Possibility

It occurred to me that, from what I have written so far this week, one could construe that I have a negative impression of my time here in Japan. So, in my final post here on the sagablog, I would like to share what I think is the greatest opportunity that my time here in Japan has offered me. I'll try not to get too saccharine on your asses...

You hear a million times during your stay in Japan, that "every situation is different." And the thing about this is that it is true, but I think that the meaning gets lost in all the bullshit that is always thrown around when the phrase is used, ie: When they tell you that your apartment is going to cost more than you previously imagined... Then, every situation is different. When they tell you that you'll only be teaching one class this month... Then, every situation is different. When you get assigned an English teacher that can't speak English.... Well, then, every situation is different. Its a shame, really, that the phrase has come to be used a ready made excuse for negative outcomes, or unanticipated negatives, because it does get to the heart of what has been, for me, my greatest opportunity for growth in Japan: Which has been an increased openness to possibility.

I think that when people live their life back home it is excessively easy to fall into the patterns and routines that have established throughout their entire lives. Why? Because it is comfortable. Because it is safe. Because it is home. But the fundamental fact is that, most of the time, surprise is limited and things are pretty much predictable. A lot of people experience this when they take trips back home and find friends doing pretty much the same thing that they were doing when you left. You, and they, have a pretty go grasp of where the dangers are, you know when to be skeptical, and you your sense of wonder is duller.

The thing about living here in Japan is that you are completely removed from what is familiar and thrown into something that, while not dangerous, is entirely new and different. And you experience this sense of possibility where you do ridiculous things because everything you do is, in some sense, ridiculous. That you are willing to embarrass yourself because you are constantly embarrassed is one example. That you share different parts of yourself because the parts that you usually share publicly don't translate very well, or matters very little, because everything is new and there is no context for the "familiar." And, yes, every situation is different. But the thing is that this sense of possibility is the same for every ex-patriot that lives in a different place. Every situation is an opportunity for a limitless amount of things to happen to you; You go to a club wearing sandals, make friends with the manager, and he ends us giving you the bartender's shoes for the night. You walk into Citibank and ask for a tour and the president shows you around the building personally. You meet someone on a chance encounter and they end up being in your life for years. You live on an island and windsurf and decide to commute to Fukuoka, 2 hours in the open ocean on your board, one weekend. Why does this happen? It may happen because you are so clearly different, but it may also happen because you just went ahead and asked, or maybe didn't know that something couldn't, or shouldn't, be done. But is this something that is limited to being a foreigner in Japan? Might it have happened the same way back home? Who knows, if you are just bold enough to ask wherever you are...

It is this openness to possibility that I think about as being the best part of my experience here. And, I think, that this awareness of fantastic possibilities is something that is not easily taken away when you leave here. It is freedom that was always there, but maybe you just never accepted it the same way before.

Lots of people rebel against this idea when they arrive here, when the culture shock sets in, that they think of their differences, and consider themselves alone. I have sometimes. But, with hindsight, I really feel like my differences would better be treated like a credit card that you have to pay off very rarely. It is not free and there is interest to be paid at some point(working a less than fulfilling job and stress that comes in unimaginable cultural forms), but the benefits are high (good pay, nice life, good support system, life expanding opportunities) and any potential falls are mostly well padded (Japan is a pretty safe country).

You see, for me, the "every situation is different" isn't centered around me, but around the situation. And once you being to see the phrase as portable, and something that you own not just here in Japan, but in your life, you open yourself to all the fantastic possibilities that surround you wherever you are.... it is just that, sometimes, people need a strong, well placed, kick out of normality to see it. That is Japan to me. And, thanks for reading this week.