My coworker asks me if I'm happy to be leaving and I pause, not for dramatic effect, but because it's not so easy to say. I mean, I'm happy now with what I know and do everyday. I teach children I adore (well, 90% of them) like my darling Korean 2 year old
In the last class she slowly listed to herself in Japanese, "this is Kori sensei's head. this is Kori sensei's hand... etc." while touching what she was saying. I love her.
My first graders are as funny but in a totally different way, of course. They are attracted to violence and grossness whenever possible but are so eager to please and be praised.
and for me, unlike the vast majority of teachers who have ever left this school, the hardest part of leaving Japan is saying goodbye to these kids. they have changed me so much. I've become both more adult, in terms of being responsible and calm in stressful situations, but also much more joyful and silly.
My 28 year old biological clock is pounding in my ears.
I will miss them a lot. Unlike many friends who are indefinitely staying in Japan or my adult students, who I will also miss, if/when I come back to Japan I can't call up the kids to just "hang out." It is extremely unlikely that I will be able to continue to have any sort of relationship with them after I leave.
So it that way, I'm sad to be leaving. In that way, it feels down right heart breaking some days.
But on the other hand, I'm beginning to cast off the negativeness of a lot of the adults that I'm consistently around. Not all my friends and coworkers are happy with their lives here and I can't help but take that on. But recently, as I throw out garbage bag after garbage bag of stuff, I'm feeling lighter. I am beginning to shake off the dark clouds are rediscover the beauty of things exactly as they are.
My apartment is such a wreck and on Sunday my friends and acquaintances come to take anything deemed not trash. I still have an almost insurmountable amount of work to do before 3pm Sunday, but the sorting has been and is good for me. It's hard but it's good. After all, most of it is just stuff after all. some of it is heavy with sentimentality and history and that transforms it, but most of it is just stuff.
I feel I've lost some joy and zest in the last year but I know that it's on its way back. With every well loved but faded and now too big for me piece of clothing I throw out, I feel a little better. (I've lost a lot of weight in the last year and things don't fit right anymore.)
I've re-read all of the letters I've found and have kept the ones that mean the most to me. But some I've thrown out, not because they aren't of value but to make more room. When we keep everything, it tends to get dustier, I find. With too many thing, they all become part of a whole. A box of letters is a heavy box; a handful of letters is somehow more precious to me. and so the sorting goes. If it brings tears to my eyes, I keep it.
So, I'm happy to shake the dust of things, face how I feel and decide what's important. It's been a shaky month. I've been re-reading my favorite books. I miss my mom horribly and wish I could ask her many things. Perhaps she'd tell me I'm going to get myself killed in South America, though... but probably not. She always listened to what I meant, not just my words.
I land in Santiago, Chile on her birthday, Jan 16th. From there, the adventures continue.
I'm filled with joy and hope and excitement but it's not exactly happiness. It's more complicated that that. With every goodbye there's a little r-i-p of itwillneverbethesameagain. (to paraphrase a favorite poet) but the road rises up to meet me and vivid South America waits to challenge everything I know in ways I can't imagine.
The story redefines itself and "skewed snapshots of tokyo" will soon take a new name. It's no longer a story of a girl who thought she'd be a scientist and accidentally became a teacher.
It's now a story of a single 28 year old heading out on the road in search of wisdom, dancing, and tri-lingualism. I'm a teacher. I will probably always be. My biological clock may be pounding in my ears but Argentian tango music is pulling at my heart. Most days, I can't imagine not coming back to live in Japan again, as it feels more like home than anywhere.... but there are many places I haven't been yet.
I don't know where this path will lead but I'm sure that I want to start down it.
the adventures continue... wish me luck