I realise my last post made me seem rather depressed. I tried to include some good things in the post to dispel this impression, but that didn’t seem to work. So here’s the bright cheery side of things in its very own post: London ain’t so bad! It wasn’t London that was even bothering me to begin with but more so the rigid, rusty creakiness with which I was adjusting to my new environment. Two months seems to be my breaking point and I’ve since come to accept this city the way it is. I feel much more comfortable getting around and getting things done here. No more hand-holding for me!

Now Christmas is upon us and for the first time in my life, I’m not going home. Also for the first time, I haven’t written a Christmas list. Save for this, I think what I’d really like this year is to have my first ‘white Christmas’. And that’s the kind of present no one can promise you. If it really does snow on Christmas, then maybe that will be a sign of good things. I’m going to get myself a little tree, some ornaments, lights, and watch Christmas movies all day. I’ll have dinner at a friend’s home, so I certainly won’t be alone the entire time. But I am going to take advantage of this holiday season (alone and away from everyone I know) to make a special present that cannot be bought. (OOo I feel my creative senses tingling!) I’m not loaded with money, so the present will probably be all-inclusive. But money isn’t what Christmas is about anyway, right? It’s not about spending caps, or present leverage. I honestly don’t expect a present from anyone. All I care about is my own ability to give and the look on someone’s face when they open a present. That’s definitely the best part of Christmas. So I sincerely hope you all like my present. Of course, you’ll have to wait until Christmas for it.

Until then, I’d like to stop talking about myself for once and open this up to the rest of you. If you’d like to (and you should because there’s a surprise in it), I invite you to respond in the comments section with your answer (long or short) to the following question: What does Christmas mean to you? Be as imaginative as you like, but please answer by December 24th.

Frustrations Alight

So it’s been almost two months since I first arrived in London. It’s been busy. And frustrating.

It’s strange being a foreigner in a land where things seem so similar to your own homeland. I thought it would be easier to move here. In Japan, it was understandable to encounter different ways of doing things. Everything was different there. That’s not to say I didn’t expect London to be different–I did. But I suppose that something about suddenly being able to read the signs and communicate with people messed with my impressions of the place. “How hard could it be?” I thought.

But I found there were things I took for granted in both the US and Japan that really annoyed me here in the UK. For example, pedestrians do not have the right of way and in some places, you have to pay anywhere from 50p to 3 quid to use a “public” toilet. I guess I was under the impression that going to the toilet was a basic human right, not a privilege. Using the underground on weekends is a nightmare due to the fact that London is trying to upgrade everything for the 2012 Olympics. But they do all their planned engineering on weekends? They should be doing it at night, like the Japanese do. But what do I know? I’m not a civil engineer. I’ll just have to put up with tube disruptions every weekend until 2012. And I’m not exaggerating.

Frustrations aside, I’ve had some good experiences here. I like that debit cards have a chip in them instead of a swipe bar. I like the variety of beer and Thai and Indian food you can get here. I really like the friends I’ve made, although most of them aren’t even British. I like the grocery stores and all the different ingredients I could buy should I ever want to make that crazy European recipe I couldn’t make in the US.

I’m trying really hard to get around my frustrations because I seem to be the only one around here who has them. And I’ve already offended a Brit by complaining. It wasn’t my intention to offend, but I needed to vent and getting it thrown right back at me was a bit of a wake-up call. Things aren’t so bad. Things could always get worse. I realise this. I need to toughen up again. I was a lot tougher back when I was living in New York. San Diego calmed me down, but I felt stuck. Then I got lost in San Francisco. Found myself in San Diego but got stuck again. Then really opened up in Japan. But I think I softened up a lot there. Everyone is so nice and passive. London is the opposite. People don’t care here. You’re on your own.

I’m not sure I can be as tough and cutthroat as I was in New York. I’m not quite as crazy as I used to be. But something will have to change. I wonder what London will turn me into….

Our Life Track. (Part II)

(…continued from before)

Well I was going to continue my previous post with what consoling and self-inspiring thoughts I had come up with before publishing, but it seems that the friends who read Part I took care of that for me with their comments. So thank you all for the kind words.

I was, in fact, already thinking I was doing okay. More than okay, actually. As it turned out, the very day after I wrote Part I, I received an unconditional offer of placement at the school I applied to–I’m going to England!!! I’m still a bit stressed out with having a cough, having to file US taxes while abroad, and now having to apply for a visa to study in the UK as well as figure out how I’m going to pay for grad school. But that’s okay. I can make this work. If I could leave a fiancé and two low-pay, no-future part-time jobs to come to Japan where I would effectively become illiterate and find my career only to apply to graduate school in the UK and get in, then I can do anything. Right? I know that was a terribly written sentence–I run out of breath just reading it–but that’s what the last year has felt like for me.

My cinzano-drinking friend knows we’re doing well. “We’re ahead of the game,” she said to me. I agreed with the sincere, if a tad clichéd, statement. Then I thought about it and retracted my agreement. We’re ahead, for sure, but there is no game. We shouldn’t think of it in terms of a game that everyone is playing, because then we would only compare ourselves to all the other players, would we not? We’re ahead for ourselves. I am doing alright for myself.

If I had stayed in California and gotten married, my life would have stopped there. I am certain of it. It would have taken a total overhaul 20 years down the pike to get myself happy and inspired again. Don’t get me wrong. He was a good guy, but that’s not the life I was meant to live and I gradually knew that. Now, I am where I’m supposed to be: going somewhere. I got here by listening to my gut. It was my gut that told me to go to Japan, even though I was engaged. It was my gut that told me I’d found my profession. It was my gut that told me to go to school in the UK. Like I said, I only applied to one school: the one I wanted more than any other school. And I got it. So for now, all I can do is keep listening and keep going. When my gut tells me I’ve found the right job or the right person or the right location, I’ll know I can rely on that. It hasn’t failed me yet.

To those lost, confused, or uninspired, I say listen to your gut. Even if it’s not saying anything now, it will at some point. Just keep going and your gut will help you figure things out.

Sick and alone in Japan.

It’s not often that I have an entire day to myself to do whatever I want without anyone bugging me or anyone to bug. It seems this kind of day only happens when you have to stay home sick. And guess what: I’m sick. The funny thing is that even though I’ve been out of school for over two years now, I still feel like I’m supposed to be doing some homework I’d rather avoid.

Being sick in in Japan is not the easiest thing to be. When you can’t read or speak the language, it makes it difficult to find the right medication for yourself at the drug store. I have to rely on pictures on the box, if I’m even lucky enough to get pictures. Then, I have to figure out how many pills to take, however many times a day. Finding the lone numbers on the box with a single kanji character next to them is hard enough, but then I have to type in a possible English translation, turn it into Japanese kanji using my trusty Google Language Tools and see if I get a match. It certainly is a process.

Or I give up and turn to the internet for home remedies. The problem here is that sometimes these home remedies include things I could only find back home, like cod liver oil or lavender oil or some other oil or herbal by-product. Perhaps these things are indeed available in Japan, but that would require me to know Japanese. Here you might say, “Why doesn’t she just get a Japanese person to help her out?” but my dear friend, let me ask you, how do you ask a Japanese person about cod liver oil? That’s not a common thing they would have learned in their conversational English lessons. Sure, I could just explain my symptoms and hope they know enough health-related English terminology to lead me to the right medical help. But that’s something I like to wait on till it’s absolutely necessary. The only Japanese people I know who speak English and can help me with these problems are already busy enough with their own lives. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like a helpless kid who needs a mommy in this country.

For the most part, I really have been lucky, not getting sick too often. And when I do, it’s usually just a cold and I know how to take care of that at home with plenty of rest, vitamin C, and liquids. A good box of lotion-infused Kleenex always helps too. No official medication required. But what’s keeping me home from work today is… well, I still don’t know what it is, even though I went to the doctor… but I’d had a sore throat for four days (a long time) and on the fourth day, white spots appeared on my tonsils. That’s when I decided I better see a doctor. Now this is always a hassle at school because they can’t just cancel my classes and everyone else’s schedules get changed around because of me. That always makes me feel bad, but everyone keeps a smile on their face and no one complains, so I guess it’s not the end of the world. Anyway, my poor manager had to take me to the hospital on her day off to translate for me and the doctor prescribed me some antibiotic and ..other stuff.. to take for five days. This is what I came home with:

Japanese medicine for a sore throat.

All for a sore throat! So the gold pills are the antibiotic. The powder stuff is for my fever and my nose, so I was told. The blue pills are for nasal discharge, and the pink pills are to protect my stomach from all the other pills. The bottle is a concentrated Listerine-smelling mouthwash I have to mix with water and gargle but not swallow. And the Lifesaver-looking things are throat lozenges I can only take a maximum 5 of per day. Everything else is to be taken three times a day after meals. Yeesh. They never even said exactly what it was I have. Oh well.

I started this medication yesterday and already I feel a bit better. That’s good because I have to be back at work tomorrow. I swear, going to work sick is bad but it’s even worse when you’re a teacher. You have to teach a class for 50 minutes like nothing’s wrong and all eyes are on you. Blowing your nose in public in Japan is rude too and I’m sure my students wouldn’t want to be that close to me (those rooms are small) even if they did understand I was sick. If I’m lucky, I get a 5-10 minute break between classes to try to freshen myself up and get all my materials for the next class. Tomorrow’s going to be a busy day too. Saturdays always are.

Anyway, I guess that’s what I had to write about today. Next, I think I’ll try to write something more creative. With all this time to myself, forcing myself to relax and get some rest, I’ve started reading a lot more. I finally finished a book I was supposed to read for a class back in college but never did. I held onto it though, because I had heard from everyone else that it was a good book. And it was. (Nervous Conditions, if you’re curious). It made me feel good to finish a book. I’m notorious for never finishing a book I start, but since I’ve been in Japan for nearly nine months now, I’ve started and finished four books. FOUR BOOKS. In nine months. That’s a record for me. I’m usually doing well if I finish one book in two years. I’ve since started another book and this is my biggest book to date. It’s a whopping 816 pages long. But I’m excited about it. I used to not fathom how people could read a book that long. But it’s a personal goal I’ve set for myself and it makes me feel like I’m accomplishing a lot more than I could by sitting on my computer all day or watching movies. Reading also inspires me to think, imagine, and create. It’s strange in a way, because these are all the things I should have been doing and feeling when I was getting my Bachelor’s in English Literature over two years ago. It’s like my subconscious finally caught up.

Okay, new personal goal: Read, think, imagine, and create. Even if you’re not sick at home.

A fabric I might be a part of.

In my young adult age, I find myself wafting between a feeling of existential solitude and a feeling of powerful connection with the world around me.  As I sit here alone in my bedroom with no one around, I feel like I am untraceable; nobody knows exactly what I am doing right at this second and I can do anything I want without the consequence of anyone knowing about it.  I am unconnected to the world.  Yet at the same time, I have a cell phone in front of me and an internet connection at my fingertips.  I can hear the contractors next door working on the neighbor’s house and I saw the neighbor across the street take off on his Triumph motorcycle earlier.  I am aware of the world around me and just the simple observance of this world affects me and my day.

I’ve been rather busy lately, what with looking for jobs, working part-time and still looking for jobs, and dating someone with whom I spend quite a bit of my non-job-related time.  I’ve also been running errands and visiting with close family members, such as my parents and my grandmother, and yet I have not had a chance to keep in touch with my brothers.  This is an odd thing for me, because I am very close with all of my immediate family members.  However, half the time, I don’t know what’s going on with my brothers anymore.  It’s not that I’ve missed the boat and I have to catch up–I can get back into the game at any time.  But the point of the matter is that the world goes on without you and gets along just fine when you’re not there.  We (mostly) all know this to be true.  And I suppose I always thought it was a bad thing to let the world go on without you.  But lately, I’m seeing it differently.  Did you ever really think about what happens to those people that don’t keep up with the world they’re used to?

I used to be all over the internet.  I had an active account with almost every type of social networking site you could think of.  I still do have a lot of those accounts, but I’ve been busy with “real life” lately.  Some of my accounts, I often forget about completely.  Some, I feel a need to maintain activity on simply due to the fact that my friends (most of whom I haven’t seen in at least a year since I moved back to San Diego) use these sites.  But slowly, my site activity is lessening all the time.  My communication with my social network in all is dying down.  I feel slightly bad for neglecting my emails, comments, phone calls, and texts.  And yet, I have to ask myself why I should feel so bad about that?  I respond to people as necessity calls for it.  But otherwise, I find myself rather liberated by not needing to be online at all times.  Sometimes it’s nice to be alone.  And by that I mean free of social networking sites.

Another thing that is contributing to my progression away from the social internet is the fact that I’ve been paying more attention to the news and politics (rather than movies and celebrity gossip), as well as taking over certain bills and payments in my life (learning how to be an adult here, people).  Through this, I feel like I really am part of the real world, as opposed to before when I wasn’t quite convinced.  I am slowly learning that the taxes I pay and the votes I make and the way I drive and the things I eat really do have a large impact.  The last thing that’s giving me a hard time now is the way I communicate with people.  I know how to be courteous and polite, but I’m forgetting how to keep in touch with people.  The kinds of relationships I had with people before are not and cannot be the same anymore.  I’m unsure of how to approach it and all I can say when people ask me where I’ve been is, “I’ve been busy.”  And I have been.

This blog entry is one attempt to hash it all out.  I know this blog alone won’t help me understand myself or the world, but it helps a little.  You see, writing is a therapy for me.  Obviously, I don’t do it enough (as you can see by the date on my last entry).  But when I do write, it’s for a reason.  I do believe in the power of communication.  I preach this all the time.  But even I have my own problems with it.  And therein lies the beauty of communication: it is one of the few things in this world that can fix itself.  When you don’t use it, problems can happen.  When you do use it, problems can happen.  But either way, you can always use it again to right the situation.  That’s what I’m trying to do now.

As for my journey into adulthood, that’s a process that will likely take decades.  I’m okay with being a 23-year-old kid with hardly a clue of what to do.  It’s a learning process and I know it’s going to take time for me.  My values and priorities are definitely doing some changing and I’m learning how to accept that.  It’s okay to not be the person you once were.  It’s okay to become a new person.  It doesn’t mean you have to throw away your old world entirely for the new one, but it’s okay to move some things around (and possibly discard) to make room for the new world.  I hope people realize that.

Until next time.