The ability to live in the present is especially important for those of us who are dependents of military members because we have to live our lives in short increments. Our spouses are pretty much property of the U.S. Government, and we can’t really look too far into the future. So I am always starting some new project, volunteer job, or like now, searching for a real, paying job. If you asked where I see myself in five years, I have no idea — where do you see the U.S. Economy in five years?
I was in the kitchen cooking fajitas for dinner while our almost three-year-old son was in the living room playing when my husband read me an email he received earlier that day — an email that would change all of our plans. We found out in a few sentences that we’d be living in Japan by the following April.
We thought we were living in Bellingham, Washington on military orders for the next three years. I had just finished my Associates transfer degree, and was gearing up to transfer to a four-year university and knock out those last two years of school. I was excited to take the classes I had so far worked hard to get to — and the day after I received my acceptance letter was the same day my husband received the email.
We were left completely in the dark about any additional details — Japan in April is all we knew. After my husband read me the email, I felt a literal shifting in the planes of existence as I knew them. With the realization of what that email meant for me, tears I could not control starting pouring out of my face. Tears were falling down into the frying pan of chicken, peppers, and onions I was robotically stirring.
I managed to finish dinner for my hungry boys and serve it to them, then everything from there is fuzzy. I don’t know if I ate, but I remember walking to my bed and grabbing a roll of toilet paper to blow my profusely snotty nose into. I was in our bed between sleep and crying for two solid days and nights, mourning the loss of my college education and the future I had planned, all the while the universe was spiting me, taunting “I thought I taught you not to plan for the future…the future is not in your hands.”
Life has this funny way of letting you think everything is on track, and just when you’ve got your future plans laid out before you, BAM! You take a sharp turn. Sometimes it’s the loss of someone we love dearly, and sometimes it can be as simple as having to move out of the country you need to be in for your plans to happen.
I LOVED college, and when I say that I loved it I mean it. I loved the work, I loved how one day of learning something new could change my entire perspective on humanity, which for me is everything. I drank in the knowledge like a thirsty child, because up until that point I had never felt I had a purpose on this earth and education gave me a sense of worth. Coming home from an hour-long class and having to close the blinds, and lay down for a mental break for an hour or two just so my brain could process thoughts without the light of day interrupting was a kind of high I had never felt.
I spent the next few months alternating between being productive and completely necessary tasks by day and sitting around on my crusty old broken couch, wearing sweatpants and wallowing in my own misery and boredom. I watched Downton Abbey and other various selections form the British Romance genre of my Roku. As miserable as part of me was, the other part of me was starting to come around and look forward to aspects of living in Japan. I read a lot of books about Japanese culture, food, and history, which really helped me become more comfortable with the inevitable. The more I learned, the more I started to look forward to it as a new chapter in our families adventure.
In March, we left Seattle and after about 24 hours arrived to our new hometown in Kanagawa, Japan, nestled in the countryside between Mt. Fuji and Yokohama.
Now it is just over a year from the day we received that email. Our family has been in Japan for about seven months, three of which my husband has actually been home. Life is decidedly more difficult than I care for it to be on a daily basis. I don’t really have a simple answer as to why. Mostly, I think it’s because my son is having an especially hard time adjusting to life with his Daddy being gone on a ship, not having his grandparents around, and at times some general culture shock and anxiety.
Dealing with what this does to his behavior and general disposition takes up most of my time, and every bit of effort I can muster. His behavior has even affected my social life. Truth is, it’s been a bit of an adjustment for me not having my incredible husband around to help out. Navigating the social circles around here has its challenges as well, as you can imagine, living on a base in a foreign country requires making friends that you can trust as though they were your family.
I still sometimes think about where I would be if I was in Bellingham, toting my backpack through the woods on my way to and from the University every day. The truth is, it still hurts a bit that I’m missing out on that. I could keep going on in some melodramatic fashion, but it’s been over a year since we received that earth shaking news and I’m trying to move on. Frankly, it doesn’t matter anymore. I’m still standing, still waking up every morning and actually finding real joy in my new life abroad.
And guess what… I’m still learning.