Blogging was that thing you did when people read articles instead of headlines, editorials instead of 25 THINGS YOU'LL NEVER BELIEVE, and books instead of 10 MIND-BLOWINGLY AWESOME FACTS TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOURSELF.
Blogging was that thing you did when friends read about your life in chunks bigger than than FB statuses and longer than tweets; when they liked what you wrote instead of Like what you post.
Damn, remember those days, though?
I remember that strange, ticklish curiosity that came with the anticipation of reading about someone's day even after you just finished spending that same day with them. I remember getting to know close friends through two voices: their funny, friendly, in-person voice, and their reflective, thoughtful, more formal blogging voice.
Just a nostalgic thought.
I've been too busy to pick up the pen and notebook lately, and my thoughts are too scattered for my writing hand to keep up, so I thought I'd let the keyboard do the work and jot down a few odds and ends here.
Last Thursday was Thanksgiving... again. "Time flies like an arrow" as one of my Japanese coworkers loves to say (that, and "There'szu... no yoo-su... eh... cu-ry-in-gu... over spilt milku."). This Thanksgiving, there were 6 guests and 2 hosts sitting around two tables pushed together. Just over half of the guests were American, everyone brought a dish, and I think two of the dishes could qualify as "American".
All of us at the table have known each other for anywhere between 3 months to a year and a half now (besides Brian and I). We're all at that stage with each other where we still want to be impressive, we still try to be polite, and we still ask each other getting-to-know-you questions. Every now and then, we slip it into hilarious slapstick comedy moments--the types of moments you can only share with either the most open-hearted of strangers or the closest of friends. Whichever of the two categories our motley crew falls under, I'm happy to have them.
Last Saturday, Brian, Aki, and I set off to run another 16-milers--my third attempt three weeks in a row. The first week, Brian and I got somewhat lost in the winding countryside roads of Japan, until darkness fell and we had to slow to a crawl due to the absence of streetlights. The next week, we started running after breakfast, but before lunch. Then, for the first time, I experienced the worst stop-in-your-tracks crash from lack of...? carbs? salt? sugar? ...that we had to stop at a convenience store to gorge on nothing less than rice balls, cup ramen, koroke, and an energy bar before hobbling the rest of the way home. Finally, this past week, I prepared by eating three (!!!) rolls of Ritz crackers, some chocolate, and an energy bar on top of my usual stack of banana pancakes. I was set. I blasted through 13 miles at an entire minute per mile (sometimes more, at 9'30") faster than my usual pace... and then promptly crashed again before reaching mile 14.
I'm running more than ever, faster than ever though, and I'm well on my way to achieving my goal: 10-minute mile pace for marathon #3.
Sunday, I took a Japanese proficiency test. I've been studying my tail off for the past year, and even more so for the past few months. I took the second to lowest level for the test--the level at which would put me at the conversational and reading level of a Japanese 8-year-old--and I'm proud of my progress. I don't even know if I've passed yet, but it was satisfying to be able to sit down, listen to instructions entirely in Japanese, read and answer questions on whole paragraphs in Japanese, listen to full conversations in Japanese, and be able to understand (most of) what was going on.
The test experience was interesting in and off itself. Walking in, I felt like an immigrant in America about to take my test for my U.S. citizenship. There were people from what felt like every country ready to take a test in Japanese in that room. I heard conversations around me in not only English, but Chinese, Korean, Thai, Tagalog, and Spanish... and those are only the languages I could identify! Despite the fact that we all share the commonality of being a foreigner in Japan (a much, much harder role to play than can ever be understood unless experienced (read: getting kicked out of a public place for having a tattoo, being asked if I can eat fish, and being talked about in Japanese because they thought I couldn't understand... and that was only in the past week)... despite that fact that we are foreigners trying to fit in without really wanting to be Japanese, while knowing that we never will fit in... despite sharing the fact that we were all there to try to prove and earn a piece of paper certifying that we, indeed, can communicate in Japanese at the level of a third-grader... despite all this that we share, it never fails to amuse me that the only way I can even attempt to communicate with all of these other foreigners just like me is in broken, childish, Japanese.
Oh, and just to prove again that world is a tiny place, I ran into a crew of Filipino auntie-friends who I had met a year ago when I first came to Japan. Shortly after that, I looked up from my assigned seat and saw that the young man assigned to sit behind me was a guy I hadn't seen since we first met in university back in California. What. The. F.
Life is strange.
I'm getting ready (i.e., worrying and fretting because it's too early to do anything else) to make another big transition. The only thing sure to change is where I'll live and from where (...if...) I'll be getting my paychecks.
It could be so easy to stay. I already know all the benefits to staying: a pay raise, cheap rent, the friend's I've made, more vacation days than I can use in a year, proximity to un-traveled-by-me countries--not to mention living in an entire not-enough-traveled-by-me country. I'll have paid off all my loans, so all money that comes my way would be my money for-realsies, not just my money for-one-day-while-the-transfer-to-student-loans-payment-clears.
I know all the risks for leaving: not being able to find a job right away, not having a place of our own right away, entanglements with getting visas, packing up and moving again, resettling, the cost of resettling, learning the ropes for a new job again, not having any friends, maybe even having to learn a new language.
On the other hand...
Risks for staying: getting comfortable.
Benefits for leaving: having a new, different place to live, packing up and moving again, resettling, learning the ropes for a new job again, making new friends, maybe even having to learn a new language.
I think the "other hand" wins.
It's scary to make a leap... but I rather like the situation I'm in now better than the one I was in before. Now, I'm pushing myself, challenging myself to jump rather than running away blindly to anything at all with my tail between my legs.
Change is change, whatever the stimulus or the back story.
One of the books I'm reading now is If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. She's great. I thought the book would be trite, cheesy, and well-meaning, but useless, but she's actually got me writing. Thanks, Brenda.
Eduardo, who recommended Ms. Ueland's book to me, says that when he writes, he writes to her. That got me thinking... I never thought about who my audience is when I blog. Not explicitly, anyway. But I always had an audience, or rather, an audience member. I always had one lone person who I was writing to. I'd always visualize that person reading my posts, imagine what they'd think, wish I could talk about what I wrote with them afterwards. He or she--my solitary reader--would change over the years as I continued blogging. He or she would always be a friend whom I personally knew; it'd be someone who I know reads my posts, someone who I know I can be my serious, formal-self with.
Now, when I write for wider audience (like for the book I'm working on, my imagined editorials that I have not yet had the guts to send to the New York Times, or for my guest blog post entries that I've never actually been invited to write), I have no idea who to write for. Should I still write for you? Should I imagine someone else or should I imagine a version of you, one who will understand and accept where I'm coming from even when I write with a difference voice?
I don't know, I'm starting to confuse myself.
Dan Brown, famously known for The Da Vinci Code, but who also wrote the book which I much preferred, Angels and Demons, did a question and answer forum online a few weeks ago. One reader asked him to comment on writers and artists who are too afraid of criticism to create anything.
Brown suggested this: create something. Then, when it's finished, promptly throw it away before anyone has a chance to see it. Do this everyday. Then, one day, when you've created something you can't bare to throw away, you'll know you've made something worth the while.
That's enough for one blog post. Stay warm out there, folks!