Catching up to life

The idea of leaving one life behind and living another is often something left to the movies or TV. A high-level snitch placed into witness protection. A middle-aged boring guy ditching that depressing office job for life as a surf instructor. A family of yokels finding out some distant relative had billions of dollars and left it all to them.

It’s nice to dream.

Most of those stories don’t talk about what happens if you return to your old life. If the story hinges on escape or change, it doesn’t make for a happy ending to end up back where you were before the main event. Losing billions of dollars or returning to a life of crime wouldn’t be that great in the grand scheme or even in the medium scheme.

Luckily for me, it wasn’t all that bad. At least I wasn’t giving up life as a beach bum.

Discovering that travel might not be the cure for what ails you is more common than those other fictional scenarios, I suspect. Beaches get boring and mega cities are hard places to find fulfillment. Easy to lose yourself, though. At least that was the case with me. I’ve already talked a lot about what it felt like to leave behind one life for another.

How does the return compare to the exodus itself? That’s a harder comparison to judge. A year into my time in Japan I had made new friends and was enjoying my life as a club hopper. What money I had went into beer, cigarettes and late night ramen. Work was just a means to an end. Coal for the insatiable furnace of debauchery.

But there’s a time and a place for everything and it’s called your twenties.

I’m more than a year back in the United States and things are progressing at a much slower pace. I arrived in Japan with a life set up for me. Pre-packaged and ready to go.

I left with little more than the jealousy that comes when a friend flashes cash and a desire to do the same. It’s fortunate that I don’t drink, smoke, or club anymore. Not that the city of Wilmington is known for its outrageous night life.

With more years come further refinement of tastes. My group of friends have gone from cheap beer swilling pool sharks to micro-brew chugging tool jockeys that are also local real estate experts. It’s hard not to get jealous of fancy things like hard wood floors, brushed steel appliances, and equity.

It’s also hard to shake how I treated myself ten years ago now that I’m back where I started.

I wasn’t super cool when I left. Hard to picture, isn’t it? Now, I am outrageously cool. Cooler than a crystalline Christmas cucumber. It took a long time for me to come to grips with this indisputable fact. Unfortunately, I can tell it isn’t second nature like it should be. I have to actively keep on top of my awesomeness when I’m around old friends. Or else I’ll fall into the same patterns as before.

That’s what I mean by catching up. While I was bathing in the concentrated amazing that is Tokyo, Japan, absorbing that power into my soul, everyone else was buying houses and shit.

Life is a series of trade-offs, I suppose.