A Brainful of Strange Thoughts. Am I Going Crazy?

Boom! Feeling my bed shift on its wheels beneath me, my heart starts to pound, I hop up, put on my bedroom slippers and move swiftly to the entryway and open my front door**. I stand outside…look…the building are dancing. As the building continue sway to and fro, I see random flickers of fluorescent light illuminating windows from an apartment complex across from me. The shaking subsides then stops…I go back to bed, but I can’t sleep.

**They say opening the front door provides a potential exit should your building collapse (provided you survive).**

Late last night, there was another pretty big earthquake, it was another one of those that was big enough to shake me out of bed and put me on the ready. It lasted for a little while, too. Not as long as the big one in March, but for some reason I’ve really been doing a lot of thinking lately. With the stresses of changing jobs, hearing about so many people in the country who lost their lives, the expansion of the radiation evacuation zone, hearing one bad news report after another. I still don’t regret staying in Japan, but I regret not being where I want to be. What if the radiation gets me in the end? What if there’s another big earthquake and I’m in a place where, God forbid, I can’t escape or worse. Lately I feel a lot more mortal, a lot more human than I regularly do.

I saw a baby on my train ride home from Moriya the yesterday and, for once, I completely saw past the baby’s crying. I was surprised because I had a long day and I was tired. Normally, the last thing I want to hear is a screaming baby. But I really didn’t mind this time. I imagined the baby was my own. Huh? I know, weird right? Then, for some reason, my mind did a strange shift…I started thinking what if there is an earthquake that derails this train? What if something were to happen to me? There’s no one I’ve passed my knowledge/wisdom on to. I have no wife, I have no house, and I have put off so many opportunities to see and do things because I don’t have “enough” money. What am I doing? Am I being honest with myself?

Lately, this whole feeling my mortality thing makes me feel so morose. Donald, what have you accomplished?…Not a whole lot, bro. Yeah, so you’re living in Japan…so what? Where you are doesn’t matter, you can idle in any country you please…but what are you going to do? No, I mean really…what are you going to do with your life? What will you do so that on your dying day, your last breath will be a happy, peaceful sigh? I tired of “trying” to figure it out. I have so many things I want to do. I want to have kids and teach them Japanese and karate, I want a wife I can trust. I want to make enough money where we don’t have to argue over petty things.

I see my friends with these great, high-paying jobs: dentists, doctors, lawyers, businessmen with major companies. I can’t help but to think…I’m just a teacher. Many of those guys, I haven’t talked to in years. I remember we were all in the same boat at one point, studying for exams (I was trying to get into dental school at one point, or when I changed majors I remember turning down that internship with JP Morgan Chase). I can’t help but question “Did I make a wrong choice somewhere?” I wanted to blaze my own path instead of doing the same thing that everyone else was doing. But I don’t want to fail just because I chose a different path. I love teaching and it’s so much fun, but there has to be a way to still meet my definition of success. What’s success to me? Success is being 200% happy with the job you do. You love what you do so much that you willingly seek out the challenges and difficulties because it’s not a challenge for you…it’s fun. Success is having the financial means to save, invest, take care of your family, and live comfortably…none of life’s inconveniences will break you (medical expenses, car repairs, travel expenses, etc.). Success is having family and friends who you love and care about and they love and care about you back. Success is being able to help people. Sucess is dreaming things and making them become reality.

Think bigger, Donnie.

P.S.-I’m sorry. This post may be a bit weird, but my mind has just been in a strange place lately.
P.P.S.-I don’t think Brainful is a real word.

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  • Ceci

    One thing that helps me is to remember that most people aren’t as happy as they appear. It sounds really negative I know, but bear with me on this. Everyone is struggling and feels like they’re just marking time. I’m in the midst of a “mid-life crisis” right now…it stinks and has been going on for several years now. I’m beating myself up daily about how little I feel I’ve accomplished. I remember a quote (can’t recall who said it) that went something like this: “Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We all wear masks and it’s easy to fall into the trap that thinks the mask Person X is wearing is real. I do it all the time. But I’ve also noticed that very few people I’ve ever met are authentic enough to show the reality of the fears and joys boiling away inside them.

    I’m amazed that you’re living in Japan. You’re living an incredible adventure when you think about it. Such a small percentage of the population would even consider a short trip to such a different culture than their own. But there you are *living* in that culture….gainfully employed and (judging by the pictures I’ve seen on your site) you have friends and students who like you and enjoy your company. What’s happened in Japan with the earthquake is horrible, but it also is an adventure. It is a unique marker in your life that you’ll never forget. You didn’t just read about it, you *lived* it. I think it’s ironic how we humans love adventure stories full of strife and horrible events to overcome, but in real life, we sure don’t want adventure. (I include myself in this statement)

    Some people are adventurers. They collect experiences. Often they weave stories to teach others about what they’ve learned. They amass wisdom and compassion and pass it on to other generations and cultures. Problem is, being an adventurer doesn’t pay well or come with much societal respect. But society needs these people like we need air to breathe. Every adventurer has moments that the story pauses and they have to recollect themselves and choose their next direction. All I can suggest is try to make the decision based on what you want to run toward, not based on fears or what you want to run away from. Follow what gives you goosebumps. Goosebumps don’t lie, they point you toward the things you really like.

    I’m in a relationship now. I love my partner, but trust me, there are a whole new set of limitations to live with that make me pine away for the freedoms I had when I was single. ….grass is always greener phenomenon. If I were single again, I’m sure I’d miss the companionship of a partner. So really, IMO, the only thing to change is my perception of my life situation.

    Sorry for such a long post. Let’s just say I related to your state of mind.

    • Donald Ash

      WHOA! Ceci. Let me say that’s got to be one of the most powerful blog comments I’ve ever received! Thank you so much for your words of encouragement. I guess I kind of need them about know. The weird thing is, you know I typed about thinking about an earthquake derailing my train? Well, sure enough, today, there was a 6.5+ that happened just north of here, and I was on the train home from work when it happened! I felt COMPLETELY and utterly powerless. I am happy to be okay, but it’s had a big effect on me today. Thank you so much for reading and so much for posting. I APPRECIATE YOU!!

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