Last week I met up with three ALTs from Fukui prefecture and we embarked on the ultimate Japan challenge: watch the sunrise from the summit of Mount Fuji. While I love being outside climbing a mountain was something I was apprehensive to try, but I am so glad I took the chance.
The climb took us 9 hours from the 5th station to the summit on the Fujinomiya trail. When we set off at 6:30 Friday night the sky was quickly growing dark and the mist was thick. We kept climbing up and up in the darkness and the clouds through the night.
The sky was already beginning to show the first hint of dawn as we reached the summit at 3:30 in the morning. We had risen above the clouds after station 9 and it was promising to be a spectacular sunrise.
It was spectacular, transformative, and moving to say the least.
As I stood on the highest mountain in Japan and looked out over the sea of clouds while the sun rose, first bright red and and then gold, bringing the endless sky to life I was filled with so many thoughts I could scarcely process them all. This was the entire world stretched out before me. Here was the sun rising on my whole life in front of me and I could see everything but the end because there was no ending, just an eternal beginning passing quickly through the sky.
I have seen beautiful and amazing things in my life. I have watched the sunset over the Grand Canyon, stood on top of Chichen Itza, hiked in the rain forest in Costa Rica, crawled inside tombs in Ireland, snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef, seen Yellowstone, Zion, Niagara Falls, Uluru, and so many more of the amazing things this world has to offer us, but none of them had quite the same effect on me as this one sunrise.
I think what makes this experience unique is the element of personal achievement. You have to overcome so much to be able to see this particular view. I climbed through rain, fog so thick it was at times difficult to see, freezing cold, pain, altitude sickness, and most of all the doubts always present in the back of my mind, but I overcame it all with my own power. I got myself to the summit of that mountain and I gave myself the experience. I did it.
I spend a lot of time feeling pretty ambivalent about being alive. It’s not that I don’t want to be alive, it’s just that I’m not sure why I should be. I don’t have much to offer the world. I make so many mistakes, I chase away the people I care about by being selfish and self-centered, I back away from conflicts when I should stand my ground, I don’t put much effort into my work, and I’m not sure my life is going anywhere at all.
But, like, damn y’all. I stood on that mountain and looked at the sun while snot literally dripped from my nose and I cried because that moment is what it means to me to be alive.
There is so much beauty in this world. There is so much pain, fear, and uncertainty as well, but there is wonder and love and the sun and the clouds and mountains for us to climb both metaphorical and literal. I want it all. I want to consume this life, and most of all I want to matter. I want to share myself with this life and receive as much as I can. I want a big life. I want, I want, I need.
I want my life to have meaning beyond myself, and while that may be an arrogant thing to ask for when I don’t know what I have to offer I can’t give up halfway. If I stop fighting now I may never get to see another sunrise from the top of the world, wherever and whenever that may be.
So for now I’m going to remember to create, to dream, and to make the most of what will probably be my last year living in Japan. This past year, and it has been almost exactly a year since I arrived in Japan, has been so much more than I could have ever imagined, and I am so grateful for the opportunities I have been given. Even if most of the time I don’t see it as one, my life has been a gift and I want to make the most of it.