Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Bottles

This return to the US has me staring down the barrel of the gun of aging. In Japan, no one could peg just how old I was, often guessing a decade younger. Here, I am expected to act my age. In Japan, I could constantly reinvent myself, the judgments and perceptions of the locals going no further than my identity as gaijin. Beyond that I had all the room in the world to be who I wanted to be. Now I'm back in my own cultural context, and can't escape the framework.

Yet how AM I defined here? I find myself as Neither/Nor. I'm a native New Mexican who no longer recognizes his state. I'm as much a gaijin here as I was in Japan.

I'm most puzzled how do I fit into all of this as an American. Since the national nervous breakdown year of 2001, I no longer know what that means. The America I see in the 21st Century is not the place I learned about in school (however fictitious that was). I don't remember such a high degree of fear and anger, of distrust and ingratitude. While most of the Japanese I knew tried to harmonize and blend with what was happening around them (manifested at its worst as the dreaded 'shoganai'), Americans try to dominate the space. I see it in the conversations, in the body language, in the government policy. I don't really want to be part of it.

While in Japan, I'd made a conscious attempt to be a big fish, as a yoga teacher , a writer, a musician, a martial artist. It was exhausting. Here I want a quiet and simple life. To do my job and go home. But those around me (God bless 'em) are pushing me to both succeed and exceed. Such an American thing, to fill up and overflow the container that is your life.

On the turntable: Yes, "Tales from Topographic Oceans"
On the nighttable: Stanley Crawford, "The River in Winter"

1 comment:

wes said...

Sorry to hear about the reverse culture shock. I've heard similar stories from others as well, and I'm pretty sure it's the same all over the US, no matter where you are.

By the way, there's a new burrito shop here in Osaka, serving up delicious SF-style wraps at very reasonable prices! I hope that doesn't make you homesick :)