ようこそ! Guess what? Thanks to your ability to piece together multiple words to form sentences, you’re now reading part 3 of my 5 part series about why I decided to peace out America. Yay for literacy! Thanks for sticking with me. You’re the best. I want to say I love you, but that may be too forward. So instead, I’ll just say you’re my favorite person to read this blog until the next person that reads this blog. Savor this moment. Because I know I am. And… Done.
So where did I leave off? Ah, yes – that’s right… Booking my first trip to Japan and realizing for the first time that it’s OK to do things for myself. What a great feeling. I can’t stress this enough – you have the power to make yourself happy. Don’t believe me? Let’s try it right now. I’m gonna play a song and we’re gonna dance like mofos. I’m not joking. I don’t care where you’re reading this… Whether you’re at home, on a bus, or on the moon (WTF! How did you get on the moon?!?), it don’t matter, because you’re gonna boogie with me. You ready?
Commence dancing like mofos in 3… 2… 1… PRESS PLAY!
You dancing? Isn’t this great? Don’t worry if people are staring. Who cares! You know why? Because you’re having fun. People always say, “Dance like no one is watching.” Well, screw that – I say, “Dance like EVERYONE is watching!” Because when you’re having fun, it’s infectious. And if someone is looking at you funny, don’t worry about them! They’re just jealous because they’re too SCARED to let themselves go. Never be afraid to have fun. Never be afraid to dance. Never be afraid to show the world you’re happy to be alive.
OK, that was fun. I’m glad we that. Because it ties back to my last blog where I talked about the concept reoccurring joy. See, the reoccurring joy scale can range from low value, high frequency (ex: jamming to your favorite tunes) to high value, low frequency (ex: solo, international theme park adventures).
After my first trip to Japan, I was addicted. I loved the idea of researching the best theme parks around the world (ex: Europa Park in Germany, Shanghai Disneyland in China, etc.) and then planning vacations around them. So I did just that! I knew if I allotted myself 2-3 international trips a year, my reoccurring joy value would be crazy high. And it was. So I should have been happy, right? Wrong. My reoccurring joy frequency was completely out of whack. Sure, I had a bunch of low value, high frequency things that kept me going until I got to my high value vacations, but I also had nothing in-between.
Think of it like a sugar high. Last year, when I visited Germany/London in September and then Hong Kong/Shanghai in December, I was stupid happy during each trip. I loved being in a new country. I loved exploring things on my own. I loved being a fish out of water, trying to adapt, understand, and appreciate different cultures. Every day was exciting. Everything was new. I couldn’t be happier.
Until I had to leave. Then I crashed. Hard. Each trip was bittersweet. These trips were like drugs to me. But the frequency was just too low, even if the happiness high was phenomenal. This made coming back to reality super hard.
I especially noticed this during my Hong Kong/Shanghai trip in December. I came to the realization that these trips couldn’t be the solution to my problems. It just wasn’t feasible. I needed a way to experience the high level of joy I was getting out of these vacations at a much higher frequency. Hmm… But how? Ah! What do I do?
At the time, I had no clue. But I figured I’d worry about it when I got home. Because I was on vacation! My happiness high was at its peak; I was in Shanghai. Aww yeahh! Before I went out for another fun day, I was checking my News Feed in my Airbnb when I noticed a post from my friend John from Tokyo. In the post, he talked about he had been living in Japan for 16 years. Damn. Reading that really struck me. I vividly remember sitting down on the bed and thinking about how awesome that was. I mean, he left America to start a new life in Japan. And he made it work. It made me think about how fun I was having on my trips… And what if… What if I did the same thing? It was a fun thought, but I didn’t think too much of it. Instead, I responded to his post with this:
That’s rad! Props for taking the risk. Every time I visit Japan, I always think about staying… Until reality sets in (OMG, what would I do? I can’t speak the language. Ahh!). But then I remember you; living the dream. Makes me wish I made my first trip 10 years ago. Things may have turned out differently.
Never too late!
Nah, I thought – I can’t do that. I’m too old. I couldn’t leave Facebook. I couldn’t give up my rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco. I couldn’t make it work in Japan.
These thoughts stayed with me until I returned home to America. I remember coming back to work and just thinking, “Ugh – back to reality.” I noticed readjusting to the daily grind was getting harder. Like a drug addict, I was feeling the withdrawal effects from my trip. It was getting worse, too. I needed to make a change. Fast. And all I could think about was John’s post… 16 years. Living the dream for 16 years.
Then it hit me: Yes, I’m getting older. Yes, I may not be able to make it work if I moved to Japan. Yes, it’d be foolish to leave Facebook and my rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco. But… But what if? What if I did leave Facebook? What if I did leave my rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco? What if I did make it work in Japan?
Asking these questions made me realize I wouldn’t know unless I tried. And if I didn’t try, I knew I’d regret it. This made me think of an aptly-named song title from an emo band I used to listen to back in high school (hey, don’t judge!): Regrets are Unanswered Dreams.
When thinking about it that way, it was pretty simply, really – I knew I couldn’t live a life of regret. I just couldn’t. I’d rather watch Stephen King’s It 10 times in a row than face the overwhelming fear of wondering what would have happened if I took a leap of faith…
That settled it for me: I had to do it, I had to move to Japan. With that out of the way, the question then became: What the hell am I going to do there?