I rest my fingertips lightly on my glowing keyboard. time to meticulously carve out a blog post. 「久しぶり」 I say to myself, one of the japanese words I have down pat because I say it constantly. if only I said all japanese words constantly, I would be fluent by now. my year 2.0 in japan is beginning, apparently. I haven’t seen much from my bedridden state. the 31st of december 2014, I came down with a debilitating flu, rendering my body heavy and unstable.
I’ve scrolled through my instagram feed with varied levels of envy as people snap photos of their firsts of the new year. first food, first trip, first memories of 2015. I know my year will begin soon, I’ll catch up. I lay on my side and pull the covers up to my nose and imagine what is in store for me in the coming months. 2015 will be great, if I could just get out of bed. my spirits are high, this isn’t the end. I’m not kicking myself for not washing my hands enough during cold and flu season, because kicking would require energy I don’t have. to feel so weak and useless is so frustrating. it only reminds me to motivate myself to keep active so I won’t feel like this again when I reach 80.
lying awake at 4am stiff and unable to sleep, I think back at 2014. what an emotionally juxtaposed year that was. from aimless depression to near enlightenment. 2014 was concurrently the lowest of lows and the happiest and most content I’ve ever been in my life.
the beginning of 2014 had me huddled in a corner of a cardboard built house, laying on a make-shift “bed” which was really a folded over pillow-top, shoved into the farthest side of half a 6-tatami mat sized room, as to not get in the way of the door. shared with a friend of mine, we woke up when the sun went down and bonded in our struggles over figuring out what direction our lives were going and how to possibly stay in japan. stress, depression, anxiety and black clouds of sadness overshadowed us both despite me using all my energy to keep our spirits genki.
february to march to april was somewhat tricky, bumpy, bad and good. although it began with a scare of being kicked out of the country I’ve been fighting tooth and nail to stay in, a quick jaunt to korea was a temporary distraction. fashion week and aimless meandering amongst loud, beautiful koreans and their garbage ridden streets of seoul was a familiar scene. good came from bad, small slivers of shining hope sparkled at me from piles of dirt and rubble. the universe was working over time for me. I left the guesthouse and continued to live out of my suitcase during a lucky stint as a homeless cat sitter until I could land my own place and space. it had been awhile since I had my own space. owning all black clothes in a black suitcase will cause additional stress in anxious times.
my mental state hit rock bottom for various reasons. for months I felt as though I was struggling to keep my head afloat in dark, dank stagnant waters. I couldn’t see where I was going, I just splashed around in darkness as my lungs kept filling with contaminated sludge. I almost wanted to close my eyes and let the swamp devour me. I felt I was becoming weaker and weaker, losing sight of what I was trying to accomplish.
I reminded myself every day I was in Japan and it helped keep my eyes open. I didn’t want to miss a perfect beam of sunlight creating a beautiful piece of temporary artwork in this tokyo jungle. the small day to day things brought me pings of happiness. time stretched on and pieces slowly inched into place. hinting horoscopes, wads of cash, sudden saviors, nonchalant postcards, timing of teamwork, and immaculate timed emails. I began to bounce back up in a momentum where I was finally seeing an escape from the foggy metaphorical bog. I got the key item in this game of life to continue on my journey. VISA OBTAINED. I imagined I held it above my 32-bit pixelated head and it glowed as a triumphant fan fare midi clip reverberated around me. now I had direction! I could continue on this adventure! I escaped the bog only to be thrown into a raging river current to be hurtled towards something I couldn’t see. but it was movement, direction, better than where I was before. I was being picked up with the flow and whisked down a path with rushing rivers. it was rocky and wild, but I maneuvered the best I could through japanese offices, fluorescent lights, over time, language barriers, exhaustion, apartment hunting, deposits, banks, bills, phones, faxes, confusion, insurance, taxes, address registration, waiting, waiting waiting, paper work paper work paper work.
I was now a real human in Japan. an acknowledged card-carrying registered human. no longer sneaking in under the radar under pretenses that I was some sort of rich white girl traveling with time off around the world for a gap year before graduate school (I couldn’t even fly back to my country if I wanted to. it’s all how you carry yourself every 3 months at the airport check-in). I also had a real working phone for the first time in a year in a half. how strange.
I had everything I needed now thanks to someone taking a chance on me. every day I was in awe of how I made it to that point. I felt like I was tricking everyone, yet, I still had abilities to deliver what was asked of me. but every day was a fog of confusion, speaking through google translate and observing from the outside. it was as if I was granted a special air bubble for 3 months and brought down to a deep ocean city that rarely an outsider had the chance of witnessing.
the bubble popped, I swam back to the surface and surveyed the landscape.
suddenly I was surprised by my parents to come visit seattle. at first I was excited, now that I had footing and proof that I was making it abroad, I could visit triumphantly. as the time neared I got more worried, stressed and anxious. I hadn’t returned to seattle since I left it. I was in seattle for 2 weeks, running around, seeing everyone I could, appeasing my parents, trying to remember how to drive, forcefully shoved into old memories, seeing the city change, seeing no one else change, feeling strange, feeling like a stranger, realizing this was no longer an option to return. it was a dream within a nightmare and the reality of it shook me. I didn’t face my old demons properly, I ran away again. I still wasn’t stable, my energy drained from the summer stint. I didn’t have a moment to reflect, I burned the candle at both ends and lost sleep in exchange to give hugs to old friends who never wrote me since I’d left. I became wound up and couldn’t comprehend or decompress anything that happened to me for weeks afterwards.
straight from revisiting a strange parallel universe of a place I used to call home, I went straight to seoul, the step-motherland. my tokyo roommate came with me and I showed her around, still distracted by my mentally trippy trip to my past life, and exhausted beyond belief. seoul fashion week came and went (and damn, I looked on point). fate and destiny continued to guide me downstream into a beautiful opportunity of photographing a korean male model I’ve always wanted to meet. the rest of the trip was plagued by the seattle trip. my brain was fogged. I lived off samgyapsal, soju and peanut butter smoothies.
when I finally returned to the mother land, my neutral colored muji sheets and wispy curtains laid waiting for me in my bright, airy tokyo room. my fern reached to the sun, bigger than I had left it back in september. 6 weeks of traveling to places I’ve already been. I let out a huge breath I didn’t realize I was holding. returning to japan always feels like stepping into a warm bath. I could relax. I slept. a lot.
no job, but no worries. found a couple gigs by happenstance that set me up for a few months and every worry I ever had at the beginning of the year did not exist anymore. I looked around. I had everything I needed. I tried to think of something I wanted, and I came up with nothing. I was content. I was so happy I was content. I breathed deep and nothing felt better in my entire life than sitting in my room in tokyo.
the last remaining months of 2014 was a calm, floating river ride as the sun set low and sparkled through branches of beautiful leaves, rustled by a calming quiet breeze. nothing has ever felt more relaxing in my life. the water lapped rhythmically against polished rocks, the air was fresh, I was warm and my body tingled. maybe this was enlightenment. even if I didn’t have everything figured out, it sure as hell felt like I did.
I began to feel attractive again. I wasn’t attracted to anyone, but myself. my hair and lipstick changed and I liked it. my confidence came back. it had been missing for quite some time. the switch in the brain that kids growing into teens flip–the one where you become hyper self-aware and care too much about people’s opinions of you that don’t matter–had shown itself to me once again. I flipped that switch off. and ripped it out of the wall and cut all the wires. I smiled to myself. this is what it truly feels like to not give any fucks. I thought it was only tumblr animated gif lore. but now I’ve found nirvana (not the band). everything suddenly made sense to me, and all the answers to the universe flooded through me. I’m just gonna do my thing. if you like it you like it, if you don’t, then move along and look somewhere else. it was so simple. laughably easy.
for the first time in my post-pubescent life, I didn’t care about boys. I didn’t care what people thought of me. my confidence was back, and I felt 110% about everything. I have not one doubt. I had never been more sure about anything in my entire life.
the beginning of 2014 and the end of 2014 are so starkly different it’s shocking. a lot can change in a year. a lot can change in a day, in a moment. people seem to forget that, I think.
As I relaxed on this river, I could start to see farther and farther in front of me, in this painted metaphor of my life I keep referring to. I see it coming and I know I will get there, so now I’m enjoying the ride. I trusted the universe would carry me where I would need to go. it dropped me off some cliffs, I nearly drowned, I fought and struggled and screamed and splashed and banged up my knees, got bruised, soaked, cold, confused, lost, stranded. but I kept going. because I knew… I knew this wasn’t it. there was no turning back, no safety net, no other option in my mind. the river I was floating on carried me to a crystal clear lake, completely still. it reflects a deep purple galaxy and I’m at the intersection of the sky and horizon. I am one of the small sparkling stars in this universe I created, and I am going to shine bright. nothing feels more beautiful than this.