Connect

This year I wrote about 40 New Year’s cards with Japanese addresses (and roughly 20 to go overseas). It’s a tradition in Japan called nengajo, but like all analog traditions it seems outdated. Whenever I asked friends my age for their address they looked back confused. One Japanese friend told me only old people do that, while another sent me his email address.

For the past year I’ve been working as a digital illustrator. I’ve drawn over 200 images on a pen and tablet, but nothing I can touch and can hang on a wall and almost less that gets seen for more than a day. I keep telling myself I’ll make more art, but in the wrong environment I’m not even sure what that means.

So this year I looked forward to making cards again. Knowing that I had all year to do it you wouldn’t think I’d wait til the last half of December to work on it. But November came with just an image floating around in my head. I finally put it down, finished it off, and printed at three in the morning a week before the deadline. You see, especially in Japan the post tries to get all these nengajo with all their drawings of pigs (according to the Eastern zodiac) delivered exactly on the first day of the year. In order to make their lives easier, you’re asked to drop off your cards by the 27th.

I submitted my order at 3 in the morning December 21st. Immediately after pressing confirm I decided to compare with my card from last year. Frantically I went back to the order page and scanned through the Japanese for the word “cancel.” I had drawn by pig, written my note, and even put 2019, but forgotten the most important part which of course was to write “Happy New Year.” I went back into Photoshop, added the forgotten text, and pressed order, only to feel once again unsatisfied and immediately cancel. I decided these types of decisions were not best to be made at three in the morning.

I received the cards in time, and wrote out all the addresses one by one. Nowadays you can even submit a spreadsheet with all the addresses to be printed on the back, but I don’t see the point. If you’re already gonna be old fashioned enough to send out New Year’s cards, then why not add the personal touch of writing out the names yourself.

I’ve been getting cards for as long as I remember. Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Easter were all made possible by Hallmark. When I was in 4th grade I had a pen pal named Peter Li from Australia. He sent me a picture of him in a school uniform (which of course to me only signified he was Catholic) and his handwriting despite only being 10 years old was written in a beautiful cursive script I’d only seen in British films about the 1800s. (I switched our conversations to email out of shame.) By the time I reached Junior High I started writing letters to a grandfather who until that point I hadn’t even imagined ever existing. Of course I had a Grandma Davis, but I’d never supposed if there even was a Grandpa Davis. Looking back I’d seen pictures of Gramps, my dad’s Grandpa, holding me as a baby and must’ve assumed with scraggly white hair and gold teeth that he’d fit the role of Grandfather well enough. My real Grandpa Davis was in prison. Even back then through all our correspondence, I never thought to ask how he wound up there. I’ll only say there’s nothing like getting a letter from someone who can only escape the place they’re in through words.

How did they do it? We ask ourselves of the previous generation, not realizing that those methods are still available. Even now, for the three plus years I’ve been in Japan I’ve only spoken with one of my best friends from high school through the regular postcard in the mail, and that seems to be enough.

When I graduated college I had this idea of hand printing postcards every month to stay in contact with those I left by going to New York. I made it to August before the dedication faded. As a poor wannabe artist living in the most expensive in America, spending money on materials, postage, and time is a hard squeeze in a budget of food and rent. I think these New Year’s cards are the residual passions of that initial project.

It’s now January 3rd in Japan and only one person has told me they’ve gotten their nengajo. How did they do it? I ask myself, looking at a message on my phone that has been read but getting no reply. How did you send something off to a family member, a lover, a pen pal, trusting that the address was up to date, the postage price correct, and not to be intercepted by a meddling family member or jealous friend. And then of course, you have to rely on them being diligent enough to go through the same proccess in return. I have the Supremes singing through my head, “Wai-aa-aai-ait Mr. Postman.”

If you get a card from me, don’t feel obliged to message me right away. Maybe you weren’t even expecting it. Just know that unlike an email, that card took time. I held it in my hands, shuffled it in my bag, biked it to the post office. You might one day find it in a shoebox and throw it out, barely remebering who I am. But at least for now, it’s a physical connection between you and me.

Stories

It’s been a while since I’ve written. That’s not because I’ve got nothing to write about. Quite the contrary, I find that whenever I’m doing the most in my life is when I’m writing the least. Because of that, I’ve been struggling to figure out what to do with this site. When it started I tried to keep it chronological. I moved to Japan with the idea that I’d only be staying for two years. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into, I don’t quite remember but if you’d like to find out you can probably go back and read my first post.

Now it’s three and a half years later and I’m still not positive with what I’m doing. 2018, despite having some really great highlights, was without a doubt the worst year of my life. From sickness, to car crashes, losing apartments, cutting off fingers, and even more sickness, I knew before it was halfway over that I was just ready to move on. But that left me with the direction, but no destination.

Usually at the end of the year I make a few resolutions. Typically they’re concrete goals, something clearly defined and achievable. Last year they were ambitious, but I made it a decent way until 150 cm (60 in) of snow and norovirus knocked me off my feet. This year I don’t have anything so clear. I thought about returning to a vegetarian diet, getting out of debt, journaling everyday. But this year I don’t think I’ll pay any mind to things I should do. This past October I tried to draw everyday and that wound up being a stressful and penultimately incomplete endeavor. If I want to start fresh, I’m going to do it without restrictions, and discover my motivation organically.

With that in mind, I do want to be present this year. I felt like last year I just took what came at me, and went with the flow. Hopefully this year I’ll be proactive, and stay connected with you. Thus, I get to the point of this post. I’m changing the purpose of this site (not that there was much purpose left). I’m not going to use it to keep you updated with what I’m doing, but instead keep you updated with what I’ve done. Sometimes I might write about Japan, but others times I expect I’ll use it to put a record to what’s on my mind. I thought about starting fresh, and changing the whole domain, but then again, that’s just too much of a hassle.

So here’s to a New Year, no resolutions, no destination, but surely better than the last.

 

 

Ps. Tomorrow (technically today) will be the 11th year anniversary of my movie hopping tradition. I plan on going to the theater, so anyone who wants to join me is welcome, even if you’re still an ocean away.

Car

I’ve mentioned before about an ongoing argument with my mom when I was young. She wanted me to get my driver’s license. In a strange role reversal for this typical scenario, I, the foolhearty, stubborn, and naive fourteen year old, rejected this idea.

“Dillon, you need a license,” she’d say.

“No, I don’t.”

“How are you gonna get around?”

“Wherever I need to go, I’ll go with my friends.”

She looked at my best friends, Alex and Kelson, sitting in the backseat of the car after cross country practice, “I’m sure they’re gonna love driving you around.”

A part of it came from my aunt. Both my parents have younger sisters, and in both sides of my family I’ve been declared the wrong child. I don’t come from my parents, but instead my aunts. A lot of that is true.  My mom’s sister didn’t have a license at the time of the conversation, and she’d been living just fine. My mom never had a good way of explaining the choices she made for me — even if they were the right ones. As an adult now I realize how hard it would’ve been to get one on my own, and even how difficult it can be to afford one. In Japan the legal driving age is 18, and even then, most people don’t get a license until they turn 20. The cost of going through training, and paying all the fees is at least $2,000 so it’s not something to take lightly either. So eventually I lost that argument. I got free drivers training as part of my public education, and was out with my permit when I was 15.

Ok, fine. I got the license, but no way am I going to get a car.

My first accident was a week after I got my license. It was in September because as a typical suburban teenager  I spent the summer volunteering in Mexico, doing a choir tour in Germany, and going to running camp in Oregon after my birthday in July. I was pulling out of a Caribou Coffee after helping time a girls swim meet in my mom’s Lexus ES. Just so you know, the initials ES stand for Executive Sedan. This was a decent car to start out driving. It had a huge hood and was powerful on the gas. It did not, however, have good views of clearance. What I thought was enough space between me and the Lexus RX (the SUV line of luxury vehicles), was really just enough space to collapse my front bumper on their back bumper. It was a crunching sound that brought me to depths of fear I hadn’t visited since I halfheartedly helped my mom move a couch and she broke a nail. Luckily, with a little spit the white paint on the back bumper of the SUV came right off. I didn’t stick around to see if anyone else would’ve noticed. And I won’t go into much detail of my mother’s wrath, but only say that I’m so thankful she works for Lexus where they actually have all the tools to fix such a problem.

I never had want for a car in high school. I could only go out after school anyway, which meant someone would be home with a car for me to borrow (take). I never had the kind of money to think about getting a car either. In college finally my roommate, Ostrich, bought a VW wagon one summer, and it was the first time I realized I could even afford to do something like that. Except, in reality I couldn’t afford to do something like that. Anything I attempted to save was quickly spent on climbing equipment, or computer parts, or underwear. Instead I wore it as a badge of my ability. I thought about times when I’d be in my late twenties, drunkenly circled with friends playing five fingers, and I’d declare, “Never have I ever owned a car.”

Of course in New York there’s no need for cars. After graduation I never thought about it, taking the train or riding a bike to work. In winter I switched my slim bike tires for ones equally as narrow but with ridges that would keep me upright in piling snow. Then when I first came to Japan with no savings and an insurmountable view of my college loans having a car was still unobtainable. I even specifically checked a box in a preference sheet that it’d be best if I could walk to my school.

I’ve had a driver’s license for ten years and have essentially driven consistently that entire time. I think the longest stretch I’ve been workout driving was six months when I first got here and didn’t have a permit to drive. Then I only took the wheel as a designated driver since Japan has a zero tolerance drinking and driving policy. I finally got my Japanese license a year after I first arrived. For an American it’s quite simple –and if you’re from Maryland it’s a piece of cake–just a written test (about ten questions almost completely pictorial). I was actually kinda surprised at the lack of skill proving. When I was sixteen fresh out of driving school I had to show off all sorts of techniques: parallel parking, hill parking, T-parking. The first time I failed because I crossed into a different lane while turning into a two lane one-way street. This time I just had to hit speed limits, look out for stop signs, and remember to drive on the right (meaning left) side of the road. Even then when I passed I’d been fantasizing about the types of cars you see in the Fast & Furious movies. But it was still just a dream with no real money to put behind it. At that time I’d already had a sense that I wouldn’t recontract with my school, and at that time the probability of me staying in Japan was quite low. A car would just be a money sink I’d enjoy for two months in the spring and then worry about selling.

I was also pretty peculiar about what my first car would be. The smartest thing would buy a tiny economy kei car for $1,000 or even a Honda fit for twice that much and call it good. Except I grew up going to car shows and watching The Fast & The Furious. Even now there’s usually a weekend every year where I’ll watch them all in order, adding the newest edition for last. Cars were (/are?) something special for me. When I was a kid I played Need for Speed games for hours imagining it was the real thing. I think it had a connection to why I enjoyed running, why I read The Flash comic books, why I like Dub Step music. There’s something about speed that runs deep through my soul.

I searched through thousands of listings for cars on auction websites. In the end, with the start of summer vacation and my new job drawing nearer, I realized I had to go with what I could get. Leave it to Yukie, who’d become my constant savior and practical caretaker in Japan, to muster through all her contacts to find me a car. Leave it to my luck for it to have been the model I was considering: Subaru Legacy B4 sedan, silver, twin turbo, all wheel drive, less than 100,000 miles, and beautiful. It was a gas guzzling beast that could barely fit on some of the countryside roads, but it was fast and cool and more than enough for me. The first month of having it I went through $200 of gas in two weeks just driving it along the coast and through mountain roads day and night. There was an entire freedom I hadn’t realized I could get with the power to go anywhere at my fingertips.

I’d already planned the modifications for my new car, so although I was reckless, I wasn’t careless. That whole time I’d only had one accident: that minor fender bender the week after I got my license. Except when I started writing this post back in November I’d experienced two more in two months. Since then I’ve had another two.

Perhaps tellingly three of the four happened when I was driving rental cars. The first wasn’t too bad, just an understeer of a plastic box into a guard rail — an annoying bite into my pocketbook. The second was worse, an actual crash. I was on three hours of sleep heading toward Osaka with four of my coworkers (I was on the most amount of sleep, and arguably the most experienced with long distance drives). It was only until we got into the city after a highway of torrential rain that I was on tilt. We’d left an hour later than planned to catch our flight to Singapore. Really we were reaching the end of our drive, so my fatigue was probably part of the reason. I’d considered after two hours to pull into a rest stop and switch drivers, but with only an hour left I figured I thought I’d persevere.

City highways were a bit more challenging. It’s funny because it finally felt familiar. In Minneapolis so much is connected through the highways, so I didn’t think I’d be so rusty. Working out Japanese signs while driving too fast in kilometers proved to be too much, and I was finally taken in when the construction moved my third lane into the second. Luckily I was driving what was essentially a luxury space ship on wheels. The front bumper and door jammed into the back end of a passing truck with a that wasn’t as startling as it was awakening — at least for me. We were stranded for an hour sorting everything out and barely made the plane. No one was hurt, but I still called my mom crying out of shame.

Before then I’d always been a bit confident in my driving skills, and I still think I’m reliable, but it was a tough way to learn to put safety first.

The next two were within a week of each other last January which I’ve now deemed the worst month of my life (which too be fair isn’t saying much, but it’s still a sample size of 300). The first was, as I’d learn the saying in Japanese, “100% not bad” or in American English, “totally not my fault.” I was completely stopped at a red light when I heard the screech from behind, the crunch, felt the jolt, rocked in my car, and still for a couple seconds wasn’t sure what happened. Did they hit my car? Was that an accident? Really? Right now? Two weeks away from moving? Literally already finished the deal to sell my car and now… I took a breath and let out a couple expletives. Looking at the back the car was even more painful. The roof is connected to the side panel in one seamless piece and I always knew a crash would be irreversible. The entire trunk which last fall filled three people’s $1,500 worth of Costco groceries, was smudged like a folded futon. Trust me, it’s worse than it looks.

 

 

It was replaced with a two wheel drive Toyota just in time for 140 centimeters (55 inches) to fall. I got stuck and dug out more than three times in one day, finally cracking the front bumper as the puny front wheels careened into a pile of fresh snow. I was supremely upset that’s I couldn’t enjoy cruising in my Subaru one last time as I hauled all my belongings on the freeway to Tokyo, but I never actually appreciated it’s capabilities until I had to use a different incredibly inferior piece of plastic.

Originally the title of this post was going to be Drive. It’s a hobby that a lot of Japanese (men) claim. “I like to drive,” they say or, “I drive in my free time.” I’ll still have plenty of time for that. In Tokyo you can rent almost any type of car for the right price and I already forsee myself heading to the beach in a convertible once summer comes. What I won’t have, at least for another couple years, perhaps even a decade, is another car. It was a short fun six months of ownership, but it was a draining one too. Driving to work through traffic is even more humiliating in a car that can reach 100km/h in six seconds. The environmental impact wore on my conscience as well.

I’ll always enjoy pushing the pedal, a good soundtrack in the stereo, open windows, and straightaways. For now, I’ll just have to enjoy pedaling wheels, gripping drop-down handlebars, and more than a little extra money from reducing climate change. Besides, when you’re a runner you know: fast is all about perspective.

Commute

I’m on a train back to Fukui, barely a month after I left, finally finding myself with time to edit my life. I thought a life in Tokyo would mean constant trains, and yet, most of the time I’m walking places. This post is actually one I started months ago when I was still fantasizing about my life in the city. I’ve got a backlog of posts similar I have to go through and reorganize, but plan to push out here soon. I guess this is a start.

When I lived in New York I read so many books. The first two months on the subway I went through two books of Game of Thrones just riding on those metal carriages. Back then there wasn’t WiFi to be found. An hour completely underground can pass by unnoticed while flipping the final pages of a 400 page novel.

Coming to Japan my reading has been staggered. I started the book list with the goal of finishing in two years. That put me at roughly one book every two weeks — a type of math I didn’t bother figuring out. As my astute comrade in Spanish poetry and renowned literature Nico Sanhueza pointed out: reading merely 20 pages a day from Infinite Jest (the last book on my list) would take me almost two months. I tried and succeeded in the very beginning. After travelling, and having over a month to get settled to my new small life in Japan, I found the amazing Tokyo-based English bookstore Infinity Books to spend enough of my new salary. Without a car and the onset of winter, I burrowed in my one room apartment (not studio, mind you, this was much smaller than a studio) and flew through the first couple books without a problem. Then I met Virginia Wolf with some of the best and most dense story telling I’ve ever encountered (there are two short stories weaved into the otherwise tough novel To the Lighthouse which is among the best writing fathomable). I actually skipped over her for a while, and then spring came, and I was outside, and lazy, and enjoying nothing. After struggling with the enormous paragraphs of Michael Chabon soon after,  I decided to quit literature all together.  After all, the original goal was to finish the list before I left Japan. At the time I thought that’d only be two years, but… things change.

After a year in Japan I started to notice a few slips in my vocabulary. You see, at a junior high school level of teaching English, the scope of your corrections are pretty redundant. Things are very interesting. Students try hard. Tokyo Disneyland is a great place. Because its fun. Surrounded by a bunch of other expats who are involved in the same thing, your language starts to clip the longer words. The grammar also evolves, to match those non-native speaking minions you interact with everyday. The result is a strange abandon of usual language, for something more direct and less verbose.

Learning another language, also, doesn’t support the retention of the former.

Moments (which are now too familiar) started happening in the middle of conversation. I’d be telling a memory, or a story, or just asking for a favor.

“Did you stay at a capsule hotel in Osaka?” “Oh, I wanted to, but there we no… open beds? Free spaces?”   “You mean, vacancies?”

“The new bakery sells huge cinnamon rolls, but they’re not very… great? enjoyable? delectable? … Satisfying!”

“In Minnesota you always hear about accidents with drunk people driving on… winter… jet… skis, but you know, like jet skis for the snow.” (I actually can’t remember what they’re called right now, and have too much pride to Google: winter jet skis.)

It happens at least once a week. I can see the word flash in the front of my mind whenever I think about it. A shining, well outlined … piece? shape? … thing that disappears as soon as I think of it. “Come back!” I cry, as its rolls off the tip of my tongue cackling into oblivion. Instead I’m left defenseless, degrading my language to amend the situation, pondering what could have been.

I looked at the stack of books holding shape against my wall. Each a sword against this latency in language. There are the ones I definitely can’t handle right now: Catch-22One Hundred Years of SolitudeThe Dharma Bums. Then there are the slimmer volumes, the ones written for the common people, sometimes inventive (Slaughterhouse Five) but more often objective (Casino Royale). Even a poignant story like Fahrenheit 541 has a chase scene in it. Those were my jam, those I can do. Even the unwinding accents in As I Lay Dying are comprehensible through the short three page chapters. They become manageable escapes from mundane lifestyle.

The problem with reading, though, is the actual process. I recently wondered what I was like without a cellphone, or even without a smart phone. Many times I recall keeping my Gameboy stuffed in my pocket, but equally as often I would carry a book with me, a finger poised between two pages ready to continue the story at any moment. So smartphones are the culprit right, or internet at large, offering more distractions than necessary. Consuming our time with nonsense.

This can’t only be the case, for even on weekends when the news is on a break, the apartment is clean, the outside is raining, I can’t be helped to pick up a book. It’s the sense of time prioritization. When I was a kid and didn’t have to worry about what would happen to me, I had the time to bury my nose into a story. As an adult I’m constantly thinking of what to cook, what to clean, what to buy. My value of books is suppressed by the sense that my time would be better spent somewhere else. Not to mention the rate that I read a single page is snailish.  I try to absorb every detail, and in such focus often have to reread from missing the bigger picture.

In Fukui, I drove to work every day, forty minutes there and forty minutes home. The onset of winter dragged that even longer: one hour, one and a half. Someone would say I should invest in things like Audible (I do keep waiting for a sale), but there’s something to miss in listening versus reading. Sure, I swear by the Jim Dale versions of Harry Potter over any printed form, but not every author has the time, dedication, or voice as great as local author Ben Percy. I’ve found quality narration reserved for just the bestsellers of the latest season, and my list knows no bounds.

Instead I turned to Podcasts. I’ve been listening to them for almost three years now. I first got into Serial right before I came to Japan, and broaden my spectrum since my former neighbor and professional backpacker, Mac, introduced me to Stuff You Should Know. It still strikes me that their popularity hasn’t truly reached the mainstream. I consume them while doing everything else in my life. They probably run at least four hours of my speakers everyday. Even today I’ve already listened to NPR’s Up First, APM’s In the Dark case about Jacob Wetterling, Vox’s The Weeds, and Dan Pashman’s The Sporkful interview with Michael Pollan. I guess it’s a result of not having internet access. I just download podcasts all at once somewhere and run them through the day or week. Still, it’s not enough. Unlike a book, if I miss something in a podcast, I just let it run until the story catches my attention again.

Originally, when I first thought about this post, here is where I’d talk about my solution to start reading again. How living in Tokyo would mean that I’d once again be stuck in a train without WiFi and all the opportunities granted by faded paper. It’s almost still something I long for. Except in Tokyo, the commutes are cramped and drudging. Where in New York I could buy a monthly unlimited pass for around $120, in Tokyo each time you ride a subway costs at least $1.50. I decided this was not the way I wanted to start my mornings and waste my evenings. I actively sought out places within walking, or biking distances from my work. I exceeded my original expectations with where I live now, but there is a part of me that thinks about the books.

Overall, I’m more than relieved to cut the two hours of sedentary transit from my daily life. I was hoping to have one final hurrah with my car, but that’s a subject for another post. I still ride a train every week to get to my Japanese lessons, and occasionally on weekends if I need to go out across the city — or on my way to Fukui. Recently I’ve downloaded the Kindle app to my phone and found digital books can be read just as effectively for some genre. Except in those cases, stopped on the train, there always seems to be so much more worth planning. Multiple trips to be sorted. Photoshoots to arrange. Then of course, keeping in touch with you in the simplest way possible. After all, why read when you can write?

January

I would be fine never seeing snow again.

Ideally, this will be the last snowy winter I experience until I’m at grad school in Norway or Madison. If I have my way I’ll be hopping from a couple cities in the southern hemisphere before I make it back home. Unfortunately, I was born a Minnesotan — winter is in my blood. There’s a sort of nostalgia I get every time I see snow. Growing up October became a reminder to enjoy the small things. Red and yellow leaves would be examined with wonder. November was truly the time to be thankful for the summer that came before. From December you endure. There is no sun, no protection. You feel the chill throughout your body at all times. It reminds you that at anytime you can be broken. It reminds you to hold out hope.

January has always been a terrible month for me. I think I used to enjoy the snow. Used to put on boots and sled. Used to ski with a fervor like a puffin taking off. My sophomore year of high school my two best friends started dating each other. I of course had the regrettable feeling loving them both, but being in love with one of them. Then in January one of them moved away. All the way to St. Louis. Looking at it now it’s a ridiculous distance, the same as Fukui to Tokyo. But back then, at sixteen, it was impassible.

In college, my friend knew January as my dark days. There were points I’d stop running, paint my nails black, hole up in an art room and listen to System of a Down. One winter I started back on World of Warcraft. Another I spent baking chocolate chip cookies. My junior year I decided to face the cold. I’d go for 90 minute runs at a time. I got injured and wound up even worse than before.

I absolutely hate the winter.

This past January felt particularly long. Soon I’ll be moving to Tokyo. I feel like until then I’ve just been living in limbo. I’ve been denied apartments for no reason (discrimination), I got a norovirus from raw oysters I didn’t want to eat, and my car was rear-ended to the extent that it’s essentially scrap. I try to listen to Gloria Gaynor to cheer me up, but it doesn’t seem to work.  I hope you’re not taking this too seriously. Everyone keeps telling me it’ll be OK. I always know that. Even if I had to, I don’t think I’d know how to worry about myself. My problems are not the hardest to deal with, and I’m lucky enough that these are the extent of tough things I have to deal with.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t acknowledge that winter is the worst. That I’m a fool for staying anywhere that gets below 10°C (50°F) on a good day in January. That snow is never quite as beautiful after the first night, when you’re living alone and have to drive an hour to work everyday.

In Minnesota Winter can last until May. January went on for forever, but already it’s the fifth of February. In Tokyo I don’t think it can last so long. Soon I’ll be running in shorts, I’ll be in the ocean, I’ll hike the Nippon Alps with my good friend Mac.

Until then I’ll endure. I’m a long distance runner after all. I’ll clean the rest of my empty apartment. I’ll say goodbye to anyone around. I’ll keep working out, and studying, and writing, like I said I would. If you happen to live in a terribly winter place like me, then you know what I mean. And if you’re in a particularly sunny place like California, then stay there. Stay there and never go anywhere else.

I do miss the little things, though.

Telepathy

Being here now, so far away from you, wherever you are, is one of the worst parts about my daily life. I wanted to be there for your birthday, to run in that race, to share a chai latte, to catch that art show, to take that trip; I had a question to ask you about that movie you saw, about how your job was going, about if you’d ever tried yoga, about what types of things you thought about during chemo treatment; there were so many times I needed to know if it was a good time to buy bitcoin, how to handle finding a new job, if you remember that time we did that one thing and looking back now would do it again. Being here now is a choice that I made, a compounding of every choice I’ve ever had before that, and I can’t deny the majority have been good choices. But every choice I’ve ever made to stay here away from you, has been the wrong one.

I wish we could talk right now. I’m envious of  those in the future who will experience teleportation devices or the singularity. Who only have to punch in a number to then arrive a foot away from the people they love. I sympathize with those not even before my own lifetime of twenty-five years, who couldn’t send letters instantly, or make free international calls, or see each others faces with the tap of a screen. I lament the future me who wishes he’d used that technology more frequently.

Being here now means time with you has stopped. When I see you again it’ll be like I saw you yesterday, won’t it? That overwhelming sense of joy I get when you smile, that unending warmth from your hug, that’s there every time we meet, isn’t it? But then I will notice the small wrinkles around your eyes, you’ll touch the thinness of my hair. We’ll look at each other as if we’d only parted yesterday, and secretly know the inevitable change between us. We might talk about it, the difference, the parts when we were away, but in the end, we already know, don’t we?

I wish I could tell you everything is OK, because it is. I wish I could here you talk about the things your normally do so I would know everything is OK, because it is. I wish I could apologize for not having a teleportation device that can see you everyday, but of course, that’s just silly isn’t it. I don’t need to tell you everything is OK, because you already know, don’t you?

You being there, so far away, is just the worst, but it’s OK. If you’re there then part of me if there with you. Just like you’re here with me now, too. And right now if you think of me, you’ll know I’m OK. And right now when I close my eyes, and squeeze my hands tight and think of you, I’ll know you’re OK. When we see each other again, we’ll already know because we’ve been there all along.

 

It’s almost the New Year, and it’s the worst cuz I’ll be alone, and it’s even more worse because I probably won’t hear your voice, or see your smile, or hold your hand for a while after that, but it’s OK cuz it’s just another day in the long list of days that separate us. And I’m still here, and you’re still there, so really you’re here, too, and don’t worry, cuz I’m there with you.

Tribulations

I’ve always been overly ambitious with my goals. In high school my cross country coach would always make us fill out these forms before our races. We would have to write down the day of our meet, our previous best time, and our goal time for the upcoming race. Under this main information we were forced, almost always in jotted down bullets, to write out exactly how we would achieve that goal. I hardly ever took them seriously — or maybe I never took myself seriously. While I was young I’d scribble thirty seconds off of whatever time I’d recently passed. As I got older those drops in time were still written down, but the reality was hardly differing.

When I was in tenth grade I made the first change in my life that was actually sustainable. On the waning hours of New Years Eve, December 31st, 2007, while shopping for snacks in the local Byerlys with friends, I happened to look down at a four bottle pack of Jones Root Beer soda (or pop to Minnesotans) and decided quite decidedly that I had no need for cola in my life. Maybe I had recently heard about the uses of Coca-Cola as a toilet drain cleaner, or at least used it to justify the decision afterward. I bought that four pack of the most delicious flavored pop I’ve sipped, and as the clock neared midnight, cracked open what would be my last pop of my life, donating the other three to the fridge. I’m not quite sure what majestic spark of foresight came over me at that night, but it really was a power that possessed me. It lasted well into the next day, as I was able to rally a number of too faithful friends to start what would become the most important tradition in my life: New Year’s Day Movie Hopping. This year will mark the 11th consecutive trip to the movie theater on New Years, and I don’t even know how I’ve made it so long. (The first time I went alone in 2013, hungover like a newborn baby, I cried gallons unrelenting with empathy through back to back tragedies in Life of Pi and Les Miserables. Now, I find going alone is like a day long meditation run, fleeing my own body for the tribulations of others.)

The soda pact lasted about two years. I still drink it less times in a year than fingers on my hands, but it’s especially hard to cut out once you get to college and have to hide your alcohol with something. The bigger impact was my first conscious step to acknowledging my own health. It led to me being vegetarian for five years — a lifestyle I still try to muster, at least in my own cooking. I’ve never been one to follow through with resolutions, and yet looking back I’ve had success with simple but major choices in my life before.

Almost two years ago (two years, what the hell) I reprimanded any known attempts to make resolutions because of course, yes, they usually end in failure. I added that there was no sense in trying to drastically change an already content life. Two years is a long time in your twenties. I hadn’t even been in Japan for six months when I was thinking that. I was certainly content, but also becoming complacent. I wasn’t thinking about the future, I wasn’t planning for the things I would want to be doing. My current life was just starting, so I couldn’t even imagine how it would wind up. In that respect, I’ve had to revise my way of thinking. I’m again at a point in my life where major changes have been happening: I’ve got a new job, I’ve fallen in love, I’m still planning to move out of the countryside as soon as possible. I’ve always thought it was silly to start something just because it was a New Year, but I’m starting to realize the benefit in that. Just like quitting soda, or starting a new tradition, the new year is so easily quantifiable.

Last year, I went for a run with the indomitable Stefan Lemke. It was icy, and a Minnesota coldness I hadn’t experienced in twenty months. “I have a plan,” he started, with that terrifyingly gleeful look he gets whenever he’s been brewing on an impossible scheme, “Let’s run every day next year. Come one, we could do it, every day, no rest.” I instantly denied it. I had literally run every day of the previous October and knew it would be absurd to attempt it 12 times over. This year, however, I’m thinking again.

I think the reasons I thought resolutions as folly were always internal. Like my goal times in high school I was overestimating. I didn’t have a serious dream for myself, but only a joke. There’s the failure. I am not always going to be determined for the things that I want to do. I can make goals, but then I can decided when to give up. I especially don’t have to follow through when I don’t tell anyone about those goals.

(As an additional, I once watched a TED Talk about how you shouldn’t tell anyone about the goals you’re setting out to achieve. The idea was, that once you tell people you’re starting this goal, that mere act of sharing already feels like a reward of following through. Paradoxically you feel good in thinking, I’ve told people I’m going to do this, so I don’t actually have to do it. This is not my case.)

Instead of that, I’m going to share these ambitiously unachievable goals here where they can be as permanent and viewable as the internet allows. I’m going to find partners as willing as I am to set out for these plans, so we can hold each other accountable. And I’m definitely not going to make a notice about it whenever I fail (in my words, it’ll simply be a decision to devote time to other things).

So, here are not the resolutions, but my overestimated non-serious, but god-help me if I don’t try my best to do these everyday goals:

  • Run every day (with Stefan)
  • Write every day (@katie_barnes3 , if you’re down I’m down)
  • Study language every day (I’ve got someone to bother about this, too)

and in the long term:

  • read a good portion of The Book List  (at least some of the thinner volumes)
  • get out of credit card debt (so I can start focusing on student loans)
  • finish an art project (vague, I know, but there’s actually a plan)

of course, there are a few less stringent personal successes I have in mind, but those are better off kept to myself.

As for any of the above, feel free to bother me about them at any time. After the past months of changing jobs, travelling, and doing so much new in my life, I realized I need a little bit more consistency in my everyday. To that end, New Years is a no more important day than any other to start.

But it’s a hell of a lot easier to quantify.

 

PS // I wrote this next part in the middle of the blog, but it didn’t quite fit. I thought it was nice enough not to delete, though, so I’ll just put it here:

Last year, as the ball dropped, I was back in Minnesota. In the morning I woke up and had breakfast with my mom, I bought what is still my nicest dress shirt with my dad at Mall of America, I changed at my grandparents and went to a wedding with the people that could easily be considered as my second family, before the night was over I was able to stop by party of all my college friends, another family long lost, and then even flew into Tokyo for a few days before making the ride back home — the home of my present. I didn’t plan to have a resolution, but somehow it became one. Keep going but don’t forget where I am, because I’ll always have family. There’s a line from the Minneapolis rapper Slug that I hold in my core: “Roam if you must, but come home when you’ve seen enough.” Last year I was convinced to think about staying in Japan until the Olympics. This year I’m convinced that you never know where you’ll go.