Thursday, August 28, 2014
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less,
but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe,
and feel What I can ne'er express,
yet cannot all conceal.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
How did it come to be this way?
The inspiration I feel,
Followed by a total blankness.
It is the day and night, the sunshine and its shadow.
There is no divide.
No space for the other to exist.
An inability to act on the speed of my mind.
A storm in my soul that I can not calm.
Shake this dream from my head.
Monday, August 25, 2014
Monday, August 18, 2014
It was my first semester in community college, and I was a bit older than eighteen years of age. At the time of this story, I was halfway through a book on Japan that addressed social issues and community. I knocked on my professor’s door, and she welcomed me in. We spent the next hour discussing the book, my goals and ambitions post-university, and the time she spent in Japan. She told me about teaching programs, and recommended that I look into moving abroad after graduating.
The seed was planted.
Fast forward eight years. It’s a Saturday afternoon and the air is humid and sticky. I am only able to escape the heart when I step into the elevator and the doors close. It races upwards, no time to stop at any floor in between start and finish. When it reaches the top, I step into a room surround by only glass walls. I am in the government building, a Tokyo darling, that reminds me of why they're called skyscrapers. I walk to the closest window and stare out at the massive expanse before me.
Civilization as far as the eye can see. Man made all of this. There is no way to explain how far it goes. It goes up and it goes out. There is no end. I have never witnessed anything like this before. My throat tightens and I am overcome with the urge to cry.
Stretching out below me isn't just the modern wonder that is Tokyo. It’s a dream come true. It's living proof that if you want something badly enough, its obtainable. These aren't just buildings and houses and parks and roads, this was a fantasy that is now my life. My dream from years ago is in full bloom.
I am at once reminded of how small I am, but at the same time, I am struck with the power that the city offers me the opportunity to do anything, to be anyone. This is Tokyo, and it is endless.
Friday, August 15, 2014
Day 13 of life in The City.
In a little less than two weeks, I’ve learned that this is a place where you have to make a space for yourself. There are too many people here, too many high-rises, signs in a foreign language, cafes, bikes shops, buses, convenies, cars, trains, izakayas and umbrellas- simply an excess of everything- for me to know it all, and for any of it to know me. If I don’t want to remain as just a number of one in 33 million, I need to find a space for myself.
The first place you start is in the head. You find your purpose for being here. You find your security, the patterns of thinking that bring you comfort. You find the confidence and willingness it takes to live in one of the world’s largest cites. The determination and relentlessness. The energy and patience and love for it all, that it will take to exist here.
And then you create a space in your environment. Open your eyes, and take it all in. Get to know your neighborhood. Explore. Frequent the same cafes and coffee shops, getting to know the people in your community. Explore new places, but be a familiar face at your favorite. Check out live music at local venues, and know the music being made in your city. If you can, meet the musicians. Talk to them after the shows. Show your support for local artists, whatever medium they create in.
And don't just live in your environment, MOVE. Leave your house just to take a walk, take pictures, ride your bike, go running, spend the day in a park.
Each day I am biking to work, eleven miles round trip. And with each new day, I take a different route, cutting down new streets, riding past unseen store fronts. At night I’m running my neighborhood. Weaving and winding through narrow one way streets, down ally ways, around corners, past city style gardens, walls covered in vines, more glowing vending machines than I can count, and little liquor and snack stores owned by old Japanese women and men, backs hunched, wobbly walkers, but always with the hugest smiles of greeting. Original residents of this neighborhood. Here from a time before foreigners were moving in.
The first thing I learned was that this city is too big to ever need to take the same path twice. Every time I get on my bike, go for a run, I can move in a new direction. This is how I’m getting to know my city. My neighborhood. My space.
As important as it is to know your environment, know the people in it. Make friends in the area you live in. Let them share their home with you. Let them show you the special secrets only locals know. Let them open this world to you. Tokyo is too big to understand without the help from others. Meet them on your own, through work, through mutual friends, out dancing, at a gallery, at a concert, in the park, on the train, or just through absolutely random encounters. It doesn't matter. Let new people into your life. Be willing to work through language barriers, because when there is a connection, you will find that communication can come in many forms.
And most of all, to have a space in this city, you have to understand why you're here. It’s simple to say I’m here for work, but is the purpose the work that I’m doing, or what the work is doing for me?
Yes, I am here to teach, but more importantly I’m here to learn. I’m here to learn from working with a staff of young creative teachers who are all talented in individual ways. Some with music, cooking, photography, design, yoga, art, crafts, videography, and writing. All with years of experience working in education and in creative fields. I’m here to learn to work with an international staff, with people from six different countries. To learn to think in different ways, to approach problems from different angles, to communicate in new ways. And I’m here to learn from children. To learn to be more patient, to teach through language barriers, to learn to build their confidence, encourage their creativity, and support their imaginations and goals. To learn to be more loving, more selfless.
The space I’m creating is one that allows me to grow. I am learning to live on my own, to be strong in my independence. To feel comfortable in my own company. I am learning to support myself, entertain myself, and know how to manage my time in a hectic life. It’s a space in which I can adventure, be challenged, be creative, build friendships in and to connect with others, foreign and similar.
But most of all, the space I'm creating around me is one I can just be happy in. As long as I am happy, Tokyo can never seem too big, too chaotic, or too overwhelming. It will simply feel like home.
Sunday, August 3, 2014
This morning I walked through narrow city streets lined with bars, record stores, vintage clothing shops, live houses and cafés. Potted plants lines the crowded streets and vines grew up the sides of most buildings. Laundry flapped from clothing wires hanging on balconies above, and as I walked I saw all the personal items of faces I would never meet.
This is my neighborhood.
It wasn't even 8 am, and already the heat of the city in summer had crept in. I noticed most people around me dabbing at their faces with pocket handkerchiefs. Japanese salary men committed to their business suits, even during the most humid days.
I arrived at a station and bought my ticket so I could begin my commute to work. A commute. Something completely foreign to me until this morning. In the previous chapter, I had biked along a river, smiling at the Nagano Alps as I began each day with a breathtaking view. Now I shuffled into line to purchase a ticket, wiggled through the automatic checker, and followed the arrows directing me up the stairs to where I could board my train. Each pathway is divided in half, and the arrows tell you where you can walk. There are too many people to leave this up to free will. Only madness would result if people were given the decision of which side to walk on.
I waited on the platform in line with the rest of the people from my neighborhood. Everyone's head facing down, eyes glued to their cell phones or iPods or tablets. There was no communication. No exchanging of morning greetings. This is Tokyo, a place where there are too many people to give your time to each person that touches your life.
The first train I could have boarded arrived, but I decided to pass because it would have meant shoving others in even more, only to be pressed against the door the entire ride.
I took the second train that arrived, and journeyed through neighborhoods and stations that had once only existed in books, magazines and movies. Names like Shinjuku, Yoyogi, Harajuku and Shibuya.
The train was packed to a snug, and I could feel strangers bodies against mine. I had one arm up above my head, gripping the hand bar for support so I wouldn't sway and lose my balance with the movement of the train. It jolted back and forth and I worried about bumping those too close. I gripped harder. The man next to me was reading a book. Neither hand was being used to support himself.
It was obvious I was new to this.
I was in acid washed shorts, Indian tribal print tights and a shirt that covered my tattoos. Converse on my feet. To my left and right were white shirts, button up collered dress shirts, black slacks, business suits, skirt suits, high heels, men's leather black dress shoes. School girls in plaid and starched white shirts were sprinkled in between the generation of those who came before them. Those who keep the machine that is Tokyo running.
I am not part of this Tokyo.
I never will be.
I transferred trains at the busiest station in the world, and then exited at the busiest crossing in the world.
It is impossible to describe how many people there are. It's like a wave of humans. They just keep coming in. Flooding the streets. Washing away any and all personal space. The energy is amazing. Dizzying. I've never experienced anything like this. I am swept away and swallowed whole as my big eyes take in this corner of humanity and this world it has built. Everything rushes out and up. Racing into the streets, towering into the skies.
Even in a city with 33 million Japanese, and thousands of foreigners, I can not help but notice how different I am. There is no one dressed like me in the train, and as people push and hurry past me in the station halls, I don't see anyone who shares my features.
I am a 26 year old blue eyed American with a California soul, honey colored hair and sun kissed freckled skin, living in Tokyo.
I couldn't blend in even if I wanted to.
How did I end up here?
This is day one of the story that changes the rest of my life.