Being in Japan undeniably taught me a lot of things. I’m sure anyone who’s travelled at any point in their lives, no matter where or for how long, can testify that you can stand to learn a lot from being away from home and outside of your comfort zone. You learn how to speak new words, how to appreciate new foods, and how to practice new skills.
The most valuable thing being in Japan taught me was how to be alone.
I’ll admit, I’ve always been more on the introverted side anyway – I’m shy by nature, and generally recharge my physical and mental batteries by doing one-person activities like reading books, writing stories, and watching movies. Heck, even my physical activities of choice have always been individual rather than team-based things – swimming, yoga, pilates. At the same time, I realised when I first moved to Japan that I had no idea how to really be alone and at the same time be happy/at peace with that. For the first 4 years of my Japan experience, I lived in a town at the bottom of Shikoku which was separated into several smaller towns and villages, mine consisting of no more than a couple of hundred people. This meant the feeling of being alone was intensified, not only by the fact that I didn’t know the neighborhood or speak the language, but by the fact that there simply weren’t a lot of people around to begin with.
Japan therefore presented a major learning curve for me, and not just in the ways I necessarily expected. The loneliness was real, as was the fear that I wouldn’t make it, that I’d be miserable forever, and that I would let everyone, myself included, horribly down. So the above picture represents a lot more than just me indulging in probably my all-time favourite hobby, and is more than just a happy memory of the days where, after work, I’d use the school pool just steps away from the ocean and have the entire place blissfully to myself.
It serves as a reminder that even outside all the regular fun stuff I eventually found to do in Japan, either alone or with others, I also experienced what it was like to feel truly alone for the first time in my life. And despite all the initial anxiety and stress that caused me, I learned how to love it.
Question of the post: Is there a particular event and/or physical move in your life that taught you any major life lessons?