Category Archives: Japan Happenings

Being Alone and Lonely in Japan: An Introvert’s Perspective

 

Listen, you’ll need bottles of cheap wine, 500+ tracks of good music, some of it mindless like 2000s pop, a deeper appreciation for introversion, a good activity to speed up time—mine is writing (thank God or else I would’ve jumped in front of a Shinkansen already)—Netflix playing in the background, a quick dismissal of whatever qualms you’ve had about talking to yourself in public, your Kindle to tackle all that reading you’ve long neglected, and a big healthy dose of IDGAF anymore because it’s that serious.

Loneliness and being alone.

Two different concepts but living in a small town in Japan, I can no longer tell the difference.

Being alone is loving your own company because you think you’re the coolest even when you’re not, but it doesn’t matter. You must believe you’re the coolest if you’re going to get onboard with being alone.

You relish the silence that comes once you’ve entered your place after work. You don’t want to bang your head over the deafening sound of your endlessly rolling thoughts.

You can relax, stretch your limbs, get stuff done, eat ugly, forget the pants, and curse loudly at the stupidity of whatever show you’re watching. Sleep late or early. Read or waste time on YouTube videos or scrolling through Facebook.

No one is there to nag you. No one is there to ask you for any favors. No one is there to annoy you. No one is there to judge you.

No. One. Is. There.

Back home, I enjoyed being alone. But here in Japan, it’s a different story because I’m alone every day even when I’m with people, sometimes especially when I’m with people.

Back home, I’m not alone every day because when I’m over being alone, I can go ahead and be with people I love and enjoy talking with. I can take a break from being alone. I have a choice.

But here, six thousand plus miles away from people who like hugging (I’m a hugger; people aren’t huggers here), who can keep me engaged in a good conversation, and who have a strong connection with the real me, I can’t take a break from being alone. Guess what happens? My time alone eventually turns into the beast called loneliness.

Hold on tight because I’m about to drop some bombs about loneliness in Japan, especially when you live in a rural town where the most exciting thing is an earthquake tremor.

First, let me get this one simple thought out of the way: being lonely in Japan sucks.

Okay, now we can go ahead and hit the deeper points.

1.) Communication:

If I ever plan to live in a foreign country where the people don’t speak either French, English, or Spanish, I’ll make sure to be enrolled in real, not online, language classes. My Japanese ability is enough to get me by and fulfill essential needs: shopping, eating out, traveling, and banking.

But a person needs more to maintain a healthy mind. A person needs conversations that go beyond likes and dislikes and what you think about Japan or why you’re here.

After answering these questions multiple times, you don’t want to talk to anyone anymore. You instead end up talking to yourself since you’re under the impression that you’re the most interesting person you know.

Just kidding, of course. Maybe.

There have been times when I didn’t make any attempt to start a conversation because I knew it wouldn’t lead anywhere significant. I chose to stay quiet and only talk when spoken to.

As an introvert, keeping up a superficial conversation drains so much energy out of me. It augments my depression and feelings of loneliness. In fact, relief  spreads all over me when the conversation ends.

Of course, I talk with my family and friends back home and it helps a great deal, sometimes even saves my life. But nothing can match the simple joy of talking to someone in person, seeing each other’s eyes, smiles, funny grimaces, and feeling each other’s energies.

Here, I am no better than a talking doll with a string you can pull on her back. A doll’s probably more alive, though.

2.) Weekends:

In a previous post, I wrote about how Japan has been great for my writing in term of getting the words down. Why? Because my weekends consist mostly of drinking white wine, cleaning my apartment, and writing.

I’ve written more than I’ve ever had here. It’s the result of not having my weekends booked with the laughter and joy of family and friends. Instead, it’s me, the laptop, and a fiery passion to get work done.

Writing is great. I love it to death. You all know that already. But my sanity needs more than writing. In fact, too much writing has made me colder, more introverted (yes, that can be a bad thing; balance is key, people), and a tad more obsessed with writing itself, which I didn’t think was even possible considering how passionate I am already.

I’m sad to say that I’ve also lost a good chunk of interest in traveling to other cities here. Depression does that to you. Robs you of things you once enjoyed like traveling and exploring new places (thank goodness it hasn’t taken writing yet; the universe knows I’d end it if I lost that). So I prefer to stay in and write at my desk or sit in the corner of my favorite café in town and spend hours writing there.

Another culprit behind my not traveling so much is having to do it alone. This is hard for me to admit, but I don’t like traveling alone.

Kudos to those who can do it, but it’s not for me. I can live alone, no problem, but traveling alone pushes me further into my head and thoughts, which makes me talk out loud more than I’m comfortable with before I can check myself.

If I do have to travel alone, it needs to be in nature with a sparse sprinkling of folks. I can’t stay in crowded places or else I’ll suffocate. So it’s hard to explore a new city because those have lots of people, right? What can I do except run away back to my room where—spoiler alert—no people.

But if I’m with someone, my mind takes a break from the crowds and inner thoughts to focus on the person beside me. I feel better and can endure a trip for quite a long time. I become a happy traveler.

3.) Daily Life:

No. I don’t exist in my daily life. Reality doesn’t exist in my daily life. Nothing exists in my daily life. Monday morning through Friday night is known as THE VOID, the zenith of my loneliness. I escape it somewhat unscathed on Friday nights with lots of wine.

They say life is what you make it. Yeah, well, I’m hanging by my teeth on the highest ledge of the Burj Khalifa to make it through the rest of my stay here in Japan. But the key to surviving this great leviathan called loneliness is not giving in to it.

Never give in, just keep pushing and another day will come one after the other until it’s all over, and you can go back and ask yourself, “What the hell was I doing with my life then?”

Living. You were living and you keep doing it, except way smarter this time around.

So, what are your experiences with being alone and lonely? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Samantha

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Having My Bike Stolen Renewed My Hope

Can you spot my missing bike?
Can you spot my missing bike?

My bike got stolen in a bike yard next to Ushikubo Station. It was my fault for not locking it in place, but I honestly didn’t believe it would ever get stolen. I live in Japan, a place known for returned lost wallets and purses. My trust in such a stereotype cost me my bike, and now I have to buy a new one.

I searched through the bike yard exactly three times because I refused to believe someone took and rode it away. I thought maybe I had forgotten where I had left it. While going through every single bicycle, I noticed about 90% were unlocked just like mine. 90% of other bikers believed their bikes were safe from thieves because why would anyone take what wasn’t theirs here? It’s almost inconceivable.

Maybe life wanted to teach me a lesson that no matter where I go, I need to be careful and not lower my guard so much. It’s tiring sometimes to always be on alert and cautious. I wanted to trust everything would be all right, but that’s not how reality works.

Walking home to my apartment, I asked why me out of all those bikes in the yard?

I found myself taking a positive angle to answer the question. Maybe I would’ve been hit by a car or truck if I rode my bike that night. I’m still a bit skittish on the road, so maybe I would’ve made a wrong move and bye bye life. Maybe the universe was answering a wish of mine to get a new bike soon, but why take the bike out of my life in such an inconvenient time? I really didn’t want to spend money right now with a tight budget hovering over my head. However, a bike fulfills my basic transportation needs, so I have to get a new one.

I wanted to get angry, but I didn’t have the energy or room in my heart for it. I simply let out a frustrated sigh that night and forced my tired legs to walk home. It wasn’t so bad. Just a thirty-minute walk that I’d complete in ten if I had my bike.

On the way home, in addition to taking a positive angle, I thought about how my situation here is pretty good. I live in a peaceful town with a lovely river bank for running; people are friendly; I get more writing done than ever before; I don’t work more than five hours a day; and my pace is chill.

This one negative incident couldn’t dare match up to the positives of my life here. Sometimes I forget the loud noises in life: flashy tech, hip clothes, stress over other people’s opinions, unhealthy comparisons, chasing the golden goose, and so on.

I live with more attention to each present action I make. Taking a shower, chopping vegetables, making coffee, feeling the pavement hit the soles of my feet as I walk, acknowledging strangers with a smile and a nod, savoring each bite of good food and desserts, and even something simple as locking my door before I leave.

Every action has taken a life of its own, amplifying living in ways I didn’t know was possible. Instead of looking for the big, amazing events to happen, I appreciate the million little activities and take delight in being able to do such things, take delight in living with full awareness.

A long time ago, I would’ve lost my temper at having my bike stolen. I would’ve probably huffed and puffed about it all the way home instead of experiencing a cool night stroll. I would’ve felt sorry for myself for being so unlucky. (This is the second time I’ve had a bike stolen.) I would’ve been a bomb of negative energy waiting to explode, putting life on pause for one bad incident out of a million awesome events.

But life kept going. My mind focused and fingers typing, I pumped out six hundred words in my new novel that night in addition to 1200 words earlier in the day. An 1800 WC for the day is a great accomplishment for this writer.

I don’t need to let the bad poison my life and cripple me. I can choose to keep going, believing everything will work out in the end. And even if more negatives pop up one after the other, I’ll handle them, looking at each through a positive perspective, and help lift myself up to keep going, to keep experiencing the million little gifts given to me each day.

I guess this how I know I’m where I need to be right now. I’ve made a decision to help my growth by moving here, and I can see the real effects of doing so. I’m truly at peace. For a misfit soul as mine who shrivels up from not being able to pursue her dreams, I’ve found a place where I can achieve the creative heights I’ve set for myself, something I strangely couldn’t do back home.

I enjoy good runs here.
I enjoy good runs here.

I’m not saying we should move halfway around the world to find what we need. Simply, we should take time to know ourselves as much as possible and be brave enough to give ourselves what we need whether it be peace or the fuel to keep a passion or dream going.

Why waste time doing anything else? We might just find that elusive blessing in whatever has been lost.

What have you lost that has unexpectedly given something to you?

Stay Amazing,

Sammy

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Be sure to look out for my e-book, The Passionate Dreamer’s Notebook: For Those Who Refuse to Quit, coming out soon!