this will probably just turn into a verbal diarrhea repository for my ongoing dissatisfactions with life
I’ve attempted to mediate monotony and desire starting during childhood. I hated the perennial suburban landscape of white walls and popcorn ceilings. I felt increasingly insular, my hobbies irrelevant. I desperately wanted to grasp the bigger picture, my life trajectory. That materialized in the form of grades, and I wasn’t doing to well. Another self-perpetuating cycle, understanding the futility of your situation, and putting in less work as a consequence.
With that path gone, I focused on the sort-term. From the start I knew it was a slippery path down unimpeded hedonism. The male orgasm would be an apt parallel with what I feared. Transient, surface-deep, I trusted it less than Harbor Freight branded food.
And so I attempted to find a medium. Short-term gratification with long-term progress. I found limited successes here, some more than others. But work thoroughly sodomized this delicate arrangement, sapping away all my time. It sometimes becomes latent and I carry on my day-to-day. But the absence of ambiguity doesn’t equal happiness in my life. In fact, I looked to that as another source of distress. I took pride in my neuroticism. No matter how futile and maladaptive the outlooks introspection bred, I took pride in a deliberate, conscious day-to-day.
It’s stuck in a closed loop of subjectivity, wholly isolated from academia or even mainstream introspection. Normal people are busy, they have things to do. It doesn’t take much to gratify them, nor do they look to their surroundings with a sense of perpetual xenophobia.
And I think that’s a fundamental crux to my identify. I’m constantly devaluing my issues like most people do, but that doesn’t delegitimize its existence. That’s why I have to elucidate everything. To catch myself on autopilot and thoroughly interrogate my “of course I would do that” side.
That’s why I think other people, their fascinations, and their creations are so compelling to me. I view my life perspective in a very insular perpetual mindset. Other people live their lives with completely different sets of rules. For me, that also becomes a source of half-hearted envy.
from the bonjournal:
I've been trying and failing to contexualize my lack of introspection ever since getting here. There's two ways I can frame the entire thing: my neuroticism was born out of deficiencies in suburbia and deemed irrelevent now, or I've unconsciously learned out to ignore it. Neither looks particularly flattering to me. I've accepted that my obsession with progress and hobbies was a byproduct of time constraints born through working and the fatalism of knowing my life wasn't going anywhere. Might as well cop some cheap short-term gratification by buying shit, right? Issue is that framework for approaching my day-to-day has fallen apart since getting here. As a result, I'm unable to analyze my personal life with any sort of earnestness. Escapism to ambiguity.
But there's one terrifying prospect that I'd rather not visualize: I might be content with my current life. It would make sense if my neuroticism was born out of a generalized anxiety about my life trajectory. I constantly felt I was at a crossroads with options slipping away every day. Now, I don't stress about hobbies because clothing and film cameras satiates me. I don't think about my career because I have shit lined up for at least the next year.
But that also means this is the emotional apogee of my life. In my mind satiation shouldn't feel both overwhelming and deficient like this. It also means the range of issues I faced in suburbia are just latent, not buried and dealt with. Directly tied with my life circumstances, things can get just as bad as before without my experiences here being a meaningful lesson. Again it simply feels like monotony was replaced with a more involved monotony. And above all, there's no academic outlet to look for direction. There's no objectivity in my perceptions of life progress. Self-help books written by dusty spiritual men are less productive than boofing veterinary tranquilizers.
Last day of classes before the holidays. It's frankly sobering reading my old journals. Here's one from a year ago:
"Yeah, it's just been really odd. Classes are great, roommates are great, I'm just bored. Parties don't interest me and chasing tail seems exhausting. Change comes from within but I'm starting to question whether this is just another vacuum. I need to develop aspects of my life that will carry over when I'm done with this place. Still 2 years go by astonishingly quickly. Can't have any regrets. I really need to create new friendships and reanimate my hobbies."
Sounds like someone who is truly grounded in life, eh? This perceptive shift in my worldview and self-image these last 4 months have been indescribable. I thought I'd always be the pessimist, the mute guy in class. Have always loved talking to people but it doesn't lead anywhere in community college or even Uni. Naturalistic intersections are short, artifical ones take too much deliberate effort. I couldn't extrapolate my hobbies beyond idealism, nor could I share any of my excitement with someone proximate. Specialized hobby shops were too far and too expensive, located in tiny gentrified enclaves of passion in a sea of serialized commodities. Distance in the US played a big role. The lack of effective public transport compounds the already lengthy distances for someone without a car.
And yet, I've always been thoroughly hesitant to think that a change in setting will solve all my lingering frustrations in life. There's always disconnected lofty idealism attatched to Japan, and I've always wondered if I could come to terms with all the grey concrete and collectivist apathy underneath the veneer of lights. I'm different from those "i love japan for their culture" types. But is my praise, and by extension, my motivations to go to Japan valid? Convesely, are my feelings of contempt and fatalism regarding their social arrangements valid? Realizing "fuck, i've been acting on delusions" has persistently been one of my fears, and I centered my outlook on life around elucidating whatever was steering my life trajectory. Are my incorrect (or at best, grossly overstated) anticipations about life in Japan steering me in a direction that I will regret? Am I simplifying the main force behind this dissatisfaction in my life? What if I get there and it doesn't match my preconcieved notions? What if I get there and nothing changes? What if I get burned out? What if I get used to the sensory assault?
But what alternative was there, really. Until recently, apathy pulled the strings in my day-to-day. I convinced myself that languishing here was an integral part of living, just as 330 million Americans get by just fine. Satiation was never the goal, just keeping my head above the passivity threshold so analgous to depression. And so I lived. It wasn't particularly enjoyable. I would've probably enjoyed drugs.
But fuck me dead, this place has facilitated my rebirth. I died once when I decided to keep my head down, and again when I accepted my circumstances as static. Today I can go outside to take pictures and there will always be an interesting subject out there. I can sew up clothes and wear them without looking like I'm cosplaying. I can get my film developed at a cute little camera shop and get home in 2 hours. I can cycle through what I wear according to the weather because Japan has seasons. I can talk to people and following up isn't a massive pain in the gooch for both of us, And above all, my environment encourages all of that. Specialized hobby stores for weirdos, a sprawling subway system, even something as benign as weather is more dynamic and exciting. Everyday I'm beaming with excitement, I'm that American in class now. And it feels natural. This has aways been who I am, Japan helped me see that.
Getting hyped up with the South African guy over how hot the bird from Kemono Friends is.
I find myself being the extroverted american these days. Back in community college I was in absolute awe of the jerma-lookin personable guys. Friendly and open with everyone and just dissolving into conversations like they've always been there, like the smell of garbage permeating your kitchen. Moving borders meant a clean slate, no more baggage. Adhering to what I consider an idealized view of people, it's immensely gratifying to be "that guy." Meeting the South African guy was mind-blowing, talking about personal benchmarks of progress into 3am the same day we introduced ourselves. But that was under vastly more intimate parameters: now the tempo of class has much to contribute, seeing the same faces in sporadic vignettes. Accordingly, I feel like the percentage of vapid small talk has grown exponentially. Maybe I should've chosen a sharehouse instead of this apartment. I also think it's also the fleeting status of a senior. In 6 months not only am I severed from this Japanese uni, but my home Uni as well. Separated from school as a social insitution for the last time. I miss my Irvine buds, my disgusting Canadian buds.
I struggled through an employer-supplied personality exam in Japanese, impenetrable phrases impeding my progress along the way. One of the survey's curiosities was how strategic you were. Do you plan your actions or do you wing it? Can you create and follow a daily schedule? It got me thinking. In the stuff that matters i.e. life, school, jobs, it's been ragtag, mainly because of my inability to forsee what lies ahead. There's a few crossroads moments in the last 5 years that I think about, I'm still left wondering what my life would look like now if I had taken the alternate route, what I'd lose and gain from doing so, all within the limitations of lofty fantasy. Was I right to enroll in this Uni? Would I have embraced study abroad so thoroughly if I had? Would a different part-time job have enriched my time during college? Should I have pursued that connection a little more? Should I have said something different? There's few things you can predict in scenarios like this, and my early life was littered with decisions like this. Relinquish any notion with agency and see where it takes you, that's largely what's occupied my thinking.
But in the matters that I'm supposed to enjoy, blocks of time in my life that I have direct agency over, I've been a bit more organized. Hobby to-do lists, wishlists, show backlogs, it's been a continuous stream of desires. I look back occasionally on the notes I left during high school and it's always a strange sensation. The bulleted tasks are laughably small-scale, but I was at a point where tracking those sprinkings of desire was a pressing priority. "Organize files" and "watch X" kept me together for those years, within the confines of a grey suburban backdrop. Some bulletpoints were more distant fantasies pulling me along, stuff like "build a PC" or "__" And I still do this, drafting up shopping lists of impossibly expensive photobooks and rags of linen.
But life isn't a hobby, it's not meant to be structured like an idealistic checklist. And it's taken me 7 or so years to realize that within this flurry of an employment cycle. I don't have an idealized full-time job or lifestyle in mind, and that contradicts so harshly on a fundamental level with these 6000-character applications at probably what is the most important time in my life. I'm not even sure what kind of lifestyle I fantasized about when I still lived in that American suburbia bubble. I'm no longer sure where the memories and idealism of grandma's house belong to. And I'm not sure laundry lists are doing me any good either, hobbies are easily discarded when you're at a bad place. I have to change how I think about and approach daily life in both halves of life, two blocks that I've kept firmly partitioned since I became a sentient organism.
I'm not good at this whole "self awareness" thing
It's been well over a year since I've got here and like most things, it's been a strange experience, one I have yet to completely pick apart. It's fair to say that half of my time here has and continues to be under quarantine so it's not a wildly surprising conclusion. Still, the whirling fantasies prior to getting on the plane have become somewhat opaque. I am at that point where it takes some effort to visualize what my life in San Diego was like. Even my downtrodden years in Irvine seem retrospectively kinda nice. When watching washed-up comedians taking buses around the Japanese countryside on TV, it transports me to that mindset I had when slumped over in a chair in a chilly San Diego apartment. It looks foreign, it looks like something that is bursting with potential, potential that is out of reach a few thousand miles west. But today I when I head to Ikebukuro or Shibuya I know what I'm getting, I take everything literally. I tell myself "surely there's nothing more interesting beyond what I can see right now."
All my hobbies that have blossomed in Japan, all the purchases made possible by living here, the potential in enjoying my daily repertoire have expanded substancially. And maybe that's the bit I'm dwelling on, the potential. I am again at a transitional period in my life. Standing still feels fine, if with the creeping sense of financial insecurity. I have regrets of what I didn't do in Uni, and I have fear of the full-time working lifestyle that's on the horizon. And like my aimless community college days I find myself chasing my own tail, lazy sources of gratification. I feel like I'm not effectively maximizing my time or presence in Japan, just like I was in the US. I need a set of hard, definitive fantasies to work towards. I am unable to fully ground my gratification in silly little insular hobbies and above all, I need human connections to keep me going.