Having departed for Japan, my adopted homeland, on October 1-2, 2019, I feel so fortunate to have left the United States before the pandemic and all the social and political chaos took hold.
Admittedly, for the past 27 months life in the pandemic era has been somewhat lonely. However despite some moments of fear and worry, I have found ways to build social relationships, be intellectually engaged and physically active. The response allowed me to improve my health, amuse myself and be productive.
That said, as I now reach the autumn of my years living far away from family and friends, the emotional intensity of the experience seemed far greater this past year. Perhaps it is accepting that the way things were will never return.
The New Normal ––
The Economist said it best “… it is time to face the world’s predictable unpredictability. The pattern for the rest of the 2020s is not the familiar routine of the pre-covid years, but the turmoil and bewilderment of the pandemic era. The new normal is already here. Just get used to it!”
Feeling somewhat lonely and leading a life complicated by the pandemic and a sense of anxiety due to an uncertain future has tested my resolve to look forward and enjoy the adventure of a new and challenging life experience –– growing old in a distant land. Under the circumstances it was natural to become nostalgic, a tendency some regard as unhealthy. Actually, I discovered the contrary; that spending some time thinking about the past can be rewarding. Nostalgia made me feel that my life had roots. It made me feel good about myself, what I have accomplished and my relationships with family and friends. It reinforced my positive outlook and renewed my strength to move forward.
Moving Forward ––
And, moving forward while living in Japan promises to be a most fascinating and challenging experience.
A recent special report in The Economist on Japan provides an interesting perspective on what to expect:
“Two tales are often told about Japan. The first is of a nation in decline, with a shrinking and aging population, sapped of its vitality. The second is of an alluring, hyper-functional, somewhat eccentric society—a nice place to eat sushi or explore strange subcultures, but of little wider relevance to the outside world. Both tales lead people to dismiss Japan. That is a mistake.”
“As our special report this week argues, Japan is not an outlier—it is a harbinger. Many of the challenges it faces already affect other countries, or soon will, including rapid aging, secular stagnation, the risk of natural disasters, and the peril of being caught between China and America. The fact that some of these problems hit Japan early makes it a useful laboratory for observing their effects and working out how to respond.”
One specific example from the above cited report describes Japan as a “department store of natural hazards. … Few countries have been shaped so much by hazards and disasters. Besides earthquakes and tsunamis, there are typhoons, floods, landslides and volcanic eruptions. Japan has had to learn to live with risks, making it a laboratory for resilient societies.” (A potential massive earthquake and tsunami impacting Tokyo at some point in the future is accepted as a given by experts and the general public alike.)
So, stay tuned for more of my observations on what is like to live on the front line of history.