In so many ways I feel that being here for four years is a wonderful thing, I happily celebrate it. In many respects I have been able to adapt to culture that’s markedly different from my native culture. I have been able to keep a steady job, pull myself out of the depths of a bankruptcy, make some cool friends, eat some tasty Japanese cuisine, teach some amazing students, and bear witness to some of the most beautiful landmarks/natural settings that I’ve ever seen. A large part of me absolutely adores Japan and living here.
I’d wouldn’t be telling the truth though if I said that was all there is to the story. The novelty, the newness of many things Japanese has worn off*. To be honest, there is also a side of me that looks at my time in Japan less enthusiastically. It’s this side of me that sees my time in Japan as more of a “So what?” than anything. It’s the side of me that says you’re still not married, you still don’t have the control of your life that you want, you’re still not fluent in Japanese (I am improving, though).
“So what? Just because I’m in Japan for four years doesn’t mean I’m living the life I want to. I didn’t come to Japan just have my life stagnate. I want to do more. I want to see more, I want to help more people. I don’t want to look back in 20 years and say, well the biggest thing I did my life was come to Japan and work…that’s it.”
I often have to check this side of my personality to make sure I always stay positive and upbeat. But this “so what” kind of thinking isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I have some REALLY lofty goals I want to accomplish here in Japan. There’s nothing wrong with having dreams that keep my head in the clouds…as long as I stay tethered to reality. I kind of think of my dreams like this gigantic balloon floating high up in the sky with the a super long string grounded by a wooden post. The wooden post is that “so what thinking.”
Looking back over four years in Japan, I realize that I have had some amazing times, but I also realize that there’s so much that I haven’t done yet. There are so many places in Japan that I haven’t seen, so much of the language I still have to learn, so much more karate/martial arts training I want to do, so much more time I want to spend with friends, so many more foods I want to try, so much more traveling I want to do in Asia (China, Korea, Thailand). I look back on the move to Japan and as one of the best moves I ever made. I reflect on the last four years as my struggle to get stable. I’m certain that the next four years will produce a new set of struggles. Yes, some of these challenges will be tough. But this time instead of struggling to get stable, I am struggling to do something amazing. Who said struggles and challenges couldn’t be fun? I’m anxiously looking forward to every bit of it.
Still in Japan, Still loving it!