Fresh out of the shower, I realize that was pointless. The humidity has sweat dripping down my back the second I dry off. Air conditioning is an option, of course, but people here rarely use it because it is expensive to leave on. Instead, they opt for fans, paper or electric. Since winter is just around the corner, I’ve decided to hold out until next summer to purchase a cooling device. For now, I open the windows, lie down on my bed, and say a little prayer. Autumn colors and cool, crisp weather, come quick. Tea and hot showers just don’t have the same effect in summer.
While my mind and body are still, I can hear the crickets, passing cars, the neighbor’s television, the hum of the refrigerator. All of these new, soft nuances take some getting used to. Despite living in such close quarters, Japan’s rural areas are REALLY quiet and fairly free from distraction. One of the downsides, of course, is that any sound someone makes seems like it could be heard from the next town over. Therefore we must always be conscious of our movements and actions. That means I have to step lightly across the hardwood floor so as not to disturb my downstairs neighbor. I may need to buy a rug.
During the summer, I tend to have a hard time falling asleep. Maybe it’s the heat, maybe it’s this constant anxiety to be out doing things since it stays lighter outside longer, who knows? Anyway, tonight I can’t fall sleep so I sit up in bed, and my mind starts to wander. As I look around my sparsely furnished apartment, it feels temporary. It should, since I’ve only just arrived 3 weeks ago. As I add more personal touches, it begins to feel more like home, but as is natural, I worry. Planting new roots anywhere is intimidating for a restless traveler’s heart like mine. What if I end up moving to Tokyo, what if I want to travel the world again for another year, what if I want to go volunteer in Africa, what if I have to go back to America.
When I start doubting the decisions I’ve made, my inner-self intervenes and provides consolation. “But you can do any of those things, darling. Just because you have furniture, an apartment, and a routine doesn’t mean that life stops. It just means that now you have a new home to return to after whatever path or adventure you choose.”
But now that I’m here, I find myself feeling overwhelmed. Focusing on how far I have to go in mastering the language has me on the edge of tears every day. I’m frustrated that I can’t communicate without help. As much as I want to be here, to learn, and grow, sometimes I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into.
“Nothing wrong with a little old-fashioned hard work. Life wouldn’t be nearly as fun or rewarding without a few challenges. And let’s not forget that you successfully traveled around the world to 20+ countries on your own, worked your way through some tough situations, and came out better for it. Same goes for Japan. It’s all incredibly daunting now because it’s new and there are a lot of challenges coming at you at once, but you’ll figure it out. You always do. Just remember to take it a step at a time.”
But what if I’m not meant to be in Japan at all? What if this was all a mistake?
“This is what you wanted though, to come live and work in Japan and study Japanese. This is the chapter you’re meant to be reading and experiencing right now in your life. Even if you’re not meant to be here forever, you would’ve hated yourself for not at least trying. It is okay if this is only temporary, and it is also okay if this is where you live permanently. You are never stuck, sweetie. You shall remain flexible and move gracefully through all of the incredible opportunities presented to you.”
I feel a drop of water slide down the side of my face only this time it’s not sweat, it’s fresh tears. I’m scared but incredibly grateful. No matter what, I can’t believe how lucky I am. From my bed, I can see the stars and a bright, yellow crescent moon smiling down on Earth. Here I take another moment of immense gratitude. Thank you for this opportunity, thank you for summer, thank you for hot showers. I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and sleep comes easy.