The reason I'd made it all the way out to the "big" city of Okayama on a (gasp!) Wednesday night was that one of our old gang that left last year was back in Japan and back in town to play and reconnect. This was the second of our outings during her visit, this one a little more tame than the Pinball bar and karaoke until 3:00AM reminiscing through reenacting we did over the weekend, evoking happy memories of those of our group that have moved on as we sang "their" songs and said their names aloud. "This one's for him. Remember when he did that silly thing?"
Last night as I talked about the coming year, I looked at the entire half of the table to my right and realized that they would all be leaving or already gone within a month. Those to my left would remain, but none of the original group (though two of them will still be here, just weren't there last night). Old friends. New friends. Time passing like a fast current. Old school izakaya (Japanese pub) with old memories. A new year ahead with new faces and new traditions. Life is so full of then and now and chance and change.
It's weird that I am back here at all. If my life had skewed just slightly differently, the way I thought it was supposed to go back when I was doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing, neatly living my life according to some color by numbers pattern that betrayed me and I abandoned in the end, none of this would be doable. One happenstance leads to others that lead to others that sometimes blow up completely and leave you with nothing but a clean slate to start anew with a few precious scraps that you managed to salvage from the past to make into something beautiful in your future.
I stood there for a moment and took it all in. All of it. The city. The fountain. The lights. The little corner bar where it's easy to grab a quick beer when waiting for friends at the fountain that is the default meeting place. Okayama City isn't really all that, and people in Tokyo would laugh, maybe, that we even call it a city, but it is. I love cities, especially in Japan. I want to live in one someday. I like that people are wandering around at 10PM on a school night, that there are trains to catch to get back home and that it's so easy and convenient and safe and nice and awesome here. Somehow this upcoming round of goodbyes reminds me that I, too, will have to say goodbye again. I still have another full year, so there's no point in dwelling on it too much, but I'm allowed to pause and consider and appreciate.
So, if you saw the foreign girl standing near the fountain last night looking wistful and taking pictures that she has already taken 100 times over in the past 2 years, that was me, appreciating. Being grateful down to my toes for this chance. My head full of determination to extract every single second of enjoyment and experience out of this opportunity. Feeling my heart flutter with the contrast of conflicting emotions that adults feel, knowing just how temporary everything really is and how important to cherish what is in front of you. Right. Now.
The new JETs will arrive soon after (or overlapping) the old JETs departing to literally all over the world. It's crazy how many places people are from and go to after living this experience. Hello. Goodbye. Hello. Goodbye. Once in awhile, hello again, hug, beer, goodbye again. Bittersweet. All of it. And I don't know what else to do with all of that other than to take a picture to remember what I felt this summer night and to ramble aimlessly in an attempt to capture something that feels so elusive and release it out into the wild of the interwebz to flow where it will.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~PS. Just because I haven't blogged in awhile and people are kind enough to wonder and ask, yes, Tom and I are still madly in love while he holds down the fort back home. We had the incredible opportunity to meet up in Thailand late April/early May, and it was seven kinds of fabulous. Then I'll be home for a visit in just a few weeks. Every single day I recognize how very lucky I am.