On smelling your own sh*t in Japan

Warning: This post contains expletives and excrement, because there’s only so many asterisks I can handle.

Some people say that moving to a new country is, “A great opportunity to have a fresh start.”
I’m not feeling too fresh at the moment so I prefer to think of it as, “A great opportunity to smell your own shit.”

When you live in a place for a long time it can be hard to smell your own shit. The problem is that building up a busy and fulfilling life creates such a bountiful and varied amount of shit that it can be hard to identify your own. You have University shit, job shit, money shit, music shit, family shit and friend shit. The problem is, although you occasionally get a whiff of what could be your unique aroma, it smells so similar to, say, your friends’ shit that you barely notice it. Or maybe you’re trying to focus on your own shit but the smell of another shit suddenly gets so powerful its impossible to smell anything else.

So you think, “There’s so much shit here. Why don’t I leave the country and get away from all of this shit for a bit so the air will smell fresh and clean.”

Only it doesn’t quite work out like that.

There is a moment that comes to you, perhaps three weeks in. You’ve done all of the basic settling in stuff but you haven’t built up many deep attachments yet and all of the shit that goes with them. You’re out of survival mode and you realise…

Wow. I have been cut free from all of my previous responsibilities and removed myself from those darn bad influences.
And something still smells, well. shit.
It must be me.

Moving from one sense metaphor to another, in the silence of more freedom than you’ve ever experienced, the sound of your own issues is deafening.

I could leave Japan now and it would have been worth it because it’s made me fully accept, perhaps for the first time, that I have a lot to work on.

A political party is shouting something on a loudspeaker, but they could be calling for revolution or, indeed, telling all the immigrants to go home and I wouldn’t know. I’m sitting on a bench as the sun goes down, people walk past, but their conversations wash over me like water. Every day as my students go out to play and the teachers chatter in the staff room around me, it could not be clearer that I am a true outsider in this society. I have no deadlines, no job applications, no split priorities, no friends or family having crises… and its terrifying. For the first time in as long as I can remember I’m alone with my own thoughts. And my own shit. And, just maybe, I’m starting to understand it.

Watch out world, I’m going to get my shit together.

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