3 Things I Learned From Being Stuck Out Of Japan For 5 Months During a Pandemic

On March 12th I left Japan on a 3 week trip with my roommate to South Africa. It was a once in a lifetime trip for me… we had talked about me joining her to visit her mother for 5 years and it was finally happening! Of course with the looming pandemic we did our research and kept an eye on the news the weeks leading up to our departure. Days before, we made an educated decision that we would be okay to go: Japan hadn’t shut their boarders for the most part and South Africa was hardly touched with only a handful of cases in Johannesburg and we were traveling just to Cape Town. We arrived on March 13th and within the first few days of being there a state of emergency was declared in South Africa, but things didn’t really shut down. Life was normal. A bit more time passes and about 5 days before we were supposed to leave, Emirates cancels all flights for the near future, leaving us no way to get back to Japan. On top of this, South Africa stated they were going into a heavy lockdown starting midnight March 26th… the day we were originally supposed to leave. Everything happened so quickly and my family and I made the swift and emotional decision to pack me up get me out on one of the last flights out of South Africa to the US through Europe on March 26th. I arrived to my parents home on Orlando Florida, my childhood home, thinking I would ride out the 2 week self quarantine and be on my way back to Japan shortly after… but Japan decided to shut their boarders with a good majority of the countries of the world on April 3rd, including foreign residents of Japan. I was stuck indefinitely at my parents house at almost 30 years old…. and it ended up being just over 5 months until I returned to Japan on August 15th. Throughout this time, I was able to spend time with my family I wouldn’t have otherwise and also reflect on my life in Japan…. and here are 3 things that I learned while I was stuck outside of Japan during that time.

Building Adult Relationships with Parents is Hard but Fulfilling

My parents are both 61 years old. Before I was stuck at their place for 5 months, high school was the first time I was home for that long… about 12 years ago. I felt so lucky to have been able to spend that invaluable time with them. Since I was abroad and at college and had only see them 1-2 times a year for about 8 years…. I barley saw them and we had some conflicts over the years because of it. I couldn’t come home for various reasons, including work, and it was hard for them to understand my lifestyle here and how work culture was, especially in my first 4 years of working and gaining experience. I also wasn’t very eloquent in explaining to them how difficult it was for me to acclimate to living in Japan. I bounced around to a bunch of jobs which lead me to start from 10 days off with 6 months with no leave allowed which is normal for a company here when you start with them… which is what lead to the conflicts. It started to get better when I came back to the US more for work the past 2 years but my time at home was a turning point in learning about each other. I learned about them and they learned about me as an adult and I was able to explain things that I couldn’t before. This was a space for me to build that adult relationship with them I had wanted to for a while now and hadn’t had the opportunity. Now I have that relationship and I do not regret having my life over here now and they fully support me and understand my life.

I love teaching about Japan and I love my online community

I love Japan. No questions asked, I love my life here so much and it only solidified it more when I was away for so long. I also had so much support and love from people who didn’t even know me personally who started following my journey… I was really touched by that. This small online community I’ve made and joined kept me sane this entire time. I realized I want to to dive into my more creative side and teach people what I have learned about Japan over the past 8 years of living here. Everyone who lives here has a unique story to share and my goal is to share mine in the hopes that it will help inspire someone to live abroad someday. I also love interacting with people online and helping them how I can… I want to be the person that I wish I had to go to for information back in 2012 when I moved here and didn’t know what I was doing. If I can help just a handful of people it would make me so happy.

I am strong and can get through anything

I already knew I was pretty strong because I upped and moved here to Japan all on my own at 22 years old and went through some pretty hard times working and building a life here. BUT nothing prepared me for loosing a good chunk of that for 5 months. I had been slowing building up my mental health for about a year when this happened and since I was prepared this ended up being like a final exam for me. I was thrown into uncertainty… a kind of limbo if you would. My personal life was put on pause for that time while work and everything around me continued to move and nothing was permanent for me… I couldn’t set down roots but I also knew this was going to come to an end abruptly at some point. I can only describe it as “limbo”. Now that I am out and on the other side, I’m finding my new normal and I look back on those 5 months as some of the toughest I have gone through… even compared to really bad jobs I’ve had in the past and I got through as smoothly as one could in that situation… more smooth than I ever though I could have. This made me realize… if I can get through all of this then I can get through anything. I’m more resilient and open than I ever have been before. Most importantly, things have changed and shifted in my life positively because of this and now I have more time for things I enjoy. I’m now starting my 30’s and can’t be any prouder of what I have accomplished in my 20’s and during those 5 months.


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