoever was sprinkling salt all over my bedsheets has stopped.

Work Culture

With age, our perceptions of things change. Long gone is the innocence of the world, the simple steps in life; wake up, go to work, make money, come home and sleep. I suppose the overcomplication of adult life could be simplified down to that bare minimum, but we refuse to see things so plainly.

This is where my frustration with the workplace comes into play. Why is it, when we get older, we (unknowingly or not) become embroiled in the politics of it all? I’d gladly take the fun, carefree times at work during my early 20s over the seriousness I’ve seemed to have adopted now. Perhaps it’s my character, but I’ve noticed more and more people telling me I’m too uptight, too focused on doing a good job.

Now, it’s all “You’ve got to be more considerate of others, Ashley,” “You can’t let your mouth run off like that, Ashley,” “You’re gonna find yourself in trouble if you do that, Ashley,” or “What did I tell you? You’ve done it now, Ashley.” OH. MY. GOD. Just tell me what you want done and leave me alone. It’ll be on your desk by Monday morning.


With work comes stress. We all know it’s a killer. It slaps much differently than when I was bugged out of my mind a couple of years ago. I busted my ass working two jobs while pulling myself through school on so little sleep. Back then, I didn’t even bat an eye. It was my normal.

Now? I can pull an all-nighter and drag on for two weeks after that despite getting ample amounts of sleep. I won’t even mention the muscle aches. I don’t even think my neck and shoulders know what relaxation is. My hair, too, is showing signs of its loss of youth. I cheer whenever the hairbrush pulls a grey hair out.

The Passage of Time

Speaking of youth, did you ever notice how, when you were young, you’d want the day to hurry up and be over with or you’d think that you couldn’t wait to grow up — that growing up meant freedom?

Shyit, can I go back to those days?

While I still want the day to get on with itself, I feel like I never have enough time. I don’t have enough time to leisurely finish my tea in the mornings. I don’t have enough time to plan my lessons at school. I don’t have enough time to enjoy my hobbies (pfft, what are those, even?). I don’t have enough time to simply sit and stare a hole in the wall in an effort to get the world to stop turning for a damn minute.

It’s a weird psychological construct that we’ve developed and keep reconstructing since 4236 BC, Egypt. Are we cursed, as humans, to always be reminded that we aren’t eternal?

I suppose I’d take my human life over a fly’s. That’s way too much pressure.


By the way, have you become more organized as you’ve gotten older? Even though my mom tried super hard to instill within my child mind the benefits of being clean and structured, I still turned out a cluttered wreck. It got to the point that my folks would close my bedroom door and only enter if they absolutely had to.

Organization didn’t have a point. I hated it, actually. It made me feel like my home wasn’t homey. This pattern continued all through college, too. When I moved to Japan, things changed… and so did the number of baskets in my apartment.

Baskets are so damn useful. Instead of disarrayed clutter, I can now have organized clutter! It’s brilliant. They come in all shapes and sizes, can be stacked or connected. The options are endless! It’s too bad this basket case can’t be handled in the same fashion.

Remember, if it doesn’t spark joy, dump it!


They suck. I’m the sort of person who hates having only A or B. Why am I not allowed to have C or All of the Above? This is the sort of situation I seem to have found myself in as I live out this particular chapter of my life here in Japan. I can feel the blinders starting to dry up and peel off.

“Adult life” is waiting for me and, after having gone back and skimmed an old post on choosing between Japan or America, I suspect I’m having the same exact dilemma. I’ve fallen into the wash-rinse-repeat societal trope — at 30, it’s time to buckle down and say good-bye to youth. It’s time to take up the mantle of duty and be Best Girl. There’s also the ugly trend that says the older you get, the harder it is to find a job.

Can you tell I’m angry and bitter about the whole thing? What makes me feel worse is that I’ve gone and blabbed in the heat of things, thinking, “That’s it. I’m tired of dilly-dallying, the emotions hurt. I’mma just rip it off and move back home. Who cares if I’m ready or not?” My coworkers and family are doing their best to be understanding, especially in the wake of COVID-19.

Las Vegas is going to have a hell of a time recovering — should I sit tight and wait? One dear friend did point out that I’m safe, have a stable job, etc. here in Japan. Why would I want to throw that away too soon without checking to see if the back-up chute is still good?

The knot of fear in my stomach hurts.


Overall, turning 30 for me means I’m taking a moment to look back at my youth, give it the consideration it deserves, before turning my eyes towards the wide unknown.

It means looking in the mirror and realizing this new kind of human is me. I must dig in deep into myself and find the fortitude that is unique only to this Ashley. It’s just a bit cluttered right now.

I must also learn that I can’t control everything or have everything the way I want it. The sooner I accept that basic facet of life, the sooner I’ll be out of this frantic cycle of caring and not caring.

Author: Ashley Coulthard

I'm a Las Vegas native, currently living the expat life in Japan. I have a blog dedicated to my experiences, thoughts, and joys.

8 thoughts on “Things I’ve Realized as I Turn 30”

  1. I loved reading this, so relatable in a lot of ways! I turned 31 about a month ago and I also sometimes feel like a child, eventhough I have two children of my own. Time is a weird thing. Happy belated!


      1. Thanks 💜
        I included a sweater I got from Forever21, a longgg time ago, in my post today and it got me thinking… can you wear clothing from Forever21 when you’re 31? 🤔 Honestly, I think I’ll be keeping my sweater till I’m 91 😄


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