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Posts Tagged ‘transitions’

Year +

Everything lives on and builds upon itself, stalagmite-like, in the belly of the internets. 

I was creeped out amazed to Google myself this morning, and to see Sailforth pop up at the top of the screen.  If ever I believed I was a static creature, the first page of Google Results is enough to remind me that nothing stays the same, that all definitions of ‘self’ are relative in time and place and space.  Hah.

As if these reminders all hit at once, just yesterday someone asked me:  “Oh, have you ever been to Asia?” And how to describe the weight and effect of not only spending a year of my life in some rural corner of the globe, but one in which I probably spent a little too much time alone with my thoughts, working towards that pesky little euphemism “self-aware.”  Couple this with all that’s happened in the last year – new (old) country, new focus (school), new relationships, new goals – and how to even discern which building blocks really compose this version of ks8.10?

This current/next chapter can’t fit quite so neatly in a tagline. Or a finite space of time.  Yet, if there’s one thing that gives me solace as I wade through all this ambiguity of full-time grad school (a holding cell of a life stage), is that no one I’ve spoken with has seemed to have a firm plan, but rather way opens, as it only can.

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23 July

I’ve been carrying anxiety around with me in my belly for the last couple weeks.  Unrestful sleep.  Too hot. The noise of storms at night.  It settles like a hard knot, dissolves, coagulates again.  No longer do I feel untethered, drowning in responsibilities and lists, but rather robotic, on cruise control.  The emotions well up, overflow, are gone.  Are replaced with over-structure and resolve.  My anxiety has not been all for naught.  But mostly it’s surreal: watching myself go through the motions.  All these complicated motions to tie up loose ends and move myself across the seas.  Well, I’m not there yet.

24 July

I’m bad with finality.  Ending relationships, all sorts, is hard.  Especially difficult when there’s little chance of ever seeing these people again.  America is always there.  My friends in America are always there.  But will I ever be in Kazamaura, Aomori-ken again?  Likely not.  Japan- yes, Kazama – no.  And here live people who I lived alongside for a year.  Who touched and changed my life, somehow.  Am I a changed woman?  I don’t know.

— —

I’m beginning to think that I need this sense of displacement, in a way.  My desires for deep settling and roots conflict mightily with my wanderlust.  I believed that one year outside of my own country was enough.  It’s not good enough to visit places.  I want to learn and live them thoroughly, deeply, widely.

Am I Una or Ahab?

26 July

There is ease and comfort in the traveling.  What will it feel like when I’m there, for good?  Real? Weighty?  Will there be substance?  In transit, I am weightless.  Suspended between the realities of my life.  The responsibilities, plans, next steps.  There is a delightful sense of uncontrollability on the move.  In limbo, I am exempt from the figuring.  But landed, arrived – it’s all fair game.  Here comes America.  Or rather, here I have come, America.

— —

I didn’t expect leaving to be so sad.  It blindsided me.  Handing in my gaijin card was like closing a door on my life.  Or a chapter.  America so far is harsh, loud noisy, fat.  First thoughts.

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On Thursday, I had my last ikebana class/Going Away Party with my ladies.  Although it was just one of the many “goodbye” parties I’ve had in the past few weeks, it was definitely the hardest.  We arrived early to do our flower arranging (Lilies, Okureruka leaves, and Kemurisomething-or-other, which translates to “smoke something or other”) and then cleared the way for a veritable feast.

Two kinds of tempura, three different cuts of maguro (tuna), hand rolls, fried squid!, tamago yaki (sweet egg omelet), chawan mushi (steamed, eggy custard), pickled veggies, and seaweed salad

My Sensei made the kanpai speech, and we ate for awhile, and then I was asked to say a few words.  Normally nervous in situations where I have to speak Japanese in front of a rapt audience, this case was different.  I spoke about how I had always wanted to learn ikebana, and how it was one of my main desires and goals this year in coming to Japan.  How I told this to as many people as possible, until someone finally took pity on me and introduced me to this group of ladies.  I talked about how, at first, I was hesitant to commit to a weekly class because of time constraints and prices, but how gradually, it became one of my favorite events of the week.  How on days that I was down or anxious (like Thursday), coming to class, working with the flowers, but more so, just being in the company of such women was a relief, and a respite.  How they welcomed me into their group, fed me tea and taught me bad Japanese.

Often, in Japan, I have felt a need to act a certain way; play a certain role.  This was exhausting, and sometimes resulted in an intense desire to hide from “Japan.”  Ikebana, however, was the one place where I felt completely at ease.  That there were no preconceived expectations of me, and that I was free and accepted to, in fact, be myself.  And in doing so, I weaseled my way into the hearts of these older Japanese ladies – my obateria.  Safe to say, they’d never met anyone like me ever before, and as strange and foreign a creature as I am, they accepted me.  And I think they even liked me, too.  There were tears when I said goodbye and drove away.  That next week, they will be meeting same time, same place without me, feels wrong and sad and lonely.  But so it goes.

The mango was placed there for express, comedic value

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While I’m sure much of the fun-loving world is the same, my ability to focus, sit still, pay attention to the people speaking Japanese around me, and study Japanese and/or Economics plummets with each degree the temperature rises and the cloud that makes way for Sunny D sunshine.  This itch to be outside, in conjunction with my looming deadline of departure (July 26th y’all!), and all the things to prepare for it, results in this fierce sense of being untethered, spinning on an axis of minutes and hours I can’t quite halt.

And so: It’s come to my attention that I spend so much time outside of the US idealizing it.  Remembering and missing, of course, my friends and family, the impressive grandeur of our National Park system (unrivaled to any country I’ve visited), the vast genetic variations of the American face, lazy Fridays riding my bike to and from the Oak Street farmer’s market, a good sandwich.  But now that my touchdown on US soil is mere months away, I’m starting to panic a bit.  There’s so much about America I dislike; that frustrates me.  And I’m returning to a place that may be the epitome of cringe-worthy America: car-culture and traffic, suburban sprawl, blatant racism, consumerism, an obstinately divided government, fake boobs and plastic surgery, misuse and abuse of the precious little natural resources we have left.

I’m not saying I don’t want to come home.  Because I do.  I’m ready.  Ready for next steps.  Ready to hold my squirmy Samson in my arms.  Ready to share a bottle of wine – or three – with friends I haven’t seen in years.  Ready to sit in classes again and fill my mind with new ‘stuff.’  Ready to put all my books on one bookcase.  (This sums up my notion of home.) But I am resigning myself to the fact that just because I’m ready to leave Japan now, doesn’t mean I’ve gotten “it” out of my system.  That maybe mine own wanderlust is an affliction, a disease that defines the journey as the goal.  But here I go again, getting ahead of myself, and why worry about returning State-side when there’s always so much stuff to busy myself with now. So on that note, I’m going to study some Japanese grammar and teach yoga poses to eight-year olds, because I know how excited you must be getting for a play-by-play of a typical day in the life of THE Kazamaura ALT.  It’s all sorts of crazy up in here.

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