Where Do I Go From Here?

I used to have this friend in New York; one of my ‘next time friends’, (as in ‘next time I’m in New York, we’ll have to hang out.’) Next time, whenever I return from (insert random country name) we’ll definitely meet up for drinks or Thai food or ice skating at Chelsea Piers.
Well, she died a couple of months ago. It was sudden and completely unexpected and I’d been disturbed by the news, but not horribly upset. It had been more than a year since I’d talked to her on anything other than Facebook, and to be honest, we’d never been that close to begin with.

But I’ve been thinking about her the last few days, ever since I learned that my dog Snickers, had died. As it is when any friend (human or animal) dies, it’s sort of a jolt of reality that there isn’t always gonna be that ‘next time’. And it’s made me think about all of the aspects of my life that I’ve shoved into the Tomorrowland of ‘next year’ (as in ‘next year I’ll write a novel’), or ‘later’ (as in ‘I’ll get around to calling my little brother later’). Meanwhile I’m stuck living this empty life in limbo, waiting for the future that will never come.

My life in Japan is at a complete standstill. I wake up and go to work and come home and stare at the wall and it’s all so meaningless. Sure, I have fun. I go out and socialize and then come home and feel so restless I can’t sleep so I walk around the neighborhood in my pajamas eating discounted imitation Pringles from the 24-hour grocery store. And all the while, I’m thinking, thinking thinking that if only I could just get off of this Island, maybe I’d feel better.

But would I? I’m not so sure. My mom seems to think so. She says I should go home, because “life is too short to live any part of it unhappy.” A friend from my Cruise Ship Past and I have been halfheartedly planning this trip to Thailand for December. Just the thought of combining two of my great loves, the beach and Thai food, makes me wish I was there right now. And the old Reannon would have already been there ages ago.

But the new Reannon is a little more hesitant. A little less sure of her decision-making abilities. I’ve woken up to this pattern I have of packing up and moving whenever things get a little difficult and I’m desperate to do away with that. I don’t want to run away anymore. So I’m a little reluctant to leave Japan, because I feel that if I do, I might be missing out on an opportunity to work things out for once.

Then there’s the added problem of money, namely being that I don’t have any. If I go back to the States now, I’ll have to either live with my dad (in New York) or my mom (in Cali) or one of my friends somewhere in between and work at yet another dead-end job until I can save up enough money…to do what, exactly? As always, I have no idea.

Mostly though, I’m terrified of going home because I know that if I do, that’ll be it for ‘Reannon, Citizen of the World’. I’ll be permanently closing that chapter of my life, trading it up for stability and a permanent residence. And part of me (a small part) really wants that. I want a mailbox and a goldfish and a business card with more than an email address written on it. Like maybe an actual address and phone number.

But what would ‘Reannon, Permanent US Resident’, do all day? I mean, as shitty as living in Japan is sometimes, it’s never dull. Every day is like a stroll through an amusement park of bizarre sights and sounds. How could I live through a single day of office small talk or weekend mall trips or whatever else it is that makes up normal people’s lives? I’d be crawling up the walls with boredom.

I already feel I’ve lost all ability to have engage in small talk. I start conversations with “This one time in India, when I watched a goat get decapitated as a sacrificial offering to the Gods…” or “This one time in Paris, when I slept in a park with a homeless schizophrenic…” and I know that stuff just doesn’t go over well with your average Joe. My friends back home are all sympathetic listeners, but my tales of seeing dead bodies in rivers are usually just met with blank stares. My point of reference for life is just so far removed from anything most people can relate to, I worry that I will be alone in my perspective for the rest of my life.

I’ve read about this online and in the book GenXpat. Apparently, those who’ve lived abroad have a tough trying to re-assimilate into their home cultures. They never fully fit in in abroad, but they’ve adapted so much of the foreign culture’s perspective that they’ll never feel like they fully belong in their home country, either. They’re destined for a life as a permanent outsider. That’s a pretty sad truth.

All of these thoughts keep running in circles in my brain and it’s gotten to the point where I’ve just sort of given up mulling it over. Instead, I jam-pack my days with meaningless activities, all in the hopes of distracting myself from this huge life dilemma, but it keeps finding ways to creep back into my consciousness. Either in the form of insomnia or migraines or colds that just won’t go away.

I really want to live every day as if it were my last. I want to be happy, but I just don’t know how.

And I’m getting really really tired of writing that.
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12 thoughts on “Where Do I Go From Here?

  1. To begin with, I’m not sure why your citizen of the world status would have to end just because you return to the states. Life is the sum total of our decisions, and we have only ourselves to blame if we’re unhappy. I hope that you don’t decide to stay here just because you’re afraid of the alternative (whatever that is), that would make you just as bad as all of the other people that have run away to Japan to escape their otherwise worthless pasts.

    (Yes, people of the internet, I said it, please direct your anger towards my page and not this one, kthanx.)

    In *my* happy world you would return home for a bit, write a book with short stories about your experiences abroad, publish it, and then begin traveling all over again rested and with a fresh set of eyes.

    There is a fundamental difference between the individual who is satisfied and perfectly okay with everything that you and I consider mundane, and the expat, a person who is unfulfilled with their home country and wants to live elsewhere, absorbing as much as possible in the process. Because of this there will always be a disconnect between the two, an unfortunate consequence due to a lack of understanding of each other, I think.

    God this was a long comment, someone needs to take my keyboard away from me…

  2. If I go back home, I’ll prob be going to grad school which means I’ll be sort of settling down…at least for two years. So while that doesn’t mean I’ll never travel again, I won’t have the time or money to do so for a while. I’m not sure if I’m ready to commit to that!

    I don’t know if my past was worthless, but I think I’m prob one of the people who came to Japan to escape it. Although, I’d say that’s true of a huge percentage of people here…and I don’t think it’s such a bad thing. Japan is a really good distraction. It doesn’t necessarily solve anything, but it’s better than wasting away on the sofa in front of the TV while you wait to figure out what to do with your life.

    Thanks for continually being the only person to comment on my blog, by the way!

    Family and friends, if you’re reading this, leave comments why don’t ya? Not that I don’t appreciate the email and facebook suppot, cause I do!

  3. Your past is not worthless! I was mainly referring to the Charisma Men out there, you know how much I love them. And besides, I have come here to escape things as well (I will probably never admit that again in a public forum, ever) so I certainly shouldn’t be passing judgment regardless of the circumstances (again, referring to Charisma Man).

    I feel the same way about comments, too. Sometimes I forget my friends back home even read my blog, if they would just push the comment button more regularly I wouldn’t feel so disconnected!

    Have a great Halloween 🙂

  4. I just found your blog and I really love it. You make me miss Japan.

    I’m sorry you’ve been feeling so vexed. I’m having simliar issues with being in Thailand and where I should go for the future. It can be very difficult.

    I also wanted to say if you do make that trip to Thailand in December I’d be happy to show you around Bangkok!

  5. I wasn’t there for an extended time, but even when I went to Italy for a little while, I came back and felt a little out of place. What, no farmer’s markets on every corner? No crazed soccer fans on the train?

    It’s difficult. But I would suggest you stay in Japan and try to experience even more of the amazing culture they’ve got to offer. I’d definitely kill to be there right now in fact 😀

  6. I am an asian american living in the US. I have experienced alot of racism in this country and I’ve reached the point where I couldn’t stand it any longer. So my main reason for moving to japan was that I wouldn’t have to worry about racism and finally be comfortable in my own skin so to speak. If I go back to America I would probably realize more how I made the right decision. I don’t think that I was running away when I moved to Japan. It was more like I was not wanted in the US in the first place so I had to find my own home and I consider Japan to be my home.

  7. I made my way to your blog through Julie in Japan’s, and I’ve been enjoying reading your posts. I just wanted to add a little “know how ya feel” to this one.

    I had the good fortune to travel for most of my childhood and teenage years. Whether it was with my father or with my weirdo-hippie alterna-school, I wound up in foreign countries from Belize to India.

    And then I grew up. I had to get a job, go to college, make money and pay bills. And why? Because I dream of someday finishing college, making some money, chucking the bills, and once more becoming a Citizen of the World. It gets you hard when you get out there, and its hard to be back. Like you, I start stories with “Well when I was in Nepal,” and I’ve had to overcome my own tendency to move about once a year. I am torn between my desire to have a garden, a cat, and built-in bookshelves and my desire to live out of a backpack, roaming the world and meeting new people. I am mostly happy here in my sedentary life, but when I think of the vast world out there, it does get me down to be “stuck” in my “normal life.”

    So I feel you on this one. You’re not alone. I hope the two of us can find a balance!

  8. Anonymous – I hope I didn’t offend you with my comment that “a huge percentage of people come to Japan to run away”. I think it’s true for some…and it’s true for me. But not everyone! I know quite a few people here who came here for legitimate reasons; who generally like Japan and have an interest in the culture and language.

    I’m sorry that you’ve been discriminated against in the States and I’m glad you find it easier here in Japan. I find that surprising because I have an American friend of Japanese-descent who found it difficult to live in Japan. Everywhere she went she was initially excepted, because people thought she was Japanese, but as soon as they found out otherwise, she was treated like an outsider. What has your experience been like?

    Bo – Wow, your childhood sounds fairly similar. My parents are also hippies and I went to a hippie school. ; ) You said you traveled a lot in high school? What sort of job did your dad have that allowed him and to live in so many countries?

    That’s good you were able to overcome your tendency to want to move all the time. How did you get over it? Do you think that you’re enjoying your sedendary life because you’re in school? Would you enjoy it the same if you weren’t working towards the goal of getting a degree with all of the structure college provides?

    I tried to move to New York and stay in one place and just work…but I ended up only lasting nine months! And they were a very long nine months.

    I’m interested in hearing more! What made you decide to “grow up?”

  9. Reannon – I don’t know how it all happened, to be honest! I totally intended to live where I am for about another year and then keep going, but I made some friends, started college, and – yes – fell in love. Six years later, I still have all of those things that kept me here in the first place! You’re right, it’s easier because I love school and love knowing that I’m getting my degree. Once I have that, I might be off and away again. I love to learn, and though I sometimes chafe at the structure of college I thrive in the academic environment. I just never though I would because I detested high school so much, aside from the travel.

    My father was an archaeologist, now retired. He took me to Mexico with him every Spring. And my high school had a two to three month period of overseas study each spring semester. We had to pay, but we got student and group rates. I worked my butt off each summer to afford the travel. I guess I associate any sort of job with earning money for traveling. I’m now in the position of very possibly getting a job that would lead to a “career” and I find that startles me. It seems so permanent, and it makes me skittish. I keep telling myself that paid vacation is a good thing and that I’ll use it in strange hippie ways…

  10. Hi Bo,

    I def associate jobs with a means to an end…and that end being travel! I can’t imagine just limiting myself to two weeks a year! I just picture days wasted by a poolside in some super-sized resort on St. Thomas or somewhere. Ugh. That may be relaxing but it’s not traveling!

    I think the only way I would be able to manage would be if I lived in Germany or France where they get five and six weeks of paid vacation a year.

    But my ideas on this will probably change as I get older, I’m sure.

  11. Greetings.

    Do you still want some perspective on this, Reannon?

    If so, I would be happy to offer a bit of a different angle. As an ER physician (who went to med school to become a shrink), I think that there are some elements to your query–& your thirst for perspective–of which you could be apprised.


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