Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Gazette and the "Emo"

During my time in Japan, I've realized different aspects of my personality. Other people may call it finding self-identity, or figuring out who you really are, and while this may be true, I think that understanding my personality is different than identifying myself as a person in this world.

In high school, although I never knew the real reason behind any of it, I often felt down, depressed, or anxious. It was as if something bad would happen if  I turned the wrong corner, or out of nowhere, this empty void would fill my chest. People often described me as the nice kid, and I was well-liked by my classmates. However, when I began opening up to those around me about the pain I was feeling, everyone, even my own family was surprised. There was no "logical" reason as to why I was depressed. I had a great family, kept myself busy with hobbies and school activities, and was making great grades. But this pain came from somewhere, whether or not my family or friends believed it or not.

Like many other kids who are thrown into the emo, goth, or scene category, I was labeled by my school as emo. I found myself dressing in black clothes, listening to heavy music, and on really bad days, I even wrote poetry. My parents grew more frustrated as I became more withdrawn, more interested in the J-Rock and visual-kei scene in Japan, and it became evident that many people humored my interests rather than try to understand what was going on in my head.

After I entered college, I wondered if I really had gone through a faze. My taste in music, while perhaps not completely changing, altered itself seemingly day-by-day.I found myself listening to happier rhythms, melodies, and lots of Korean pop music. In the back of my head, something told me what I was doing was only making things worse, and that the pain as still there, growing, and waiting. I ignored it and almost stopped listening to both completely during the time I started dating my boyfriend.

At that time, I had no idea who I was, and was trying to find myself through loving another person. This eventually led to arguments, lack of communication, and neither of us succeeding in the relationship, or even getting to know ourselves. A year into this relationship, we were determined to make it work out of our love for one another. We re-evaluated ourselves, our actions, and told each other that we would both work on ourselves and treat each other fairly.

Then I came to Japan.

As soon as I set foot in this country, I felt at home. There was no adjustment period. At least, it didn't feel as though I was going through culture shock. The biggest adjustment was learning how to handle myself and living alone for the first time.

This is when I realized that I should have listened to myself.

I realized that there is this pain inside of me, although I don't know where it comes from. It's not something that I can locate exactly. I can't go to the doctor to have them fix it with drugs I don't need. It's something in my blood, and it numbs my body.

And I realize this through music.

I looked up at the stage as Ruki reached out to the crowd. He talked a bout a flower blooming, and while the tears didn't make their way down my face, I found my eyes watering. I had dreamed of seeing Gazette in concert since I was fourteen. I had heard his voice in my dreams, telling me to keep going rather than stopping where I am in times when I needed support, but got it from few around me.

I've never been so relaxed at a concert, and I never thought I'd find peace through the Gazette.

Part of me is relieved as I tell myself once again that I will never stop listening to this music.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Three, Four

Today was the reception for students who have completed Ritsumeikan University's SKP Program. I still don't feel as though it actually happened.

Rather than be sad during the activities, I felt a weird indifference. I was neither happy nor sad, but numb. The faces I saw in class everyday smiled at me, and I felt my heart sink, but I couldn't feel the emotion. It's as though I were standing in a room and the volume had been set to mute. Floating figures, faces, laughter, warm hugs. Yet I can't believe I was there.

I received my certificate of completion and made my way back to my friends. I won't get to see them as much as I'd like before I leave, and this is what makes the numb turn to ice.

A few days from now, I will have limited access to the internet, mobile devices, and contact with friends. Until then, I will have many things to do, and no time in which to do them. Pack? Eat? Sleep?

My appetite has faded as I start imaging the garbage bags I will carry down the stairs, the money I'll spend on post, and the agony of feeling alone in my apartment.

I don't want pity. I'm not sad. I'm not "lonely", but alone. I'm stuck in my head, figuring out who I am, where I want to go with my life, and what will happen when I return to American soil.

It's almost a month away, and while I'll be greeted by smiling faces, I have a feeling the sense of a mute dream will continue. I want warm embraces, laughter, and relaxation in the company of good friends. I want to drink with some sassy Germans, go shopping with my favorite Norwegian, and laugh with my Japanese best friends.

Where did time go?

"Here," it answers. "I've been here."

It's like high school all over again. Only this time, without the drama of teenage self-discovery. It's pain, and I feel cold . I can't find the source.

I can always come back to this beautiful country. I will keep practicing this beautiful language, I will contact my professors.

So why so numb and heavy?

It's as if Kyoto stopped moving. The street lights glitter in the darkness, and I relish the warm breeze lifting me from my bike. The world is silent, but welcoming.

Maybe I've lost myself, as well as my senses.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Doubt and the Other World

It's getting closer and closer to the time I have to leave this marvelous country, and with that said, I'm still not sure how to react. I do not say this out of sadness, bitterness, or resentment, but with honesty.

I was thinking about life back home, and realized that my trip in Japan has been hard, but enjoyable all the way through. When I think of back home, I see a lot of sticky situations, with my family's finances, school, relationships, etc. This can bring about good or bad, but I guess that's why they call it "home" for a reason.

After a Bati-Holic concert last night, my friend asked me why I didn't want to return home. She thought it was a bit strange that I wasn't excited. I told her that for some reason, I feel more at place in Japan. It's as if the world is still and things happen in the moment they're supposed to. Even when I'm rushed, it feels as though time goes by at exactly the speed it needs to. At home it feels like I'm always running straight ahead, jumping over the hurdles, and dodging the things thrown in from the present.

Here, I'm living in one moment. Difficulties, triumphs, everything is happening now.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Counting Crows

Today was a rather ordinary day for me. Well, it was up until I parked my bike to go to Wagashi (Japanese confectionery) class.

The story I'm about to write is rather emotional, and I've felt restless ever since this happened. I'm not sure how well I can write, as it's close to two in the morning, I'm very tired, and the thoughts are jumbled like wadded tissues between my ears.

It was a little after 4 p.m., and I walked my bike up to a local shrine gate. On the ground before me, I saw a crow, spread out on the ground as if someone had smashed it with a bat, and I inhaled sharply. It looked like a fluff of feathers, and the bugs were already taking over the poor, lifeless body.

An old woman sat in the shade, and watched my reaction to this bird. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her grin as I jumped when the bird moved. My stomach churned and I remember, for the first time in my life, wanting a gun.

The woman hobbled to me and started speaking in a dialect too heavy for me to understand. I told her that I felt so bad for the bird, and that it was in pain. The bird kept flapping its wings, unable to gain flight due to the broken lower half of its body. In the near distance, its friends cawed for their lost comrade.

To ensure that I understood her, or perhaps to make me feel better (although, if that's the case, I don't understand her methods), the woman poked her cane into the ground in front of the bird. It opened its beak, and instead of a caw, I could hear the screaming of its broken body as it tried to fly away from the woman.

Suddenly I heard the voice of my dad and boyfriend simultaneously. Then my mother. All of them telling me something along the lines of: Sometimes you have to hurt something to save it.

The image of that bird struggling to breathe still makes me shake. I felt so helpless. I wanted so badly the knowledge of how to kill a creature in one blow. I thought, "How can I use my bike, that rock, anything, to get this bird to stop suffering?" The old woman, on the other hand, was perhaps amused that a foreigner was getting so emotional over a common crow.

Suddenly, as if to protect their dying friend, two large crows began to swoop towards the old woman. I told her that I would run to the police station, and ask if there was anything they could do to help the bird.

I arrived at the station a few moments later and struggled to remember my Japanese. I kept saying things that translate roughly int, "I want it to be killed," and "It looks so pathetic, painful," and what hurt me the worst, "bird friends are telling us it is bad to be near the broken bird." Still feeling helpless, and feeling like minutes are hours as the woman finally understands how important this is to me.

Within a few minutes, the woman's apathetic stare turned into one of pity as I began to cry. In the beginning, I was told that there was nothing they could do. It wasn't a pet. It was a common crow. She told me to go to a different department, her words, I didn't understand. Suddenly, a male policeman came over and told me that the zoo had informed them they would see what they could do to help the bird.

After this came another eternity of waiting, my broken conversations with random police officers, and finally, the journey over to the shrine. While the old woman had told me she would wait, she and the crow's friends, had disappeared. The crow was lifeless on the ground.

I could hear the policeman mutter under their breath, questioning whether the bird was alive when I saw the flies on its back jump.

The bird was breathing.

They told me that from there, they would transport the bird to the zoo, although they said, unfortunately, the bird would probably die before getting there. I was crying. I was so glad they listened to me even though it felt like such a small thing. Whether the bird lived or died, I felt as though it were being relieved of torture.

After the police left, I stared at the shrine gate. I began to wonder if that old woman were ever there at all. What if she were some form of a god?

The whole scene felt very spiritual to me. I don't know much about the Christian religion, much less the different sects of Buddhism or Shinto-Buddhism. However, I thought I had heard of a similar situation in some story from long ago.

I wondered if I had been tested. had the woman been waiting all day, like the crow, for some person to take the time to help them, despite the inevitable death? Did the crows leave because they were chased away, or was it some sort of sign that time was running out?

I walked through the shrine gate and continued to cry. Pigeons cooed for mates at my feet and I remembered screaming with my boyfriend over our baby bird, the formula getting cold, and him ultimately saying, "If you don't feed it, it'll die!"

I suddenly understood his way of thinking, and dragged my feet to class.

I don't know what happened to the bird, and I have a feeling the police would tell me not to worry if I went back. In any case, wherever the bird is now, I hope that he is out of the tremendous pain he must have felt earlier.

I hope that no one goes without a friend in their last moment.