Japan is odd in many ways. Whether it's the products you find in stores (tentacles on a stick, no joke), or the cultural expectation of wearing slippers for particular types of floors (one set for indoors, and another for the bathroom). The oddest thing about Japan, in my opinion, is living here. You are transported to a reality that simultaneously places you in the past and future. Now, I am drawing a comparison between Japan and Canada (or more generally, between North America, and to some extent, Australia and the U.K. - perhaps other countries as well, but I'm drawing from personal experience). Why is Japan like simultaneously living in the past and future? Let me explain.
The Past: So if you think of bygone days, what comes to mind? What are some things that were common and are no longer but a memory? Well, let me give you some examples that are alive and well in Japan. Bicycles. Yes, I'm sure you're aware that bicycles are common in places like China, but were you aware of how common they are in Japan? They are everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. Not just bicycles, but the type of bicycles remind me of travelling back in time to the 1950s. They're the kind of bicycles with baskets in the front and a bell on the handle. I'm not kidding. If you watch a movie from that era, you'll see people happily biking along on exactly the bike I'm talking about. How about trains? Trains used to be a common method of transportation. Guess what? They're everywhere here. Trains, trains, trains! So many different lines! Some of them are older and feel like they're from the 50s, I swear. In more rural areas, the train pulls away from the station with a tug, like pulling on a slack line. You can see the movement jostle everyone in the car.
Okay, okay. So bicycles and trains are a blast from the past. What else? Laundry. Yes, everyone owns a washer, but owning a dryer isn't actually common. Most people buy laundry clips and hang their laundry to dry on a line. It's true. In fact, I just finished hanging my clothes to dry. It's an odd thing having to take your clothes from the washer, and clip them to a string hanging outside your apartment. What year is this?
Remember fax machines? Well they're plentiful here. I use one every single day at work. I can hardly believe it myself. I find it so incredibly old fashioned. What about e-mails? What about computers? What about doing things that save paper? I'm not sure I understand myself. I guess Japan just prefers having hard copies of absolutely everything. So I spend my time filling out forms and dialing numbers. You think they're old, clunky machines? Nope. They're new. Yes, new, small, efficient, fax machines. Oh Japan.
Then we come to the topic of gas stations and convenience stores. You're probably thinking, "Wait, aren't those the same things?" Nope. They most certainly aren't, not in Japan anyway. I know travelling in North America is filled with gas stations and convenience stores being one and the same. Not in Japan. Take a trip back in time when those things were clearly separated. Your local "general" store carried everything you could possibly need in a pinch, and the service was always friendly. If you wanted gas for your automobile, you had to go to a different place, where it was always full service and they offered mechanical work if you needed. Welcome to Japan. In that sense, things are very much like looking back in time. Station attendants happily take care of your every vehicle need, and definitely offer any automotive service required. In fact, because it's Japan, customer service is always taken to another level. At some gas stations, expect the attendant to stop traffic and clear the way for you to leave safely, and in style. Now that's service.
If it isn't classic bicycles, gas stations, fax machines and hanging your laundry to dry, what else is a blast from the past? Simply put, gender roles. Japan is the place where women are exquisitely feminine and all the men wear suits. In fact, they're called "salary men". They work ridiculous hours and are never home with their families. Women graduate college, work as a receptionist for a few years then marry. It's true. They marry young and they have children. Then the men continue to work themselves to the grave, while the women take care of the offspring they've birthed. What's that? Is that the phone? Who's calling? Oh yeah, it's the '50s and they want their stereotypes back.
The Future: Honestly, I'm just going to talk about technology advances. For instance, the machines located in a train station. They can take bills, coins and most of them offer services in English. Then there's the gates. It's this elongated machine which you can either scan your pass through (you can buy a card that will scan electronically through your wallet, no kidding), or you can insert your train ticket into a slot and it will shoot through the other side of the gate. It's pretty amazing. It gets me every time. The city I'm from goes by the honour system. Kind of a huge mistake. In contrast, there's New York City, where you will actually get deported if you don't swipe your metro pass.
How about ATMs? Feel free to dump your change into these machines. That's right, ATMs process change. When you want to withdraw cash, a slot opens and the cash is presented to you in an expeditious and polite manner. (Not to mention the fact that everyone deals in cash. That's right, cash. Another blast from the past.) Or what about the presence of a copy machine/printer in every convenience store? They take USB keys, SD cards...whatever you can slap you files onto and print off. It doesn't matter, these machines will do it.
Japan is also very concerned about the environment. That idea is reflected in some city bus drivers that will actually turn off the bus instead of idling (even while at a red light). Although, I must say that I don't feel like it's helping much (if at all), but the thought is there. One hotel I visited, gave me a key card, which seemed perfectly normal until I got to my room. I attempted to turn on the lights but nothing happened. Then I saw a slot on the wall that asked me to insert my card. As soon as I did, all the lights came on. It blew my mind. They actually thought of a way to conserve energy even if you've left things on, because without the card, nothing would work. So if you go out shopping, and forget to turn the radio off, the tv, the bathroom light - whatever, removing the card would immediately shut it all off. Pretty cool.
I nearly forgot to mention trains again! Yes, there are old fashioned kind of trains, but there is also the shinkansen, also known as the bullet train! Oh my god. Prepare yourself for the most luxurious and comfortable train ride of your life. You have a lot more room than a plane, and yet it feels like you're flying. The train exceeds speeds of 300 km/h and feels like a soft glide just above the ground. If you're standing on the platform and watch the train go by, it rushes by with such speed and sound, that it's sure to surprise you! I grab my heart every time and feel the whirlwind wrap itself around me, like a plane passing you on the street. It's intense!
All in all, Japan really is like living simultaneously in the past and future. All of the technology (save fax machines) are a reminder that they are always ten steps ahead of everyone else. They have the ability to invent and implement everything right here, in their own country. Simple things like talking vending machines that can produce hot and cold beverages (depending on the weather), ice cream, beer and even cigarettes. Some ramen shops have a machine where you purchase your meal ticket before handing it over to the chef. Yes, technology wise they are "streets ahead". However, some things culturally remain rooted in old beliefs and traditions. Whether you're visiting a temple or shrine and witness apprentices wearing traditional clothing, catch a whiff of cigarette smoke from the numerous smokers (some places in Japan allow you to smoke EVERYWHERE), or observe the gender dynamics of a couple - the female wearing ultra feminine, frilly clothing and following behind her well dressed, male partner. Things in Japan are quite different from the rest of the world. Nowhere have I ever seen such a strange dichotomy of the past and future. I suspect that I will never experience this type of surreal reality anywhere else.
I read an article recently about how movies were horribly inaccurate in regards to in-laws. I attempted to find the article again but unfortunately no luck. I will update if I find it.
Regardless, I just shook my head. Obviously the author of said article has not dated OR they have had the incredibly rare luck of finding mates with decent, genuine in-laws. I am almost entirely convinced that such a thing does not exist.
In the article, the writer mentioned the film "Monster-in-Law" as being ridiculously dramatic but frankly, they are wrong. Okay, fair enough, some of the events are quite over-the-top however not unlikely.
I've had some experience with "in-laws" and let me tell you, I would recommend avoiding the in-laws, forever. There is no real reason to meet in-laws unless you're getting married. I know that might sound rude or something but let's face it, once you're over 21 your parents are not the decision makers. If they are, you have a problem. I'm specifically speaking about mama's boys - stay the hell away from any man who "loves his mommy". That is a waste of time. You will always be second, if not last.
The very first boyfriend I had was a mama's boy. I wish I had known something about that beforehand. I had no idea that one person could have such an influence over someone's life. I know that when I make decisions that the only opinion that matters is my own. I will consider input from my family or very close friends but ultimately I will have to live with the decision.
My entire life I've yearned to explore and travel the world. I wanted to do more than travel the world in fact, I wanted to leave it entirely! I desperately dreamed of being an astronaut.
For the past several months (more accurately, for the past several years) I've been seriously considering my options for world travel. Presently I don't have the money to pay for some sort of lavish vacation so I thought to myself there must be some other way. Then it hit me. Maybe I could do what others have done and teach English overseas.
Such a wild thought! I mean, to think of travelling abroad to an unknown country in order to teach English to people who speak a foreign language. It would be nerve wracking to say the least! However it would also be an adventure.
An adventure. I have always imagined going on an adventure. To travel to some sort of distant land and meet strange, new people. To eat unusual food and see fantastic things. It's everything I've dreamed of. Not to mention all the experiences I could gather and use in my writing.
Before my break-up, I never thought it was a legitimate option. Now it doesn't matter. I can be free to do what I like! I really was trapped. Given the option of freedom, I want to fly away to another country and live there instead!
So I registered for a TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) Certification course and it starts in June. I'm very excited. It takes about a month or so to finish and then I can start looking for work! I still haven't decided where I'd like to go yet. Here's a list of some of the countries I'm considering:
- Czech Republic
- South Korea
If I really had to narrow it down, I'd have to say that I'm probably leaning more towards Belgium, France, Italy and Spain. I think the sort of cultures present in those countries might be something I can enjoy. Especially France. Okay, maybe I partially have my mind made up. I just need to do more research.
I would have said Japan was my number one choice however I am all too aware of Japanese culture. It is quite patriarchal, racist and sexist. Not really something I like. I prefer people to be equal. Although I do speak some amount of Japanese. My Japanese is probably just as good as my French. Very basic.
Anyway, I will keep you updated. Especially in June! I can't wait to start!
I know that I haven't been updating as frequently as I should but due to present circumstances, I've been overwhelmed by a myriad of conflicts.
I thought as a courtesy for my readers and as a cathartic gesture for myself, I would share a little about what's going on in my life presently.
My relationship of over three years has ended. As I've mentioned before on a previous post, "If you love someone, you must let them go". I can say in all honesty that I will always love them but I can also say that we're not meant to be together. At first I had a hard time accepting it but I suppose that's rather normal. Eventually I realized that it was much better to be apart than together. A sad lesson to learn, I suppose but a necessary one. Everyone deserves to be happy, whatever that means. Sometimes that means you have to break up.
I feel lucky in a number of ways. One of them being that I don't hate them. I can truly say that my love for them is unconditional. I also feel lucky that they said what they did and ended things when they realized they didn't love me. I don't want to be in a relationship with someone who doesn't love me. That would be doing a great injustice to both parties involved.
Now that I'm single again I can honestly say I feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel like I have my wings back and I'm no longer trapped in a tiny cage. Despite admitting to a few close confidants and the pages of my diary that I was unhappy in my relationship and wanted to leave, I could never seem to admit those feelings to myself. I kept denying them. I wanted to believe I was happy because I loved them. Yet I think we all know that at some point those buried feelings will surface, again and again. I would just take it out in my diary. I looked back on things I'd previously written and I realized how tortured I felt. I never felt loved and perhaps that truly was the case.
If someone is unhappy with themselves, they'll never be happy with someone else. Love or no love, it's not going to make a difference. I desperately wanted to believe that if I loved hard enough that I could make someone happy but I forgot the key to happiness, "Only you can make you happy". Any effort on my part was sadly futile.
My relationship was like living in a barren, arctic wasteland. Every day I sat trapped in an icy cavern and I desperately tried to think of ways to manifest some warmth. I hoped that my own body heat would reverberate back to me, yet I was unaware of the many drafts that sucked out every last bit of heat and only made me colder. Sometimes the wind was so fierce that it howled through the small crevices and sounded like voices, then I didn't feel so alone. Over time, without my acknowledgement, the cavern's structure began to fail. One day the ceiling collapsed and exposed a bright, blue sky. I stared, uncertain. What was out there? I hesitated, comfortable with the familiar. At least I knew the cavern but I could not remember the sky. So I tried to stay. The entire cavern began to collapse around me, surrounding me with rubble. Some pieces hit me, bruising my tender body. Without another thought, I ran. I lifted my head towards the sky and raced for the only exit. I climbed furiously over remnants and finally reached the top. I closed my eyes and jumped. I expected my body to fall briefly before meeting an early demise. Yet I was lifted. Higher and higher, into the brilliant blue firmament and into the reaches of the sun. The warmth enveloped my body and suddenly my memory was restored. Flashes of a life long forgotten pressed on me. I forgot that I could just fly away. For a brief moment I looked down to the cavern. It had been completely destroyed. I had escaped with my life and I was grateful.
It seems these days all I listen to is Tegan & Sara. I bought their latest album, Heartthrob and was pleasantly surprised by their new sound. Their past albums have been typically somber and feature acoustic guitars. This time their music is filled with a neo-80's vibe and captures the essence of being in and out of love. I know it's quite a departure from their original sound but it's still Tegan & Sara, they're just evolving.
Without further ado, here are some of my favourite Tegan & Sara songs! With each music video I've included a few lyrics. The last song is from their latest album, Heartthrob.
This morning I woke up from a dream. It was a very lucid dream and when I awoke I was surprised it wasn't real. Then I sat in contemplation wondering what the dream meant. Why did I dream about her? It made me sad. Let me tell you why.
The dream started with me taking a class. I'm not sure where I was taking this class, I could assume it was from the university but honestly that would be misleading. A dream has its own learning halls. Regardless of where, I was taking a class. I feel like it was a writing class and that in itself would be ironic. In real life I'm a writer and apparently in my dreams I am too.
So I was standing outside of the classroom, waiting for the teacher to get there. This made sense to me since all my years in university I usually spent time waiting outside the classroom. (I made a habit of being there early.) So there I am, waiting patiently when I see someone walking towards me. Someone unexpected. I froze and panicked. I thought, I should walk away, turn around, do something to hide my identity. I wasn't prepared to see this person again. Yet I couldn't I do anything, just stand and stare.
They got closer and closer until finally they were right in front of me and oddly enough, smiling. This didn't make sense to me. Since if I were to see this person again, they wouldn't be smiling. Most likely they would do their best to ignore me or worse say something horribly cruel. Instead in my dream, they stood there smiling. So I looked at them questioningly, confused and baffled by their appearance. I managed to make out the words, "I didn't know you were in this class". She smiled back and said, "I tried to tell you". She described an antiquated means of getting in contact through messenger and I was shocked. That was what we would have used before.
I remember being completely and utterly dumbfounded. I never thought in a million years I would see her again nor would she be happy to see me. From there it was just like old times somehow. We reverted back to the way we were. When the classroom opened, we sat down but I had already picked my seat apparently before I knew she was going to be there. I had placed my stuff far away from hers.
The class started and the teacher sat in the middle on top of a desk. (This isn't unusual in some university classes by the way, so the dream was not off base.) She was talking and describing something but I wasn't listening. I was too distracted by my ex-friend's sudden appearance. I still couldn't believe she was there. It didn't make any sense to me. Before I knew it we were starting an activity. We had some sheets of paper with pieces of different stories on them, maybe a song or two. Next thing I know music is playing and the teacher is coming closer to me. She's singing and dancing along and I realize I better participate. I happen to know the lyrics to the song by heart and start dancing alongside, singing as well. The teacher stops after a bit and frowns, pointing to my sheets saying I should have it opened. I blush but feel frustration cloud my mind. I knew the words, I didn't need the paper.
The teacher pointed to a student and started another segment, from a story this time. They were expected to act it out it seems. Between all the commotion my ex-friend, turned friend came over to me and started to laugh with me at the hilarity of this class. It reminded me of high school where we spent creative writing class together making fun of the teacher.
Then the dream ended abruptly, as dreams have a habit of doing. I found myself dazed and disappointed. There was a longing inside of me to have her back as a friend. I was disappointed that it wasn't true. Yet I know it's not possible. Despite the dream's optimism. The friendship seemed to be great when I had it but it ended terribly. It wasn't up to me either. She decided we weren't friends anymore. It was a stupid reason. I hadn't been available to talk with her about her millionth break-up with her long distance boyfriend. Did I mention she called on my father's birthday? Over that, over nothing, she decided to stop being friends. It seemed counter intuitive. I had always been there for her. I had always supported her and helped her any way I could. I felt like something else was the catalyst. Before that I had divulged to her some terrible news I had kept locked up and expected some warm comfort in return. Instead, she didn't want to talk about it or even try to help me. I remember being instantly frustrated and hurt, the "friendship" was like every other "friendship" I had been involved in, not reciprocal.
I would give all of myself in a friendship and never get it in return. It made me think back on what I had with her as superficial. She was incredibly judgemental and lacked compassion or empathy with others. Why would I expect she would treat me differently? I guess I thought we were best friends. It turned out that I was only her friend if I was doing something for her.
As much as I enjoyed seeing her in my dream, in real life I recognize she was well, a bitch if you don't mind me saying. I could never be friends with her again, not after the way she treated me then tossed me aside like I was garbage. She didn't know how to be friends with anyone. Honestly, people don't change that much and she's probably still a diva.
Hence why the dream seemed good but turned out bad. I guess it was similar to the very "friendship" I had with her. All in all, I don't need to be dreaming about people I never want to see again. Do you want to hear something odd? It was just her birthday three days ago.
I had the excellent fortune to attend a Just for Laughs event in my city. In case you were wondering, Just for Laughs hosts comedians to travel to different venues. I was extremely excited since I've seen their events on television numerous times but never had the opportunity to attend an event until now. It was absolutely fantastic. The show featured Last Comic Standing John Heffron along with Godfrey, Canadian comedienne Debra Digiovanni, Jim Breuer, Roman Danylo and Diana Frances. I didn't find out the show's theme until we actually arrived and it turned out to be "The Relationship Edition". Perfect for my partner and I on a night out.
Roman Danylo and Diana Frances opened the night with improv to get everyone started. They were great. With audience suggestions they turned something mundane into something exciting and hilarious. A great way to open a show and get everyone ready to laugh. John Heffron came out next and hosted the show. He did a fantastic opening bit. He discussed the difference between being in a relationship as a man in his early 20's to being a married man at 42. One of the funniest things he mentioned was going out to dinner with his wife. He goes on to say that he didn't expect a performance review. He was quite funny.
Next was Godfrey, an honest and very active comic. He brought the stage to life with hilarious comments on everyday life. He made jokes about everything from the incredibly cold Canadian weather and mitten wearing to Victoria's Secret and American Airlines. I laughed particularly hard while watching him. He really knew how to make people laugh. He was quite a ham.
There was a brief intermission before they continued on to one of the most well known and respected comics, Debra Digiovanni. If you've ever watched Much Music's Video on Trial, you would be familiar with her kind of sardonic humour. Most of her humour is self deprecating, something I truly appreciate. I like when a comic can make fun of themselves. It's too easy to make fun of others. She's really very intelligent and witty. She's the one comic I would love to meet in person. I think she'd be terrific fun.
Last but not least was Jim Breuer. In a way he was similar to John Heffron, in comedy and appearance. He also commented on the inner workings of marriage but extended it to having children. After he was done I couldn't help but be more afraid of the possibility of ever having children. Children are a handful. Regardless, all the comedians were truly on their game. I appreciated every minute. I love to laugh. If Just for Laughs returns, I will be there.
I think making a distinction between love and obsession is very important. Many people have the two confused in to one ambiguous amalgam.
Obsession: Obsession can feel like love. Someone experiencing feelings of obsession towards someone else will feel an overwhelming desire to be with them at any capacity. They want to be near them all the time. It is similar to infatuation. Obsession is the advanced stage of infatuation. It starts with a crush. You see someone and you like them. Sometimes what someone calls "love at first sight" is purely a superficial reaction with no real substance. You find them attractive so the crush begins. Following that you try to get closer to them, perhaps not in the traditional sense. You might ask others about them or more commonly these days, Facebook stalk them.
This sort of behaviour continues. Depending on the person, the proximity to the crush can vary. In some instances the obsession can occur with a celebrity, so it would be incredibly difficult to get close to them at any capacity. People who develop obsessions tend to view their crush as better than themselves yet they have a belief that since they "love" them so very much that it makes up for any shortcomings, this is a significant point. If the crush is someone they can interact with it is a different situation. In many cases they attempt to become friends and once that has been accomplished they dream about being more.
For some the closest they get is the "friendship". Some of them claim they've been put in the "friend zone". Just because you're nice to someone doesn't mean they owe you a relationship or anything else for that matter. Being nice should be standard for everyone.
Whatever the relationship between the obsessed and the obsession, it can never be genuine. The obsessed is ultimately selfish. They want that person all to themselves. They become intensely jealous and angry when their crush is involved with anyone they might view as a threat. It doesn't even have to be a romantic threat or a credible one, everyone else is suddenly a threat. Obsessions are ultimately negative and can become dangerous. Although the person experiencing the obsession may feel as though they are the only one who truly loves their crush Love is the wrong word.
Some obsessions can become lethal. It can develop into an unhealthy relationship, stalking or in extreme cases, life threatening. Obsessions are not only bad for the person being obsessed over but they are bad for the person experiencing these extreme emotions. If you feel like any of these feelings ring true for you regardless of the degree of obsession, you need to take a step back and really think about why you feel that way. You don't love them. If it was love it would be mutual.
Love: Love is a beautiful, glorious thing. It is nearly indescribable. It is not like obsession. The most important distinction is that feelings of love are mutual. Love doesn't appear right away. It can develop out of infatuation but it is rare. It is more likely to develop as a tense mix of emotions and confusion into the intoxicating sensation of being loved and loving back.
Another significant difference between love and obsession are the emotions. Obsession will leave someone feeling an odd intensity akin to loathing. Ultimately, it's a mixture of negative emotions. Love is different. Love leaves you feeling free, not trapped, for both parties involved. It's practically a whirlwind of confusion and positive emotions. Love is selfless. Love is easy. Most importantly, love is unconditional. Once you have truly loved someone it is permanent, you will never stop loving them no matter what. Sometimes a break-up can truly define whether you experienced love or not. If you end up hating them and wishing you never met, it was never truly love.
The best indicators of a long lasting relationship are oddly the people closest to you like friends or family. People uninvolved in the relationship are able to have a more objective perspective (dependent on the fact they're not obsessed with you). They can determine the legitimacy and longevity of the relationship. If you're enjoying the rose coloured glasses of a relationship, you might not want to ask. Just enjoy what you have no matter what it is. Nothing lasts forever.
Remember: If you love someone, you must let them go. It's an example of true love. You care so much about someone all that matters to you is their happiness even if it's not with you. If you try to make them stay you'll both feel guilty and it means you don't truly love them. Either way they'll find a way to leave, whether it's emotionally or physically. You can't make someone love you. Letting go may be difficult since there's a danger they'll never return but that's okay, it means it wasn't meant to be. They'll find happiness and so will you, with or without them. Happiness is being you.
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