After fourteen months of travels around the world, I'm back in the city of my birth. I've traveled in the USA, Israel, Russia, Japan, and Korea, and now I'm here again.
The first post in this blog was about Los Angeles, posted days before I was to leave for Israel. It was an uncertain yet thrilling time in my life, having just come out of a sophomore year rife with challenges, looking ahead to months of travels, to satisfying my dreamer's itch to get out and explore, part of my personal character ever since I could crawl. That first blog post is full of excitement and opportunity, wide open eyes and a sort of youthfulness that entices and endears.
I have grown and grown up a lot in the past year and a half. I've grown more mellow, less anxious, more experienced, perhaps. I have slowly satisfied some of that itch and learned over the course of many months, probably predictably, that I can't keep it up. Besides the fact that these opportunities don't last forever, these months have taught me that it's important to have somewhere to go back to.
Moreover, LA hasn't been my home since the time I left for these travels, actually since before that. During my first year at college this place became no longer my home, and I searched and searched and found my temporary home in the world. Now? I feel transient. There's a Japanese phrase 住めば都 (sumeba miyako) that means something like "wherever you live is home" and I had it posted on my wall in my room in Kanazawa, though even then it sounded strange to me, and now maybe I see why. I've learned that I want to commit to a place. I lived in Kanazawa for ten months, but really, that's just ten months. If I'm somewhere for a year, knowing that I'll leave, I'm not a full participant. And now that, more than just seeing places, is what I want.
I've done so many programs and adventures and classes and trips in my life already--some affect me more than others, sometimes I make more or closer friends than other times, some people or places affect me more than others, but always at the end of everything I have to say goodbye. I'm getting to the point where I've had enough goodbyes, where I don't want to do that anymore.
An excerpt, slightly edited, from an email I sent to my grandfather about two weeks ago:
I suppose if I look back at how I felt a year ago or even before that when I applied for this program, it has been all that I hoped for and more. I still don't know what I'll end up being or doing in the future, but the way so far has been rather an exciting and interesting experience. I know that's putting it vaguely, so I'll attempt to explain--
It's almost surreal to look at my face in the mirror and see that I'm not the boy I was just a couple of years ago. I look older, and I even feel older. I think I've gained some understanding in regards to some things in life that are most important to me--certain kinds of sentimentality for which I have perhaps a fortunate weakness, points in my character that are strong and others in which I lack confidence. I have amassed many friends, acquaintances, and contacts all over the world already, and only at 21 without a clear idea of what sort of business I may enter. I have always felt sensitive to this kind of self-awareness, but as it has matured more with me I feel that it is coalescing into a collected imperative that compels me to do something meaningful and good.
My current interest seems to lie most in a mediacentric realm, concerning issues in international and domestic journalism. Many things in the world are broken and yet still must work as well as they can, and I am certain that I will get involved. Perhaps I'll go for an advanced degree in a few years in journalism, some sort of media studies, or some related field. I keep coming back to my traveler's nature and innate proclivity to the natural sciences, so I'm sure that whatever I do will be some adventurous, hands-on kind of activity. In any case, my plan is to spend two or three months in Europe as soon as I've graduated (that's mid-May 2011 in Boston, if you can make it!), studying some Spanish or French or German and visiting friends and experiencing some other sort of culture. After that, I like the idea of teaching English or something for a year, going back in Japan. One thing I'm certain I will do someday is to work as staff on board a tall ship or similar sailing-school vessel for at least a couple of months, so maybe it's best to do that first. Maybe in ten years I'll be involved in broadcast media or something, maybe involved in performing arts on the side, and I'm sure I'll want to do some sort of hands-on sort of activity as well. I love an adventure, but I've realized more and more that adventure is all the better with the company of another person, and for however many dreams I realize alone, they are always more memorable and meaningful when shared.
Anyhow, that's my current thinking. I haven't been updating the blog much lately, really because as the year has started to come to a close here I have overwhelmed myself with distractions and every day here has somehow seemed absolutely packed, though I have started wondering where the time goes, and started feeling that the days are passing faster than they used to. I have found some things in the world that are profoundly meaningful to me, and I will keep going along this path as it opens up. Sometimes it's easy to get distracted and sometimes it's easy to lose confidence, but to organize these ideas in writing brings me focus, like adjusting a telephoto lens.
In nine months from now, I'll be a 社会人, a member of society, a full adult. I'll graduate in May and I'm planning to go to Europe for a couple of months, and then after that maybe work as staff on board a sailing school vessel before going back to live in Japan for another year, before probably settling in the US somewhere and maybe looking at grad school perhaps somewhere down the line. I don't know what I'll end up "doing" with my life, and for now I'm still sort of taking things as they come. The contacts I've amassed generally fall into a sort of "media" category, and despite my interest in science early in life, the prospect of travel and culture and worldwide opportunity proved too good to pass up. Now I speak conversational Russian and Japanese, I have a radio show again, two part time jobs in Boston, acquaintances and friends, contacts in business, and in nine months a university degree. Whatever I do, I'd like it to have some sort of international flair.
But I need to have a home.
And if I go somewhere away from that home, I want to know, to be sure, that I'll come back. I'm tired of disconnect and uncertainty and ambiguity. Seeing the world has given me valuable perspective, the kind of perspective that cannot be manufactured, and I've learned that I will make my home through my own power. I've realized a great many things about myself, and I feel a much stronger desire to be somewhere and make something, to contribute rather than absorb.
It's not so far ahead as it used to be. I feel older, and the days are passing faster. Life is short and precious, and I have come to see through more mature eyes how I might make the most of it. I want to be somewhere, to belong somewhere, and soon enough I will no longer be bound by these educational imperatives. Soon enough I'll really be out there, but part of me already is.
It's a dark night in LA now, and I can hear the freeway.