What’re You Made Of?

I keep thinking to myself, “it’s probably just a matter of time before I really get it.”

Japan. Where the background music is in English, but nobody can understand it. The land of the rising sun. Where any amount of time I spend trying to get to know it feels like it’s not enough. There’s just so much to it. It’s a whole ‘nother world.

For my last post I decided to put to paper my deepest feelings about the struggles of moving here. It’s been a journey of discovery. About the world and about myself. And it’s certainly been a struggle. Some days feel like I’m in some kind of exotic theme park, while others feel like there’s an impenetrable barrier between myself and everyone else. And those other days can really break you down. But it takes some breaking down to see what you’re really made of.

The move to northern Japan went relatively smoothly, but going from a comfortable western-friendly city lifestyle to being dropped in the thick of rural Japanese culture has been a huge shock. Another bout of culture shock. I feel I’m closer to the core of Japanese culture, but there’s still so much I don’t understand. And it doesn’t help that the accent is so different here. But to be fair, I was warned about this before I came here. Japanese friends told me they couldn’t understand anyone out here, even though they’re still speaking Japanese. I feel like I’m in the Newfoundland of Japan. (Canny a word adem Newfies.)

Everyday it’s as though I’m sent down the rapids to navigate through my day. It’s a bumpy ride, and I have no idea what’s going on on a daily basis, but whatever it is, it’s happening regardless, so son-of-a-bitch, I’m in. I’ll figure it out eventually. Hopefully.
But even if I don’t, I’m at least enjoying myself. Picking up whatever responsibility I can, trying to learn and do my best.

I keep thinking to myself, “it’s probably just a matter of time before I really get it.” But how long do I have? And how long does culture shock last? Until I fully integrate with this new place I find myself in? Can I really do that? It’s all so different here, compared to back home in Canada. Part of the same world, yet somehow worlds apart.

I don’t know the answers to these questions. I feel like I’m missing something. I find myself feeling nostalgic for old Canadian things I used to use, eat, watch, experience. Maybe I’m finally homesick.

Sometimes it’s hard not to just feel like I’m some kind of spectacle out here. Allow me to paint the scene: I walk into class. Emphatic surprised noises echo amongst the students. The Japanese teacher says something along the lines of, “BEHOLD! as I attempt to communicate with this foreigner.” And there I stand, trying not to embarrass myself (too much), trying to speak in this strange balancing act of actual English and something they might understand.

But those everyday struggles, – the simple things that wouldn’t even cross your mind back home – they feel like big accomplishments when you don’t know the language or the customs or the rules. Somehow something so small begins to feel so big. Baby steps, I suppose. Even if you fall flat on your face every time, at least you’re getting somewhere. Getting through those everyday struggles, breaking down, and rebuilding yourself – that’s when you start to find out. What’re you made of? Something that sinks? Or something that can swim? Maybe you’re someone who can tread water after all.

A Warrior Dies to Learn Who He Is

We’re all warriors; fighting our own battles.

You’ve come so far. Built yourself up, atop of your ideals of how things should be and ideas of how the world works. Then something happens. Everything shudders, shakes, and when you look down, you realize. It’s as if you’ve awoken from a dream. Your eyes widen. You’re not on a solid foundation. This isn’t bedrock. It never was. You’re skating on thin ice. You’re treading water. Trying to stay afloat and keep your head from going under.

What you thought you knew is on a collision course with another world. A completely different world. At first, you only see the surface. It’s all so foreign and intriguing. It excites you, exhilarates you, as some kind of exotic theme park might. And for a time you are content with things being like this, although you sense something deeper lurking below. And it’s coming closer. When you eventually penetrate the surface, the sensation is entirely overwhelming. From your fingertips to your chest, from the crown of your head to the bottom of your feet, you’re left in a shaking anxiety. Everything falls apart. Everything you were, everything that was, everything you thought you were, everything you thought that was – everything you thought. You don’t know anymore. What did you just crash into? Where even were you before? What were you? You can finally grasp the ends of whatever lurks in the depths. Somewhere in the abyss dwells the answer. You feel you can never make it there. It’s as though, at least for the time being, it repels you. You can’t understand why. It’s a different world with a different structure. It’s all too complex to wrap your head around. You notice you’re still holding on to the driftwood of old ideas, as you attempt to tread water. You can’t help it. You’re not very good at this whole treading water thing. You fear these pieces of driftwood are actually holding you back from doing this effectively. They have great big holes in them. But you don’t know how to let go.

Those ends you could grasp – those tendrils of truth – they’ve finally led you to what you think is the core of this world. The secret lies within. The answer you seek. Could you really be almost there? You peel back layer after layer trying to get to it. With each one you pull on, your aching body increases in desperation, and the prospect of this endeavour bearing fruit seems more and more futile. You grow weary. There’s no end to the layers. It’s a puzzle on a scale you’ve never even witnessed, let alone imagined before.

Whether you were to wake up and realize it or not, life always was and always will be this way. Ideas are nothing solid, after all. You can only pretend to stand on them. The whole universe is maddeningly complex, and it’s under no obligation to make any sense to us. It’s best to learn to tread water, lest you drown trying to stand, or drown holding onto something that will pull you under.

The water begins moving. Quicker and quicker, it pulls you along with it. You’re sent down the rapids in a big yellow raft. As much as you think to yourself, “I don’t want to go down here,” it doesn’t matter: That’s where you’re headed. You can try to paddle back or close your eyes and make believe, but you’re powerless within the forces of nature. Maybe the whole situation scares you so much that you panic and flip your raft, and get helplessly sucked down into the bottomless depths. Yet another sure way to drown. Alternatively, you can brace yourself, and learn to navigate the rapids, steering yourself toward better waters. Maybe it turns out to be fun. Or at least enjoyable. You can’t stop life. But you can make it better.

This all comes with the realization that there are a seemingly infinite number of ways one can live out their life. And they can be so bafflingly vast in their differences. All of them are valid. Life can truly be whatever we want it to be. Why do we settle for this?

It’s Been a While

Anything worth doing is worth doing now.

Life happens. Everyone seems to only get busier with it. Time flies by faster and faster. Suddenly you look back and another couple of years just went by. What even happened?

I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like to. I’ve been telling myself that I’ll eventually find the time, but I only discover more and more that I have to make the time. And to be honest, there are a lot of things in my life I have taken this viewpoint on. Procrastination sure is a big problem, isn’t it? Being a perfectionist doesn’t help. I feel the need to wait until I have gathered all information I possibly can and taken everything into consideration. On the surface this seems rational, but if we actually look at it rationally, you just can’t possibly have all of the information, let alone have taken everything into consideration. What usually happens is that you wait, and wait, until you have no other choice but to act (and you generally just make a split-second decision, anyway). Deadlines used to help me do this, but with my own blog I can make my own deadlines (which, in the past, has meant I don’t have any deadlines – oops). So where does that leave us? It seems to me a good solution to act when you have a good grasp of the situation. Identifying that point may be its own problem, but taking this all into consideration should help. There comes a time in life when you have to just act. I’ve come to realize my life is something I have to actively mold into what I want. Every day is a choice. And the only place to begin is now; because here is where we are. So I’d like to start up my blog again. I’d like to share more of what I’ve worked on over the years. Maybe I’ll even end up sharing some poetry.

This year will be the beginning of a whole new adventure – a brand new chapter in my life. I’m moving to Asia. Will I be able to keep up with my blog? I hope so. I suspect part of it will get a lot more personal as I experience new places, people, and cultures; and wish to share those experiences. I still intend to finish the posts I was preparing previously, but the initial purpose of this whole project was for me to write about whatever I wanted to write about; and I will stay true to that.

On that note, I have also been researching a few other topics that interest me and I will be rearranging the list of things I want to cover on this blog. Why are mental health issues rising at an alarming rate in our society? Why do we seem so divided? What, if anything, can we do to fix this mess we find ourselves in? These are a few of the questions I’ve been asking, and I’ve come across some very compelling answers.

New technologies have given us access to a plethora of information – so much, in fact, that it would be impossible for a single person to ever take it all in within their lifetime. I don’t claim to have all of the answers. Anyone who does should not be trusted. But I would like to do my part by focusing on and making sense of what interests me.

-Tim