Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How to "swim" in Tokyo

Last week, I came across the blog by my former yoga teacher, Summer. I took her yoga class during my first semester at Purdue and loved the way she taught. She obviously had a lot of passion for yoga and that's rather normal, but what made her special was that she seemed to *genuinely* care about each of her students. A lot of yoga teachers I have had LOVE yoga of course but they tend to get carried away, forget about their students, and end up indulging themselves. Summer was different. She loved her students and really wanted them to feel good.

When I read her blog entry last week, and I realized she was also a good writer. On her latest post titled "Reflections on Transition, Pain and Gratitude", she talks about her recent transition that came with both excitement and sorrow. Her husband got his dream job as an academia, but that meant moving. So she closed all her business in Indiana and they moved across the country to a small town where they were both born. She says while she's blessed that her husband got a job he was dreaming of, she feels "a sense of groundlessness." For the first time in over 20 years, she doesn't have to get up and go to work or school. And even though she lives only 90 miles away from her family, she says, "As an extrovert I thrive on people, but I’m currently without a community."

When I read her story, I couldn't agree with her more. I completely understood what she meant by "a sense of groundless" and a feeling of being "without a community." I am in a similar situation. After graduating from Purdue in May, I came back to Japan and started living in Tokyo. And I hate to admit to you, but I am struggling. I simply don't know how to live in Tokyo. I knew how everything rolled in the U.S., but I haven't the faintest idea about how things work in my own country. Yes, laugh at me, I am a Japanese that has to get used to living in Japan. As an adventurous extrovert who went across the ocean by myself, it may seem really odd, but I haven't made a single friend in Tokyo yet.

What do I do in a situation like this? I lament and let my friends know how miserable I am. Shonna, my best friend from college has listened to my laments many times and always put me back in the right place. This time, the victim was Fabio, my online friend of 14 years whom I've never met in person but whom I somehow magically trust. He has a PhD in literature from Indiana University and now became a professor at an American university located in Rome. He is also a journalist who publishes many articles. He has listened to many of my laments in the past and he's known for giving me rather harsh but really practical advice. Whenever I'm down after some life-or-death drama happens to me, he says, "Naoko, swim!! or you will sink!!" He told me before that he doesn't like saying "life goes on" and prefers saying "swim!" instead.

So what did Fabio say to me this time? He told me to write and try to publish an article. He said I should contact a professor that I trust in the U.S. and tell them that I'm reflecting on the subject and I want to know if my reflections are interesting. He also told me to participate in seminars, conferences and keep myself busy and mentally active.

About my fear of not belonging to any community for the first time, he said, "Now you are a scholar. It's not true you are out of a community. You are now a member of graduate people. You have only to learn how to interact."

He also mentioned that I was so worried at the beginning of graduate school, but after a while I got used to it and was happy again, and he said, "There is time for changing, improving, searching and you have to find a new sense for your life."

In the course of our one hour chat or so, Fabio gave me many other advice. The first item on the To-Do list was to go get a notebook to write about my project, "How to 'swim' in Tokyo".

1 comment:

  1. from today...or at least by tomorrow, i will change. tabun asate : )
    not sure how i came across your blog but it has been enjoyable reading
    about someone trying to learn to live in their own country after living abroad.
    i had a similar experience after living in Japan for two years and then returning to my hometown. for me, living in Japan "opened my eyes"
    to a new world. Japan is a big part of my life and i visit often. if i were to write such an article as your "how to swim" for me it would be more a
    "how to relate to people who have never traveled. never been to Japan and do not care about traveling or about Japan". too long a title, ne. my latest blog is called Arifureta Days. it is mainly just daily photos. i do have blogs which feature my travels. and of course, Japan. i hope you and your Family are staying cool. i know it has been very hot in Japan. i was there for this year's ohanami and i hope to return for momijigari in November. summer is too hot kedo i do miss the hanabi taikai, kakigori, ajisai, hotaru...
    oh, i think i will try to find Murakami's new book when it comes out in English. okini.