I was discussing a few things with a fellow CJPer today and when I asked him how life is going are going he mentioned that he finally feels “normalized”. Some time later in the evening while practicing guitar I got to thinking about our conversation and realized that I now feel much the same. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when it happened, it must have been some time within the last month, but the strange feeling I’ve had about being here has vanished.
It wasn’t too long ago that I still felt quite phased by my whole experience: essentially temporarily leaving my life in Canada behind and coming to live here alone in Japan. The feeling was one of extreme surreality, almost as if I was living a different life from the one before: as if I had become a different person. However, now, any feeling of strangeness has vanished. I guess in a way I’ve accepted my being here and it has begun to feel somewhat “normal”.
Of course, I am by no means feeling at all integrated or even part of the society here. While I’ve been working hard on my Japanese and gain a lot in skill since coming here: I can understand many things being said, even read some, and I have some Japanese friends who I can kind of converse with in Japanese; my communication ability still feels weak. However, even if that were not the case, even if I could speak Japanese fluently, I don’t think I would ever fit in. There’s far too many aspects of the culture and society that I don’t mesh with.
The 16th century poet and preacher John Donne once wrote: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”. Well, I have my doubts about his assertion, often times I do feel just like an island; small and unidentified, somewhere out at sea. Even at home I often felt I had difficulty finding people I really connected with on an intellectual and emotional level, there was always the sense of not being fully understood. Never has this been more true than now. The language and mindset barriers just seem to amplify the situation even further. I often feel alone in my thoughts. I suppose the difference now is that I’ve grown accustomed to it.
We often hear that people fear change, that they prefer to maintain the status quo. Somehow I’ve always felt the opposite. If there’s anything I fear, it’s normalcy and routine, I try to avoid them at all cost. I don’t know what it is, but whenever things start to settle down, I start trying to stir them up again. I don’t feel as if I can settle for something; I will always work towards a goal only to set an even higher one once it has been achieved.
In many ways, my purpose behind coming to Japan was to challenge myself. I wanted to throw myself in to an unfamiliar situation, living on my own, and in a foreign country, and see how I would cope with it. It seems now that I’ve settled in my feelings of unease and solitude have been superseded by discontent at my work-sleep-work-sleep routine.
I don’t want this entry to come off on the wrong tone, so don’t get me wrong, I don’t not like Japan. I don’t not like being here. Despite its many flaws I have been greatly enjoying the country and my experiences here. I never imagined I would meet so many interesting and kind people on my journey, and I am very grateful that this has been the case. So what then is my point, you may wonder?
Well, I suppose in summary I can leave with this snippet of life lesson learned: while many times in life we may feel lost and have the need to ground ourselves, reaching a point of normalcy isn’t always all it’s cut out to be.