Friday, March 26, 2010

moving right along

I love how it doesn't feel like we were ever apart. Like that Muppet song I love says: "Together again. It's not starting over; it's just moving on."

Speaking of moving, I came back to a haphazard bachelor pad that has to be packed up and cleaned so that we can move into our new apartment in Chino. I don't know much about Chino, except that I've seen it on the train schedule. It's near Suwa, a place with a really huge lake that Zack once ran a half-marathon around. I want to run that half-marathon this year. We went to Suwa last year when Michael and Andy came to visit. It has a ton of geothermal activity, which means that it has awesome onsen. I hope that Chino is cool.

I've been scrubbing three months' worth of microorganisms off of various surfaces throughout the apartment and loading up boxes since yesterday. We're making good progress. I've also gotten on a very good sleep schedule, going to bed around 10 and getting up around 7. I hope I can keep it up once I start teaching.

My job starts next Wednesday. I can't believe that I'll be doing a real job, not just an interim job or a job to pay the bills. I really think it will be a great chance for me to learn and grow as a person, as well as rack up job experience. I never envisioned myself as a teacher, but I can see myself as a professor somewhere down the line.

But there's always my one true calling: to be a writer. I am much more calm since overcoming my travel hurdles and I can't wait to be in a new place with new potential, like a clean sheet of paper. I am going to submit my essay before I start working. I will really, sincerely do this. My creative nonfiction professor is going to give me some feedback so that I feel more confident. Having someone look over my work is one of the only ways that I can truly finish anything. I need discipline and deadlines. I just wish I had a personal ass-kicker to make me accomplish more of my goals. Zack and I have decided that we will each have a real desk in our new place, a little creative nook to call our own. He's itching to paint and I crave the deep kind of writing that comes from having a home place. We're also going to buy some new furniture and really settle in. We'll probably be there for the next two years, so might as well make it comfortable.

I'm just so relieved to be back, even if I already miss being around the people that I love. It's the cost of being on the move.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Don't you just love freaking out for no reason? I do. That's why I let myself have anxiety attacks for the last week and a half before my flight. I almost had another during the flight, which took off on time and landed an hour early and went as smooth as I could hope. I was terrified of walking up to the little Immigration counter and being turned away, forced to buy a ticket home, or worse, locked in some detainment room in the airport. Even though I technically wasn't doing anything wrong. I was just entering the country as a tourist again for the purpose of a job interview, which is sort of true. The waiting is always the worst. Like waiting for your finger to get pricked. It's never as bad as your mind imagines it will be.

So I changed into some semi-professional looking clothes in the tiny airplane bathroom. I smeared my face with makeup, but not too much makeup. I tried to look like a nondescript gaijin seeking a job. No one special. No one suspicious. The line for Immigration was the shortest that I've ever seen it. I sped through the little rope maze up to number 28, where a woman who looked to be in her 30s sat, slightly bored. She barely looked up as I handed her my passport. She flipped through the front, checking my identity. I don't mind that part. Then she flipped to the pages with all the stamps of places I've been. It's my favorite part of the passport; it's like a sash covered in merit badges. It gives me a sense of accomplishment each time I fill up one of those tiny pages.
Her face changed then. She was looking at my back-to-back tourist stamps from last year. Before she could ask, I said, "I came back for a job interview." I thrust the Japanese version of my letter of guarantee onto the counter. As she skimmed it, I said, "They agreed to pay my way home. I should only be here for 3 or 4 weeks. You can call them if you have any questions."
It was like realizing I had just driven home without thinking about it. Autopilot. It's better to let your body take over sometimes, to let your face and arm muscles think instead of your brain. She gestured to the little electronic pads that take your finger prints. I smiled and pressed my index fingers into the little plastic buttons. I heard the beautiful sound of a heavy stamp on paper, my ticket back to normalcy. I looked up at the little camera and smiled. She handed back my passport.
"Thank you," I said. "Arigato!" I tried to stay calm, like I knew that this would happen, like I hadn't expected the airport to blow up at the precise moment I was allowed in the country again. Another three months. Another three long months to figure things out, to live with my fiance, to travel. To live the kind of life that I always wanted when I was little. I kept cool for a moment, and then realized that autopilot had taken over again and I was running to get my luggage. There was a tear on my cheek. If anyone had asked, I would have just said that I was happy to see my fiance after three months apart.

I would want to say that I was thankful for another day when the world kept spinning on its axis, a day when no planes crashed, when my plans actually came to fruition. Another day to walk free. A day when I could just be happy and thankful. A day when prayers are answered. Those are the kind of days that make me not care if there's a purpose for life or not. Every day that I live and disaster doesn't strike, I am happy to be here. And when disaster does strike and I live through it, I am still happy. I don't deserve the good fortune that I have been given in this world. I hope I never forget that and always take the time to say thank you, in every language that I can.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


I have the kind of anxiety that makes me feel like I have a tumor the size of a golf ball somewhere in my brain, a growth that has been forming for years and years because of cell phone radiation and is just now showing symptoms. Lightheaded, nauseated, disconnected. Combined with feelings of imminent death, I'm starting to understand why people sometimes need medication to deal with the stresses of everyday life.

I had a dream about being in a plane crash last night. But Google wisdom tells me that this only means that I feel out of control of a situation and the stakes are high, not that I am going to live out the opening scene of Final Destination (scariest movie scene EVER). This interpretation seemed to comfort me for a while, but the lightheadedness never fully subsided.

So I've decided to take up meditation. I've started praying and connecting with God again, which is a tremendous help and blessing, but I need a way to productively deal with my stress, er, full-blown panic. Because I've learned in my life that anything can happen at any moment, and that isn't always a good thing. Zack says that meditating is about focusing in on your emotion and really experiencing it. Taking control. So that's what I'm trying to do right now, when everything depends on a little piece of paper.

Once my plane lands safely in Tokyo, I will go through Immigration with my Letter of Guarantee, get my bags, and kiss Zack. Then, when I am back home, I will write a blog and tell you all about it. That's the plan.

It's technically Monday now, so I technically leave tomorrow. In approximately 23 hours. I am so ready for this journey to be over.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


And I hate feeling like there's no one I call because the one person I want to talk to is thousands of miles away in a different time zone.

Please pray for me.


My whole life depends on a piece of paper. A piece of paper that I don't have, nor will have before my flight leaves on Tuesday. My plan now is to enter the country with a Letter of Guarantee, which says that my company is responsible for my ticket out of the country or my visa requirements. I called the Japanese Consulate in Atlanta to see if this would be okay, and they said probably not. So if I go with just this fucking letter, I might get deported or detained or something. I should not be expected to deal with this.

There is no way I can change the date of my flight--I checked--because Zack bought the ticket through a Japanese travel agency.

I'm just so sick of this whole situation. All I want to do is travel, and I've been blessed with the chance to do that in my life, but I just want it to be easier. Maybe I'm whining unnecessarily, but I just feel like my whole life is going to fall apart if I can't go back to Japan.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I just love living on the brink of a panic attack at all times.
If I don't get my work visa in the next week, I honestly don't know what I'm going to do.
Please pray for me if you can spare a moment. I hope it doesn't sound trivial to ask for such a prayer, but a lot of my life depends on this. I just can't believe it's taken this long to get it. I'm just constantly trying not to scream.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I seriously want to stop drinking. I've let myself go a little wild since I've been back in Georgia. I'm done with it. It just isn't as fun as it used to be, when I was 18 and things were much simpler. I just stopped and thought about what drinking is and how stupid it is. Fun, yes, but also very stupid. It's putting poison into your body to have a good time. I'm sick of living a toxic life.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

the final countdown

Only 13 days left until my triumphant return to Japan. Or at least, I'm hoping it's triumphant. I like to live constantly on the brink of disaster, which I guess we all do if you think about it. Still waiting for that work visa...

I've finally finished an essay--I think. I feel like it's missing something but I'm scared that if I keep adding to it that I'll never let it go. My new goal, which I WILL accomplish, is to submit it to at least two places before I fly away.

When I think about the fact that this time I'll be gone for at least a year, I feel like I did when I was little and I used to get asthma attacks. I feel my windpipe tighten. It's similar to the way I felt the week I graduated college and I went to a career fair on campus wearing a borrowed suit, clutching folders full of resumes. I guess overwhelmed is the word I'm looking for.

I'm excited and ready to be back in my element, i.e. traveling and living with my other half, but I've also really enjoyed being here. I think that this time, I'm actually going to miss Georgia. I guess that means I'm finally thinking of this place as home. Hell, I'll even miss America as a whole. I'll miss seeing so much diversity at the grocery store every weekend. I'll miss being able to understand people and ask for help without struggling. I'll miss being able to read labels. I'll miss wearing short skirts without tights underneath and clothes with holes in them. I'll miss cheap beer and talking to people who have known me for years.

The throat-tightening thoughts that I've been having all center on one idea: that we can never have it all. To choose any way of living is to give up another. I'm exchanging a comfortable life in a country that I know for a life of the unfamiliar, a life that I hope will challenge me and ultimately lead me to doing greater things. I just wish that I could take along all the people that I love. That's the worst thought of all--that I'm giving up time with my family and friends to have time to learn. I've learned all I can from this place. Twenty-three years is long enough in southern Georgia. The weather's been so beautiful lately I almost forget that in two months, this place will feel like an armpit again.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I woke up really thirsty this morning, like an on-the-brink-of-getting-sick kind of dry throat. It was agonizing to lie there, just trying to fall back asleep with my throat like that.
I thought about what it would be like to live in a place where I always woke up thirsty, where I didn't have constant access to a sink that spouts out drinking water.

As Americans, it's easy to forget how lucky we are; all we see on a daily basis is the evidence of our progress as a people. Shopping malls and mega grocery stores and a plethora of pseudo-exotic cuisine. We feel so disconnected from the skinny people in an African desert or the aborigines fighting for land in the rainforest that it's easy to forget that they even exist. It's even easier to pretend that nothing we do can make a difference to these total strangers. As a friend once said to me, "Well, I was born here and they were born there. That's their problem."

But the truth is that it isn't just their problem. Fresh water is just the tip of the iceberg. Our habits--from shopping to eating to discarding--have a direct impact on the livelihood of those living in other countries. We can make choices every day that can help them. And the same choices that help other people usually help the planet, which we all have to share. So that's my newest goal: to try and lower my negative impact on the people of the world. I already do a lot for animals, so why not help my fellow (wo)man? People in mineral-rich countries are often at the mercy of those in power. Money is power, right? So we have some power here.

As the world's reserve of clean water continues to diminish, it isn't Americans who will suffer, at least not right away. Those already feeling the sting of climate change and environmental degradation are those with the least amount of income. In other words, our obsession with gigantic SUVs and cheap hamburgers are affecting the lives of people thousands of miles away, right now.

So here are some things we as members of a privileged society can do to improve the lives of those who are less fortunate in this world. By helping them, we are also helping ourselves by making sure that there is plenty of water to go around for years to come.

1. Take shorter showers. You can save 4,500 gallons of water by cutting your shower down to 5 minutes.

2. Don't buy bottled water. EVER. Not only does plastic #1, the material used to manufacture disposable drink bottles, leach toxic chemicals (i.e. BPA) into your water, but it also takes a thousand years to biodegrade. Plastic waste is already circling the Pacific Ocean and impacting wildlife. Get yourself a water filter pitcher and a stainless steel bottle and start saving money!

3. Buy rainforest-friendly products whenever possible. Indigenous people are suffering at the hands of greedy corporations right now; it isn't just the stuff of fantasy movies like Avatar. Look for Fair Trade and/or Rainforest Alliance-certified coffee, tea, and chocolate (available at Wal-Mart and Target, among many other stores). Starbucks usually has at least one Fair Trade brew available; ask for it. Avoid products that contain palm oil whenever possible, as this is usually grown on slash-and-burn rainforest land. Better yet, use the money you would spend on a movie or other unnecessary good this month and donate to Rainforest Action Network.

4. Eat fewer animals. The meat and fish industries are some of the worst for the environment, including the rainforest. Try to go fish or meat free at least one day a week.

5. Think before you buy. Do research before you blindly trust a product; you may be surprised by what you learn about how the product was made or how the corporation that created it treats people and the environment.

I hope I don't come off as being too preach-y, my dear blog readers (all 5 of you). I just feel deeply for the people of the world who are suffering right now, because it could just as easily have been me or you born into that kind of life. So appreciate what you have and what you can give.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


"Nothing more horrible, no failure of nerve more acute, than to be a writer and not write, to never write, perhaps, to stop, to decide to stop, not to hope for writing or want it, to let go of writing, to swear it off like drugs or sex with the wrong party, or some other terrible compulsion that finally tears one apart--decimating the room and maiming anyone in the house. The writer not writing is a wholly guilty party..."

"Do writers hate to write? I don't think so. The sense of difficulty arises from the fact that writers defy time, writing words against the erasure of things and lives. We stand in an avalanche of forgetfulness, resisting the sway of disappearance. Faced with mortality, we mourn what we might have understood and communicated, not in opinion or advice but in the delivery of a world we might have saved. Writing, we cross the divide between self and others word by word. In the very act of completing the work, we are separated from it. One way or another, the writer loses writing: the writer loses the book. Opposing oblivion, we begin to understand that language is the way in and the way out."
--Jayne Anne Phillips, "The Widow Speaks" in The Eleventh Draft

I've calmed down. I just grabbed the nearest book and started reading, and I remembered why I started writing and calling myself a writer in the first place.
It doesn't matter what anyone else is doing or how they measure success in their own lives. Life is not a competition. (But I do seriously need to step up my game.)
All that matters is that I wrote today, and I'll write again tomorrow, and the day after that. And I'll keep writing until I accomplish something, and then I'll write some more.
I have a lot of work to do.