Journey from Japan

August is a weird time of year for me. Four years ago I came back to the states after living three in Japan.

The fact that it’s been four years is crazy to me.

Because no, it doesn’t feel “just like yesterday” anymore. But it doesn’t feel like a long time ago either. It kind of feels like it didn’t ever happen.

Sure, I’ve made a handful of friends that I’ve kept in touch with. Some of them being nice surprises– people that I’m way closer with now than I ever was while living over there. And for a lot of people that I thought for sure I’d be keeping up with?

Well, those connections are d-e-d. And, a lot of my original interests that tied me to Japan are dead too. No more RPGs, anime, drama, or J-Pop. I can’t even find a purpose to stick with studying Japanese.

So with the few memories I have fading, and the connections I used to have waning, I’ve been re-thinking what I truly got out of my life in Japan.

What was the real impact? Why did I want to go so badly in the first place? What changed?

These are the talking points I want to hit this month. Some of the answers remain the same, but I think it’s almost therapeutic to revisit them.

I think the best way to kick off this reflection is to cover, once again, the return home from Japan. The short story was it sucked. I talked about it every chance I had, but that might’ve been the wrong approach.

I’m not saying I should’ve suppressed my feelings, but the more I talked about it, the more I could play up the pain.

A few months before it was time to go, I made a promo video to hype up my return:

But that wasn’t for other people to get hyped. That was for me. You’ll notice the dialogue’s taken from the most heartbreaking scene from Terminator 2:

John: No! No, wait! Wait, you don’t have to do this!

Terminator: I’m sorry.

John: No, don’t do it! Don’t go!

Terminator: It has to end here.

I did that on purpose because that’s how I felt talking to myself. And his name was John! Could you get more prophetic?

But yeah, stuff like that. I’d talk about how leaving Japan was “the worst break-up” I’d ever been through. I told Chase it was like that scene from Black Hawk Down where the guy who’s clutching a picture of his family gets dragged away.

I likened myself to Dave Chappelle when he visited Africa and said it felt like home. Except in my case, I was losing that. I was having an identity-crisis.

I had shock of change, shock of loss, and shock of uncertainty. Yes, I was back home with friends and family, but what to do next?

And when I just couldn’t get a steady gig lined up, I got more frustrated. When I couldn’t even get entry-level jobs, I felt worthless.

The JET Program gave me an opportunity for amazing personal development, but as for career development, all these companies were acting like it didn’t mean shit. And it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who was going through this.

But many of the people who experienced the same thing kept quiet. Maybe it was because of shame, but they preferred to stay silent. And when people don’t talk about these kinds of problems, you’ll start to think that you’re the only one who doesn’t have their shit together.

Any JET who’s coming back home, know that you’re not alone in this struggle.

Published by Jon Dao

Formerly, the Conversation Coach

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