Today was a special, out-of-the-ordinary day. I was invited to road trip with a family from the church on their way to Fukuoka to go to Costco, all of places. I know it’s clearly not a traditional Japanese outing, but the woman who invited me, whose eldest daughter is two years younger than me, rightly assumed that I had been missing more American-type environments. The last time I was in the States was over six months ago at Christmas, and in that time I’ve kind of re-acclimated to life in Japan, so the trip to Costco was kind of a mish-mash of comfortable nostalgia and surreal dysphoria. I don’t intend for this to be a long post because I really just wanted to focus on one thing that hit hard about this trip back to Americana (complete with a big bag of Reese’s peanutbutter cups and a huge slice of pepperoni pizza), so I’ll just get right to it.
As I wandered the spacious aisles and chatted with the family about life in the States and in Japan, a vague inkling kept nagging at me, and at first I couldn’t put my finger on it, so I tried to ignore it, but about half-way through the trip and right in the middle of Costco, it hit me like a bullet train. I kept expecting to see my family. A small part of me was waiting to see my Mom or Dad or one of my sisters pop their head out of the aisles calling me to rejoin them. I turned to the woman who invited me, “Mina,” and told her this, and as soon as I said it, I realized another thing: that’s just not going to happen. So in the middle of this huge (especially by Japan standards) warehouse store, surrounded by crowds of unfamiliar faces both Japanese and foreign, I felt like a little, lost child and it was gut-wrenching. I immediately felt tears stinging my eyes, and “Mina”, this kind, gentle-spirited woman, quickly tried to comfort me.
The moment went as quickly as it had come, but even now when I think about it, I have fight to keep the tears back. I almost wish I could explain it way; like, maybe just blame on the fact that I’m on my period, or maybe I was just tired from getting up early, or maybe I was over-stimulated from the trip, but I think my reaction goes even deeper than all those things. It was visceral. It was bigger than just, “Oh, they’re not here right now, silly girl.” It felt more like, “Oh my god, these familiar faces, these larger-than-life, almost mythic people, who were once a huge part of my life, who were once my whole life–when was the last time I saw them face-to-face? The last time I heard their voices in real time? Felt their hands in mine? Felt their arms around my shoulders? Was it really just six months ago?” Because in that moment, it felt like a lifetime ago, and that was what caught me off-guard.
I’m sad and ashamed to realize that some of the most powerful and enduring relationships I have have been reduced to 1-2 hr video chats once every few weeks. How did that happen? Is that just what happens when someone becomes an expat? If this, indeed, is part of the package, then I’m not sure I want it anymore. It’s sobering thought, for sure, but in a way, I’m glad this happened. I’m glad to have a little more perspective, because as I’m writing this post, there is, in fact, a big possibility for change in the air. At the moment, things need to be kept under wraps, but just in case anyone forget (or didn’t know in the first place), my life is constantly in transition, and for some reason I can’t seem to stay put for very long. Keep on the look out as I am able to share more with you all, and as always thanks for reading!