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.”
Kaley wrote about her epiphany a few months ago, while she was living in Sapporo, Japan. As of September 1 she is back living in her hometown of Orlando, Florida… for now.
What advice would you give yourself at 20? And at 25?
I would tell myself at 20 that the choices you are making now are the right ones.
Also to dump that stupid boy you’re dating because he’s no good for you. It’s okay to give up.
And I’d say to myself last year “leave Japan in April. Don’t wait.”
What does a quarter life epiphany mean to you?
Realizing that you need to step up and get serious about things.
I think it’s when your life focus shifts from trying to please others and make others happy to making yourself happy and moving towards the life you want for yourself.
As students we are so focused on pleasing our teachers, parents, friends, etc.
Then in our early twenties we are slowly breaking away from that way of thinking, and the day that you wake up and think, “Wow, I am the only person who should really matter to me this way,” is when you have that epiphany.
It’s knowing that those people who are on your side will be there for you regardless of who you are. It’s a freeing epiphany, really, of knowing that your life is what you make it.
What was your quarter life epiphany?
When I decided to leave Japan, easily.
I have lived here for four years and I am so thankful for every moment I have spent here, good and bad. But I realized that my life here is giving me nothing. I didn’t enjoy my job, I have a tiny apartment I don’t enjoy, I hate the weather in Sapporo.
Why am I making myself suffer? I knew from the beginning that Japan wasn’t where I wanted to be forever, so why should I continue to be here?
Why not just finally make the leap and leave.
It’s scary, however.
I am leaving all of my friends and currently unemployed for the first time in my life. Now the real struggle begins, I think. And that’s what the epiphany is. Making the hard choices to become that adult you are supposed to be.
Where were you when you had your quarter life epiphany?
Walking with the guy I had been seeing for a year. He told me that he was going to Germany, something I knew was coming from the moment we met. We were walking to the electronics store and when he said he was leaving I realized that all those reasons I had told myself to stay were meaningless. I’ll always have friends to leave, I’ll always have a job to quit, I’ll always have an apartment to pack up, I’ll always have to search for a job. None of these things will change if I leave in six months versus six years. Why prolong the inevitable? It’s time to be an adult and get my “forever home”.
What do you think inspired your quarter life epiphany?
I had been miserable at my job for about a year, it was very unfulfilling to me. I didn’t have a lot of responsibilities and no one really took me seriously. I had no upward mobility.
I hated where I lived. My apartment is nice as is the location, but it’s loud and my neighbors are all hosts and hostesses and are really loud. One of my neighbors was constantly doing laundry in the middle of the night during the week and making my sleep patterns all messed up since I had to wake up at 5:30am (gag) for an hour commute to a school I hated.
My life just felt like it was stuck in a cycle I didn’t enjoy. And I realized that I don’t have to be unhappy anymore, that I have other options.
How are you different now than before your quarter life epiphany?
Well, I can no longer call myself an English teacher in Japan and in less than a week I’ll no longer be living here. That’s a pretty huge change.
I also feel more determined to make something of myself. I am pouring myself into getting my blog out there and really practicing on my photography.
I am planning a trip to Europe for two months and looking into careers that interest me. I feel more sure of myself. For the first time in a while I feel optimistic about my future, like I have direction.
What advice would you give to others who want to make a major change in their life?
If it feels right, it is.
Think about what is keeping you back from your dreams, are they always going to be there? Are they really keeping you back? So much of it is mental, and if you just focus in your head about what you want and that you can do it, it’ll happen. If you want something badly enough you’ll be able to do what needs to be done.
It will be scary and you’ll probably cry and scream and spend days moping around not wanting to face the big change ahead of you, but that’s okay. That’s part of coping. Big changes are mentally straining, but you just have to remember that nothing is forever and you can always do something else. You’re only tied down if you let yourself be.
What challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?
Moving to a different country was a challenge, of course, but I don’t really want to focus on the standard “oh the language barrier” or things of that ilk, because while those are definite challenges they’re not really all that challenging. They’re par for the course.
I think being away from home when so many good and bad things have happened. My dog died while I was over here, my lifelong friend got married and has had a baby, family members have gotten sick and others have died. It was hard being so far away from all of that, realizing that life goes on without you. But that’s life, you know? I think you just have to accept that it’s the way it is. There’s no easy way to overcome or get over the things you’ve missed, but you can be okay with the fact that you did.
What do you wish more people realized?
I hear all the time how brave I am for living overseas. People tell me they are so jealous that I get to travel and they seem to think that I have this huge awesome life. I went to work just like they did. I begrudgingly sat at a desk watching the clock. I spent days inside watching YouTube or Netflix. My life isn’t this big adventure just because I live in a different country. Anyone can do it. I’ve met such a diverse group of people from all different backgrounds and countries doing what I am. It’s really nothing special. Only difference is that we actually packed our lives into suitcases and got on the plane. That’s all it takes.
What advice would you give to someone having a quarter life crisis?
Embrace it. Accept the feelings as valid and try and see why you are feeling like you are. If you’re going through this crisis it must mean there is something in your life that needs to change, and you should change it. You’re never stuck in one place, the world is huge but it’s also very small. Nothing is out of your grasp. And really, no one has all their stuff together. We’re all just winging it.
I (ALWAYS) travel solo, because I think it is…
Easier. I’ve actually never traveled alone, unless you count my moving around Japan as travel. It’s easier to travel alone, I think, because you’re not bound by what someone else wants to experience. I’ve had some good and bad experiences traveling with people, but I think I want to become a solo traveler. It’s easier to make friends because you can’t just latch onto your travel buddy, you can do exactly what you want without worrying what someone else wants. It sounds freeing and easy.
I get through long flights by…
Sleeping. I take some NyQuil and just sleep. I stay up the entire night before a long flight to optimize my exhaustion and just hope that I can sleep the entire way. There’s really no way to enjoy a long flight, I just remind myself that this is the price I have to pay for ADVENTURE!
The cause that really gets me riled up is…
Equal Rights, all around. People being judged for things that they can’t help and that have zero impact on the lives of those around them really upsets me. Living in Japan as a white American means that I am constantly stared at and treated differently because I don’t look Japanese. It has been really frustrating and I am usually not even treated negatively most of the time, just different. I can see why people become so fervent in their movements to be treated with equality.
When traveling, I always miss…
Being alone. I need alone time to decompress but that is so hard when you’re traveling, especially when staying in hostels. Privacy isn’t really a thing in those situations.
I REALLY want to visit…
Prague! One of my good friends taught English there before moving to Japan and it was a city I never considered visiting before meeting him. But it looks awesome, cheap and with so much interesting culture. Definitely going to visit there when I am in Europe next Spring.
Best travel tip?
Sunscreen! I am so pale and the worst thing would be to get sunburned. I would rather spend a couple minutes every few hours covering myself in sunscreen than deal with the pain of a sunburn. Even if it’s overcast, sunscreen!
Best packing tip?
Don’t pack a lot of clothes. You don’t need them. When I went to Vietnam and Cambodia for two weeks I brought four shirts, two shorts, and a pair of pants. You can buy laundry soap and wash them in the shower! It saves you so much space and weight.
Worst travel experience?
Being with a friend who was constantly on their phone every moment we were near WiFi. It was so annoying to be sitting down for lunch and they’re just on the phone the entire time. I wanted to travel with you! I am going to be more strict about phone use with people I travel with. It actually is a huge reason I want to travel alone.
Current city versus home city? What’s different between the two?
Sapporo and Orlando are very different. For one we get about 20 feet of snow a year here [in Sapporo], and Florida gets none. The weather is the biggest difference and I definitely prefer no winter over six months of winter. If the seasons were more balanced here in Sapporo I would enjoy it more. I like that I don’t have to drive everywhere like I do in Orlando.
Favorite place to live?
No idea yet, if I knew I wouldn’t be living all over the place. I know where it’s not, though!
Favorite place to visit?
Traveling around Asia is great, and I think Hanoi, Vietnam has been my favorite city to visit. It was just so unlike any place I had been before. If I were to revisit somewhere I have already been it would be Hanoi. I’d like to experience the nightlife there because I didn’t get a chance to when I was there before. Though I did have to put up with a vomiting bunkmate because they drank too much…
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.
Check out the other Quarter Life Epiphany responses by clicking here
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