I have been here in Japan for almost four years. I really feel that I can say that I've done everything. Everything that I care about. I didn't climb Mount Fuji but that's too touristy for me anyway. I did everything that I thought I'd like and everything that I thought I wouldn't like. I was right about some things, wrong about others. But in the end I am glad that I did them. I've experienced epic adventures, crazy trips, I did unimaginable cool things with unimaginably strange people. In four years time I can't say I'm dissatisfied with the path I've chosen for myself. But every path has to end somewhere, and a new path must be chosen when the old path ends. I'm not changing paths yet, but I can see the road in front of me on my current path, and it looks the same as where I came from.
I haven't been able to motivate myself at all for almost anything during the past year. How can you get excited about going to a beach on a summer's day when you've been to a nicer beach at night to watch the sunset? How can you get excited about going to see a Japanese festival when it is in fact the same festival you've seen three years ago? What's the point of hiking the Japanese mountains (in this region) if they all look the same and you've already climbed so many of them? In the end, you grow accustomed to the place and the activities and you don't truly see life for what it is: pure beauty. After cycling the same road over and over again you don't see the stores at the side of the road any more, or the people playing games at the riverside, or all the peculiar vending machines at the side of the road. The mind blocks what it already knows and learns to ignore it. In time, all that you are able to see is daily life. And that's not what I came here to see.
For three years I have done the most interesting things I thought I would never do. I traveled to places by train, by plane, by bicycle and by car. I've traveled to every area of Japan (the northern area of Hokkaido excluded) and I've enjoyed every bit of it. But three years is a long time, and now, when I travel to a place, I find it harder and harder to enjoy the parts that are different and it's so easy to get bored of the parts that are the same. Japan has become my home. Even as a photographer I no longer see things as the excited fresh tourist. Instead I've become the person who has 'been there before' and is seeking for a new angle to something he already knows. Photography has become a technical / professional challenge rather than a chance to record the way I felt at a particularly beautiful moment in my life, which is why I took up photography in the first place, although I tend to forget that lately and wonder why my photos no longer seem as good as they were two years ago. There's just no feeling in it anymore. (no kimchi!)
Socially I'd say it's the same. I've seen life from various points of view. In the beginning I was the odd young newbie who didn't really hang out with the group. After that I've been on occasion the organizer of parties, the center of attention, one part in a tight group of friends, casually acquainted with a large group of friends, or just a loner. I'd say I prefer to being a loner to hanging out with a large group of friends, but I guess I can adapt according to the situation. There's a season for everything, especially with interns coming and going all the time. (mostly going, lately...) That's the way it goes here.
It's my natural instinct to reject normality and daily life. Up to a certain extent. If I feel that my daily life rhythm gets too.. rhythmic, I disturb it on purpose by going to the convenience store in the middle of the night or by cycling to the seaside for no particular reason. I won't go crazy and cycle to the middle of nowhere and spend the night in the forest, or get piss-drunk and pass out of the street though. My comfort zone does not extend that far.
I've adjusted to this lifestyle. That is, the life without a car, living only in a small room without a TV or much personal belongings. It sounds terrible but I like it so much. I would change a few things in my future life, but my core lifestyle suits me and I'm happy about it. I would get a car because it's convenient and a TV so I can stream movies from my PC to it, but I like the small-and-light lifestyle. Though I really shouldn't spend so much money on food..
At work too I've become very used to what I do. I program, I solve bugs, I create and solve complicated logic/design puzzles. If work is not complicated or challenging enough, I invent a new way to challenge myself more. My company gives me freedom to do this, and they get the benefits by way of the program that I'm creating. I really like my job. The thing I dislike most about my job is that the most complicated piece of software I've ever worked on is about to be finished, and I won't have a new challenge anymore, or perhaps not the challenge that I'm looking for. As I gain experience I also gain confidence, which is dangerously quick to tip over to overconfidence and arrogance. That, by the way, seems to be a bug or feature that many experienced programmers have. Occupational hazard, I guess.
I guess that's kind of what I am announcing to the world in this post. I don't feel challenged anymore by my work or my living in Japan. Everything's become a second nature to me, a daily drag that I could do with entirely by muscle memory while concentrating on something else. As I said before, when something becomes too 'normal', my natural instinct is to shake things up a bit. As a smart, healthy, single, slightly overweight and heavily sunburned young individual I see a lot of options for myself in the future. Choosing among them is not the easiest task, but it certainly is interesting. This post also serves as a reminder to me so that I won't be able to back down now that I've said all this. Can't take back what I said any more :D
Whenever I think of Japan and my experiences in Japan, there is always one Anime that enters my thoughts: Byousoku 5cm. I could talk a lot about the similarities between this anime and my own experiences in Japan: how I've been to all the places in the anime, how I've experienced similar situations and how I've grown since I've arrived here. The most important part for me is that it triggers memories of my best times in Japan, and there is no possible way I could convey that feeling to anyone else. Not in words, at least. So I'll just end with a simple message, to myself and to my readers.
Experience life. Enjoy it.