It’s been over a year since I left Japan to return to my home state of North Carolina. I haven’t taken much time to write about it yet, however. Not in a significant way at least. I’ve been avoiding it for sure. How do you sum up nearly a decade of life experience? How do you describe what it’s like to cut off that period of time and start over? It’s not easy and I doubt I’ll be able to succeed.
One good thing is every new person I meet is at least a little interested in my journey. Japan is still a weirdly exotic place for Americans. Probably due to the fact it can cost thousands of dollars and dozens of hours just to get there. New Zealand is the same in that regard, but Japan has that “mystery of the Orient” factor. People’s interest usually wanes once you reveal the big secret that Japan is a pretty normal place.
This fascination wears off rather quick. Interest seems to have an inverse relationship to how much I talk about Japan. Therefore, I try to keep my stories short and mysterious.
Everyone asks if I miss it. I do, of course. The other day I watched video of the Yamanote line leaving the station just because I was feeling homesick. All of my friends are over there. What friends I had here when I left went from college drinking buddies to responsible adults with houses and kids. It’s similar to idea about faster than light travel. Relativity or something. For my old friends the transition was a gradual one with all the normal milestones. For me it seemed to happen in a blink.
Of course, I probably seem different to them in the same way but I’m the one hot dropping back into their lives not the other way around.
While I was gone, they met and became friends with a whole new group of people. Now they have known these strangers for years. It’s hard not to feel like some sort of alien beaming down in the middle of all of that.
I should have expected this of course, human relationships are fluid and highly influenced by proximity. What depresses me the most right here in the moment, is knowing the same thing will happen to the friends I left behind.
The problem with travel is knowing that someday you’ll have to leave.
It’s not all bad though, because making new friends is fantastic. As long as they’re cool people and open to welcoming you in. Another difference that is hard to adjust to.
In Japan, being a foreigner is an ultimate icebreaker. Everyone is at least willing to give you a chance just to see what you bring to the table. Not to say Americans are cold, but I think there certainly is less willingness to add people into their circle of friendship. The flip side is of course it is harder in Japan to feel like a “part” of society if you are foreign. Everyone who comes to America (despite recent unpleasantness) has the capability of becoming one of “us”.
I’m just lucky I got in on the ground floor.
I’ve had trouble finding work. I have applied to about 40 jobs in the last month alone and easily the same number again since the start of the year. I’ve gotten exactly one call back and they never got back to me after the first interview. I’m not even over reaching to be honest. I suspect a lot of it has to do with all my work experience existing 14 time zones away. What little I’ve been able to do here in America only adds up to a few months.
Or maybe it’s because I’m too old. 34 is on the long end of the millennial wave and it’s hard to compete with someone 10 years younger than you that can do the same job. Career history is another thing I had to throw away along with 75% of my possessions when I left.
I guess that’s why I’m trying to write more. Plenty of people on the internet will tell you writing all the time is the magic elixir. Perhaps. It’s worth a shot at least.
It’s certainly easy.
I didn’t even mention how expensive it was to leave in the first place. I suppose the question I should ask is, do I regret it? Unfortunately, I don’t think I can answer that right now. I wasn’t happy in Japan. Would that have worked itself out if I had stuck around another year? Again, perhaps. Perhaps not.
Is there more success in my future here in America? Who can say? This is a topic I’m sure I’ll return to a lot over the course of my journey. One thing I can say is I don’t regret spending those years in Japan. They shaped me more than I could possibly say in a few hundred words. I guess that’s what life is, you steer the ship the best way you know how and enjoy the view.