Thoughts On A Year In Japan Or Work Sleeping Pills, Work!

July 4, 2010

The realization that I’ve been in Japan for a whole year…well, almost a whole year, but let’s shave off those pesky three weeks for now…always strikes me with the same paradoxical feelings I should be used to now. An entire year! The time just flew by! Errrrrr, wait…no it didn’t. It’s the same reaction I had following the conclusion of college, the initial mix of wondering how time could zip forward before the realization that, no, they didn’t jet by at all…it was four long years that at times truly put the emphasis on “long.” It’s the usual “life is so short/life is so long” conflict made even more specific, the right answer clearly being not to dwell on either extreme for fear of becoming one of those “what do/did I do people.”

Still, I always have to pause when I let these thoughts to occupy my mind. It goes from the positive side of the spectrum – look how far I’ve come! – before swinging towards the pessimistic – dear God I’ve done nothing. As I’m apt to do, the negative always take precedent over the upbeat and I dwell on the unchecked items. At the one-year mark, those empty boxes take on an especially urgent role – an entire year just flashed by…what’s stopping it from happening again?

Of course, it’s easy to forget just how great of strides I’ve made here since 365 days ago. Though Japan’s not nearly as daunting to adapt to as many make it out to be…that is, if you aren’t miffed by never being truly part of Japanese society and are OK always being a slightly sore thumb…I still came to the country an absolute cultural dimwit who couldn’t speak a lick of the language and could barely tolerate fish. Most of all, though, everything about Japan made me bright-eyed…if you’ve got the time, just check the blog archives and see how much more I posted initially because EVERYTHING blew my mind. Nowadays, life here feels natural and things I would have spazzed out about before (“you’ll never GUESS what zany thing I saw in a commercial the other day!”) are just accepted. Despite my tendency to beat myself up over it, I have improved markedly in my language abilities…a tough thing to mess up when going from no knowledge at all. I like sushi, except the ones with little red egg-things in it. I choke every time on those.

Yet I never let my improved tastes linger around in my head. It’s always the things that didn’t happen. I didn’t see enough of the country. I didn’t see enough of the continent. I’m young, shouldn’t I be partying every weekend before I get old and saddled with responsibility and a mortgage? To some degree, these superficial worries actually signal a big leap forward in my personal well-being…out of college, I concerned myself with BIG ABSTRACT THOUGHTS like “what’s the point of my writing?” or “what’s the point of this degree?” or “what’s the point?” Now I’m almost Paris-Hilton-surface level in my worries, bogged down thinking “when am I going to see Sapporo?” or “why am I shy around the opposite sex?” I’m in a way more pleasant place, even if that’s made me a little more shallow.

Though I like to think I’m not that vapid…it’s ludicrous of me to whine about such trivial bullshit in the midst of an economic depression wreaking real havoc on thousands upon thousands of people, feel free to mail me a letter bomb…I do spend way too much time dwelling on these issues. Part of it stems from the fear that this is a last hurrah of sorts. I think it’s dumb to say I’m dodging “real life” by coming to Japan…contrary to popular belief I do spend the majority of my time at work, even if sometimes all work entails is making a bingo sheet…but I am divorcing myself from the inevitable. A year from now, I’ll need to actually start building a career. Life now isn’t a vacation but it is more relaxed than what will come next. I don’t want to squander what’s left and end up spending even more time dwelling on the “what could have beens.”

I honestly don’t know what I’m accomplishing writing this all down. The only reason any of this is coming out is because it’s 11:47 at night on a Sunday night, and the sleeping pills I took an hour ago haven’t hit yet. I’m trying to be more open about how I feel because I still bottle everything up and that’s just the worst thing. And, after a period of being hyper-sensitive about what I write about, I’ve reached the point where I just don’t care anymore what people think (this is a blog after all). So…this is basically my “one year later…a look back” post. Despite any doubts bleeding through in the above, I couldn’t picture myself anywhere else in the world right now and really am enjoying life at the moment. I just fear I won’t make the most (what does that even mean?) of the time left and when I’m ripped away from here I’m going to treat it how I sometimes treat college at my more maudlin moments…a time where all sorts of great memories were forged but I only look back on the bad/missed ones. I’d like to really learn from my mistakes for once.

Also…I will visit Station Master Cat this year. Preferably this summer.

(Japanese Fun Fact #72: Japanese students find the word “banana” absolutely hilarious. Mention that word once, they bust up like a Tracy Morgan audience. Though it’s completely possible they laugh at the obvious reason bananas are funny, I tend to think they just really get a kick out of the word itself. I guess it’s a funny word…

I’m probably underestimating 12-year-old kids love of dick jokes.)

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