An ex-expat (having lived in Japan for 4 years teaching English but now back in Florida), Kaley blogs at Communication is Difficult, and enjoys cooking and food from around the world.
She describes her journey, “I’m basically just trying to find my place in the world by visiting all the places.”
For Kaley’s interview answers, click here, otherwise read on for the story of her Quarter Life Epiphany!
When I was in college I decided to move to Japan and teach English. I wanted the experience overseas, I wanted a fresh started for my life, and I wanted to put the knowledge I had learned about the country while in school to good use. I applied for a job teaching in public schools and less than four months after I graduated from Florida State University I found myself on a plane headed for Yamaguchi prefecture.
I was 22 at the time, my parents had supported me financially all through college, and I had always lived with roommates. I didn’t really know what being an adult was, so I had to discover it while living in Japan. It’s been four years now, and I’m currently living on the opposite side of the country from where I started and I can assure you that I am still not completely sure what being an adult is, only that I am trying my best to seem like I have all my stuff together (hint: I don’t).
When I first decided to move to Japan I was on a seven month contract, I planned to stay for an extra year and head back to America shortly after my 23rd birthday. Obviously that didn’t happen, and I moved from my small village in Hokkaido to the largest city on the island, Sapporo, after breaking the news to my sobbing mother. I wasn’t coming home, and for the last two and a half years I’ve called this city my home. I had loved my life in Japan, but I always knew deep down that this country wasn’t right for me long term. I didn’t want to raise children here, I didn’t want to work as an English teacher, and the thought of trying to work in the Japanese corporate environment made me want to crawl into a ball and cry for days.
But, it’s easy to accept things as they are. I had a lot of friends in Japan, it’s really easy to make them if you don’t mind drinking often and flaunting your “foreigner appeal”. You can easily connect with other expats because they’re going through just the same things that you are. I had a job that paid my bills (just) and I was able to get a part-time job that allowed me to have fun. I could travel around Asia on my vacations and picking up boys was really easy. What more could a young 20-something want?
It was when I turned 25 that I began to just feel hollow inside to it all. I had no lasting fulfillment in my life, no upward mobility in my job. My apartment, while nice, is noisy and most of my neighbors are hosts and hostesses with late hours and noisy shoes that would wake me up as they clomped down the hallway at 3am. My friend circle was changing, people coming and going and constantly meeting new people. Japanese people would come up to me saying, “Oh, Kaley, remember me?!” and I would shrug, they were just one of dozens I would meet once and never see again.
I signed on for another year, mainly because I had fallen in love with the school I was at and they wanted to keep me for the following semester. The spring and summer, though, is when the epiphany really started to happen. I began to feel really stagnant at the school, and the resentment for my situation manifested itself more and more. That August I renewed my visa and was, for the third year in a row, only given one year even though it was possible to get 3, 5 or 7 year ones. The immigration office just didn’t want to give them to us. I told a friend after I picked up my one year visa, “I won’t renew it again, I am tired of this.” He laughed and brushed it off, saying that he’d see me next fall.
Well, I wasn’t lying. By the time this post is live I’ll likely be back in America, having finally left Japan after being there for four years. I nearly left earlier, in April when my contract expired, but my job convinced me to stay, along with other personal ties to the country. It wasn’t until a month into the new school year started, in June, that I realized I couldn’t do it any longer. My family lost a few of its members, and also gained some adorable new ones, and I was sitting at my desk every day being miserable.
That’s when the epiphany really hit me. I didn’t have to be in this situation anymore. I never planned to be in Japan forever, what was really keeping me here? I’d always have friends, I’d always need to pack up my apartment, and I’d always need to leave. So I gave my company two months’ notice that I was leaving, and I decided to change.
That’s what the quarter life epiphany is really all about. It’s being young enough to realize that life can still be what you make of it, and that messing up is okay. Trying new things isn’t scary and your life is still lacking the burdens that come along with making many changes. I don’t have a husband or a pet or kids. I don’t have a mortgage to deal with. My debt is nonexistent and I can still do anything I want. It’s easy to look at the lives of your friends on Facebook and compare yourself to them, “oh they just had a baby and I can’t even get a third date.” Or maybe, “Wow that new house she bought is beautiful, too bad I can’t paint the walls of this overpriced apartment…” But, we’re only a quarter of the way through our lives! That’s nothing. There is still so much time in it to do whatever you want, to be whatever you want.
Visit Kaley and show her some love!
Kaley’s Blog – Communication is Difficult
About Kaley: For the last four years I have lived in Japan teaching English. This September I’ll be back in Florida, making myself an ex-expat. I’ll also be planning a two month trip to Europe next spring, so I’ll be blogging a lot about the information I find to make that be as painless of a trip as possible. I also enjoy cooking and foods from around the world. I’m basically just trying to find my place in the world by visiting all the places.
Interested in reading more Quarter Life Epiphanies? Click here
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