It was good to see my brother and his partner in Devon. There hadn’t really been time to catch up at the wedding; it was important we do that before I leave. I’m so glad I made the trip down there.

Likewise with my older sister, whom I met up with here in Bristol at lunchtime. I’m so proud of her doing what she’s doing.

Tonight I’m staying in Garfield Villa, the house I lived in for over a year following my return from Japan in 2003.

It’s funny being back here. The house and its lovely occupants take me back to that time.

I find myself becoming the person I was then. If you’d asked me yesterday if I was very different 5 years ago, I would have said no, not really. But ask me tonight, and the answer is a definite yes, I really have changed.

I actually find it quite disturbing to come face-to-face with the Joseph of five years ago. He’s a bit of an egotistical twat, to put it politely. He was a Joseph who cared a lot about the opinion of others, and actively sought to entertain. I feel he lacked confidence in himself, and sought to hide behind a mask of humour – and enjoyed being seen as a boundary pusher.

This was also the Joseph who desperately wanted a girlfriend, and actively sought a partner using dating websites, and getting close to friends’ friends. He had quite a few disastrous ‘encounters’, all of which become anecdotes told at parties, the bearded farmer one being the most famous.

I’m not ashamed of that Joseph: it was a necessary part of my growth, but I do feel uncomfortable taking on that character now. Reflecting on what happened tonight, I can clearly see just how much I have changed since 2003, how my internal reactions to identical stimuli (separated by time) are very different.

So in a way, it’s comforting. It’s comforting to know that there has been change. But I also feel badness inside that I wasn’t able to assert myself.

It’s also made me wonder what would have happened had I not gone to university, had I not started work on my spiritual life, had I not met *Twinkle*. I think for me, the act of physically moving to different places and meeting many different people, being exposed to different ideas, has contributed an awful lot to my growth. So that begs the question – does growth now take a back seat to financial necessity and the comfort of routine?

Of course not. But I feel that the end of this era of regular ‘forced change’ does mean that I will need to now put in a good deal more effort to actively continue learning and growing. Yes, I think the challenges of living in Japan as a foreigner will to some extent provide fuel for further growth as a matter of course, but that won’t be enough. It’s important that I continue to engage with life on a daily basis, and not get complacent.

I find that idea exciting, yet scary too. Thursday really is a big day. It’s not just a flight to Japan, it’s the start of what I think will be one of the most challenging periods of my life to date.

6 Responses

  1. In my experience, living a settled life brings harder growth challenges than moving. Rather than make you complacent, it pushes you to be a better person all the time because dealing effectively with a situation where you have a responsibility and there is no end in sight challenges your character more than knowing there is going to be a point at which the responsibility will clearly end.

    Being a “grown up” is far harder that it looks and I’m sure it’s what destroys so many people mentally and turns them into couch potatoes and various types of (low level) addicts.

    However, YMMV.

  2. “Yes, I think the challenges of living in Japan as a foreigner will to some extent provide fuel for further growth as a matter of course, but that won’t be enough.”

    Are you sure about that?

    You have a few new roles to grow into.
    This time you’re not single and you’re not a visitor. Japan is your home and you are married.
    You are going to have to find your place in marriage, in life, and in Japanese society.

    Nurturing your relationship and having to consider someone other than yourself in all your actions and decisions is going to provide plenty of room for growth from now on. Now, you can multiply that by cultural, and world view differences you might happen on at home and at the office. You’ve lived in Japan before, studied the language, the culture,.and encountered much before. But, you might have did so with a travelers psyche and not as someone who knowns they might be in Japan forever. This time, I believe, you will experience everything anew.

    I came to Japan thinking I’d only be here a year or so, but now I am permanent resident. I’ve never stopped growing, learning, and being challenged here.

  3. Brian: good point. I think I’ll have to give myself some time to settle in and take things from there.

  4. And, don’t be to hard on yourself and your past self. Give yourself a break sometimes, because others might, not.