Sad Tree By Melonhead83
I had a friend in Japan who was one of those curious ‘between cultures’ people who didn’t identify with any one country’s beliefs or value system. She’d grown up in Tokyo, Chicago, Bangkok, Oregon, New York and Sydney and was a free-thinker, a non-conformist and completely unbothered by other’s opinions of her. In other words, she was very ‘un-Japanese’. And yet, technically speaking, she was. She was born in Japan and spent the first eight years of her life there. But as far as her mentality towards life was concerned, she was no more Japanese than I was.
Which was why I found it surprising to learn that she’d purposely abandoned her life as an inspiring photographer in Australia, to return to Tokyo to try to reconnect with her Japanese roots. The process was very ‘square peg, round hole’ and I couldn’t understand why she bothered. To me, it was like a butterfly trying to squeeze back into a cocoon and remorph back into a caterpillar; a real step back in the evolutionary process. She was a far more interesting and fascinating specimen the way she was, why try to hide that part of her to fit back into mold that she didn’t value or even wholly respect?
She told me repeatedly that she’d returned to Japan to “learn how to like it.” It was important to her to learn to appreciate Japanese culture because for better or for worse, it was “home”.
Sometimes I think that she might have been right and that maybe I should follow her lead. I’ve never felt like I’ve belonged in America, but maybe I should try. Maybe I should ‘learn to like it’ too.
But there are few words that scare me more than: ‘settled’. It’s rivaled only by the anxiety-provoking phrases ‘growing roots’ or ‘growing up’ or the dirty words ‘mortgage’, ‘car payment’, ‘mini-van’ and ‘soccer mom’. Just typing those words makes me want to permanently relocate to a hammock in Tahiti.
But maybe all the anxiety I have around staying in one spot is a sign. Maybe that’s precisely what I should be doing. I mean, they say that you should do what scares you. Well, living abroad isn’t scary anymore. I lived abroad for three years (four if you count my time working on a cruise ship), and I feel like my world has shrunk to the point where it seems like the entire planet is my backyard. I could live anywhere and be happy. It seems almost too easy. It’s no longer a challenge. But living in the US…now that’s frightening.
My mom tells me that I should ‘bloom where I’m planted’, meaning that all of the lessons I need to learn in life I can learn from right here. I don’t need to travel to the ends of the Earth to find or challenge myself. I can do that from my own backyard. And I almost believe her.
But then I look at that ‘Sad Tree’ photograph. He looks so trapped…He’s stuck in the mud and I can imagine him longing for a life as a sailboat on the open sea. Or maybe he dreams of being transformed into a kite or an airplane. Or the dashboard of a car. He looks like he’d rather be anywhere other than rooted in place and all alone.
And it makes me feel so…I don’t know, conflicted.