Monday, March 28, 2011

Things I Learned in Japan: never let anyone dictate your life.

(I decided to post this blog first, because it really has a lot of importance to my life at the moment. It's something I feel is really worth talking about. I will update later about my entire trip, how you can help with earthquake  and will resume regular postings. 

Sorry for all the text too, I'm trying to save all my photos for Japan trip-related posts.)

On March 11th around 8PM Japan time, I was let off the plane. I headed through Immigration, Customs, baggage claim, etc etc and at long last, I was back in Japan - amid a national disaster, with a credit card that didn't work, without my bag of clothes, unable to get ahold of my friend in Kyoto, wondering what the f**k I was going to do, but I was back home.

And I've never been happier. 「やっと、ただいま!」感じでした。

From that moment on, I knew the direction my life was going to take - to work my (not-so-little) butt off to get back here, permanently.

I know most of you will go, "Huh?! I thought that WAS the plan?" Well, it was. And then I came home.

You see, when I first came home, I was so energized, so refreshed, so full of life. My experiences were amazing and held such meaning for me, I could barely contain myself. This lasted for about a month.

Then my post-Japan depression set in. For more info, check out this blog's introduction post which pretty much sums it up. I barely got out of bed. My Japanese boyfriend and I stopped talking. Most of my friends from Japan had gone on with their lives. I was too upset that I wasn't in Japan to make any effort to contact anyone in Japan. I felt lost. Misplaced. Confused. Is there a word for something like an anachronism of a country? I felt alien and unwanted and thoroughly homesick for Japan, which wasn't my home anymore.

Now, to be honest, I've suffered from depression and anxiety before. I was diagnosed at age 12 and was in therapy for many years following. I was "cured" and "cleared" long before I ever left for Japan, but the feeling of nothingness I felt was minimal compared to how I felt after coming home. I was trying to find a job, but with the dismal economy in an already dismal place, it was proving harder and harder every day.

And then a ray of light: I was finally hired at Dunkin Donuts. I get around 38 hours a week, and it was a new experience with new people and something to keep me busy. And so it provided something to knock the depression, if only temporarily.

Winter came, and with it, my application to an internship which, if I was accepted, would mean another year in Japan, and I would be getting PAID! I applied and frantically checked my email every day for news. Nothing. And nothing. And then a notice that due to the number of applicants, announcements would be delayed. Sigh. I knew it was a far shot, but I needed it. I needed this internship. I needed a way back to Japan - something concrete, something almost tangible.

And then I received the most devastating news. I was not accepted. They said, "...Your application was very strong, however, and we encourage you to apply in the future...". そっかと思ってて泣いちゃいました。I cried for a good hour. I was so disappointed that I couldn't answer my phone or talk to anyone for a couple hours. I managed to stop crying and when my sister-in-law asked why my face looked red, I just started crying again. I felt so cheated; robbed of the one thing I needed. Everyone goes on exchange, but how many people go back for anything more than a visit? I couldn't do that.

But then I thought, maybe that's exactly what I need. So, after shopping around sites, I managed to find a decently priced flight and I booked it. I was going to stay with one of my friends and then travel to my host city and see my friends graduate in March.

It was around this time I started seeing someone. Originally, I had only intended on dating casually and nothing serious, but it became quite obvious quickly that his intentions were very different. I hadn't realized then, but I was getting involved with a very selfish person. No matter how many times I explained what my exchange had meant to me, how much I loved Japan, how much I missed it, he just didn't get it. He would just get angry because he thought he would lose me to Japan.

I started to feel bad for wanting to go back so bad. I started to question if I wasn't being selfish, having all these dreams and aspirations that didn't include him. He certainly didn't help at all, almost feeding those feelings; probably his attempt to control me and to keep me from straying too far. I pretty much stopped going online, because he'd get angry if I blogged or anything because I'd "waste our time together".

My trip to Japan drew closer and closer, and I started to regret even buying the ticket. I got so caught up in the idea of us being together that I pretty much stopped doing everything else.

And then the day came. I got up, went to the airport, and I was on my way. The flight over was pretty uneventful, until we reached Sendai, but that's a story for another day.

While my trip was very uneventful, due to trains being closed, shops being closed, blackouts, etc, I still had a blast. I was happy again, the kind of happy I was during my exchange, the kind of happy I thought I'd never have again. Even amid the craziness, I managed to enjoy myself and even have a lot of fun. Just being back in the midst of it all - the faster pace, the trains, ramen, Sukiya, yakiniku, singing Ayaman Japan while walking in Shinjuku, visiting 109 again.... It was enough to make my heart swell with joy again.

I also received important news - that my sister-in-law had gotten a job in Maryland (about an hour and a half from Washington DC by train) making really good money, so we will be moving in May. With this comes a great opportunity for me, because we will live within short distance of a really good, affordable community college.

And so my plans were re-thought-out. I will be living with my brother, his wife and their 2 kids, watching the girls during the day, attending school in the afternoons, and possibly working weekends (depending on how things go). Once I have applied, been accepted, got all the visa crap figured out, I will hopefully be attending Temple University of Japan from January 2012 on.

Being back in Japan made me realize some important things:
I realized that being only 19, I shouldn't be so worried about taking care of everyone else. I'm young, full of life, and without so many scars that I can't afford to fall down a few more times. Anyone who deserves me should want me to reach for my dreams and should encourage me to do so, not try to bring me down. Did I mention my boyfriend had a son? I could just see myself getting attached to him (like I always do with kids) and feeling obligated to stay for the little boys sake.

I re-realized that I'm only going to be this young once, and I should seize all the opportunities I can while I'm still this free. Which is also why I went out a couple times with my friends in Japan, because I'm still young and stupid enough to wear heels from 10PM until 5AM two nights in a row, all in the name of fashion. Some people gave me flack for it, but honestly, why the hell not do it? I had no where else to be during that time and it was worth the experience.

I'm slowing starting to beat jet-lag and starting to pack things up that I won't need right now. I'm so excited to start over and start towards working to reach my new goals that I [momentarily] lost sight of. I'm going to continue this blog and hopefully continue to improve with each day. I feel so much better now that I'm single again, because I can focus on me and what I need to get done to better my future, which is never a bad thing.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I AM ALIVE!!! And safe but kinda maybe stuck in Osaka!

Hello everyone.
This is just an update for everyone concerned. I am alive and well and posting from an internet cafe in Osaka Kansai International Airport.
I am waiting to see if I can get a bullet train to Tokyo, where I will meet my friend and we will try to get back to Koga, Ibaraki where he lives.

Kashima was in the midst of the earthquake, and I currently cannot get in touch with any of my friends or host families.
This is my primary concern, and I will try to talk to them as soon as possible.

I've got half of a "What a way to start my return to Japan" post written so keep an eye out for when I post it.

No need to worry, I was flying when the earthquakes happened, so I am fine. Need to wash my hair. And shave. And pop a couple stress pimples. But I'm fine and I will post as much and as often as I can.

Thank you for all your messages, emails, etc.

see you~~