The day that I left Japan for a twelve day break in early April was the day I realized how welcomed and comfortable I am feeling in Japan these days (don’t worry Mom, I am not moving here). It took finding happiness here and in my personal life to realize how tough, and sometimes depressive, my first couple of months in Japan were during the Summer 2018. While I had a lot of fun and exploration of physical places and within my own mind, I was also missing my family, friends, and my now partner. Just as it felt when I first moved to Atlanta, it felt like over and over again there was always something special with friends and family that I was missing while I was virtually alone with just a few friends in Japan (some that I met here and a couple of former classmates from Georgia Tech that I am still working with). It wasn’t so much fear of missing out, but more just feeling guilty that I was missing things and that I was almost 90% sure that I was going to be signing myself up for more time and research in Japan down the road. Sure enough, that is the step along the long (hopefully) road of life that I am at now.
I embarked on the longest day of my life, an April 4th of over 36 hours, and boarded my flight at Tokyo Haneda to head to my first stop in Los Angeles to visit my next educational institution. It was the first time that I was leaving Japan knowing exactly when I would be back “home”. I knew that the next 12 days was going to be a whirlwind of amazing moments with those closest to me, with even some “holy shit I am getting old” emotions mixed in between two weddings, a funeral, and a whole lot of social time. Seeing my family and everyone back home in Atlanta and Detroit was just what I needed to reinvigorate myself for what was next in my research career.. (another huge congratulations to Michael & Chelsea, and Gavin & Hannah on their marriages).
Some talk about hell week, but I am in my hell two months with four publications and several college textbook chapters to write – the only things keeping me going are the light I can see at the end of the tunnel and having the best partner ever visiting me for nearly the entire two months span here in Japan with some quick getaways mixed in. I am in one of the more stressful periods I have had over these last few years, but it feels easy because I have the support next to me and afar. And I have found myself back to taking mini trips, but this time in a lot cheaper way because once again – poor college student hahah – to clear my mind and liven my soul as I dive into the next spreadsheet or the next paper. By the way, I am supposed to be writing one of those papers instead of writing this post, but for some reason I like to procrastinate..
Last summer was about reflection and preparing myself for what was next in my career, and in my heart, with a lot of reflection mixed in. But this time in Japan, it is about getting everything, or as much as I can, out of the experience and jump-starting my next journey in LA at the University of Southern California. The papers and research and the book chapters will forever be there, and so will the experiences and memories made. Over Golden Week a few weeks ago, Jhay and I spent a couple of days in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, and each stop had a little bit different of a flavor. Tokyo was dominated by the Rainbow Pride festival. It was the first time I have actively partaken in a full-scale Pride festival, outside of a few events in Atlanta and Chicago, and I thoroughly enjoyed it because it was all about appreciating who we are and never about who we are not. We came to Osaka by the Shinkansen bullet train and explored some parts of the city I had visited last summer, and some others that I had not. There were a few things we stumbled upon, a Gyoza dumpling festival in the middle of a mud-pit of a baseball field’s outfield, an amazing view from the top of a ferris wheel that reminded me of my urban fascination, a tasty Filipino restaurant where we sang karaoke and ended up getting scammed on our bill by $40 (we kept our heads up, because it was yummy and really we had a good time there), and even dealt with some growing pains between the two of us. And then there was Kyoto, boy oh boy was there Kyoto. What a beautiful place that I will surely be back to. We rented bikes and cycled away the day with some historic stops along the way. The bustling shopping streets.. The panoramic views of centuries old wooden structures with pagodas, mountains, and the sunset in the distance.. The diversity amongst the crowds, with some even wearing kimonos. We were nowhere near ready to leave..
The major takeaway I had from this period, and one that was strengthened even further while taking a couple of days to Okinawa to relax on the beach this past weekend, was that unlike before in my consulting job, I am able to break away my mind from the anxiety and pressures of work and do the things I love the most – travel, explore, cycle, learn, and get lost in the beauty and magic of wherever I am. And at the same time, I am still able to be successful and productive during the weeks at the office, and the weeks away. If all goes well, my work right now in Smart Mobility, Urban Design, and the Intersection of Sociology and Transportation Choice will pay off quickly and take me to Portugal in June, Sweden in August, and Finland next April. I am finally feeling the excitement for my work, my life, and what is ahead again.. the same feelings that I had when I had not a worry in my brain as I started this blog nearly two years ago while cycling around Europe. What a two years it has been, and cheers to what is next!
So, as they say at USC.. Ya just got to FIGHT ON! With some relaxation and excitement in between..
The past cannot be changed, but the future is yet in your power.