Tag: expat life

A Watershed and an Existential Crisis

One year ago this month my son, Julyan, started his second year of university and moved out of the house. At the time I thought I was being clever by planning ahead, applying for a scholarship and a prestigious workshop, also picking up a few more part time jobs. Keeping busy would stave off empty nest syndrome, right?

Well, I was right. Kinda.


As it turns out it wasn’t empty nest syndrome that blindsided me. It’s not about me missing my son — actually, I’m thrilled to see him thriving after what was a horrendous high school experience. Instead, it became apparent that after he left the house, I began having my own little existential crisis. There was me trying to figure out who I am. What now? What kind of person do I want to become?

This last year has been a watershed. There have been enormous highs and painful lows. Through it all I kept trying to self reflect and look inside or, when that didn’t work, I attempted to see myself as a third party would, with some kind of objectivity. But I just couldn’t pinpoint it. All I knew was something felt out of whack. Wrong.

Then it hit me.

All my life I’ve been pretty good at fitting in. We moved around a lot when I was a child, and adapting to new environments was an important skill I had to learn. It’s no surprise then that after 25 years in Japan I’m an old pro at “being Japanese”. Not entirely, that’s impossible, of course, but I have the self deprecation card laminated and slipped inside my front shirt pocket for easy withdrawal.

Undervaluing myself and excessive modesty worked well when, for 18 years, I had to play the Japanese mom role and fit in as much as possible in an attempt not to be the nail that stuck up. Invariably the backlash of my gaffes fell upon my son.

It’s only been very recently, with the help of an amazing friend, that I’ve finally come to realize I’ve played the part of someone totally void of self-confidence for so long that I have in effect lost all my confidence.


Now that the problem has been identified, I can work on fixing it and rebuilding a new me. I can honestly say that for the first time in decades I’m tickled pink about my goals and dreams and my reasons to see them come to fruition. Add to that the fact I’m old and less afraid of screwing up and doing hard work. Time is running out. What else can I possibly do at this juncture?

Yes, everything might feel out of whack and wrong, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s exciting. It’s something to work with. Anything is possible.

Truth be told, there is a request from a publisher to read my new stories for a possible second collection. My agent still digs me. I’m moving way out of my comfort zone and trying my hand at (and really enjoying how difficult it is) podcasting. Even my website has been moved from one host to another and it’s all refurbished and shiny. I absolutely love it and thanks to a dear friend who did all the heavy lifting, it feels like just the push on the back to get me blogging again.

Stars are aligning. Ducks are falling into step behind one another. I’m sitting here about to set my lighter to this laminated self-deprecation card and see what happens.

Stick around, friends. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I got a good feeling about this. Are you with me?