For the past couple of weeks, I have been homesick. I think in the past month or two I had felt something bothersome building up inside me but I didn't understand it and couldn't name it, and even thought perhaps I wasn't getting enough sleep or not doing enough exercise or taking enough vitamins or whatever other excuse I could think of. And in the end it was homesickness brewing all along.
It's a strange feeling. When I first got here, I had bad days, but I know now they weren't homesickness. Those bad days in the first couple of months were just a feeling of general estrangement and culture shock. Getting used to my new culture. It sometimes felt like what I thought at the time homesickness must be. But I know it's different now. Of course it's different. The real homesickness, I now know, is when suddenly nothing sits right with you--food, entertainment options, conversations, work--everything and anything is cast in a sort of tainted light and there will always be something missing from the world surrounding you that you can't replace because it isn't available to you. It's thousands of miles away. It's being able to not have to think about everything you want to say at a store when you have a question about a product, or it's wishing you could strike up the same easy free flowing conversation that you could do back home with the woman running the check-out counter at the convenient store, or that tug of a specific piece of earth calling to you, that place where your heart and spirit took root and grew from its soil. There are so many things I love about living in Japan, and so many reasons that I'm glad to be here, but being glad to have this time in Japan can't combat something that goes beyond being in your own culture, living and breathing the language without thinking about it in general. I spent the last four nights finding restaurants to eat at that had any kind of food other than Japanese, just because I needed something that might vaguely remind me of home food. I've baked much of the stuff Maureen (thank you so much again) graciously sent me, brownies and cookies and such. I've been reading M.T. Anderson's Thirsty (which is wonderful so far) and have been reveling in teenaged American vernacular and insight and thought patterns. Everything seems familiar and strange at the same time. If reading a book can give me that feeling at this point, I wonder what things will feel like when I actually go home one day.
I didn't grow up moving around, like many people do. My family has lived on the same piece of land for four generations now. And although out of my family I somehow inherited a wanderlust to go to places outside the scope of a small farm town in Ohio, there's a great big piece of me that has been made from everything that exists on that piece of land, as well as the land itself. I've lived in different places at different times of my life, California for half a year, Michigan for two years, but Michigan was still close enough to home to not feel it was out of reach (and it was still the Midwest) and I wasn't in California long enough to feel what I'm feeling now, I think. It's a phase, and it will pass, but while it's here, it feels very much like a spiritual malaise of some sort. Even while I'm happy to be here and doing what I'm doing, all this "stuff" is hanging around, drawing my attention over my shoulder at various times of the day. I don't want to go back to America even so, not right now. I have time for that, and I feel that being away from the country is important for me right now. But I do wish I could just have a piece of home somehow, even for an hour, to sate this thirst for it lately.
Luckily my mom will be coming to visit at the end of next month. It'll be almost a year since I've seen her. I'm thinking her coming will help a lot. And then after she leaves, I may go to Australia for a short holiday. The flights seem particularly reasonable at the moment, and I could really use a dose of living in English again, even if it's Australian English and they use words like "jumper" and "mate". (Nudge nudge, hehe to Justine). So perhaps by the end of August I'll be back in good condition to do my next half a year to a year of being here that I plan to do.
There are a lot of difficult and strange experiences in the near future, I can foresee--coming home, trying to figure out how to live there again, to find work, to find some way to live in a place I'd like to live. New York City or Boston, or various suburbs of either, I really want to live on the coast, and in a city, but figuring out what sort of work I might be able to get in those places still confounds me. I have a Master's degree in English, have sold some short stories, have a really good agent and a novel that may sell someday, so you know, things could be worse. But I'm not what you would call someone with a lot of career options really. On top of that, there'll then be a time where I'll have to deal with not being in Japan any longer, because it's already become a part of me now, like America. It's nourished me while I've been living here. You take your soil with you no matter what. It all seems like it'll be a lot to deal with, but I'm confident I'll deal. After all, I've somehow managed to teach elementary school kids in another language, so after that, I feel like I can do just about anything. But for now, I'm homesick and will be waiting for when my mom arrives. It'll be like when a package from home comes and before I even look inside to see what's in there, I open the flap and smell. No matter what or who it's from, it always smells like home.