Good day, friends. Good day.
For the first time in a long time, I can honestly say “good day” and mean it, for the most part. I got a beautiful new air conditioning unit installed today to warm up my frozen, icy soul that had frosted over during the past four weeks when my old crusty A/C unit died, so that alone makes it a pretty darn good day in my book.
As I sit under my toasty, cozy kotatsu writing this, in a newly feng-shuid room with only a little bit of mess on the floor instead of a lot of mess on the floor, I realize that it has been an absurd amount of time since I have posted anything bearing any resemblance to what constitutes a normal blog post. Yeah, sure, I’ve written a handful of JET program stuff for all of the JET hopefuls out there (hang on, little sprouts, you’ve only got a month or less of waiting to go–hard to believe that was me one year ago. Soon you can be a fully fledged Green Bean like me! Do green beans sprout? Is that how it works? I don’t even know, man.), but have you noticed that since pre-Christmas, I haven’t written a single damned thing about my personal life and the other happenings and bygones of my life? No? You haven’t, you say? Well, if you answered yes, (A) that makes my poor, fragile soul Oh So Sad, but (B) I really don’t blame you because I have more or less for the past two and half months become a hermit-otaku-shut-in who hides in the inner recesses of my Hobbit Hole and only emerges for daily responsibilities (you know, like my job. Kinda sorta just a little important ) and to go on the hunt for sustenance (gotta eat, you know).
A series of unfortunate events is, unfortunately (yes, I did that on purpose, 5 points [to Gryffindor!] for anyone who got that reference), the root behind why I have gone off the radar, off the grid, under my rock, whichever label you choose to slap onto my leave of absence from blogging. That Series of Unfortunate Events that unfortunately happened right around the Yuletide season put a damper on my mood and left me in a rather unpleasant state, both physically and emotionally, which has lasted right around until this point. So, for a few minutes, let me take you back to the beginning to fully explain what happened, since I’m sure you’re dying to know. If you’re not dying to know, and don’t really care, then you can just skip a little bit until the happy stuff comes along. I promise there will be happy stuff. This isn’t a sad, depressed rambling. There is a point, my friends! A grand point! A wonderful message awaits! But, first I have to walk you through the dark before the dawn. That’s just how it goes.
JET PROSPECTS–I DON’T KNOW YOU, BUT IF YOU WANT A REALISTIC PERSPECTIVE ON CULTURE SHOCK AND WHAT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU WHEN YOU ARE IN A LAND THAT IS FAR, FAR AWAY, A PERSPECTIVE THAT SHOWS SOMETHING THAT IS OTHER THAN UNICORNS AND RAINBOWS AND PONIES AND SUNSHINE, IT MAY BE IN YOUR BEST INTEREST TO READ THIS NOW AND TO BRACE YOURSELVES FOR THE POSSIBILITY. NOBODY WANTS TO TELL YOU ABOUT THE UNPLEASANTRIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE MAGICAL MARSHMALLOW SNOWFLAKE WONDERLAND THAT IS JAPAN, BUT BELIEVE YOU ME, IT IS NOT ALL HUNKY DORY DANDY ALL THE TIME.
Ahem. So, let’s begin, shall we?
In the beginning, there was a naive twenty-something named Erin/Green Bean/Ern/Bob/Eob/Snowflake who lived in the previously unknown circle of hell known as “New Orleans, Louisiana.” This naive twenty-something decided to semi-foolishly, semi-not, do something drastically outside her comfort zone. Erin was but a young Bean Sprout at the time. Full of optimism, full of a desire to experience life to the fullest and go somewhere different, do something different. In her epic quest to make a change, the young Bean Sprout decided to apply for the JET program, and upon her second trial of the epic quest, finally succeeded in slaying the Boss Monster called Interviews and it’s minion, Application. Erin’s Health Points had been drastically drained from her long, turbulent battle with the Boss Monster, but upon victory, she claimed the Heart Piece left behind upon the Boss Monster’s defeat, recovered her life force, and happily watched the Ending Credits of the game roll along the screen as the naturally happy ending was displayed in the background.
Oh, wait a sec–was that how it went?
*Ahem*, Sorry for that little misunderstanding folks, let’s get back to the real story.
Upon the slaying of the Boss Monster, Erin did in fact recover her life force and temporarily have a happy ending. But, when the ending credits finally finished rolling, a premonition of something sinister flashed, a warning of what was yet to come. It was–le gasp–a preview of the sequel game! The preview showed hints of things even more dire, even more sinister than the original Boss Monster! The young Bean Sprout quivered in fear at the idea of having even more monsters to slay, even more battles to be won! But, she unsheathed her mighty blade and trudged along, bracing herself for the journey ahead.
Like all quest games, at first, the journey was easy. No task was too far out of reach. The Bean Sprout completed mini-quest after mini-quest, slaying the smaller monsters, gathering items, and achieving tiny win after tiny win. Slay the beast known as buying furniture? Check. Slay the monster called “giving a speech in front of a thousand people?” Check. Slay the beast called, “navigating the wonky train system/why in the freaking hell are there four different train lines/companies in one city?” Check. The Bean Sprout gained a false sense of confidence. The Bean Sprout felt invincible.
However, unbeknownst to the Bean Sprout, this newfound confidence would not last. The confidence lulled the Bean Sprout into a false sense of security that would ultimately shatter into a billion teensy tiny itty bitty little pieces, only for a monster to swallow them, regurgitate them, and drop them into the sea, where they would then be eaten by many microorganisms, never to be seen again. Ah, the circle of life.
All is going well, so the Bean Sprout thought. I can best any challenge that comes my way! With that false sense of security and optimism, the Bean Sprout gathered her tools and mustered her courage, ready to face the first Boss: Christmas Alone In A Foreign Country.
Being the first Boss, the first real trial since coming to the foreign land far, far away, the Bean Sprout believed that Christmas Alone In A Foreign Country wouldn’t be all that difficult to conquer. Christmas Alone In A Foreign Country’s minion, Homesickness, hadn’t reared it’s ugly head yet, so the Bean Sprout thought that surely this Boss would be eliminated at her own hand. And so the Bean Sprout thought, Why use a strategy guide when you’ve already got all the tools for survival, right?
Because she believed that she didn’t need a strategy guide, that she could just wing it, the Bean Sprout went into battle horrendously unprepared. She had no support members. Nobody to cast recovery magic. No melee fighters or distance fighters to aid her. She was all alone. Oh so alone. She had no company, nor did she bring enough potions to adequately restore her life force. Christmas Alone In A Foreign Country relentlessly attacked, again and again, until alas, the Sprout could take it no more. The Sprout ran out of moves. Then the Sprout fainted. The Sprout failed. The sad sounds of failure played in the background as “Start Again?” displayed on the screen.
Dismayed by her own failure, the Sprout decided she wouldn’t dwell on her failure and her sadness. The Sprout decided to take a vacation. So, going solo, plans made, the Sprout set off for the even farther away land called, “Hokkaido,” the great wintry North beyond the invisible hypothetical wall (the ocean) that lay between the mainland and the great beyond. The Sprout set off, ready to start a new side quest to take her mind off of her humiliating defeat! For nine days, the Sprout hoped to find relief for her sad heart and enjoy the frosty wonderland that she had so dreamed of visiting.
Little did she know before, however, the Sprout’s new side quest would not go as planned. The Sprout’s heart physically ached hour after hour, day by day. Was her heart broken? Had Christmas Alone In A Foreign Country wounded her more than she had initially thought? Had Christmas Alone In A Foreign Country cast a time magic spell that was destined to slowly drain away her life force? Sadly, the answer was yes.
Now, the Sprout, wounded and alone, found herself in an even more foreign, foreign land. She knew no one. She knew nothing. She had no knowledge of her new surroundings, and all alone, she was frightened. She knew not what to do, so in a worried fit, she sought consult with the nearest healer who was able to speak her mother tongue.
The Sprout explained the situation to the healer, who then subjected the Sprout to a series of tests. The Sprout felt alone and afraid. However, many hours later, the healer divulged to the Sprout that he did not understand her plight. He could see nothing wrong with the Sprout’s fragile heart.
Dismayed upon hearing no real answers, and concerned that her heart ached in a place where she knew nothing and no one, the Sprout sadly packed her bags, cancelled the remaining six days of her vacation, and with her head hung low, returned to her Hobbit Hole.
Upon her return, the Sprout sought counsel with another healer, who agreed with the first; he could find nothing wrong.
Discouraged, and dismayed, the Sprout withered. Each passing day felt like her heart was literally breaking. No matter what she did, her ailing heart never ceased to ache. Her aching heart made her grow weary. Things she once enjoyed now seemed unpleasant. People she once routinely spoke to grew distant at her own hand. Life as she knew it had changed.
The change was gradual. First days would go by. Then weeks, all the while she hadn’t noticed how much time had truly passed. She spent more and more time in her Hobbit Hole instead of enjoying the land far, far away which she had originally sought to experience.
One day, her heart suddenly stopped aching. Could this be the end? The Sprout thought. Sadly, it wasn’t. The monster had transformed into an even more formidable foe, and a new monster, a demon in the form of Headaches gripped the young Sprout’s soul in it’s place. Every day, it clung tighter and tighter, slowly driving the Sprout mad by her own thoughts. Her mind became toxic; the once safe haven was teeming with the venom of the demon. The Sprout’s thoughts gradually became darker and darker, and life was not as enjoyable as it had previously been.
However, weeks later, the Sprout had epiphany. She was letting her demons control her, letting them wrap their arms around her neck. She couldn’t let these demons control her. Why should she? She set out to a land far, far away to enjoy that land far, far away. To learn about new things. To experience new things. None of which she was doing at the moment. So, the Sprout brandished all of her greatest weapons, mustered up every ounce of courage she had left–and began to fight the demons that were controlling her. Let me go, I’m not finished yet! The Sprout thought.
To this day, the Sprout’s enemy has still not been vanquished–fight as she may, the demons still cling on, though their grasp loosens a little with each second that passes her by.
The Sprout may not have her Happy Ending Without A Sequel Of Bad Things To Come yet, but it is in her future. One day, she will vanquish her demons once and for all. And their will be no sequel game where the demons come back.
I hope you enjoyed that little tale, folks. Writing is someone of a coping mechanism for me. I like it. And I like to believe that I’m a little bit good at it. Meh, maybe I’m not, but even if I’m not just let me live in my fantasy world, dang nabbit!
So, if you’re super dense and for some reason could not follow my story and all of video game references: In a nutshell, I got super sad around Christmas because Christmas is my holiday, yo, and usually I get super pumped about Christmas but I foolishly decided to tough out the winter season because I’m too big of a wuss to get back on the friggin’ airplane to America. To distract myself from my sadness of not being home, I went to Hokkaido because (A) who doesn’t love Hokkaido? It’s a magical winter wonderland? And (B) it’s the place I originally wanted to live before I was placed in Kobe against my will and I wanted to visit it at least once. BUT…my chest started hurting the day before Chrismas, maybe even the day before that, and continued to hurt even when I was in Hokkaido, and granted I was not in the best shape, so I got very concerned because a lot of really important things are in your chest, you know? I didn’t know which important thing it was or if it was important at all, so I landed myself in the hospital in Sapporo, a city where I know literally zero people. And going to the hospital is stressful enough without adding foreign country and language barrier to the mix. Sooooo the doctors did all these tests and everything came back negative and they chalked it up to anxiety even though I didn’t consciously feel that anxious at the time, so confused and with no answers and with a chest that was still hurting, I didn’t feel comfortable staying in Sapporo alone and packed up my crap, bought some souvenirs from the train station and went back home. And by home I mean Kobe. Not home home.
I had a relatively decent new year all things considered, but the aching chest literally went on for ALL OF JANUARY until it magically and suddenly stopped right smack at the beginning of February only for headaches to rear their ugly head in the place of the chest pains. And I don’t mean your generic dull achey headaches where you can pop a couple of ibuprofen and be good. I mean the most crippling headaches of my life. It literally felt like someone was jabbing my eye socket with an icepick. Repeat this about six times a day, with headaches switching sides frequently. Every little ache or pain started to set my anxiety meter through the roof and panic attacks became a regular occurrence. If you’ve never had a panic attack before, you literally feel like you are going to die right then and there. I have never more frequently convinced myself of the fact that I was dying than I have in the past two months.
It’s not like I consciously feel stressed or anxious all the time. On most days it’s more of a homesickness that anything else. I miss being able to see my family, and nothing can replace being able to hug my cats and my Tater Tot. I feel like I am betraying Buddha, my favorite (yes, I am a bad mom and I have a very clear favorite among my babies) by being away from him. And from what I hear from my family, he’s not terribly happy about this arrangement. I keep hearing stories about how he pees in front of the fireplace when he doesn’t get enough attention, and him not getting enough attention is a foreign concept to me since I smothered him with attention when I was home. And I hear about how terrible and how stupid my dumb little Dave is, and terrible as he is, I miss his dumb face. My poor Dave’s sweet, dumb face. And I miss my sweet, innocent little Elvis Bo who can do wrong. Really I feel like missing my animals is the biggest problem. I was not designed to live without them!
A couple of weeks ago, I had finally had enough. I realized that I needed to do something about this to stop myself from spiraling completely out of control. So I started cutting the junk food out of my diet. I finally joined the gym. I am trying to consciously rid myself of toxic thoughts and I have banned myself from looking at WebMD. For the record, unless you just have a physical thing like a sprain and just want to know how to take care of it, don’t ever look at WebMD. Because WebMD’s answer to everything is cancer. And I’m pretty sure that I don’t have that. Just a hunch. Needless to say when you’re constantly in a state of agitation and panic, believing that you might have cancer isn’t so hard.
Slowly but surely, things have started to be looking up. My chest pains, while still present, are much less frequent than they were before. Just in a few days this week, the headaches have been reduced as well. I am trying to put myself on a positive path and do what I set out to do when I came here–enjoy Japan.
In Japanese, there is a word called “Akuma” which essentially means a demon or a devil. It is a trope that is frequently found throughout anime and manga. But it applies here. I let my akuma, my demons, get the better of me. I let myself get into a very toxic, negative spiral, and I am trying my damnedest to dig myself out of it. The thing about anxiety, or stress, or panic, or whatever I have, is that you don’t always realize what exactly is happening. Stuff just happens, it goes on, and you feel miserable. For me my breaking point happened when my head was hurting so much that I was popping ibuprofen and aspirin like candy.
I think I am feeling better. And I want to make it my mission to see the beauty even in the most negative of situations. At the end of the day, I am in Japan. Japan, y’all!!! It has been a turbulent, crazy ride, but it’s a ride that I want to enjoy to the fullest. I don’t want to be holding on to the safety bars like a terrified child the whole time; I want to let my hands fly free in the breeze and make a super goofy face that gets captured for all to see on the ride photos at the end of the trip.
From here on out, no more living my life in black and white, hiding in the shadows of my own mind. I want to live my life in SCREAMING COLOR. I want to be FREE. I want to feel liberated, energized, crazy, and euphoric! I want every second, and every day to count. I want to experience as much as I can, see as much as I can, and learn as much as I can while I am here. Because as great as it would be to stay here forever, I know that I can’t. I already know that I’m not one of those people that is going to live in Japan forever, even after JET. I love Japan, but it’s not my home. It will always hold a special place in my heart, but my heart tells me that eventually, I need to go back to America. I have cats to retrieve from my parents. A Potato to hug. An education to get. So I need to make every second count while I am here.
On that note, I’m sorry if this post was kind of a downer. I hope that the story at least made the atmosphere a little brighter up in here.
While I have been hermiting for a large chunk of the past couple of months, I haven’t exclusively been hermiting, so I will write another post within the next couple of days or so chronicling what I’ve been up to. Let Mind Toot #2 happen.
But, in the meantime, have a good evening/day/morning whatever time it is where you are, everyone.
Peace out, my little Bean Sprouts.