Over time…

The following is a draft I wrote in November of 2009. I never posted it because I was planning on writing more.. and then I just never got around to it. This is as far as I got:

I am soon coming up on my six month mark of being in Japan. I’ve done a lot of things since I’ve been here: traveled across half the country, been in a major earthquake, been in a major typhoon, moved apartments, had a bike/car accident, ended my engagement, met someone else, broke up with them, got harassed by them, went to Disneyland, went to a hot spring, rode the bullet train, stayed in a capsule hotel, ate raw chicken (as sashimi), got my first gray hair… it’s been a whirlwind experience. Sometimes I get lost on trains and can’t get back on track–no pun intended–for at least another 2 hours. That can be extremely frustrating when you can’t read or speak the language. Sometimes I buy a pastry at the bakery thinking it would make a nice dessert and it turns out to be savory. Sometimes I buy a shirt that’s a size L and it turns out to be like a size S. These instances usually make me smirk a little because that’s the experience of a gaijin living in Japan. These are the things that will make me strut though life not letting the petty stuff bother me.

I just got my ticket yesterday to go back home to California and I’m looking forward to going home.

I’ve been in London for 10 months now. My time here is almost up (I leave in September). I felt so proud of myself for living in Japan and going through everything that I did. I’m still proud of it, but I have to say I haven’t exactly been “strutting” through life since then. Coming to England gave me a different type of culture shock I wasn’t expecting. I’ve already written about this in an earlier entry. It’s been about 6 months since my last entry and I’ve only come to find that I am becoming more and more set in my ways. The good news is that I mostly realize it. Stress has been building up with my coursework and when I do catch a break, I let loose completely. But now I am trying to find that happy balance between working and playing. I’m beginning to take my time with things. London, as with all major metropoli, is a fast-paced city. I’ve experienced this before. I am, as I was hoping I would before, toughening up. But I don’t necessarily like what I’ve toughened up into. So I’m stopping. Just because you live in a fast-paced city doesn’t mean you have to live a fast-paced life.

I’m currently working on my dissertation and, after that’s finished, I’m moving back to the United States. It’s time I came home. So, this blog probably won’t see another entry from me for a while. But when it does, we’ll see how I’ve changed again.

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….

This one’s about love.

Xavier: What’s all this sh_t about love? How do we get so nuts? The time we waste! When you’re alone, you cry, “Will I find her?” When you’re not- “Does she love me as much as I love her?” “Can we love more than one person in a lifetime?” Why do we split up? All these f_cking questions! You can’t say we’re uninformed. We read love stories, fairy tales, novels. We watch movies. Love, love, love…!
Isabelle: You could just call her back.

I just watched a film called Les poupées russes and while it didn’t really teach me anything in particular, it did have some great views of London, Paris, and St. Petersburg. That was the main reason I rented it. I liked the internationalism of it and the cinematic effects made it fun and modern. As for the main story line, the main character was a jerk, in my opinion. But then again, I’ve done a lot of the same things he has in a restless search for love and comfort, whether it be momentary or eternal. I, too, can be a jerk. It’s only because I want to find happiness as much as the next person.
I guess I’ve always felt that pure happiness could be found through true love. My two favorite movies when I was little were Pretty Woman and Father of the Bride. The idea of being rescued by the perfect guy (no matter who you were) and then having the perfect wedding always fascinated me. I want that to happen to me. I’m very well aware of the fact that these ideas have been ground into my subconscious and they’re not going away anytime soon. To be honest, that bothers me. I see other people in the world whose obsessions have nothing to do with l’amour but with their art, their livelihood, their religion or something else. Sometimes I wish one of these things were my pursuit in life. Maybe I’d feel a lot less like one of the proverbial lemmings. But since I was 4 years old, I’ve always known two things about myself to be completely and utterly true: I want to be a mom and I want to be a wife.
As of late, I’ve been reading a lot of books and spending more time at home. I’ve had no major interest in dating for a while and I haven’t felt like I’ve had a real connection to anyone in quite a long time. Years, it seems. I know it hasn’t been years, but sometimes I wonder if even my last two serious relationships, both involving many a serious discussion on marriage and even an engagement, were truly full connections. I understood these partners inside and out. I understood what they wanted and needed. I thought I could give them that. I cared enough about and loved each one enough that I thought the kind of dreamy relationships we had could stay like that forever. That I could fill those roles of everything they wanted forever. Something was missing for me though, and as much as I wanted to say “No! I love this person and I can make it work!” I knew I wouldn’t stay happy forever. Only about a minute ago did I realize that the first of these relationships was far too wild. It pushed all the boundaries I knew. The second of the two was much too comfortable. It was well within the boundaries I had known. I had a pleasant spark with both of these individuals when I first met them and it grew into love very quickly. But I was never 120% sure. 98% sure, yes. Which is fine for a school exam. But not when it comes to love. The reason why 98% sure isn’t good enough for me is that a couple times while I was growing up, I asked my mom how she knew my dad was the one. She told me she “just knew.” I couldn’t believe her at first. Of course that’s not the answer you want to hear as a kid. I don’t really know what else I was hoping she’d say, but what else could she say? “Well, kid, I just walked down to the perfect husband store and picked him in aisle 5. Right height, right price, nice eyes. When you’re 18, I’ll take you down there and we’ll see what we can find for you.” I guess that could have been easier to accept. But we all know, that’s not how it works and there’s no perfect partner store.
You see, when referring to my future partner, I hesitate to use the word husband. It seems likely, but given my past and my philosophies and especially my wonderings about love, I feel as though I would be ruling out a possibility if I just stuck to a husband. Who knows if I’ll find a husband, or just a boyfriend, or a girlfriend, or just a good friend who I hang around with a lot? I know some people find their soul mate in a best friend, and they never marry. Who says we have to marry anyway? Maybe I will find a partner, but we won’t marry. Maybe we can’t marry. Remember, my obsession with marriage (thanks, Steve Martin and Kimberly Williams). That and my parents have a perfect marriage—seems like it anyway. It’s been the model in my life. So, yeah, I want one too. And I want it to last forever. It’s an instinct for me: I want to find my one and only.
Here’s the thing, though: I’m scared that once I meet the “one” I won’t appreciate it. Or I won’t be happy forever and things will go awry. Worse yet, what if I already met the one and I threw it all away? So many times I’ve had that feeling I thought was the same as my mom’s when she met my dad and “just knew.” I thought I “knew” this was it several times. But I don’t trust myself to “know” anymore. I don’t know if I can love a spouse for the rest of my life. Or even for 50 years. I do know that when I have children, I will always love them, no matter what. I know that down to the blood and marrow in my bones. I’m far more sure about having kids than I am about getting married.
So what am I getting at here? I suppose I’m just expressing my confusion and bewilderment about love. I think most of us have, at one point or another, been frustrated by love. I want to know why it’s so necessary. Why am I obsessed with finding (or being found by) my one and only? I mean, at least lately, I haven’t felt as much of a rush to find love, but I still find this sentiment inside so annoying that I feel the need to rebel against it, kicking and screaming, saying “I don’t need you!” I feel the need to write a long, ridiculous post like this one. That’s how I feel about love. How do you feel?

Songs and “Kick Me” Signs

A friend of mine texted me today and asked, “If I wrote a song and it was bad, would you tell me it was bad?”

I replied, “No, but I would tell you how you could improve on it.”

He then forwarded me to his MySpace blog. He had written a song just today about a girl he was once with and still loved. Even though she may have found someone else, he wrote “I’m comin’ home to you, girl.” It struck a chord in me.

I think most of us has dabbled in (in varying degrees) the art form of writing songs and poetry–particularly when the subject most on our minds is love. Not all of our feelings come streaming out onto our paper/screen in a glorious moment of Shakespearian brilliance, but I think it’s still important that we try to write how we feel. By collegiate standards, most of what we write in emotion is pure trash. But by the heart’s standards, these small pieces of writing are gold. If for nothing else but the simple fact that writing your song or your poem proves that you have a heart and that you can feel. Maybe this is why we are so protective of our own work. We all want praise in some form or another so we throw it out there and test it on anyone who is willing to read it. But we refuse to receive any feedback without first announcing that we cannot write for beans. Simply, it’s because it’s your heart that you’re exposing. If someone likes what you’ve written, you want them to like it because they could relate to it. It doesn’t matter so much the way in which you’ve organized these words or why you chose those words to begin with. As long as they make the reader feel the same way you felt when writing the piece, isn’t that all that matters? It’s all about heart, isn’t it?

After reading my friend’s song, I told him that it made me a tear up a little and that I wished someone had written something like that about me–which was the truth. Honestly, it’s one of the better songs I’ve ever read. He said to me, “I thought you were gonna tell me how I could make it better!” and all I could reply with was, “I can’t tell you how to make it better if it’s already good.” I hope he realizes it’s actually a good song. I also had to make him admit that it was about a real person. People don’t write heartbreak songs about people that don’t exist.

It seems to me that in our present society, wearing your heart on your sleeve is like wearing a sign on your back that says “Kick me.” If anybody takes advantage of your vulnerability, you clam up and say “well I don’t know how that got there.” I don’t think this is the right approach. Am I saying we should all go around wearing “kick me” signs? Hell no. That would be just plain silly. But maybe every now and then when we do get caught with one of those signs on our back, perhaps we should say, “Yeah, I knew it was there all along. I just wanted to see whether you had the heart to sympathize with me or not.”

It’s just proof that we’re human. And that’s not such a bad thing.