Now On The Right Blog
January 10, 2010
Back in October, I thought spending my winter vacation back in America would be the pivotal test of my life in Japan. By the time I boarded by plane bound for Los Angeles in December the chance for that to remain true had basically dried up, but three months ago it felt like a turning point. Life in Japan was still relatively new and terrifying – I had plenty of good weeks, but just as many spent feeling lost and a bit hopeless. I decided two weeks in California would be a good test – if I felt better where I was originally from, there would be a good chance I wouldn’t resign for another year.
It was a mute point by the time I touched down, as I had already realized I’d still feel all the negative things if I lived anywhere else on the planet. Learning Japanese was the only real Japan-only terror, so I’d decided I would re-contract well before I went home. Still, as I now wait in the LAX terminal watching a steady stream of Texas and Alabama football fans move by, I’ve never felt more confident to be returning to somewhere I don’t know the language.
That reads like a swipe against my winter vacation, which was plenty pleasant, awesome even. It was great to see family and friends again, and I feel ten pounds heavier after indulging in every fast-food snack within a 50-mile radius of me. But being back also reminded me of all the reasons I wanted to get away in the first place – and made me realize what a different person I am depending on what side of the ocean I’m on.
As mentioned, plenty of thoughts bug me wherever I am. Pathetic as it may be, I still dwell on the past way too much and let it get me down – being with people reminiscing about “the good times” shot me into a lot of confused places. Similar story with journalism, which just made me feel dumb while on vacation. I noticed the most change in myself – I stressed out much easier in America and felt less independent (which, I guess, is bound to happen when you live with your family again, even for a short period of time).
I don’t think Japan has changed me in any drastic way outside of being OK eating fish now. Being far away from home has given me a chance to distance myself from the thoughts that get me down, and that allows me to be a better person. That’s a pretty bad solution (basically running away)…but it’s honestly the best way I can approach them, at least for now.
Visiting home was great, but I’m feeling even better to go back (even if I’m not looking forward to dragging my suitcase back to my apartment, as it has somehow gained more weight than me). And I’m glad I feel good about this, because next up is the most interesting stretch of time – a most-likely-unbroken span of a year-and-a-half of living in Japan. The first six-ish months had plenty of challenges, but this next part seems a little more daunting because it’s really the time for me to figure out my identity in Japan, and make the most of it. It’s basically a blank sheet, and that’s simultaneously horrifying and exciting. Not to mention the slow-growing realization that my time in Japan stands as my last hurrah of youth – I still have two years to be youthfully idiotic before I leave this program, at which point I should probably start mapping out my life. For now though, I’m excited by the possibility of this year.
Even if I need to run approximately a billion laps around the city. Seriously, the U.S. needs to do something about its nutrition, it’s amazing how bad it is.
(Japanese Fun Fact #35 – Ever wonder what Japanese hotel art looks like? Feast your eyes: