Obviously Christmas has come and gone, but here is the post I was working on before I left and forgot to publish from the airport.
Last Wednesday I was walking home and thinking about my plans for Christmas and New Years. I considered going to Tokyo to visit Tokyo Disney for the first time, or exploring temples a little closer to Shimada. But that night when I got home and sat down to eat my slightly disappointing dinner, all I could think was that what I wanted to do more than anything was be back in Arizona with my family.
Homesickness is strange. It’s not a constant feeling. It’s not even something I’m aware of most of the time. It’s fleeting thoughts of “I miss laughing with friends,” or “I miss the feeling of being understood.” Until recently I said I was not homesick, and at the time I believed it to be true. But now I realize that in many ways homesickness is the background music fading in and out periodically as I go about my life here.
As soon as I allowed myself to voice the thought that I wanted to go home for Christmas, I was gripped with a combination of excitement and relief so intense I couldn’t fall asleep until midnight.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my life, but my thinking hasn’t formed itself into a cohesive thought well enough for me to write a blog post over the last week.
It started, really, when a teacher told me how shocked he was that I wasn’t exploring the rest of Asia during my Christmas break “like all the other ALTs usually do.” This stuck with me. I felt like somehow I was not using my time here in Japan properly, and that maybe I was missing an opporutiny even though I recognized that I simply did not have the energy to explore a new country.
I shared these concerns with my mom, who in term shared them with her friend, whose reply came back to me via my mom. She said that many other people see this time here as an ALT is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but that what they don’t understand is that I am going to be traveling my entire life. I don’t feel pressure to see everything at this very moment because I know that I am going to spend my entire life going the places I want to go and seeing the places I need to see.
For me, this idea that I will be traveling for my entire life feels inevitable. It is a part of myself that has always been there, just behind my thoughts. It seems terrifying because as I am learning now, moving from place to place is lonely in a way that you can’t really be prepared for. And yet the thought of not seeing the world feels just overwhelmingly wrong.
I shared this train of thought with my best friend and general amazing human being Katie, who sent this in reply:
Everything you just said feels right to me. You’re a nomad. You’ve struggled a lot with the concept of home, but that’s because for you–you are your own home. And that’s a really scary thing. But it’s also beautiful because you’ll always have a home.
It’s true. I have struggled and continue to struggle with the idea of home. I’m not really sure how the concept fits into my life. For many other ALTs, it seems, home is the place they will return to after their time in Japan, but I don’t have that sort of guarantee. I could go anywhere when I leave Japan. There is no limit to the number of paths I could pursue, but somehow I know I will always be looking for new places and new experiences.
Just as deciding to spend Christmas with my family filled with me excitement, this realization that yes, I will always be a traveler brought with it a sense of calm acceptance and, frankly, wonder. There is so much world out there that I am going to see. With each new place I visit I am reminded how many more places there are to go, people to meet, and things to learn.
I still don’t know what direction my life is heading. I am filled with questions that have no answer, but today I realized I do have one answer. I don’t know what I’m going to do for a career, or if what sort of meaningful (or otherwise) relationships I will have, or even what countries I will visit, but I know that in my life I am going to travel, and I am going to learn. Truthfully there is no other direction for my life to go.
So I will be going home for Christmas, and that statement feels correct. Right now what feels like home to me is the Arizona sun and the feeling of shared understanding and shared experience that is family, and I’m excited to be there again.