Finding Balance in This New (Expat) Life

Yesterday, I got home sick.  Not even really sure what brought it on, nothing significant happened yesterday.  So far life in Japan has been pretty fantastic, but yesterday I missed home.  I’m fairly certain that it was because I FaceTimed with my dad over the weekend, while he was checking in on our house.  I’ve been thinking about our house lately and things I miss about it, but I think that actually seeing it made me miss it even more.  Thankfully, today our sea shipment arrives and I will hopefully start getting this apartment feeling more like home.

When I started this blog I started it to document this exciting time for John and I.  It’s also a way for our friends and family to keep up with what is going on with us on the other side of the world.  Therefore, I feel that I owe it justice to talk about some of the negative aspects of this life.  There aren’t very many and like I’ve said before I love this journey we are on, but I wouldn’t be human if I thought that everyday was amazing or I didn’t get home sick.  Because at the end of the day I’m thousands of miles from home, it’s summer time in Michigan (which is the best time), and I’m craving Buddy’s Pizza.  This is reality and here are my thoughts on balancing the good and bad with expat life.

I recently had a really nice afternoon with two other expat wives that I met here in Nagoya.  All of whom are in different phases of their ICT’s.  One of the things that I’ve found interesting about this whole experience is the views of others and how they see their time in Japan, good and bad.  Since my time in Nagoya is still very new and I’m still learning the ways of life over here I’d have to say there are probably two big struggles, balance of my day to day life and finding ways to process the difficult days.

I’ve been posting a lot of photos and doing so many different things that I don’t tend to let the difficult parts of this experience show.   At this point I’ve been keeping busy, but there are at least a couple days during the week where I will literally do not have a conversation with another human being or leave the house except to go to the grocery store or to run needed errands.  For a lot of people maybe this sounds great and the thoughts of “I wish I could do that” cross their mind, but for someone who worked full time and had a life outside of the home, this has been a challenge, especially in a country where I don’t speak the language.

One of the biggest things I’ve missed about America is how easy things can be.  I’m talking about things like going to the grocery store or taking clothes to the cleaners, or just going out to dinner. Sometimes just going to the grocery store can be such a challenge.  There have been multiple occasions where I just stand in an aisle staring blankly at stuff trying to figure out if I can use it or not. Who would have thought grocery shopping would be such a headache?  Everything is just 10x more difficult because I don’t speak Japanese.  Which I’m hoping to rectify as soon as I start my language lessons.  Goals.

My other challenge is balancing the good with the bad.  I love expat life, I love trying new things, I love seeing the world, I like Japan, but there are still many struggles that I have. Imagine going out daily and most of the time completely missing the point of because a) you don’t speak the language, b) attempting constant patients because you are trying not to loose it because you have no idea what is going on, and c) the internal struggle of trying to make face and be respectful ALL THE TIME.  Ok maybe that’s a little intense but trying to have your game face on and be totally understanding all the time is hard.  It’s just hard and the language barrier and cultural difference is at the center of this struggle.  I’m not exactly sure how to put it into words for people who have never lived this life, but I would be willing to bet that most expats know exactly what I’m talking about.

Lastly, communication.  I find that some of my biggest struggles, besides missing my family and friends, relates to communication and the language barrier.  This also applies to life at home.  John and I are both struggling in different ways, him with work and getting used to his new environment and role and mine at home.  We are here together, without family, or people to lean on, all we have is each other.  How do we communicate our struggles without making the other one feel bad.  It’s a true dance friends and a good test for ones marriage.  I’m very proud to say that overall John and I have done a great job with this.  I never had doubts that we wouldn’t be able to work through it and I’m so thankful for this experience for us and our marriage, but man oh man is it work.

What brought all this negativity out you ask? Well, the truth is, is that the good days defiantly make all the bad days worth it, so it’s hard to talk about the bad days because at the end of the day I love my life in Japan.  I just feel that I owe justice to the experience to talk about the bad days and that it’s not this amazing life that maybe social media may make it seem.   I’m grateful for this experience and for my husband for giving us the opportunity to see parts of the world we may have otherwise not seen.  I just want to shed some light on the fact that it’s not perfect, it’s not always beautiful, and that at the end of the day I miss my family, my friends, America, my career, and my old life.

I know that  when I return home this whole global experience will be irreplaceable and I will be forever grateful for it, the good and the bad.  Everything you face in life is what you make it.  I recently read a blog called “The Fat Expat” which in a post discusses the difficulty of expat life, but also the take away from the whole thing.  Balance of good and bad is just a fact of life, expat or not.  I’m still working on the finding balance and finding my place in this new life, as I will likely do again once we return home.    One aspect of myself that I’ve always known to be true is that I’m adaptable.   As much as I love this new life and path we are on, I know that there will always be a little bit of thin ice and that there are going to be cracks and difficult spots along the way, but it’s how you deal with them that makes the experience one that is totally worth it!

I’ll end with one of my favorite quotes, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Truth.

Oh before I go, here are some photos from the recent weeks! Tile crafting, Sake Brewery tour, and masu box making.  Enjoy!

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