The four suitcases left for the airport yesterday. Three days ago, we trundled three boxes of books and personal papers and nearly gave the postmaster a heart attack when we announced we wanted to ship them via sea to California from this small Japanese countryside office. Tomorrow night, the recycle shop guy will come out with his truck and take away the washer machine, refrigerator, rice cooker and dehumidifier. We’ve hauled at least fifteen Japanese-sized bags of trash and donation items to the pickup cage. The only thing left on the wall is my mind map of Silence of Elysium. Tuesday, Knyght works his last day and I’ll have nothing to do, except fret, job search and write, so up it stays until Tuesday night.
Moving is similar to a religious experience. It will make you stronger or show you all your cracks. The same with your relationships. I’m grateful that somehow, through the sands of time, I’m taking this move with Knyght. I’ve made a few moves in my life. This will be the thirteenth major move I’ve made. I’m twenty-six. Six of those moves have been international. This will be the seventh. Every time you pack the suitcase, you have to discard things. You decide what you’re willing to pay to keep and what you hold fondly for a few moments and lay respectfully aside to go into the rubbish bin.
You can never take everything with you.
I wouldn’t want to.
Last night, Knyght and I went to a farewell barbecue held by a group of friends, a network around one family and a lot of friends that might as well be family. I’ve only known them for eighteen months but they’ve known Knyght for three years and we’ve heard of each other before I lived here. I love them. Genuine, funny, self deprecating humor, rousing good nature and the ability to accept each other for what each person is. They’re crazy, sometimes. And it’s wonderful.
The children ran around and held their own little party at a smaller table away from the open pit barbecue where they couldn’t be hurt. The adults drank beer and sake sours and took turns turning beef, fish, chicken, onions, leeks, eggplant and mushrooms on the grates. Others fanned the coals. The wind blew cold, but for a few hours, not hard enough to force everyone inside. One guy, I’ll call him CS, showed up with his gardener truck and gave Knyght a present of riding up on the lift, into the dark sky, high above the two story house of the host. We cheered and pretended Knyght was leaving us to go to the moon. Later, inside the house, there was a mock fight with toy katanas that I and several others were involved in. Liberal use of a black marker turned CS into a mock up of a Buddhist demon and we took pictures of him posing. I’m think I sort of started it. They asked me to write his nickname on his back in English. Somehow that turned into me drawing a silly pictograph and it took off from there. He grabbed my bottom liberally several times, so I used Aikido to pin him and let his cute and loving wife “punish” him. Our friend, S, Knyght and I talked about history and future expirations. He’s opening his own restaurant, come the end of the summer. Knyght and I offered to host some of the kids in America when they reach the point they want to study abroad. Later, when general silliness had taken hold for a few minutes, Knyght picked CS up and told me we were taking him home, to the cheering of certain people. I grinned and said “ok” while CS bellowed and received no mercy from anyone. One little tyke tried to drink his father’s beer. Everyone pitched in rescuing him from his own curiosity and cleaning up the mess. Knyght got sleepy and turned into a puppy. S had way too much fun snapping his fingers and making him bark. I hugged one friend and whispered good luck in her ear, as she’s pregnant but it’s not yet general knowledge while they wait to see if their much awaited baby makes it. Knyght arm wrestled with two guys who do physical work for a living and lost every time.
So much good cheer and genuine affection, floating and bubbling along with an undercurrent of sadness, longing and the dark of the unknown.
None of us knows what’s coming.
Will the restaurant pan out for S?
Can CS start his own business or will he be pay for his daughter’s college first?
Can my friend with her baby stay healthy and be well?
Will Knyght and I be successful in a new city?
Will we ever see each other again? Is this the last moment? The final farewell?
We hugged. Some of us cried. There were pictures taken and video farewell and presents. We rode off into the dark on our bicycles towards our mostly empty apartment and crawled onto the floor futon and cuddled in the dark, both thinking and feeling and trying not to.
Because it’s too much to take in at once and too significant not to.
This is the nature of leaving. This loss, this sadness. This yawning dark unknown. Friday, Knyght and I step onto a plane, heading for a new city. It’s actually the one where I was born, but it’s been eighteen years since I lived there. It’s changed. I’ve changed. We’re fortunate, indeed, that I have family there, some place to sleep while we figure out the future. It’s been a long, fruitless search for work since last August when Knyght and I started looking to leave the English as a Second Language industry. The reason we’re leaving Japan is because we can’t find work here that isn’t teaching ESL. If you want to know why we’re leaving ESL, listen to our podcast here. Still, it remains to be seen from where the next paycheck is coming. The one company that Knyght had been talking to since January made a 180 at the last minute, after we had finalized everything including salary, leaving us a bit high and dry. You can do everything you’re suppose to and still find yourself holding the short end of the stick. So, it’s uncertainty and the fight to thrive that we’re facing, again.
I’m grateful, in a way for this uncertainty, even while I would have never wished for this and have tried hard to avert this state of affairs. We’ve had so many close calls for jobs and lived on the edge of moving or not moving for the last seven months. It’s forced Knyght and I to look at the world and shake our heads at what we’ve been taught and raised to think about as far as job security and personal fulfillment. Instead of spending eight hours a day writing cover letters for jobs I know I’ll hate, I’ve been spending eight or twelve hours a day writing, editing, building this site and researching. Johnny, Sean and Dave at the Self Publishing Podcast are old friends in my headphones. Simon at Rocking Self Publishing is a soothing presence in my ear. I’ve read some wonderful indie books like Emperor’s Edge, The Island, and The Angels’ Pride over the last few months. Over a thousand people showed up to read my last chapter I posted free online (NSFW). Knyght has been putting together contacts around the world in the indie gaming industry, building the nucleus of his own future business. We’ve both been learning and experimenting, sharing between us what’s worked and not worked. Every young person who talks to us about their futures gets the same message from both of us. A degree is awesome to have, but get some skills and don’t trust anybody is going to give you a job. Begging for a paycheck is a soul crushing ritual. My sense is that the era of people just assuming they’re going to find employment working for someone else is passing.
There’s another job or two working for the man for each of us, and then we’re done. You could say we’ve learned our lesson. No more relying on the good will of someone else to hire us or good luck that our resume comes up in the first ten randomly selected files.
These past 12 months, as our contracts wrapped up or in my case, I gave notice, have not just been farewell to a lifestyle, a country and an industry, it’s also farewell to a sense of security and a mindset we were born to. It’s been an evolving process. And just as we pack our suitcases and hug our dear friends goodbye, we’ve kissed certain philosophies, ideas and ideals goodbye also. Some things we’re leaving behind because they belong to a place and an era, like our much abused futon and some things we’re leaving behind because they no longer serve, like my tattered winter coat.
Not everything can come with us.
And sometimes, it’s the right thing to look fondly at the pile on the rubbish heap and walk away.
It’s good to hug a dear friend and promise to see each other again, because letting go and letting grow is more loving than selfish clinging. Better to have loved and lost than never loved at all.
Periodically, we all must examine the contents of our emotional, spiritual and idealistic suitcases and decide what still fits, what’s been proven wrong, what no longer applies and what should be added because the road has changed. For me, I go through this process each time I pack my physical suitcase. Having come and gone and on occasions, returned, in various communities as I have, I can see lives that are rarely ever examined and homes that are never gone through and purged. New growth can rarely start in such a state. Day to day, we collect and fill ourselves with ideas, content, random items, gifts, inheritances and clutter. I honestly believe that we’re weighed down by it. When this time of physically traveling is over and I have the privilege of keeping friends physically closer, I hope to never lose these lessons I’ve learned packing my suitcase and consciously choosing what to keep, who to make the effort to stay in contact with and what to hang onto in my beliefs.
So this is leaving. This is the pain of loss and cleansing and the fear of the unknown.
This is a chance to do something we would never dare if life was easy.