Loss of Self / Can’t Find the Words

It’s been quite some time since I’ve written anything, having stopped blogging just days away from finishing my 30 day challenge, but now with a month left until I leave Japan I feel it’s time to start writing about and processing the process of leaving.

It’s been a difficult six months. A person I knew from high school passed away in January which lead me to face some of my own fears of my mortality, my grandmother passed away in February the day before what was my deceased father’s birthday, and another family member passed away about a month ago. I was accepted to my top two choice grad programs, one of which would have been a literal dream to attend, and then had to reject both offers because of money. This forced me to confront many of the feelings I haven’t had to deal with in Japan about capitalism, and how being poor makes it so much more challenging to have dreams in the first place. I’ve also picked up a pack of roaming bullies who seemingly have nothing better to do with their free time than watch my social media accounts, which I mean I guess I should be flattered to be receiving so much of their time and energy.

So all of this has been happening along with the stresses of the big life change of getting ready to move across the ocean and start fresh in grad school, leaving behind all of the friends and routines I’ve had for the last two years. All of this has given me much to think about, but not left me able to write much of anything at all. In many senses I have just been too exhausted to put myself out there in any public fashion apart from the appearances I am required to make at work or other obligations.

I feel generally exhausted these days by the multiple faces we are expected to show people. While this has been something I’ve struggled with a lot in the past, leading me to be more open about the negative things in my life on social media than most people find acceptable, this has been especially challenging in Japan. I find the role I have to play here as an ALT and token foreigner tiring. I find it easier to navigate my life here by largely keeping myself to myself, but since that is not who I am as a person it leaves me feeling bottled up. I like to share parts of myself with others, yet it feels like my role here is much more to be a person on display than to be an actual person. This leads to things like people thinking it’s acceptable to use their free time to come to my place of work and ask to observe my lessons or people generally disregarding my feelings and needs.

Being different around different people is normal, and probably even healthy. No one is the same around their parents, coworkers, and close friends. We all show varying faces and aspects of ourselves to different people and in different situations. This is taken to an extreme level with our social media personas. Much of our social media use is this sort of artificial posturing that we all expect each other to participate in. I’m not writing this as some sort of new idea that I’ve had—this is nothing new—but to give more of a context for why I have been unable to write and have generally fallen off from all social activities in the last few months. The combination of much of my day to day life feeling artificial, along with the somehow necessary artificiality of social media interactions, left me feeling almost entirely disconnected from any real understanding of what was my true self. I felt exhausted, wrung out, and yet simultaneously hurt and angry at the people and systems that I felt were not allowing me to be or discover myself as an authentic and complicated human being. The only way I found to combat all of this was to spend time at home, where I felt I could be the person I am without judgement.

A positive thing to have come out of all of this is I have learned to appreciate even more the benefit of having few core friends who truly see me as a person they accept, as opposed to many friends who all expect or even demand that I always be only one aspect of myself. I am so grateful for the few people in my life who don’t expect me to be anything other than who I am in a world where it seems like most people just want to take something from me. I think one of the biggest personal lessons I’ll have learned from my time in Japan is not to give myself to everyone, but to seek the people who want to give as much as they take in return and at the same time expect nothing.

I’m making it work, and that’s the important thing. I had to step back from many things in order to do it, but I’ve been making it work. It’s difficult when your life becomes completely uprooted. I don’t have many roots to begin with, and so I think I feel it more acutely than most people do. Without roots it can be so easy to forget who you are and what you want. Maybe that is why I find it so exhausting to be putting up so many faces; I’ve got nothing holding me to the ground.