Monday, May 30, 2011

This is your life

So I’m at an age where people around me are always doing things. Weird things, monumental things, making decisions, planning ‘the rest of their lives.’ People are getting married, getting jobs, getting pregnant, getting on with things I never even imagined (just got a totally unexpected email from a friend who is moving to Liberia next weekend).

And I try, in this blog, to give a slice of my own life. I started this partly for the folks back home to enjoy, partly for my own self to have some way to storytell, and partly for my successor, whoever he or she may be, that s/he might have abundant commentary and resources when it comes to being here.

It’s almost June, which means it’s almost rainy season, and after the rain comes the summer sun, and that’s when the ball rolls right to the end of the JET calendar, and all the leavers leave, and all the newbies come. And I, in a sometimes ridiculous attempt to use old/save new nenkyuu (vacay days) make my trip to America right smack in the middle of it all, thereby destroying any possibility of being “productive” at “work” during “summer vacation.”

But by now, I’m kind of okay with that. It’s still the Year of the Truce, baby, and I don’t need to make any big plans. I’ve started, kinda, to write my “novel.” I am still amazed by what I don’t know about it, ten years later, and amazed sometimes by how much information I do have.

I’m going to be working at Tokyo Orientation this summer. I’m going to be presenting on independent Japanese study for JETs. I’m actually rather proud of this; it’s one of those things they don’t just hand out, you see, even though maybe a lot of people would think more than twice about going to Tokyo to work through a weekend and all kinds of crappy hours too in order to welcome the neophytes. I do things like that because I think they’ll be cool, or interesting, or more fun/cool/interesting than my desk during “summer vacation” anyway. Not that I have much love for Tokyo, though.

This coming Sunday will be my first Shorinji Kempo taikai. I’ve been practicing hardcore narrow-eyed determined because I’ve been in a martial arts tournament before and I know what happens to me.. confident or scared, I get in there and basically do fine other than the few minor mistakes that matter to no one so much as they matter to me. It’s a small taikai, just for our city, and all the people evaluating me, I guess, will be the people who have watched me practice every other night the last couple weeks anyway.

Last week, the other group of 4th graders were simply great. Pub Quiz trivia was fun, too. It rained almost all week, and certainly all weekend.

Yesterday, I was supposed to go to Himeji for shopping and writers’ group, and I was supposed to possibly go to Aioi for the dragon boat races, and I also had the option of a hike out on the east side somewhere… but all this got typhooned out. To salvage our early afternoon, the girls and I decided to go to a little coffeeshop up the river a bit, but when the gusts of wind threatened the integrity of the car’s road position, we turned around and went home to close up the shutters. Stuff fell over and flew away all evening in a baffling display of hurricane-ish weather. I could feel my apartment brace against the windbursts (being in the end unit on the wind side). I actually lost a potted plant! Across the street, that damn poster that catches the wind on normal nights and slaps loud against the building where it hangs stopped making loud cracks because it was totally shredded by the wind. The iron thing high atop the pachinko parlor fell off and landed on a car. We saw a guy perplexedly picking up a large plastic object as if to say, “What is this thing?” then turning it over to discover that it was the front fender of a kei-truck.

Where I’m from, we sometimes have severe thunderstorms and even occasional tornadoes in the area, so I thought, surely all this can’t last more than a handful of hours. That’s.. just how tornado weather is, it blows up and blows out very violently and very quickly. And this wind, when I stepped outside to grab something, or see how it was going, was always a surprise in strength. But it took all day and into the night to roar off and away. Even this morning, it was still windy. I’d never closed my giant shutters before; it was like waking in a cave.

Today has been pretty normal, other than the grogginess that hung on me almost all morning from that.

I know there are things I cannot do right now, because I’m in Japan. I know that there is a part of my future inaccessible to me as long as I am here. But I also know that there is a part of my life inaccessible to me as soon as I leave this place. I’m not hanging out here to delay the start of my real life. This is my real life. This is who I am. I want this to be part of my story. I want to be that (insert job title here) that did stuff like live in Japan for three years. And majored in Latin. It was never “What are you going to do with that?” but always “What does it do for you now?” And it was always doing something.

 I never want to stop being the type of person who lived in Japan for three years. I always want to be the type of person who wants to learn Japanese/kempo/the best places to go walking in Shiso. There is no magic moment that starts ‘the rest of your life’ and leaves behind ‘all the prep work,’ and if there is, then it’s only right now. These years are not a precursor to my real life, they are my real life. Which will of course change as it goes, and will maybe make “use” of my previous work experiences, but certainly will make use of who I am because I was the type of person to have them.


  1. I think you're doing monumental things, EmLem, and just as you said, it's your real life! I understand the feeling that people around you are doing more or making bigger decisions or whatever, but, as I think you know, everything you're currently doing is shaping your life and who you are. I've spent two years of my life working (with one more still to go), just working, but it's been an experience that's begun to shape me into the person I've always wanted to be.

    I've often thought that people might hear me say I've taken two years off from school (even though I graduated), only to take another off, and think that I'm trying to delay the start of my real life, or that I'm running away from responsibility, but this time has allowed me to explore not only responsibility and independence, but also who I am and what I want from life. I didn't know the things I now know going into this time off, and although I wish I could've gone straight to grad school and then into my "real life", I wouldn't trade this time for anything, just as I'm sure you wouldn't trade your time in Japan.

    It's slow going, growing up, regardless of the changes that occur and decisions you make. Your real life is right now, and you're grabbing that mother TIGHT and aren't letting go. :) You're awesome, EmLem, and I love you.

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  3. Whoops! I just had something to add to it!

    I lob lob lob those last two p's. Own it! That is a good type of person to want to be. A person who does stuff she enjoys, for the amount of time she enjoys.

    I think that fewer people succeed at that than I realized.