Monday, July 19, 2010


Something weird happened this weekend. Something that hadn't happened in a while.

I looked in the mirror and almost recognized myself.
I looked a little bit like I do in my mind's eye. It was kind of like, um hey, haven't seen you around lately. I missed you.

3 day weekend
30+ hours of sleep (more than the entire week before...)
300+ km of cycling (almost 200 miles)
mountains mountains mountains. a few summer thunderstorms. me and my bike up and away.

I'm reading a trashy book called "Eat, Pray, Love" and yes it is total feel good chick lit. It's also kind of good. In the middle of the weekend, I found myself thinking about a question that arises in the book. According to the story, every city and every person has a sort of central word to them. Rome apparently is 'sex' and New York is 'achieve.' So, to know yourself and how you relate to the city or town you live in, you must find your word.

As I climbed meter by meter up the passes and flew down, hugging the curves, valleys, rice fields floating away, it was a question I returned to. What is my word?

Of course we are all more complicated than a single word, as is every city, but when I started thinking about all the things that are important to me, the word I best came up with was 'motion.'

Not only am I happiest when I am physically moving, feeling like I'm moving in a direction for my 'career' or 'life' makes me happy. Though I think about leaving this job often, I can't bear the idea of doing something that doesn't teach me new skill, give me new experiences, keep me, well, in motion. I don't think the direction is so important, but the movement, the building towards something very much is.
(on top of a tiny little pass between Rt 121 and Rt249 in Tochigi on a road the internet claims does not exist)

I returned to work Tuesday morning, a bit worn out by the weekend but in a better mood than usual, well sorta. My brain has gone on 'summer break' mode as all the 'important' work is done and there are no more classes for the term. But teachers are still here. It's hard to focus on prepping for term 2 or about anything related to the job.

Within a few hours someone came to take little pictures of us for a brochure to advertise our special winter break optional classes. I'll be teaching on Christmas again and can't imagine it. I can't imagine being here in this school at all that long, I can't even imagine teaching second term, let along teaching on Christmas.

The picture they took of me looked nothing like me. I'm not sure who it was, but I didn't recognize her. I nearly burst into tears.

About a year ago, everything started to get really shaken up and the following identity crisis (though no need to be so dramatic about it all, right...) has lasted a whole year. The joy and fear and sweat of the jungle, followed by the privilege, the shallow tourism, the quiet age of Italy, the almost but not quite familiar feeling of the rain and family and friends in the Northwest, the fight in Tokyo to get the job, apartment, life I so wanted, and recently feeling down right betrayed by it all... a lot of things have kind of fallen apart a little in the last year. I feel betrayed by many of my choices --that is, except when I'm on my bike, in the mountains. Only then am I sure that this all was a good idea.

On the train home, exhausted but happy, I started to feel like I could begin to pick those pieces back up just a little. The feeling of mountain air at high speed, the smell of cedars (and sweat and sunscreen), the views that went on forever, growing confidence that I can climb and climb on my bike if I only put my mind to it and then sitting there alone on the train, with no shoulder to fall asleep on and no one to return home to, but also happy about that in my own way. Slowly breaking down those persistent fantasies that there is anyone that can save you other than yourself. Just lost in my own thoughts, quietly gathering and feeling the strength that I know hides inside somewhere.

I've spent a lot of time lost recently. But I'm also finding myself, little by little, in beautiful places.

(a glimpse of Mt. Fuji from on of my favorite country roads west of Tokyo)


Debra said...

You know, you really are amazing. I enjoy reading your take on life. Thanks for being willing to share.

Haddock said...

So nice to go cycling in such a wonderful place.