Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Anxiety and Unknown (Jonah)

While I’ve already been in Japan for over three days now, I still feel like I’m not totally here.  I’ve been struggling to wrap my head around around the idea of being somewhere so far away without any of my loved ones nearby.  To be honest, I’ve spent most of the past day or so in my room trying to figure out how I want to approach my time here.  As I set out on this journey, I think about where I’m at in my life right now and what I want to improve on, as well as what I think will cause me to struggle.  At Beloit, I had a small group of friends who I saw every day and was very comfortable with.  We spent a lot of time just hanging out, and not really engaging with the community/venturing off campus in any capacity.  This summer, I spent the majority of my time living at home and seeing childhood friends in an area I’ve had my entire life to discover.  What excites and terrifies me about Tokyo is how it stands in stark contrast to everything I’ve grown comfortable with.

Tokyo is the largest city in the world, both by land area and population density.  While I’ve had a good amount of time to explore Chicago during my time I studied there, I usually stuck to the neighborhood my old college campus was in.  I also had my family 40 minutes away by train.  Here in Tokyo, the city is an endless expanse of unknown that looms outside.  There are seas of people who look nothing like me, and every time I hear someone speak fluent Japanese to me I have a mini panic attack, my brain clamoring for the ease of communication that was possible back home.  I spent a lot of time in Maine this summer, so I became accustomed to lots of space and nature to look at.  However, now my claustrophobic nature is acting up more than ever.

So right now, I’m terrified and excited.  Terrified because I have never felt more unfamiliar with my surroundings, but excited because I get to go out and change that.  With time I will learn to master at least the neighborhood around my dorm, and maybe even be able to navigate around Ikebukuro station.  Tokyo has so much to offer, and I am eager to learn as much as I can about the amazing city that I’m living in.  I hope to become more self-sufficient than I was at home, and come back more confident in my ability to take charge of my own life.

My initial journey to Japan tested me from the get-go: my first flight was cancelled and I spent two hours rushing around help desks trying to get a re-routed flight.  Initially I was excited when I was upgraded to a direct flight from Chicago, but that excitement quickly vanished when I arrived at Narita and found out my luggage had not made it on to my plane.  I showed up to my dorm with no toiletries and the clothes on my back.  The next day was an exercise in patience, but many people in my building and beyond have been more than helpful.  I’ve made friends with the dorm’s cook/building attendant, and he intercepted the delivery truck for me and held on to my luggage.  I am now fully equipped and ready to start exploring.

So why haven’t I?  It’s easy to let my anxiety about this huge city get to me, and as such I haven’t done nearly enough exploring.  But I’m ready to go out and get lost.  I know that by the time I’m done here I will have improved my language skills, made lots of new friends, learned more about what I’m capable of, and come back home with new confidence.  For now, I’m going to dive into this anxiety and walk around until I have no idea where I am.  I’m sure I’ll find someone who I can (admittedly in broken Japanese) ask for directions and have them point me the way home.


Sarah said...

I agree that it can be pretty hard to go out and explore. Lots of the other people at my university seem to just spontaneously spend the afternoon in Nara or somewhere while I still feel like I need to settle in more before I can set out like that. And it can be tempting once you get to know your area to stick to it because you've mastered it and feel more of a sense of control when you are able to navigate it, but I think that will be challenge for all of us, just trying to get out there as much as possible. Without neglecting school of course :D

Reid said...

I've experienced a similar sort of anxiety about exploring new places alone. I've been lucky that a lot of my dorm-mates don't have that issue, so I've been tagging along with them on their adventures. Then, I return to those places on my own and venture out a little farther than the last time. It's helped me be able to branch out a little more than I initially thought I would.

Sasha said...

Hey, Jonah, is there any particular area in Tokyo that you are wanting to explore? This ties in with Sarah's point about getting out and exploring while still attending classes, but I've found that exploring in Akita is pretty hard due to the bus schedule. It seems like I have barely enough time to get to the place I want to go and do a little bit of exploring before I have to run back to the bus stop in order to get to class. In Tokyo, you have more places of interest in your immediate surroundings, and the availability of transportation is also probably better. (Having enough time will always be an issue though...) Silver week is coming up, so that will be a good time to do branch out.

Jeremy Sullivan said...

After spending the past few months in Tokyo, have you become accustomed to not looking like anyone else? Also, did you end up getting lost in the city often, and did you gain self-confidence once you gained an awareness of your surroundings and the people that inhabit the space with you?