Thank You, Japan

Friends, have you ever read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle? It was recommended to me by my sweet soul sister, Gina, and it is from what I learned in his book that I write my letter of gratitude to Japan and what I have learned during my time here.

In pulling up the roots of my life in Tokyo, I’m find that I am sad (though trying not to be because, according to Tolle, emotions are the body’s reaction to the mind and apparently the mind is not an ally of our Being) but also much more capable than I realized. I’ve become so accustomed to dismissing people’s compliments about my level of Japanese because that’s the polite thing to do here, and I’m just not good at taking compliments in general that I didn’t realize just how far I’ve come. I don’t give myself enough credit and that is a huge dishonor to the amount of effort I’ve put in thus far. Whenever I call a utility company, hospital, etc., I ask for an English speaker first before I even give myself a chance to practice Japanese and prove that I can handle a proper conversation outside of school. It turns out I can. I may not understand 100% of what the other person is saying, but I’ve come a LONG way from Day 1 where I only understood about 5%.

Truth be told, I started learning Japanese out of fear and shame that I couldn’t speak a 2nd language and that I was of Asian descent but couldn’t speak my “native tongue” which I admit are poor excuses to start learning but I’m so glad I did. The journey has had its highs and lows as it should but learning Japanese is such a joy for me now. As a human being I am already whole, but learning Japanese has made me 115% whole. I’m overflowing with being.

The Definition of Home
Home is not the environment around me, the household I grew up in, nor the roof over my head now. Until just recently, this was something I did not fully understand. Home is my soul, my very being. I carry home wherever I go because I AM HOME. It was not America I ran away from, and it is not Japan that I am running away from now. It was/is grief, shame, and fear of not being worthy enough. I’ve been treating those emotions as if they are external factors that I can leave behind wherever I go but those things live within me. They are restrictions that I put on myself and restrictions only I can learn how to not let define me.

Be Where I Am
In terms of living within one country’s borders, Japan was the end all be all. When I moved here, I didn’t need or want to be anywhere else. I learned to be happy right where I am. Japan is my external happy place though living here has proven to be more difficult than I anticipated because I’ve demanded the world of myself, called upon myself to stand up for myself and look inward. If something is not working, it’s not Japan’s fault nor is it the fault of anyone I interact with. The way I think, my perspective, or my perception of the world around me make me react to certain situations in a way that don’t support my overall well being. Because of that, I’ve learned a lot about loneliness, fear, shame, balance, addiction, and the importance of social (face-to-face) connection.

Growing up, I was conditioned to look outside of myself to find happiness, love, and joy, but I know now that they exist unconditionally within me. It’s just a matter of whether or not I choose to access them. The same goes for any toxic thoughts or demons as I lovingly call them. Those things live within me as well, and it’s about whether or not I choose to acknowledge them / let them take the driver’s seat. It takes great practice to quiet the mind and let love, joy, and curiosity come forward, but it is certainly worth it.

Final Word
I am not leaving Japan. I will always be with Japan because a part of my story and soul lives here now, and wherever I go, Japan will always be with me because the whole experience, though it doesn’t define me, is a part of my being. We are one. 日本、いろいろをありがとうございました。私の精神の一部分はいつもいる。

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