This past week has been a whirlwind. The day I moved to Japan I cried as I left my home, family, and friends for a world I had never been to and knew little about.
I never dreamed of the tears that would be shed as I prepared to leave a little over three years later.
Earlier this summer, I applied for some internship opportunities in the states that would qualify for the internship requirement my master’s program requires students to complete prior to graduation. This is why this summer became a lesson in slowing down and waiting. I had to slowly close out my usual engagements around base and off-base to accommodate for the possibility that if I was selected I would be leaving earlier than our planned move to the States this fall.
I submitted applications in May, and then had to learn to be patient for two months before I heard anything.
This past Saturday I finally got word.
I was selected for an internship with the Clinton Foundation in Little Rock Arkansas for the Fall 2014 Semester. I am beyond honored and elated! This will be a huge learning experience for me and an exciting new adventure to begin. However, given the internship starts at the end of this month, I suddenly found myself thrown into a whirlwind of packing, saying goodbye, and moving back stateside all within a week.
I never anticipated how bittersweet the experience would be.
I have not seen most of my family in over a year and a half, and for a few others it has been more than two years. So I was very excited to return to the states to be reunited with family and friends. However, at the same time I felt like my heart was tearing in two, as returning also meant leaving behind my first home with my husband, three years worth of memories, and dear friends I still don’t know how I will quite live without in my day-to-day life.
So much of Japan stole my heart, and it wasn’t until I faced the reality of leaving with no plans to return in the foreseeable future that I realized just how much it had.
This past thursday, I flew off from Japan with tears streaming down my face, knowing I had been forever changed by my time in this country, by its people, by its culture, and by the life we built with our military family at Yokota Air Base.
Living overseas as a military spouse brings with it, its daily challenges. Not only do you say goodbye to your family and friends, but you often find yourself alone as your other half is frequently gone for deployments or work trips. While it can be overwhelming and lonely, it also gives you a unique opportunity to build friendships that are deep and beautiful, as you learn that true family is connected by more than just blood. We are there to listen to each other, to help take care of whatever falls apart while the spouse is away, to give you a shoulder to cry on, to build memories and share experiences together until your best friend returns. I will always look back on this time in Japan and love it for the friends I left with who have touched my life in ways that are too numerous to count.
Another unforgettable aspect to my experience in Japan is the beautiful friendships I formed with my Japanese students. I feel like I got to see and experience so much more of Japan, its culture, and its beautiful people because of how each one of them opened their lives to me. Not only did they share their culture, traditions, language, and experiences with me, but they were genuinely interested in learning about mine. These people and children touched my life in ways I will never forget. I have never met a more beautiful, respectful people and I will always consider myself fortunate to have gotten to live among them for three years.
In some ways, it still doesn’t feel completely real that I am not returning.
What will I ever do without my weekly trip to our favorite Sushi bar, and the sweet Japanese man who always greeted us with a smile and even knew my usual order?
What will I do without having an Indian curry restaurant five minutes from me in every direction, to give me my butter chicken curry and nan fix for the week?
What will I do without vending machines everywhere offering me both hot and cold versions of my favorite drinks?
How strange it will be to not be able to just hop on a train, drink in hand, and go wherever my heart desires.
How will it ever seem like spring again, without beautiful cherry tree blossoms followed by the snow of falling blossoms that make even a cookie-cutter military base look like a fairyland of beauty and wonder?
How will I ever survive without a beautiful Japanese onsen (public hot spring bath house) to visit whenever I feel the need to spend an evening soaking and relaxing in a beautifully lit Japanese garden?
How I will miss the beautiful Mount Fuji in my daily skyline.
Japan means even more to me now, as it was a place of healing, discovery, and growth I never imagined I would find.
It was in Japan that I learned how to run and even more to love running. Suddenly I found a means to build strength, discipline, and a continual source of renewal and stress relief into my life and weekly routine.
It was in Japan that I learned I had finally come to a place where it was safe to put down the masks and to ask the deep questions of life and faith I had been running from for years.
It was in Japan that I learned to value myself, my story, and my own voice.
It was in Japan that I began to discover what it meant to be vulnerable, to be real, and to embrace uncertainty and imperfection.
It was in Japan that I learned anew the true depth and meaning of friendship.
I don’t know much of what the horizon holds for our future. Living a military life, means there is always change and new adventures just waiting around the corner.
No matter where we go or what life brings our way, I know I will always look back and treasure what Japan and our time there gave me.
A deeper love and a rising heart.
Sayonara my Beautiful Land of the Rising Sun.