All in all, this has been a good birthday–low-key, very casual, giving me the opportunity to not dwell on the fact that I’ve been alive for a quarter of a century. I’ve had some time to reflect, though, and really, what’s the point in feeling disappointed about what I haven’t done? There’s a lot I have done, a lot I’m proud of…and I can use this next year as a step-off point to determine where I’m headed for the next quarter-century and beyond. That’s still a lot of pressure for this year to really measure up, though…but grad school will be the biggest thing. Once I get that started, retake the GRE, get the applications and personal statement and recommendations going and out of the way, I should be good.

(I’m still not completely convinced that I shouldn’t apply to programs in either geology or animation, though. Two rather far-flung dreams…but at least my enthusiasm in both will never die. This is the perfect country to fuel both, too!)

So I started yesterday off by sleeping in, which forced me to take 2 more hours of paid vacation on top of the four I was taking to go to the drivers’ license center in Tokushima/Omiko in the afternoon. I did ultimately get my driver’s license yesterday, just barely…it’s a story I don’t want to recount because I’m still stunned as to how they didn’t flunk me after I screwed up the driving test so badly–but better not to question it. I spent the afternoon and evening in the city (after getting a ride from the cool guy who took his test at the same time as me–Aki, a 23-year-old from Aizumi who went to university in Texas and speaks awesome English; if he weren’t on his way to Nagoya today, I would’ve gotten his contact info and invited him to hang out with the ALTs), treating myself to a nicer dinner at Capricciosa and actually buying dessert (something I do very rarely), and staring out over the Shinmachi River for a while and just thinking, reflecting on my last hours until the clock finally shifted and I was finally entering my 25th year of life.

But you know, when it comes down to days and hours, after over 24 years of waiting, I was already pretty much 25 a week ago. This is just one of those numbers that’ll make me blink and go, “Wait, is that for real?” every time it comes up.

Hamza asked me to call him at his apartment in Auburn at midnight my time, and we talked for about an hour. It felt really good to talk with him–it’d been a long time, and I hope we can talk more often. I really do miss him a lot, and he and my other close friends are my major reasons for wanting to go home in December, though nothing’s decided yet. My parents, brother, and grandmother also all called and wished me this morning just before I left for work, and I talked with my brother for the first time in months…I felt horrible having to cut him off so I could run to work. After I arrived at the office, Donna, one of my best friends and a Ph.D student in Boston, called my cell and we talked for 10-15 minutes as well. It had really been a long time since I talked to her…hearing, “Hey, is this Smitty?” on the phone in response to my, “Hello, moshi-moshi?” (my usual greeting when I don’t recognize the caller) was surprising, because nobody here calls me that, and it took me a second to grasp that it was Donna in Boston calling me. That was a really pleasant surprise.

Work was uneventful–I bought myself some tiramisu with lunch (the best way to celebrate your birthday is to fatten yourself up, huh?), and about an hour after I got off work, Chalice, Ashley, and I picked up Julie and Brian (I’m still not entirely certain how the five of us squeezed into a Daihatsu Mira, but we did it) and met up with Kirsten, Christine B., Rob, James, Christine M., and Gilly at the Sri Lankan restaurant in Yamakawa–which was truly a lot better than I remembered it being. Once I start driving for real, I’m going to be going there a lot more often. They were out of potatoes, so I got dahl, papadam, yellow rice, and Ceylon chai for dinner. It was every bit as low-key as I could’ve hoped for–just hanging out, eating, chatting, watching and making fun of the Bollywood music videos playing in the background, and vague mentions of birthdays only coming up occasionally, like when Christine and I got into a shoving match at the register because she refused to let me pay for my dinner, and when they sang to me and had me give a small speech.

And now…I’m here, and I’ve survived. August 29th has come and almost gone, and though I was sure I’d be depressed and weighted down, I’m all right. It’s just a day–not much different from yesterday. It’ll take me a while to get used to actually saying I’m 25 years old, and then not flinching mentally as what I’m saying actually sinks in. 21? “Sweet, I’m legal!” 22? “Ugh, getting into old territory…” 23? “I’m how old?” 24? “One-year till the quarter-century…” 25? “…” I was telling Donna on the phone that this really is my year to establish myself, like I mentioned earlier–while I’m in Japan, I can’t really impact my future as actively as I could if I were in school or working in a job relevant to my area/s of expertise. That’s what next year will be for–I have to live up to my age and use this year to make the years after this really count, which, in turn, will make this year really impactful. I hope it’ll be a good one.

I’m ending the day by listening to some Michael Jackson. Happy birthday to him, Dante Basco (the voice of Prince Zuko on Avatar: The Last Airbender, my current animation obsession), Bae-Yon Joon, Robin Leech, Richard Attenborough, John Locke, Ingrid Bergman, and many others. I hope it was a good day for my fellow August Virgos; it was certainly an enlightening one for me.

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