I received the following message, and I thought I should write about it in this blog.
"I was wondering if you could tell me how you got over with that period of uncertainty and home sickness when you first moved to Tokyo. I really think you're an inspiration, and I want to be as strong as you are when it comes to pursuing your dreams, but I'm a little shaky at the moment..."
First of all, thank you so much for your question. I think this is a feeling we can all connect to, for anyone who has had to move somewhere new, to a different stage in life. There is a shock at the sudden change, waves of doubt and worry, perhaps thoughts of "What am even I doing here and how am I going to achieve what I want?"
To be honest, uncertainty is always going to be there. At first regarding one thing, then wiped clean and attaching onto something else. It's about whether you can shrink it down and wrap up the influence of that uncertainty by the things you do. Push yourself in the direction you want to be going, even when it feels too heavy and impossible.
For some reason, homesickness has not been an issue for me. Maybe that's because I'm so used to moving around, leaving places behind, saying goodbyes already. Before coming to Tokyo, I'd already left the place I'd previously lived throughout high school for my college dorm, then apartment (albeit only about an hour by car from my parent's home! but it was a whole new world for me). All of my close high school friends were going off to different colleges, and I was starting over from zero, knowing not a single person. When I moved to Tokyo three years ago (wow, it's been three years this month!), the situation was similar. I did have a few friends in Tokyo already, but then this city is HUGE and it's hard to meet even your friends often, as everyone has their own busy schedules and live far away from each other. So essentially, I was pretty isolated from the start.
But somehow, I think the isolation can be useful to push you toward what you want. And to break out of the isolation itself, if that's what you desire. If you've moved or are planning to move into a new environment to go after your goals or dreams, then the best thing is to keep busy. Remember what you love to do, and just do it. No excuses.
Personally, if I find myself getting lazy or disorganized, I like to make little to-do lists and check them off one item at a time. Even when you're feeling low, it helps to get something small done, like doing the laundry, or turning in some paperwork, or cooking a healthy dinner. It may not seem like much at first, but you might be surprised at how much lighter and positive you'll feel after getting things done that you planned out yourself. That's because the tasks show that you can achieve what you put your mind to.
Thank you for the compliment, but I don't think I'm super strong at pursuing my dreams. I'm shaky too, even at this moment. I came to Tokyo for (well, supposedly) one purpose, and it changed and changed until I can't even put my finger on one single purpose anymore. Some might call that a failure. But I think that this is what happens in life - we always think we're running toward some goal until we hit a dead end, and then a thin and suspicious-looking alleyway opens up nearby that leads us into a completely different set of hopes and mindsets.
It's hard to change direction. It hurts. You've invested so much of your plans and time and heart, you wonder if there's not some way to salvage things, you ache... but I've come to see that you just need to take what life throws at you and run with it. Instead of wasting time lamenting the past, think of all the possibilities still waiting to be brought to life in your future.
Think of it this way. It's the unknown, new places, the challenging situations, the painful experiences that bring out the very essence of who you are. What are you going to do now, and how are you going to get through this? Are you going to follow what others want, or what you want? Are you going to give up and take the easy way out, or hold tight to your beliefs and listen to your heart?
How to go after your dreams... it's nothing that anyone can tell you. You have to believe in what you do the most. You're the only one who knows what's most right for you. So trust in that voice, try new things, make mistakes and learn from them. Move on to the next step. Fall down some more, but get up again even more times.
When you're lost, when you feel like the whole world has gone grey and lost its taste, only a bland veil enveloping everything...
Pick up what it is that fulfills you, that adds a little light into your soul.
As for me, I pick up a book. Or a pencil to write. Or I pick up my camera. My guitar.
When you don't have the strength even for those, and you're feeling like the loneliest person in the whole world, just don't be afraid to ask for strength. Remember your friends, your family. Your classmates or coworkers. It doesn't have to be something profound, but a simple conversation, a small laugh shared, might help change things in your mind. Might make you feel it's still worth it to get up and fight another day. Knowing you have their support, and realizing that you always have your own support.
You are beautiful.
It doesn't matter if you think you're weak.
You are strong.
You can get back the feelings you've lost.
You can regain the passion you used to know.
And you can be the person that you want to be.
I leave you with this scene from the French movie Angel-A, which I watched recently and loved.
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