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Two weeks ago I made my first journey back to where I once called home, after living in Japan for these past 15 months. Before my trip I was full with anxiety, as I am not the type of person that likes to revisit things I have moved on from. The only reason I made such a journey was because my best friend of 27 years was getting married, and would not have missed that for the world.

I did not know what to expect, visiting my childhood home and seeing friends I haven’t seen in over a year. I did not know what or how I would feel about any of it. I decided to just let it go and see what happened. I told only about four people about my visit and tried to move quietly around the area, as not to be overwhelmed by my past life. The result was an interesting mix of emotions and revelations.

The first revelation was about my physical appearance. Over 15 months, my body has changed, I hadn’t realized to what extent until I saw my family and a mirror. I don’t own a full length mirror and tend to wear baggy clothes in Japan, so it was a real shock to see myself for the first time in a while. My appearance was more rigid than I ever remember being. It as if my body decided to reflect a deeper change within me. And seeing myself in the mirror, it was the first time I felt a real sense of recognition and acceptance. I could look into the mirror and say, yes that is me…I know her. This is something I think I was waiting for my whole life up until now. And with that revelation, I was ready to tackle any challenges of visiting my childhood home.

The first challenge was to reconnect. My first day back I decided to visit the yoga studio I once worked at. The yoga studio had changed locations since I left, but most of my friends still frequented the new space. I did not tell any of them I would be back, so it was a real treat to pull off some great surprises. In particular, I was able to see my first yoga student. Her reaction is forever cemented in my heart. It was like a scene from a movie. I also was able to reconnect with another yoga friend who I didn’t realize how much I missed until we had breakfast. On our life journey we can often forget the support roles of the many that help us be who we truly are. He is one of those people, and I am extremely grateful we were able to catch up. But as much as the yoga studio had once been a second home for me, I recognized I was just a visitor now. I have moved on.

As a visitor, you notice things you once overlooked. For example, I had never really realized how fat America is. When I lived there, I was told how fat we were, but didn’t really understand what that meant. It might be because we advocate for self love and body acceptance, but from what I saw we have a BIG problem. As I walked around, it became increasingly difficult to find someone even remotely slim. The sedentary lifestyle and the food we eat have to go. Yes, there are chubby and fat people in Japan, but they are VERY few. I hated the fact I could not walk everywhere I needed to go, that I needed the car to go to most places. I am used to relying on my own two feet to get to places. Sweets were too sweet and portions were huge! Although I do admit I indulged in A LOT of beer and cheese. As a nation, I hope we can start to get out more and eat healthier.

Next came connecting with my best friends. I really hadn’t thought a lot about how it would be to hang out with the people I once spent the most time with. But when the time came to meeting up, I have to admit, it was slightly awkward. Change is inevitable, and when you are 7,000 miles away, you are going to change. It isn’t good and it isn’t bad, it just is. All my friends seem to be doing very well and seem happy with what is going on in their lives, so I can’t complain. That is all I ever want for them. I think that is all they want for me as well. It is just that living in rural Japan has shaped me in a way I didn’t expect. Things that were once important are now insignificant. And it is this slight change that made initial meetings slightly awkward. It was the first time I could realize how much I have changed in my thinking and demeanor. But once getting over that initial hump, real friends will always be real friends. Recognizing change, they will still support you no matter what. And I have a handful of very great REAL friends.

Friends are one thing, and family is another. Being an only child, I share a special bond with my parents and grandparents. I spent the majority of my life with only them. So what happens to that dynamic after being away? It changes, just like everything else. I have never been one to please my family for the sake of pleasing them. I always have done what I wanted, but I feel even more strongly about that now. Where at one time I could probably be guilted into something, I can not be guilted anymore. I know now, I will make all my decisions for myself. I will make my decisions with the utmost respect for them, but still will call the shots, no matter how crazy they might seem.

The craziest thing of all to me is trust. I often get accused of being too trusting. This accusation mostly comes from my father as he refers to how I tend to talk and associate with strangers. And although I do often talk and associate with strangers, I would not characterize myself as a trusting person. Adventurous, yes. Trusting, no. I have always had a hard time at believing my friends or guys weren’t deceiving me in some way. The reason for the distrust came from both an inner insecurity and the fact that I often deceived people myself. Over the past year, this has probably been my greatest change. And in the week I was back in the states, I was able to see how much I have improved in that department. There is a really great quote by Ernest Hemingway that states, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” And for the first time in my life, I honestly WANT to trust someone, so I decided just to do it. As scary as I once thought that would be it has been that easy to trust them. Sometimes we make things into a bigger deal than they really are, like jumping out of a plane. When you do it you think, “That was what I was scared of? Small potatoes!” That being said, I did jump out of a plane last week. I highly recommend it. No description would ever do it justice.

Now I am back in Japan, grateful for the time I spent back in Florida. It was a short trip, but long enough to show me what is really important in my life and what direction I want to go from here. Sometimes we can get dreams and ideas that might not really be for us, but I think I can confidently say now I am more me than I have ever been. That I not only started trusting someone else, but I also started to trust myself and change.

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