Monday, April 18, 2011

Departures & The Impermanence of Things

The night before a departure is always a time of tension for me.

I often find myself anxious and under-prepared. So many tasks, so many people to say goodbye to.. So little time.

Tomorrow is the day I return.

I will be getting up soon, but it's important to me to type my thoughts in the moment of tension. Writing warrants a fresh 'word' from my feelings in the present, in the thick of things.

Sames and Differents
After everything is said and done, I am only curious. All this time I have felt like a foreigner in a foreign land. Now, will I feel like a foreigner in my own land?

I can't remember all that is different in the Midwest, but here is a short list.

Here is a list of things I know (I think).
1  I can't wait to see my friends and loved ones at home
2  I will miss my new friends in my Tokyo home
3  I will miss Paul, Nancy, and Naomi
4  I will miss Japanese food; ramen, sushi, yaki soba, udon, etc....
5  I will enjoy understanding what people are talking about and what signs say
6  I will miss public transportation
7  I will enjoy having my car
8  I will hate how far away everything is by car
9  I will miss my girl bike
10  I will miss having my own apartment 
11  I will enjoy sleeping in a real bed (if I have a bed when I get back...)

Time Travel
More than a week ago I knew my attitude was changing. I knew it was time to switch into leaving mode. And I wanted to leave well.

One of the problems I often run into is not wanting my experience to be over, procrastinating my departure procedures, and ending up incredibly stressed out on the last night. I needed to find a way of dealing with "letting go" in a healthy way.

The mentality I settled on was a dichotomy. On one hand, I would live in the present--not worrying about all the things I have to do when I get back, but simply enjoying the relationships and environment I have established in the last two months. On the other hand, I remembered that once I blinked my eyes, I would be on the plane. Time would move mercilessly, sneaking through the night and ransacking by day. Suddenly, uneventfully, my time would be over. Would I be ready?

That brings me to today. I feel like I am actually ready.

One of the values of Japanese culture is that true beauty lies in the "impermanence of things."

Maybe it was the delicate, beautiful, and short-lived cherry blossoms that helped the Japanese discover this mantra..  maybe it was the Tale of Genji (see earlier Shimonoseki post), or maybe it was ancient Buddhism. Either way, some of the highest art in ancient Japanese tradition has valued this recognition of the fleeting nature of beauty.

That's one of the reasons this trip has been beautiful. It is a glorious fleeting moment in my life. The magic of this first encounter of Asia, my long-lost family, and the things I've learned will be hard to top.

Like I said, I can't wait to be back, but I'm sad to be going. Friendships quickly made are not as easily dismissed. Goodbyes are difficult and best kept short.

But it is late, and sleep is also impermanent, and short. Tomorrow brings a new day. There is still more thinking and writing to be done in the future.

This is only the beginning.

Michael out.


  1. We are excited to have you back! I am glad you had such a great experience, its amazing how one place can mean so much to a person.

  2. Beautiful, Mike! Very well put.

    We're excited to see you!

  3. ja mata ne!

    myra in lovely yokohama!