I’ve probably talked about Japan enough in my blogs that most people are aware that’s where I currently live, but right now it’s a strange sort of existence. My husband and I are heading to the States for good in the spring, so we are in the process of getting his American visa/green card – what a nightmare that is! – and right now it feels like we are just waiting for the exhale when we can go. I can’t say I’m leaving Japan on very good terms after my six years here, because that would be a lie, but it wasn’t always like this. I honestly loved Japan for the first two years.
When reading an article about culture shock, I found one that described the end stage as either assimilation or…. not assimilation, and I think that’s true. Either you adapt and fall into the culture, or you realize that you never will, and I’m the latter. The things that once amused me about living here as a visible minority no longer do. Things like 12+ rejections for available apartment rentals because I’m not Japanese, or people being constantly surprised when I can use enough Japanese to say “thank you” or “I’m sorry.” After awhile, I’m just tired, and things at work unraveled in the past two years so that I’m also not even leaving my job of five years on good terms.
But I have to finish my contract, which ends in March, and we want to stay for one last cherry blossom season. It’s an odd position to be in when you know you’ll be leaving soon and you’re excited for it, but at the same time, it’s a huge transition for us and it’s going to be a much bigger one for my husband, who has never lived in America before. It just feels like I’ve sucked in a breath that now I have to hold for the next three months.
I’ll miss the friends I’ve made here, the people who understood me on an incredibly deep level immediately – there’s something that pulled all of us here, and it binds us. You build friendships quickly as an expat. I’ve made friends here that I will cherish and keep for the rest of my life, and I will forever be glad that Japan gave me that experience. I love my students, and I’m proud to have gotten to have an impact on their lives. And I can never totally hate Japan, since Japan gave me my husband, who was nothing I ever, ever could have predicted in a future partner but is everything I honestly need.
I moved here alone when I was 27 with two suitcases, a job that might not even have existed, not enough money to survive two months in my bank account, and no apartment. Before I left, my mother told me: “You have a kind of courage that I will never know.” She might have been right, but whatever courage I had, it’s lost now. I can’t imagine doing something like that again. Maybe because I know how hard it is now. Maybe because I’m just getting old and want stability. I want a place that we can put down roots and start a family in.
In the meantime, I’m writing a lot, and it’s helping me get through this anxiety-filled lull. Hopefully the words will continue once we’re back in America again. 🙂