28 November 2017
Wow. A year. I can’t believe it’s been a whole year.
I’m flying back from spending a week with my family in warm and sunny Los Angeles. The trip was a birthday surprise for my twin sister. Her husband rightly figured that the best gift he could give her was me, so a week ago I flew out, unbeknownst to anyone but him and myself. When my sister came home from work, there I was, sitting on her couch! She was shocked and delighted in equal turns. We then proceeded to surprise our parents that night at dinner, our extended family at thanksgiving, and various friends at dinners and parties we held throughout the week. It was a pleasant, easy-going time. All I did was eat, drink, socialize – and shop! While Japan is definitely a first world country, there are still some things that I can’t really find there, such as shoes to fit my size 41 feet. Since this was my first visit in a year, and probably the only one for another year, I figured I’d better stock up.
It’s been six years since I’ve lived in LA, and it’s still strange for me every time I return home. It feels so comfortable and yet foreign at the same time, a sensation I find jarring. This time I felt especially odd. In some ways it felt as though I hadn’t left at all, and had simply dreamnt up the entire year in Japan. Last year, I returned after such epic adventures (teaching and volunteering in Turkey, the Turkish coup, traveling in Europe, finding my family’s village in Ukraine, breaking up with my ex, doing a work exchange in Germany) that coming back to California truly felt like a homecoming. This time, it was just a pause, a break from day to day life, a mere visit. I never went away to university, but I imagine that this is what it feels like to return home during the holidays. Comfortable, yet. . . off. In some ways you’ve changed, but everyone else has remained the some.
But in other ways, it seemed that by running around the world I’ve stopped moving, and some of my friends have changed and progressed on their respective life paths. This is the main reason why I was so hesitant to turn 30. Despite doing a fair amount of living, I don’t feel like my inner age accurately reflects that number. My peers of similar ages have careers that pay them livable, adult wages; are looking to put down payments on houses; are predominantly married or in serious relationships; are pregnant or putting their names on adoption lists or actively raising their children. I can barely see a year into the future and have no idea when or if I’ll ever do any of those things.
Despite my reservations, the day I actually turned 30 I was filled with a calmness, and a pervading feeling of “fuck it”. Honestly. Fuck all that. None of those fears or worries really matter. I’m going to keep living my life as truthfully as possible, and keep saying yes to the people and opportunities that cross my path, so fuck all the rest.
Taking a break also gave me some clarity on what I want for my future and a chance to redefine my goals. My time in Kanazawa has been exceptional, and given me a lot of space to breathe and create and find myself again. However, I think I can challenge myself more, and I do naturally tend to vibrate best on a city wavelength. I have a good several months left to enjoy the delights of Kanazawa, but I will start casting my net wider to bigger places. I’m not ready to leave Japan quite yet, and after a year, I still think there’s a lot left for me to discover here. And despite the fact that I have been loving my time in Japan, it’s not really “my” place. I don’t feel at home in it in quite the way that I do in certain European countries, for example. But it’s still a very compelling, beautiful place, and the good teaching salary helps!
29 was definitely the best year of my life. One year ago, I was also taking a plane to Japan, except that plane lead to a huge unknown. I feel like I barely knew myself then, or like I was in the beginning of finding out. This time, though, I’m coming home.