On Monday, I made the long trip up to the Land Transport Office, the Japanese version of your local License Bureau, to return the Town & Country’s license plates and obtain an export certification. Sometime this morning, the shippers are slated to come and take it to the port in Yokohama where it will be loaded into a container and put on a ship headed to the United States. If everything goes right, next week I will make my own journey and, as I tromp down the boarding ramp and take my seat in a 777 in preparation for the long flight home, my most recent Japan experience will be over.
As I sit here this morning, much of the house already torn apart and loaded into boxes, I’m struggling with how I feel about that. I often tell people that, when I am back in the States, I fight and fight for an assignment that will take us back to Japan but that, not two weeks after we arrive, I will wonder why the hell it is we came here. To be honest, Japan can be a tough place to live and, like most experiences, once you get involved in the ebb and flow of daily events, you tend to focus on the moment and forget to be amazed. It’s only when the day to day struggle ends, usually about the your departure becomes imminent, that you begin to realize where you are, what other opportunities there were, and what else you might have done.
It’s the same professionally. On the one hand, I feel like I have done everything I could but, on the other, wonder what I might have accomplished had I, and the people I work with, been able to rise above the day-to-day churn. Should I have set loftier goals? Should I have grabbed people by the ear and forced them to listen? Or was I right to come in slow, learn the system and then try to work within it? Because I took the one direction and not the other, I’ll never know.
I dislike not knowing. The simple fact that there may have been alternatives bothers me and the idea that I might have accomplished more had I only done something else, had I only been able to find that magic bullet, adds a twinge of metallic to what should be sweet taste of smug satisfaction. I wonder, is it the same with everyone?
At this point in my life, I’ve made these sorts of transitions maybe a dozen times and I can say that the feeling is always the same. It’s a little like suffering the death of someone you love. You wind up sad and wistful because of all the lost opportunities while, at the same time, you are simply overwhelmed by the swirl of day-to-day activity that surrounds you. There is simply so much to do and so much of it has to happen right now.
Funny that the answer to worrying about what might have been turns out to be exactly the same thing that stopped you from achieving it in the first place…