I’ve decided to visit America this Easter holiday.
My relationship with “home” is a bit complicated.
First of all, I never really liked my hometown. I will admit that it was a pretty diverse neighborhood, a mix a Latino, black and white, with a peppering of East and South Asians. About 30% of residents living there have Puerto Rican heritage, and I was part of this percentage.
I suppose part of my distaste for my hometown was due to the discrimination I experienced. If you remember the feelings I expressed in “A Latino in Japan“, you’ll remember that I felt a lot of discomfort regarding the Puerto Rican image and cultural values. I didn’t feel like I fit in with other Puerto Ricans, and I disliked the casual racism that I faced time and time again.
The last time I returned home was in the summer of 2013, one year after I moved to Japan. The trip was underwhelming. I felt sort of obliged to visit home because it was the longest I had ever spent away. I spent my first year in Japan just figuring out how to do my job, sightseeing, and reflecting on my last few years of college. I think that visiting home that summer was too soon. I might have been better off traveling more of Japan.
This time around, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect and grow, and I’m going home on my terms.
Since coming to Japan, I’ve had a sort of battle going on in my head. As an American living in Japan, I of course tend to compare them quite often. If asked, I could write an extensive list of things I enjoy about Japan and America. There are also countless things I dislike about both. I think that will be true of anywhere I go.
As an expat and as an English teacher in Japan, I’m expected to talk about my country and my experiences abroad. I of course talk about all of these positive and fun things because it’s my job to talk up my country.
It may be due to this fact or perhaps due to my removal from the situation, but at times, I find myself accidentally believing my romanticized stories of American life. I start thinking, “Maybe I was just angsty, frustrated or bored, and it negatively painted my experiences back then?” or I try to convince myself that it couldn’t have nearly been as bad as I remember it.
When I returned to my hometown exactly a year after leaving, everything was as colorless as it was the day I left. The first morning after sleeping in my own bed, I spent the first foggy minutes upon waking reminding myself that Japan was not a dream, and that I hadn’t awoken back in 2012.
Do any other expats feel this way?
Last May, I came out to parents, and since then, I haven’t made so much progress with the situation. That being said, a little progress is still some progress.
I could have stayed quiet, especially because living in Japan, it’s not difficult to hide it from them. However, I wanted to find a way to connect my life abroad, which is free and open, to my life from home, where I kept to myself.
Here’s hoping I’ll have a fruitful visit.