Ever since spring has sprung I have felt myself being pulled in so many directions. I haven’t had a moment to collect my thoughts or a moment to just be. I guess with spring, that is what is to be expected, we are catapulted into a new cycle of life. And even though it does come as a welcome change from the lethargy of winter, I found myself resisting and fighting this new cycle.
This resistance made way for an old friend I haven’t seen in some time…anger. It bloomed as quickly as the cherry blossoms. EVERYTHING was making me angry, and in turn I had a series of days of Murphy’s Law. Anything that could go wrong did. It was during this time that I had a conversation with my parents. I did not choose where I live in Japan. I was actually placed here through the hiring agency, and my mother asked the simple question of if I thought I was placed in the perfect location for me. Now, as I was in an extremely foul mood, my reply was something like, “No, the perfect location for me would have been Hawaii.” And even though that is how I honestly felt when she asked, it is not fair to leave it at that.
I had originally thought and planned to do this stint in Japan right after university when I was twenty-something, but as fate would have it, I would never get around to it. So, at nearly 30 years old, I finally decided to go through with this dream. But as soon as I decided to do it, my life took some interesting twists and turns. I will be honest and say I applied to teach in Japan as a way to runaway. I wanted a new start, and I had had all these fantasies of how living in Japan would be. By the time it came to actually make the move, I had none of these fantasies; I was just kind of empty ready to start again. So when I was told I would be living in Yamanashi, it meant nothing to me, because I just wanted to be in Japan.
It was when I landed in Japan and made my way to my new home that it all started to settle in. I was not a total newbie to Japan, I had traveled to Japan as a teenager and spent a lot of my time around the Japanese culture in Florida. I played Taiko, I took Japanese language in high school and college, but absolutely NONE of that really prepared me for my life here. And that is the way it is supposed to be, you aren’t supposed to be prepared.
I am an only child and very independent, but living in Japan was the first time I would live pretty much in isolation, a solitary confinement I did not expect. And as strong as I believed myself to be, I have slowly realized how much I interacted with people on a regular basis. How I once started and ended my days with friends or family and shared in moments with them. But here it was just me, and pretty much remains to be just me. And as nerve wrecking and irritating as this has been for me at times, this happens to be the biggest of the small miracles that have occurred while living in Japan.
I don’t know what exactly makes someone believe in miracles. But I am a strong believer in magic and miracles, and I have always been. And although I have never witnessed what most associate with either of these words, I have witnessed a myriad of small miracles, of the seemingly impossible becoming possible.
And what is more of a miracle than coming face to face with your true self? Unmasking all the bullshit you have used to even hide you from you. The small miracle of being sent to a rural area of Japan has allowed me glimpses of just that. When you are not used to being truly alone and then are obligated to be JUST THAT, shit is bound to happen. And you might go a little mad or crazy, but that is just part of the journey. And trust me, I have gone crazy.
Amidst the craziness, there were a number of breakthroughs, personal truths that were revealed. The first being I truly need yoga for my every day sanity. It was no longer a set of physical exercises or positions; it had ultimately been transformed into my morning brain cleaning. No body is more surprised than me that I continue to keep my daily practice alone at my home, and for nearly two years now. Not only that, but I have been able to make progress in my practice on many levels, a small miracle.
The second truth was that I was not as active as I had once thought. In America, I taught yoga for 5 to 7 hours a day, and went on runs several times a week, but my activity was no where near where it is now. Without any friends and nothing but time, I was able to throw myself into new activities. I had no excuses. Being in the middle of nowhere surrounded by mountains, you just have to embrace the mountains in a way. So, I went full force into all mountain sports, and this might be my favorite miracle. I was always scared of heights, and to be able to find home in that fear has opened up an endless amount of possibilities, and has helped form my heart and my dreams for the future.
Then came the miracle I never saw coming. I believe I have touched on this in my past posts, but it is a strange thing to come to terms with, especially as a woman. I can almost remember the exact moment I truly realized that I have never really wanted kids. I had convinced myself I was open to the idea most of my life, and had at one time joked about having a kid early in order to have direction in my life. But that was the truth in hiding. I was using children as a means to give my life direction. And now, having direction and a small sense of purpose, I know that I do not want children. Not only that, but that I don’t believe in what marriage has become in today’s society. I am a romantic, don’t get me wrong. But what I believe in is unconditional love, for however long that love is meant to last. I would be lying if I told you I don’t hope that love to be a lifelong one, but what is more important is to give it my all, to love with every fiber of my being without expectation. Without the extended periods of time spent alone without anyone’s input, I might have never had the courage to express these feelings not only to myself, but now with you.
The last miracle I will discuss is more visible, as it is something tangible. This miracle is my outward appearance. I have changed noticeably in my appearance in the almost two years I have been living in Japan. There are many factors that have played a role in this transformation. I have been a vegetarian for 7 years, and believe it or not, Japan is NOT very vegetarian friendly. Despite having a myriad of traditional foods that are often associated with vegetarianism, as a whole the country is not so veg-friendly. Eating out is EXTREMELY tricky, as fish is usually put in everything in some way or other. So what did this mean for me? More cooking! And that is probably the biggest contribution to this last small miracle. I have always loved to cook, and have always been good at it. Living alone here in rural Japan has made me become more experimental and imaginative with my cooking. And since Japan has more strict food consumer guidelines, I eat healthier than I ever have in my life. Along with my increased activity and low amount of daily stress, my body has become the best version of itself I have seen yet. After years of struggling, to have my body just to do its thing is definitely nothing short of a miracle.
These are just a couple of the small miracles I wish to share, that have occurred while living in Japan. There are many many more things that could only have happened to me not only by living in Japan, but are specific to living in Yamanashi. And even though there are many mornings I curse the heavens that I live here, I wouldn’t have it any other way. So mom, I think the real answer to your question is, “yes, it is the perfect place for me.” Not for any other reason than it is the place I was sent, it is where I am. It is where I have lived through all these tiny miracles and have become better for it.