Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Past 8 months

In a lot of ways, the past 8 months I spent back in the US can be looked on as a waste of time. At least from a career or development point of view. Especially since I spent most of that 8 months either unemployed or under-employed. Given that I ended up back in Japan at the end of it, it would have been a lot easier to just have stayed in Japan.

But that's life, isn't it? You never know where you're going to end up, so you just live where you're at.

Although I had been warned about reverse culture shock, and thought I was prepared for it, looking back I think I may have prepared in the wrong direction. I took reverse culture shock to mean things like getting used to not sticking out in the crowd, or not doing karaoke on Friday nights, or other surface level type things. (None of which I really missed at all, by the way).

I was talking a British friend I met in Japan recently, who told me about returning to his country, and he said it took him a full year until he felt like he belonged where he was and he knew what he was doing. And that may have been the part I under-estimated. The feeling of returning to an area where I no longer have a niche carved out for myself, and trying to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing.

Of course I have to be careful because reverse-culture shock (like cultural shock) can be used as an excuse-all for any pre-existing inadequacies. And even before I went to Japan I did not have a clear idea of where my life was heading.

But I think in retrospect this may account for some of my confusion over the last few months. And also partly because I committed the cardinal sin of returning home without having first developed a plan for what I was going to do, and just trusting that everything would sort itself out eventually (despite having been repeatedly warned against this by other friends).

However, while the past 8 months may have been empty time in terms of career goals, it was definitely time I treasure. And I certainly was able to do a lot of things during that time such as:

*My first (real) road trip across the US.

*Meeting my niece and future sister-in-law for the first time

*Becoming involved in local activism once again

*Getting my face on the local news, and my name in the local paper

* Seeing my cousin for the first time in 10 years, and meeting my cousin's wife and cousin's baby for the first time

* My 10 year high school re-union

* Being part of the Migrant Community Education program--which was a great experience for me

* My first 4th of July, Halloween, and Thanksgiving inside the US in 5 years.

*Getting a lot of books read (as regular readers of this blog are well aware). Expect the book reviews to slow down slightly now

And of course seeing friends and family. This last point may not stand out on a list, but it truly was the best part. It was nice to be able to re-establish real relationships with people instead of just the usual rushed visits every once a year.

At the same time I did realize that those College days are truly gone. I should have known this before from my previous trips home, and some of your e-mails to me, but it really sunk in this time. Gone are the days of one wacky adventure after another. Everyone is married and has a serious job, and I'm lucky if I see a friend once a week, or sometimes once a month. I knew that before, but now I really know it.

As for the activism: It felt great to have a chance to channel my anger about this war into some physical activity. I'm not sure if it changed anything, but it was very therapeutic for me.

That being said, whilst in Japan I did develop a romantic remembrance of my own activist days. I'd forgotten how my enthusiasm tends to go in spurts. I'll be really active for two weeks, and then not do anything for the next two.
Also my own lack of initiative and creativity limit what I can offer to the movement. If someone tells me where to show up and what to do, I can be a good foot soldier. But if I'm left to organize something by myself, I'm at a loss.
There were definitely moments when I felt like I was spending a lot of time sitting in meetings, but not contributing anything valuable by my presence there. Which was another thing I had forgotten about from the old days.

Useless Wikipedia Fact
Ben Wildeboer teaches Earth Science and Physics at Whitmore Lake High School in Whitmore Lake, Michigan. He resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan. On July 15, 2006, he was married!

Link of the Day
From Daily Kos:
A reader transcribed this exchange concerning habeas corpus from today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearings (no official transcript yet):
Specter: Now wait a minute, wait a minute. The Constitution says you can’t take it away except in the case of invasion or rebellion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus?
Gonzales: I meant by that comment that the Constitution doesn’t say that every individual in the United States or every citizen has or is assured the right of habeas corpus. It doesn’t say that. It simply says that the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended.
Article I, Section 9:
The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
Alberto Gonzales should not only be impeached for his willfully obtuse interpretations of the Constitution, he should be disbarred.
(Via Tom Tomorrow)


lucretius said...

So how about reverse-reverse culture shock? Congratulations on the return to Japan. Good luck and God bless!

Maria said...

I resonate a lot with your sentiments about reverse culture shock. I experience much the same moving to Denver and I'm still not sure I'm 100% adjusted. Perhaps I never will be. I'm sure the actual experience of it is much more intense when the cultures are that far removed!

b jeremy jackson said...

it was definately good to see you again as well buddy. perhaps our paths will cross again someday.