The memory of the morning my dad dropped me off at the airport, it is permanently etched on my soul. My one-way flight to Japan was scheduled on the day of his birthday, and a part of me will always feel sorry for leaving on his special day. After all, it was a day that was meant to be celebrated and a break from a somber summer. My father and I don’t have a very close relationship in that I rarely open up to him about anything in my personal life. I was and still am very much my mother’s daughter. So, of course, when it came time to say goodbye to my dad, I hadn’t a clue what to say. I never really do, but I hugged him, I told him I loved him, and I felt like maybe that was enough. He said he felt like the luckiest man to have had the best wife and best daughter. It was the first time I had ever seen my dad cry, and at that moment, my heart broke in two. Not only had he just lost his wife to the heavens that summer, but he was about to lose his daughter to the other side of the world. Sitting in the airport that morning was the loneliest I have ever felt.
Up until that day at the airport, I hadn’t exactly been the bravest person. I attribute any acquired confidence to my parents. If they hadn’t set the example for me of being annoyingly stubborn about creating the life you want, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have quit my job to travel the world, started studying Japanese, and 2 years later found myself on a one-way flight to Japan. Moving to Japan saved my life. Really. It has forced me to stand on my own two feet, confront my mother’s passing head on, and take full control of my life. If I were still in Michigan, I’d still feel like a big fish stuck in a small pond. I’d be suffocating trying to move beyond the grief of my mother’s death while at the same time trying to expand my horizons and feeling defeated at getting nowhere. It would’ve been a very emotionally toxic and destructive environment to continue living in, and I needed to be pulled out. Thank heavens I was.
Day by day, it doesn’t seem like much has changed, but when I look back at the past year, I’m left in awe of how much I’ve grown and just human potential in general. Adapting to a new country, culture, and life has helped me better realize who I am and focus on how I want to paint my life. Here in Japan I feel happy in every sense of the word, like I can do anything. I don’t feel like a big fish in a small pond anymore. I feel like a sponge in a big pond with so much to learn and so much to absorb. That makes me happy and fulfilled in a way I have never known. The saying “the world is your oyster” has really taken hold, and I feel reinvigorated and more excited than ever to go out and try new things. Plus, as someone who loves to travel, not only do I have a whole new country to explore but now, I have easy access to a whole new continent, a whole new hemisphere. And it’s only year 1 and oh my god, I could cry just thinking about all the opportunities and experiences that await in year 2, 5, 10 and beyond.
[Someday] Returning to Michigan
This summer, I was set to return home to Michigan for 2 weeks to visit family and pick up any remaining belongings I wanted to take back with me to Japan. However, with all the logistics of my move to Tokyo, I wasn’t able to fit it in this year. And to be totally frank, I’m not that eager to return to Michigan. The problem with my incessant need to travel somewhere new is that my eyes and heart aren’t exactly set on returning to America. They’re focused outward into the greater world I have yet to explore. Someday though I will visit Michigan again.
When that time comes, I look forward to hugging my dad, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my friends, even my grandmother who has always been hard on me and in turn has taught me to be hard on myself. I look forward to thanking them properly for their bravery and strength in sending me off to Japan during a time when we were all at our most vulnerable. I look forward to seeing what has changed and what has remained the same all this time. I look forward to reminiscing, looking through old photo albums, taking bike rides around my old neighborhood, sleeping in my old bed, and eating at all of my favorite restaurants.
Despite having quickly outgrown my old life, Michigan will always be home. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that wherever my family is will always be a slice of home.
Hope to see you soon, Michigan.