Last month I signed the papers that will officially end my time in Japan. I didn’t make any pro-con lists, and I didn’t really consult anyone about the decision. This was something I knew in my gut was right, and have known for some time.
I still love being in Japan, though I’m the first to admit that living here sometimes drives me up a wall. For all of the awkward misunderstandings, cravings for food I can’t find, and impatience in the face of extreme rule-following, this experience has been more than I ever could have wanted, and nothing like I expected.
Over the past year and a half I have seen amazing natural beauty, met people whose kindness and generosity exceeded all logical bounds, and had some truly amazing food. I was pushed to grow as a person and an educator, though I was also forced to admit that teaching is not really for me. I became more comfortable being alone, and less ashamed of wanting company when I’m lonely. And I’ve also cultivated a thirst for knowledge of the world that I know will serve me well no matter where I end up.
For these things and so many more I will always be grateful to Japan, to the JET Programme, to the people I have met, and to the support of everyone back home who never demanded I return (though it was certainly hinted at). And yet, it is time to go.
Many of you may have noticed that my writing has become… well, infrequent would be a kind way of putting it. In the past year I wrote less in general, but a bit more about politics and my feelings on the state of the world. This has been a gradual process, but it hit me a while back that I was taking less joy in writing about my travels than I had in the past. My trips to Taiwan and Ibusuki seemed inconsequential in the face of the massive changes taking place on the world stage. I know this blog is mostly a trip diary, a vehicle for fun photos to send home, but for the past few months I couldn’t find many reasons to write. I was angry, I was scared, and I was losing interest in travel in general.
I knew I had to make a change. So I have decided to leave Japan not because I am done with this country, but because I feel that there is work that must be done elsewhere. If I don’t get off my butt and do it now, I know I will grow to resent the life I have built here. The world is changing, and so must I. I’m tired of reading about what’s happening in the world and feeling like I’m unable to contribute. It’s time to come home and figure out what comes next.
The decision not to stay in Japan may have been a clear one, but that does not mean it was easy. I waited until the last possible day, after I’d come back from a holiday trip home to the states. My school showered me in praise, gave me an excellent performance review, and many of my friends had already decided to stay. So when I told the vice principal of my decision, it was with a heavy heart. I signed the papers and it seemed ridiculous that such a major decision could be reduced to a speedy signature. I had felt confident of my choice until the moment my pen hit the paper, and when I was done I felt a wave of sadness. There’s so much I could still do here, so many people I want to spend more time with. I was close to tears talking with one of my favorite coworkers about how fast the next few months will fly by. It will not be easy, leaving Miyakonojo and Japan, but I still know it’s right.
And so, with the end in sight, I’ve resolved to make the most of my time in Japan. A deadline has once again boosted my enthusiasm for travel and made me feel better about writing. The weight of this choice has been lifted, and I feel free to focus on other things. So I’ll be posting more about my travels in the next few months, though I’m likely going to stay away from political writing, at least on this site. I’ve got a few travel plans in the works, and most of my free time these days is spent figuring out my post-JET travel plans. Just because I’m coming home doesn’t mean I’m taking the most direct route!
So thank you to everyone who has continued to read my ramblings, and encouraged me to keep writing. Here’s to my last six months in Japan, and whatever comes next!