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Thursday, April 03, 2014
The Moment It All Changed...
Life is full of pivotal moments. You can trace the course of your life and say “If I hadn’t done this, then this wouldn’t have happened” and “If I had done this…” and so on. It’s a little difficult to pick out the big pivots. After all, if you hadn’t done the little changes, would your life still have led you to the big changes.
It hadn’t been the first time I had been in Japan (this was in 2007), I had been there as an exchange student in Osaka in 2005. It wasn’t even the first time I had spent time away from home: I did that in 2005 and also earlier when I spent the summer semester at the Savannah College Of Art And Design. But I was leaving for at least a year. Overseas. If I was homesick, I couldn’t hop on the nearest Greyhound and make a surprise visit. I was pretty much SOL on that point.
I remember saying goodbye to mom at the Atlanta hotel. We were both so choked up. The enormity of what I was doing was starting to hit me. As an only child, I’m attached to my parents. But here I was, leaving them behind across an ocean to start a new adventure. Most kids leave town or the state. I left thecountry.
The next few days are a blur. The flight, going through customs, the orientations and meetings in Tokyo, flying to my assigned city. But after several months, I felt free and like an adult. I’ve never been very adult-like, in my opinion. But here all the responsibilities were on me. If I didn’t cook, I didn’t get fed. I was living alone in my own apartment. It was fun and felt great.
That first year I felt I really grew as a person. It may have happened later in life, but it changed me. So much happened that first year that would affect my decision to stay (which I did), I met Yoko whom I would later date then marry, and so much more. My friends always said I would go to Japan and never come back. I expected to stay for only a year, three at most.
Looks like they were right.
The nicest thing about being here is that I knew no one. It was a clean slate. I could be me, with all the geekiness and idiosyncrasies that came with it. I could buy what I wanted, eat where I wanted, go where and when I wanted.
Of course I had responsibilities. It wasn’t all play and no work. But that helped me grow too. I learned how much of a hypocrite I am (more than I expected) and how lazy I can be about certain things, like learning Japanese. But life is always about growing. And I feel I’ve grown the most in these last six years.