Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Two Year Anniversary

Today is our two year anniversary of moving to Japan. It's sort of shocking to think two years has gone by so quickly, and at the same time it seems like surely we've been here for more than two years. I suppose that's how most things in life go.

My first year was all about adjusting and adapting, this past year has been more about settling in and being comfortable. Maybe those two things don't sound all that different, but they certainly feel different. I used to feel like I was failing all the time when I couldn't understand how to do something or figure out how to say something. Now I know that there are just going to be days where nothing works the way I expect and I can accept that, but I also surprise myself with what I do know and what I can accomplish on my own. I'm taking more risks, and that feels good.

Earlier this year I read a quote, and now I can't remember where it came from or who said it, but the sentiment was that living in another country you will never fully understand the culture you're surrounded by, but you may come to understand your own. I've thought about that a lot since reading it, and I really agree. I have learned so much, but I think that even if I lived here for the rest of my life there would still be so much lost on me. But the process of learning about things here has constantly made me reexamine my understanding of my own culture.

From the way that languages develop and are structured, to ideas about fashion, to the way that political systems operate, I have had two really different examples to compare. I've also found that thinking about a culture as on outsider makes me want to think more seriously about my own from the perspective of an outsider. I wouldn't say that any of this has fundamentally changed who I am or what my beliefs are. But I think it has changed me, because I think I have a clearer understanding of what my beliefs are grounded in, where my assumptions come from, and how the culture I grew up in shaped me. I find that this has given me both a much greater respect for my own culture than I had before living outside it, and a deep appreciation for the culture here and what I am learning.

This all sounds very cheerful and happy, and most of the time I am really happy here. But I don't want to deny that there are still days that are difficult or frustrating and moments when I'm completely overcome by a longing for home. I think that, at least in my case, that's part of the sacrifice to be made living in another country. All in all, those moments come less frequently now, and I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity I have to be here.

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