Six Months from Tokyo

Written on April 6, 2013, 1:36 a.m.

It's been three years since I landed in Japan with the intent to move there, more like four since I made the decision to move there. If I were to sum it up, I'd say it was a good run. If I had to put it into words, I'd call my time in Tokyo bittersweet with a touch of melancholy.

I left Tokyo months ago, but even then it didn't really feel like leaving — it didn't even faze me, I didn't really even realize that I was leaving my cozy little Yutenji haunt for good. Maybe it's because I didn't actually leave Japan — I just went down to Kyoto to see a close friend, to get in a few days of relaxation before I threw myself into the whirling, stressful pool of chaos that is trying to start anew. Chaotic, but what I needed.

Even now, I'm not quite sure that I was ever truly happy in Japan — it most certainly was never the place I was meant to be — I just chose to suspend my disbelief for once in my life, to let myself fall into the allure of believing that I could be happy in a place so closet racist and openly xenophobic. That said, I don't regret the experience one bit — it changed me as a person, forced me to mature, helped me understand what my priorities are in life, where my interests lie. They're not in Tokyo, but maybe not in the grand ol' US of A either — I'm not quite sure where they are, but I know that they'll change day in, day out.

And that's where the bitter of the sweet comes in. In leaving, a huge burden is lifted from my shoulders, the relaxation of the pressure to be someone that I'm not, the societal voice trying to force me to don camouflage and hide away behind the shoulders of all the office ladies and salarymen. But having avoided that, it still feels like I set out to complete something and ultimately ended up shying away from the goal. Sure, it's arguable that I actually achieved a new one, something other than what I set out to do, but there's still a tinge of… I'm not even sure what the word is. Disappointment? Confusion? It's certainly not regret — Tokyo was three crazy years of crazy experiences that I wouldn't trade anything for, moving there at such a young age was probably one of the best things I could've done for myself. It felt right at the time, and even though it just sounds like hollow justification when I write it out, I know that it was the right thing to do at the time. Contrary to claims elsewhere, I'm not sure I would have ever been happy at any university, even my dream school.

The perceived unhappiness stems from that damn stability thing — it always gets to me, but I've learned to embrace it rather than to shun it and pretend it doesn't exist. It does. So now as I move onto something new, something where I'm not quite sure where I'm going, I'm filled with a mixture of terror, anticipation and most of all, excitement. It's idiotic to follow the paths that other people have set for you, ignorance is bliss, 知らぬ仏, but you should always find a way to pursue bliss even without the ignorance. Knowledge is not something to be taken lightly — why should we run away from it in the face of defeat, in the face of learning something that we might possibly not want to know? We'll eventually find out anyway, and sometimes it'll be too late.

You could have asked me, and a year, six months, three weeks before that flight, wasn't the right time for me to leave. If I had not returned to Japan after that short sojourn home, I would've felt like I was missing out on something, that I hadn't seen something through. I always knew somewhere deep down inside that when I left, it would be decided quickly, sporadically, there one day and gone the next. It's how I am, as a person, there's no sense in denying it. Life is boring without spontaneity, but it's never worth the regret that you'll feel if you don't see something through. That's what I believe, at least.

It hasn't failed me yet — and I don't say it that way because I expect it to anytime soon. Being the person that I am has found me happiness in so many, so many ways, this isn't even something I need to explain, because it's so obvious. Going down to Kyoto, meeting with my pink hair twin. Meeting people I click with, some I don't, chance encounters. These are the people that have influenced me the most, who have taught me that it's totally, completely, utterly okay to be myself, and that's the most important fact of all.

Reading back through this feels like reading through one of those stupidly corny advice columns in which the author explains that they have found the key to being happy and they want to share it with you, lucky you. I guess that's how I know I'm a writer, when I can imagine someone else reading my writing, but always, always write for myself.

Writing about my three years in Japan still feels so raw, writing about the things that changed still seems so 生. There are so many things I could say, but the words haven't come to me yet, and forcing it just feels wrong. So many words in Japanese that will never be translatable into proper English equivalents. Maybe someday I'll try, but right now isn't the time. Thinking about that chance encounter on the plane to LA, the one who told me that I should be writing about my life, how it was to live in Tokyo for three years starting from the ripe, young age of 18, until a few months before my 22nd birthday made me realize that I should be documenting my feelings somehow. Putting those numbers down makes me feel so incredibly old, you have no idea. I know I'm young yet, too. Maybe it's the wanderlust kicking in.

But back to that weird stability bit... whenever I think about it, I end up chasing the rabbit down the hole of wondering whether I will ever be able to stay in one place without going crazy. And I'm not sure I need to know the answer right now. I'm in DC, hashing things out bit by bit, and I'm okay with that for now.

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