“So what’s it like being back in LA?” people keep asking me. My response: I both hate Los Angeles less and miss Japan less than I thought I would.
This was a surprising revelation to me. Whenever I came back here for visits, I always felt uncomfortable and out of place, so I was shocked at how quickly I settled in. I’ve been back for four months now, and being here is starting to feel normal.
Of course, I think this feeling is helped by the fact that this period of my life still feels transitory, still feels in limbo. I don’t have my own apartment; I don’t have a car. All of my work is still online, with most of my employers based in Japan. I don’t feel settled here, and I’m not planning on settling here either. So instead of feeling uncomfortable and “stuck” here, I find that I’m more free to observe and experience, just as I felt living abroad and traveling.
Missing Japan less is confirmation of the fact that I made the right decision in leaving, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t miss Japan. I’ll be going along with my day, and then read a newsletter from a writer in Japan or see a social media post from one of my friends there and wham! I’m hit by a strong, sudden pang of nostalgia and longing. Especially during the changing of the seasons. The weather in LA is pleasant year round, but it lacks the magic and wonder of red leaves or snowfall.
The other thing that I tell people when they ask how it’s going is that I’m having a very chilled-out existential crisis. And I mean it! When deciding to come back, I was faced with a lot of feelings of failure and shame at not quite knowing what to do or where to go next. But actually, now that I’m in it, I feel quite calm. I know that these next huge decisions will take time and space and thought to figure out, and I need to just allow for that to happen.
One factor contributing to this chill feeling has been The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron. Really, I cannot recommend this enough, whether you consider yourself an artist or spiritual or neither. The book is basically a 12 week, self-guided course towards unblocking your creativity, and has been so important for my path in self-development that I will devote a whole blog post to it in the future. I just completed it, and now I’m planning to write a book during my LA tenure, a sentence that both freaks me out and thrills me. More on that to come as well!
As for the admin side of this update, I finally renewed my California driver’s license, which turned out to be far easier than renewing my Japanese one! My license expired in 2018, so I thought it was going to be complicated to renew, and I put off dealing with it for months. But using a passport as a main form of ID in the US is more cumbersome than you’d expect, so I took the plunge and made an appointment online to renew my California license. If you’ve ever heard the letters “DMV” before you are aware of the ill reputation of this government office, but it seems that the DMV has made great strides to streamline their office. I was able to fill out the application, upload my documents, and make an appointment online, and on appointment day I was in and out of the office in a mere 20 minutes. No waiting in long lines, no written or road test – just check my eyesight and take a picture. And everyone was nice.
I’m also on the road to becoming a substitute teacher here in Los Angeles, as I mentioned back in my earlier update. It turned out that you actually need to do quite a few things to become a sub, but as of now I’m most of the way through the process and am applying with one of the school districts. To be honest, I’m not completely sure if I want to teach in the US, but it’s a good way to dip my toe in the water and see if it’s something I might want to do here. At any rate, it will be a good source of extra income, as there’s a shortage of subs and I believe the day rate is quite good.
I’ve also been able to do some more travel. In November, I spent 10 days on the east coast with a dear friend in Philadelphia and New York City. I had never been to Philly and the last time I was in NYC was 12 years earlier, but I loved the region when I was younger so I was eager to get back and see it with fresh eyes, and also put out feelers to see if it’s a region I might want to move to. I liked Philly. I loved New York. I’ll definitely write more about that trip and my impressions soon, as well as get out some more untold tales of Japan. Fall was busy!
I truly think that I am where I need to be right now, and that everything is unfolding just as it should. For the new year, I hope to stay open to new opportunities, connections, and experiences, and continue to move through the world with this newfound sense of grace and curiosity.
Happy Travels, and Happy New Year!