This year was the first time in four years that I visited my home state, Minnesota, during the summer. Every time I usually go back is during the winter holidays which is nice when you want to catch up with friends that are also visiting but it is awful in terms of weather. You are basically stuck inside unless you want to freeze your butt off. My last summer in Japan (post-Mt. Fuji) was rather uneventful and actually a bit depressing due to lack of interactions so I decided that it would be a good opportunity to visit home.
Boy, was I right.
The weather was absolutely gorgeous the entire time I was there. 70s everyday with rarely any hot days were excellent compared to the 90s with 100% humidity Japan always seems to have during the summer. I made sure to go out as much as I could because I knew this lovely weather wouldn’t last forever.
During this time I met with many friends and former coworkers and it made me think about how much things have changed throughout the past four years. Yes, I have seen these people throughout the years but it’s always for such little time that I don’t really get to see how much is changing. For some reason, it really hit me this summer. Friends are getting married, having kids, in new relationships, getting new jobs, moving, etc. It’s only natural that these events occur but I feel like I’m watching everything from the outside. This seems to be a common symptom for those who live abroad. I somewhat feel like I’m not progressing, even though I am. By the time I’m out of the JET Programme, I’ll only have a semester left of grad school until I graduate. Still, things like relationships, jobs, and a place to live are all going to be things that I will lack for awhile once I head back. It’s frustrating and annoying but I have to keep reminding myself that it’s only temporary.
A couple of former coworkers and a girl I dated very briefly had passed away during the time I was gone, which felt really strange. The coworkers were some great people that I had some fun conversations with. The girl was really sweet and we connected really well but unfortunately, we had met during the wrong time. It felt really bizarre to think that these people in my life, however brief it was, were no longer present in this world. I went into a melancholy mood the following days, thinking about how quick our lives can really be. I’ll be honest, death terrifies me. I don’t want life to be eternal darkness after death; would I even be able to have those thoughts after I died? I try not to think about it but I’m sure I will be reminded of it as the years go on.
However, the happiness and kindness of my friends and family reassure me that despite whatever happens post-Japan, life is going to be okay. My friends haven’t changed at all and they were all really nice by treating me to meals and taking time out of their work weeks to hang out with me. My family continues to be awesome and it’s great to see that my nieces continue to be wonderful people as they slowly approach adolescence. I ran into a former coworker who I thought had moved away and we both freaked out and tightly hugged each other out of surprise. This sounds dumb but it’s great to see that people share the same feelings as I do when I see them.
These past four years into Japan have been amazing. I have traveled to so many places, made many friends and collected so many memories. As I approach this final year here, I will try to do everything I have done tenfold so I have no regrets. Once the year is over though, I know that I will be going back to another wonderful place, a place that I have called home for so many years. And I’m glad that despite some changes, my love for it and its people that reside there remain the same.