Hello, hello! It’s been a while right?!
I took a little unannounced mental health break from blogging (and largely from social media) to help me adjust to the big move home and after being home for over a month, I think I’m ready to get back to it!
I wanted to write a quick update to keep you guys informed, to poke my toe back into the pool of writing and to process a little bit of what’s been going on. Writing has always been a space for me, like a physical space I can occupy and fill with my own thoughts and imagination. It’s a space that I haven’t visited for a while, but I’ve been longing for every day.
As I’m writing this, I can already feel that warmth, starting at my fingers and seeping through my body; the comfy, fuzzy warmth of home. Alongside the warmth, is a static-y buzz, like a low-key electric shock. Coming back to writing has me feeling comforted and motivated at the same time.
So, what’s been going on? Putting it simply, a lot!
I’m not going to beat around the bush, it’s been tricky. I had a lot of emotions before leaving Japan and a lot of them are still here as I try to adjust to life back in the UK.
It’s no exaggeration to say that I left Japan in a bit of a tizz. For obvious reasons, my original flight was cancelled and I was offered another flight, the last flight available for the foreseeable future. It was leaving in less than 24 hours of me being told. This meant that I had to squish three days’ worth of preparation and fare-welling into what remained of just the one day.
People that I had dedicated a whole day to say goodbye to were crammed into an hour or two and it really didn’t do them justice for all of their kindness to me during my stay. On top of this, the Kuma area where I lived was still grappling to recover from the floods and landslides that had crippled it a few weeks prior. My emotional goodbyes felt a lot heavier than they would have been and my balance of bitter and sweet seemed off.
I think a bit of an emotional shield went up at that point.
I could feel myself numbing as a way to cope with everything that was happening and, honestly, I think that numbness is what I’ve been struggling to shift ever since. Maybe even the struggles I’ve been having is all that emotion flooding back?
As my flight home descended and I looked on London, the apparent epicentre of Britishness (I’m a Northern girl all the way so apologies for my biased tone), I was definitely conflicted. London has never been a familiar place to me but the brickwork of the terraced houses and the overcast greyness was something I recognised straight away. Another thing I noticed was how flat the land of London is compared to the mountainous, green Kyushu.
I stood in line after line at the airport, filled in my COVID-19 forms, got my bags and stepped out of the arrivals gate to see my sister and mum. It was like no time had passed as we clumsily hugged, bundled my bags into the car and clambered our way through London traffic.
I was happy to see them, but there were a lot of things weighing me down. Someone I care a lot about didn’t call to welcome me home, some friends didn’t realise I was back and one friend had decided before I’d returned that we could no longer be friends. Meanwhile I knew those people I cared about in Japan were struggling.
After half an hour of driving we arrived at a hotel. The people there were strangers, the food portions were big and I felt out-of-sorts, but still trying to stay positive. The next day, when we got home-home (to the familiar North) the alienation faded, but was replaced with the undeniable lack of my dad.
Overall, I felt deflated.
This deflated feeling carried on for longer than I expected and it started to worry me.
Catching up with family and friends was difficult across a 2m social distance and it took away some of the joy of coming home. That said, I still managed to see some people and even across the safe space, I could feel their love.
My experience of coming home has been quite different from that predicted by JET’s Reverse Culture Shock graph, which I suppose is understandable. I basically just skipped the big peak you’re supposed to get when you return to your home country and went straight downhill.
For some useful advice on battling RCS click this Kyoto JETs link.
Trying to adjust to the practical side of returning to the UK has been more difficult than I expected too with everyone and everything here seeming… more.
There are more people and the people here are generally bigger. There are a LOT more choices in the supermarkets, which I know I was expecting, but I don’t think I was fully ready for. I can understand more when I’m out and about like conversations, posters, billboards which I didn’t expect would be as distracting as I’ve found it to be. Even with my living situation, there’s more furniture, rooms and tenants in my mum’s house (mum, 3 cats and 1 dog!)
It’s been overwhelming and has, more often than I’d hoped, left me wandering if I made the right decision to come back.
It’s been a struggle. The struggle of coming back to a country that used to be home and trying to make it home again. It’s the struggle of realising that I’ve changed or even outgrown some relationships that I once fitted right into. It’s resisting the temptation of food convenience and unhealthy stuff or trying to seem ‘normal’ by eating out with people (even if I’m worried about my food intake). It’s the struggle of finding a job which actually feels like work and takes effort to wake up in the morning to go. It’s the struggle of being in a place that holds so many memories of my dad and seeing up close the glaring hole of his absence.
I keep saying to people that I feel like a round peg trying to squeeze into a square hole. I found myself desperately trying to accommodate the life I used to have, to find normality.
Yet, recently there has been a change. By pushing on, trying to understand myself, forgive myself and fall in love with my surroundings I’ve started to carve out my own light at the end of this tunnel of displacement.
I’ve realised that the problem is in that effort to try and squeeze myself into a space where I no longer belong. Why go through all this growth and change to then curse myself for it? Instead, I’m deciding to accept the change and growth. Of course it’s going to be uncomfortable for a little while, that’s the growing pains.
I’ve achieved so much in the last few years of my life and its a disservice to me, my family and my dad to disregard that to try and fit in. Besides, where’s the fun in fitting in?!
I’m starting to have fun in sculpting out a new lifestyle; a hybrid of Japan and the UK, combining the things I love from both. I’ve licked my wounds long enough and I’m telling myself to get back on it, to plan ahead, appreciate the present and cherish the past.
I know that I’m not the only one feeling out-of-sorts recently and you don’t need to move across the world to feel that way. We all have changes and regrets, but they’re the reason that you’re alive right now and reading this. They shouldn’t weigh you down and if they do, pick them up and carve them into beautiful accessories of your life.
Things are hard right now, but even if you’re at rock bottom you have your absolute best mate and number one fan eagerly waiting your comeback. That supporter is you! So don’t let yourself down!