I’ve done a lot of thinking over the past couple weeks about how to write this post. If you follow me on Twitter, you know Craig and I got quite the shock last month when we were asked if we’d move back to the U.S. Craig was offered an amazing work opportunity we simply couldn’t pass up, but it means cutting our time in Tokyo short by more than a year.
It’s taken me a while to post about this because I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to sum up how I feel about it. The best I can come up with is that this move has been met with a lot of mixed emotions on my part and more than a few tears have been shed (both happy and sad).
Let’s start with how I found out.
I was sitting in the airport in Seoul during my two-hour layover on the way to NYC when Craig called to deliver the news, news that arrived less than six months after we moved into a new apartment we adored and a neighborhood we really felt at home in. My first reaction was “Well, you can’t not take it,” which came out despite the massive lump in my throat. I was so instantly filled with pride, but not shock, because I always knew what he was capable of. I then boarded a 14-hour flight bombarded with thoughts of having to find a new apartment, and driving again in snow. Good god, the snow. I joked with a friend during that trip that when we left Tokyo, we would have to turn in our cool cards at customs.
After weeks of thinking and negotiation and drafting of a contract, it’s done: We’re officially moving back to Michigan, our home state, at the end of December. Holy shit.
When people ask us what these (almost) three years have been like living in Tokyo, we always describe it this way: The first year was stressful and confusing and seemed to crawl by. The second year we got more comfortable and was a breeze as we came out of our shells. The third year we both really seemed to hit our strides and it was over before we knew it. Now we have just two months left in Japan and I still can’t believe it. There’s still so much we wanted to see and do, lists that may never get checked off now (you know I love my lists) and there’s a pit in my stomach that stems from a fear we didn’t make the most of our time here. I think about the early days, when the thought of trying to go grocery shopping, or to mail something at the post office, or trying to find somewhere to eat lunch on my own would send me into a panic. There were many hours and days spent on my couch watching television, feeling completely alone and like I was living in a fish tank at the same time.
But then the friends came and the work came and with that, the bravery came. The feeling of home settled in and we finally exhaled when we would land back in Tokyo after some time away. I got to experience a reinvention of sorts and that’s what I have to say has been hard to think about leaving behind. Am I different person? I certainly think so. Will that person fit back in the place where I grew up? I’ve always felt like a square peg in a round hole in Michigan.
And then there are all the things this experience has taught us about partnership, marriage and each other. Will we lose our sense of adventure? Will we lose our feelings of urgency to work out every conflict because of our great need for each other’s support in a place where we lack a safety net?
The joy we feel about returning to friends and family is a given in this situation. We’re elated to be able to call the people we love in the moment when we want to speak with them and that they’re no longer separated from us by oceans and multiple time zones. Being a greater part of our nieces’ and nephews’ lives will be the greatest reward of all.
I guess what I’m saying is, well, I still get scared. I’m scared of the complacency that can come with familiarity. I’m scared of one day being angry about being the one who “trailed.” But then, I snap out of it and remember everything this experience has given us and how what we’ve learned and accomplished here will serve us going forward. I’ll be sharing plenty of my favorite things about Japan in the coming months, so I won’t get into the countless things and people I will miss just yet.
We don’t always get to decide when one chapter of our lives ends. We don’t always get to go down the path we wanted and we’re not always ready when opportunity knocks. But I do get to choose how this chapter impacts all those to come and that’s why I plan to fill the next three years with just as much adventure as the last.