Frustrations and Realizations

The path starts here.

It’s a little overwhelming, suddenly not understanding anything. At first it’s okay; you’re in a new and exciting place, and it’s to be expected. But then time goes by, things aren’t all that new anymore, and finally, it sets in: you really don’t know anything.

Before I left Canada, I tried to learn some Japanese. I thought I knew enough to get by; if I was only traveling through here, that may have been the case. Being here to stay has hit me with the stark realization that I know nothing; and the language barrier can be very frustrating. Direct translations are terrible and nonsensical. Why does this chicken say south pole?! Only one of many unsolved mysteries. I pick up unknown things in the supermarket and try to Google Translate, but it just leaves me demanding, “what are you?!”

This has made it extremely difficult for me to balance my diet. In Canada I would look at different foods and think, “am I able to eat this?” before I came to a decision. Now, in addition to that, I first have to ask, “what in the world is this?” which usually leaves me guessing for long periods of time, and often to no avail.

So to compound my frustrations with the language barrier, I have also often felt sick for eating questionable things. There’s nothing more disappointing and frustrating than cooking a meal that seems healthy, only to have your body destroy itself over it. At times it’s left me wondering: am I doing the right thing? Am I in the right place? Am I where I’m supposed to be?

There have been countless times when I didn’t know where I went wrong. But not understanding is the first step to understanding. Maybe you don’t want to admit it, but things could always be better – and they could always be worse. Which are you going to focus on? To aim for? The path starts here. Focus on where you want your path to go, and walk it. And don’t be distracted by other paths; that’s how you lose your way.

I question myself. I have my doubts. But then I leave work, and suddenly it hits me. Holy shit. I’m in Japan. I made it. Goal accomplished. Dream fulfilled. Time to live it. What’s funny is that of all the different things here, the strangest feeling I get is when I’m leaving work. I step out of English immersion, and cross the threshold into a world overflowing with an entirely foreign language. It’s like being hit by a brick wall of Japanese. And so, every once in a while, I get this feeling: “whoa, I’m really here.” And it all seeps in that I’ve been taking steps in the right direction. I’m out here carving this path for myself, and I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I’ve been accomplishing my goals all along. How strange that I never noticed before.

At the beginning of my blog I asked a few questions: “What am I doing here? Should I be here? Is this what’s right for me?” And here I still find myself asking the same sorts of things today. Everyone seems to ask these questions at some point or another. When we do, it’s easy to be stricken with anxiety over all of the different options we’ve faced in life. What if we chose differently? Could our lives have been better? There are infinite possibilities we could mull over, but let’s be real here. Do any of them really matter? Not at all. Even if life may have been better otherwise, it ultimately doesn’t matter in the slightest. We can’t live in the past. And if we try, we will surely miss out on what’s most important: living here and now. We have to start from here, because here is where we are. Make the best of your situation from here on out. Especially if that’s what you’ve been griping about not doing before. Take the path towards something better. Time to trailblaze.

Why Are You Where You Are?

Why did I come to Japan? What a difficult question. And I get asked it every day. How often do you get asked, “why are you where you are?” Strange to actually think about, isn’t it? In one sense, I made a decision to come here, so here I am. But in another, there was so much that went into this. First, I needed a simple answer to satisfy my students that barely spoke english, but I also wanted to contemplate my honest answer.

The short answer: this place is different. The long answer: that’s what I wanted. I wanted to throw myself alone into a foreign world and see how I fared. Am I someone who sinks or swims? Jump into the deep end and figure it out. There was a part of me back home that was unfulfilled. And so I left to start looking. Not for something out there, but within myself. Looking for my dreams, passions, love, happiness, excitement and wonder. Looking for something to challenge everything that I know. Looking for myself. I know I’m around here somewhere…

I went all the way to the other side of the planet to explore myself. And, undoubtedly, the experience has been nothing short of extraordinary. My job teaching has been great so far. Many days I come home knowing that I helped students learn English, yet feeling like I somehow didn’t do any work. Where I’m living now is also breathtakingly beautiful. Surrounded by mountains and the inland sea, this port town is famous for udon. Not only have I been able to take in amazing views, but the food has been absolutely delicious. I ride my bike around the city, seeing new things, hearing foreign sounds, and smelling mouthwatering food. It’s like nowhere I’ve been before, yet it has some things that are reminiscent of my hometown. Though they call this the country, to me this is the suburbs – with fields of crops here and giant buildings there. I remember when Brampton was full of open fields. Now it’s all housing. It makes me wonder if and when a similar fate will overtake this place.

I’ve been constantly trying many different things, but I’ve found a few restaurants that I really like, especially a certain western-style one. Amongst the excitement of everything new, I found myself in want of something comfortable. I think I now fully understand why China Towns always pop up everywhere in the West. In a world suddenly so unfamiliar, it’s nice to have a place that feels like home.

Not knowing Japanese in the smaller parts of Japan is difficult, but the experience is very rewarding. When I’m actually able to speak to and connect with people, I feel like I’ve somehow made a breakthrough. But there’s still so much to learn. And that keeps driving me forward. It’s a constant challenge that I’m here to overcome. It’s the challenge of discovering more about myself the hard way. Will I sink or will I swim?

When Everything Changed

There was a certain point during all of this that I will always remember…

A major turning point in my life happened in my early 20s. I was suddenly having abdominal pains and feeling sick to my stomach. And it kept happening more and more frequently. Doctors were no help. I was pushed through their revolving doors as fast as possible, while they brushed off my complaints. I was told it was just this or just that, which always conflicted with what other doctors had said. I didn’t know what to eat anymore. It always made me sick. Even sleeping was a hassle. Any sort of pressure near my abdomen was either uncomfortable or downright painful. It was a confusing time, to say the least. I stopped going to class at university. And I lost about 20 lbs.

At a culminating point of frustration, my sister took me to the hospital in hopes of getting to the bottom of this. By the end of a long wait and a few tests I was referred to a specialist. It was at this specialist that I was finally able to begin to make sense of things. More tests led him to believe that this was 99% Crohn’s disease. From this information, I was able to develop a plan. I began eating again on a very limited diet, though the specialist advised me that diet would not help. But I started to feel better and put on a bit of weight again. I was able to go back to class again. My aunt, who was a nutritionist, helped me along. Diet definitely played a key role.

After a couple of months, someone told me I could broaden my diet. It was true, that I could probably eat a bigger variety than I was currently eating, though I was hesitant to try. But after a bit of coaxing, I was convinced. I went to their place, where they had a number of things they wanted me to try. A word of advice to anyone with Crohn’s, or something similar: never try introducing multiple things at the same time. If you are going to try something new, try some of it (not too much) and see how you feel over the course of the next day or two. I learned this the hard way. I believe it was chocolate that did me in (which also happens to be my favourite – and which I still cannot eat). By the end of the day I felt absolutely terrible. My insides churned and moaned painfully. When I finally made it home and got it out of my system, I thought that would be the end of it. I just had to be wary of chocolate from here on out.

It was nearing the end of the term at school and I still had a couple of final projects to do. I spent the next three days in my room working relentlessly. But over those three days, I gradually became more and more sick. This wasn’t the regular Crohn’s kind of sickness, either. No flare up was ever like this. I had a worsening fever, coupled with headaches. By the end of the third day, there were even more alarming symptoms. Although it was more difficult than it should have been, I finished all of my final projects and was thankful. I turned my focus to my health and scoured the internet for what could possibly be happening to me. I came to the conclusion that what I had ingested punched a hole through my intestine, and was now causing an infection. The solution was surgery. It was worrying, but I made the trip to the emergency room at the hospital.

I knew things would suck after surgery, but I also knew it was something I had to get through. I hadn’t come this far just to come this far. I thought there would probably be some pain, and a small amount of recovery time before everything was back to normal and I never made this stupid mistake again. Nothing could have been further from the truth; and it devastated me. The next month was excruciating. And it seemed like it would never end.

I wasn’t given anything to help with the pain. No painkillers; nothing. On top of that, a visiting nurse poked around my wound every day for the next few weeks to ensure that there was no infection. Moving around was difficult and painful. Sitting up was the same. I was essentially bedridden for that first month, which is Hell in itself.

There was a certain point during all of this that I think I will always remember. One day, getting dressed, I found myself feeling particularly cheerful. Since I had not felt happy in some time, it came as a bit of a shock. My immediate reaction was to stop this, to get rid of this feeling. I felt I didn’t deserve it because this was not over yet. But then I had a thought. Why should I ever stop myself from feeling happy? If I were to apply that mindset to life, I would be forever miserable. Life always involves suffering, and if I only allow myself to be happy when the suffering is over, when am I ever happy? At the end of my life? Would I even be able to feel it then? It makes no sense. I could sit around wishing for the day of liberation from this pain, or I could actively make today better than yesterday. This phrase became my maxim: You can wish away forever, but you’ll never find a day like today.

As soon as I could walk, I was outside. I walked every day until I could run. And then every day I ran. It was a new freedom, and I owed it to myself. My health improved. I had a better grasp on my diet. I was finally in control of the situation, and this is critical for anyone with Crohn’s. If you are not on top of things, you will easily be overwhelmed. It is extremely easy to fall into poor health, and a lot of work to stay in control.

After this whole ordeal, my specialist hit me with an ultimatum. Either I took whatever drugs he was selling, or he couldn’t help me. He then got angry with me for asking for information on the drugs. I did a good amount of research before coming to the conclusion that these were not necessary for me. Not only did they increase my chances of cancer by a lot, but I would have to go to a facility to get them injected through an IV every week for a month or two, and then every two weeks for the rest of my life. I refuse to live like that. And this isn’t even to mention that approximately half of the people that were vocal online about their experience with these drugs got much worse as a result of taking them. It seemed like such an extreme solution for something I finally had a grasp on. I’ve never been back to that specialist since, and though I’ve had my ups and downs, I’ve never regretted my choice.

Every day life can make you bitter or better, so they say. Choose the better gamble. Every single day is a choice. Life is difficult, and sometimes it can seem like there’s no way out of your situation. But it’s always worth it to try again. It’s always worth it to start over. Always. You can wish away forever, but you’ll never find a day like today.

And the blog begins.

I’d like to show how these different viewpoints have real life-changing consequences in shaping our world.

Life. That thing people tell you you don’t have. Regardless of what anyone says, you’re living it. But what does that mean? That you are experiencing things? That you simply exist?

What I’ve been wondering since time immemorial, what I’ve wanted to know was my place in the world – where I could fit in and be the most efficient and act with the best of my ability. Going into university, I didn’t know what I wanted to take. So there I was with an undecided major in first year. More than anything, I just wanted to learn. I didn’t care about the end result; I didn’t care about job markets or careers. Learning was first and foremost. Personal growth was my motivation. In fact, I don’t really think I’ve ever cared about anything more. I decided to pursue my interests. What was this society I was born out of really like? Was I seeing the whole picture? I definitely didn’t think so. I needed to take a step back and learn about all of the preconceptions I had because of my background. I needed to see things for what they really were. I therefore began taking classes involving the examination and discussion of society, culture, and religion.

I’ve known from the beginning that perception is everything and learned over time that everything is circumstantial. This has helped me the most in opening my eyes. Now I wish to share my perception of this world with this world. I am finally starting a blog for this purpose.

It’s kind of funny – everyone asks the same sort of questions, no matter where they are: “What am I doing here? Should I be here? What is my purpose? Is this what’s right for me?” Questions always seem to lead to more questions. In spirit of this, allow me to ask you: Where do you fit in? Have you found it? Are you still asking these sorts of questions from time to time? All the time? I invite you to explore and examine with me what I decided to delve into years ago now. You don’t have to agree with me (although perhaps I would like that), but keep in mind that perception is the key to everything. What I want is to reveal that there are countless ways to view things, and I’d like to show how these different viewpoints have real, life-changing consequences in shaping our world. Perception is a multifaceted tool for understanding. The possibilities are endless, but we have to start somewhere.

I will thus be providing insight on the world as we know it and will eventually get into my own philosophy. Please feel free to share this with friends and join the discussion by posting your own thoughts in the comments section; and thank you for reading! Below is a condensed list of topics I plan on getting into:

  • Perception and human consciousness
  • The inseparable environment
  • The history of religion
  • Aboriginal belief systems, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism (and possibly more)
  • Northwestern culture disseminated globally
  • Cultural theory, popular culture and the media
  • Capitalism, communism, socialism, labels, labels, labels
  • Philosophy and outlook on life
  • Health and wellness: mental health, physical health – two sides of the same coin

Prepare yourselves; things might get deep.