I’ve spent almost half my life in rural Japan. When I arrived over 20 years ago, I declared that I was never going to leave. Something about it made me feel like I was home. I don’t know what that “something” was, but I never felt it in my hometown in the UK.
I blinked, and the years passed. Life kept me busy, I worked – taught English, translated, wrote, published, I studied, I paid my taxes, health and pension premiums, saw my friends every now and then, practiced and taught karate, went running, joined gyms. I got on with the business of leading a life.
Now, as I find myself approaching the “half a life” milestone, I have started to think…what if….what if I packed up and left? What if I just walked out of my life, and into a new one? I could start one anywhere – my hometown, London, Paris, Seoul, Moscow, Hong Kong…. I could go anywhere. What’s stopping me?
Apart from feeling a Sartrean anxiety because of the freedom I have, I feel like, well, I feel like this is where I’m meant to be. I go running along the lake in the middle of the city at sunset and can’t bear the thought of the sun setting and me not being there. Of life in the city going on without me. And what about my friends? They would get on with life as normal. I would probably see them on Facebook, and the odd occasion when I visited. I would miss so much in this beautiful place that I have called home for so long.
Another reason is that I have permanent residency here. It took a long time to get that. I had to put in the years. Could I possibly hand the card over and walk out of the country, without an ounce of regret? No, definitely not. I also have built my financial life here. My pension is here, my investments are here, my businesses are here. I have a lot to lose financially. Sure, I could start again, but I have the feeling that I have left it too late.
Friends who have left after a long period in the country have all gone through adjustment periods which last 1-2 years. Can I afford to do that? Do I want to do that? Which raises the question – what on earth would I do if I left? I got on the plane at Heathrow 21 years ago as a monolingual. I’d be boarding the plane out of Japan as a bilingual. So I guess I’d do something Japanese-related. But what?
I think I’ve reached the age and the time spent here when people start to question what they are doing with their lives. I have the feeling that it is now or never. That I have to make a decision one way or the other. I am free to choose. How lucky am I, that I get to choose what to do with my life? I think, deep down, I have already made the decision. But still, I think….what if…..?