Expecting a dream to be something you envision invites suffering. This became my reality.
Recall the undergraduate degree begun in my 20s after the first failed dream of not making the Olympics. This dark period was not conducive to studying so I dropped out. Fast forward nearly twenty years later after the failed New York City acting dream, I returned to the same campus as a full-fledged adult with real-life experience. This was an excellent opportunity to both finish something that I started and transition into a new period of life. After two continuous, intensive years at the University of Minnesota I graduated Magna Cum Laude, unachievable in my 20s.
While I won’t go into details about the long-distance movie-like relationship with the woman who would eventually become my wife once moving to Japan, I will say you can read more about it in my soon-to-be published book (10KLRS, Fall 2021)
Ready to move and fulfill a dream from those seeds planted years ago in the youth hostels of Canada, as with my move to New York, I packed everything into eight boxes and sent it slow boat to Japan. Packing only what I needed for the initial move, I would be living out of my suitcase for the first three months. In my mind a trial period in case things went south and had to hightail it back to the US. Itching to leave after George Bush Jr. was reelected and wanting to get on with living in a foreign country and become in fluent in the language, saying goodbye to family and friends was easy.
Upon arriving in Japan, I was met by my girlfriend/wife at the airport– Let the dream unfold! For weeks as I adjusted to life in Japan, I had the same feeling I first had when visiting as a tourist. Filled with wonderment and awe, everything was still so different–People, buildings, clothing and smells. Oh those smells. The first of many–soy sauce wafting from the myriad of ramen shops.
Getting accustomed to living with someone was the first of many challenges. Then there was that language barrier. Wait, I studied Japanese! Problem was that I learned academic Japanese which is not real-life street Japanese. I was literally lost and was most prevalent on the trains. Unable to understand the train conductor announcements I missed my train stop countless number of times. And there were the numerous culture adjustments such as the big one–Lack of personal space.
Outwardly, as time passed I was still in awe by the newness of every experience. Inwardly, things were become very difficult. It was the collection of little things that began to add up internally causing a level of stress that I had never experienced in my life. Being so caught up in building a life, for the first few years I was unaware of the stress level. I kept it at bay with busyness, exercise and overeating.
I won’t go into the sordid details of the inevitable crash, but you can read that in the soon-to-be published book. (10KLRS)
The point being, what I expected life in Japan to be like was something akin to that first feeling I had when visiting as a tourist. I wanted that feeling of wonderment and awe all the time. As those feelings fell away what lied under the surface was reality, an unexpected reality of having to confront my deeply rooted cultural biases and myself–A knotted mess.
What I wanted this dream to be was not what I expected, but in the end it was what was needed all along.
The end of the dream series. If you want to get caught up or relive the hell, click on any of the links below.