Looking for a Village
I am in complete agreement with the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and I’d like a village please. Things are getting complicated and raising two kids in a foreign country with no family to support us is really difficult. So far my husband and I have gotten by with help from friends and my colleagues, but like being in survival mode, I’m no longer okay with just getting by. So I am giving myself two options–find a village here or go else where.
I have been trying to build a community here for a very long time, and for whatever reason, mostly that the people with whom I have tried to build a village have been too busy or have a village of their own, I have been unable to maintain a community here. I’m sure this has a lot to do with the fact that I do not speak the language fluently and so that limits the pool from which I can find friends who are willing to be a surrogate family. Whatever the reason, I have been working on creating my own village here in Japan for almost a decade. I think it’s safe to say, there is probably no village to be had here and it is time to move on.
Leaving Japan has always been something I’ve wanted to do, but I have denied myself that option for two reasons. To leave without being fluent in the language is akin to failure in my estimation. I cannot bear the thought of leaving here after over a decade and being asked whether or not I speak the language fluently and having to say, “I could get by, but I am not a fluent speaker.” The other reason I have not entertained the option to leave is for fear of not being able to make a living. I make good money teaching at the university as what in the U.S. would be equivalent to an adjunct. I am able to be the sole breadwinner allowing my husband to stay home and take care of our children. There is also the added benefit of affordable health care. I had two C-section surgeries and two preemies, one of whom was in the NICU for three months and in the GCU for one. If we had been in the States when I had my two children, I think we would have gone bankrupt. I am not sure how I will find an equal or better occupation in the States or Canada where my family and I would most likely go if we left Japan. These factors compel me to stay.
Because of this conflict between the comforts and benefits of living here and my desire to leave, I have been at war with myself for about two years. Before I made the commitment to love myself and be true to my desires and needs, I thought that I needed to change my attitude in order to solve this problem. I needed to deny my needs to have a community and to be close to family and just accept the fact that I would never have that. I told myself that it was better to focus on the things I do have and to forget about the things that I don’t have. However, despite my efforts to accept my situation, the need to have family close and to be part of a circle of friends has always been there urging me to change my life, and now I don’t see a reason to deny myself the opportunity to pursue these dreams.
Part of loving myself is meeting my needs without judgment and with love and understanding. I do not question my children’s needs; I willingly meet them when I can. I take great care to validate their needs even when I don’t understand them, but I recognize the importance of being nurturing with my children, so why not do the same for myself? Why indeed considering those reasons that held me back no longer seem legitimate.
So, I’m leaving Japan. I still have a lot to do before I can pack up the family and go, but we will leave. It may not be this year, and it may not be next year, but everything I do from now until we make our move will be dedicated to finding a way to leave. I am now ready and willing to take the necessary steps that will take me out of this country. It feels great to finally allow myself this option. I am looking forward to finding and creating my village.
Until next time, I wish you all the very best.