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You can never go back

I had an interesting night tonight to say the least. While overall it wasn’t a page turning story, I can say I networked with a well connected member of the ruling party in this country. Not something to smirk at.

We ended up going to AgeHa tonight. A place I haven’t been to in a year. Even then my experience pales to the first memory. It is a place that holds strong emotions and changed my view on clubs. Nothing of note happened tonight, but even that doesn’t matter.

Any one who is an avid reader of the blog knows this began as a travel journal during my initial return visit to Japan. I tried to keep up with all that happened but time and laziness overtook me and I left it lingering mid story. One crucial tale I left out was my trip to AgeHa, strongly pushed by Nick and one I would not have considered on my own. But it is one I am eternally grateful for.

At AgeHa, I let loose, had fun and flirted like it was going out of style. I got phone numbers and made friends. I even got a date out of it with a woman who sings like an angel. We wrote letters after I left and had another date when I returned but two years and a pile of distance made it more than doomed. She’s engaged now. Funny how life works out sometimes.

But I wouldn’t even give clubs a chance if it wasn’t for that night. So what if things don’t work out. They might next time.

But I can’t expect it to be like last time. I came to Japan this time around hoping it would be like the adventure I had with Nick. I hoped it would be the same thrill and excitement as that vacation where I had no expectations but to have fun. But I should have known better.

You can never go back. You can’t recapture the times you once had. You can only push forward and make new memories. We can look back and wish things were like back then, but that does no good.

I am older now. Perhaps wiser. Both of those change so much of my experience. But I am still having experiences. I am still living. Still exploring. One day I will settle down. My adventures will be at an end. And maybe, just maybe, I will write them all down. But until then I will venture forth.

Until my hands blister.
Until my heels bleed.
Until my tongue grows weary from telling my tales.

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The problem with solutions

The problem with solutions is you aren’t always happy with them. An irresolute situation creates more confusion, worry and strife than a negative solution. But a negative solution at least creates closure. You know what the situation is. You know what to do. You can move forward. Even if it doesn’t make you happy.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t change the fact you are unhappy.

I’m sure we’re all familiar with what the friend zone is. Men especially. Most people will settle for this either because they hope they might have the opportunity to break out of it or that what attracted them to a relationship in the first place is also appealing as a friendship. Most people convince themselves of the latter when in reality it’s the former. I say they are both useless. But for most a consolation prize feels better than nothing.

I met a woman tonight who often finds herself in the friend zone. She is beautiful and charming so this is a bit surprising. Japanese, but not as shy as many I know. She says she doesn’t know how some women get men to ask them out. Essentially, she doesn’t understand flirting.

Still, knowing how aggressive men can be and knowing she wants a boyfriend this seems unprecedented. And I feel guilty finding pleasure in knowing this happens to women too. That it’s not only men. That it’s not only me.

If learning to flirt is the issue, that’s certainly something I can teach. And if she’s interested in Westerners there is more reason for my upcoming posts on the different dating cultures.

I don’t see a relationship with the woman in question. Just another friend. I suppose I’m adding to the problem. But finding a place in yourself, secure like your home, is important. If we ever get back home, we’ll gray out our blues.

Smiles that fade

I’m starting to get a bit more settled here in Tokyo. I’m sure I’ve said that before, but it’s a process. Big city, new situation, millions of people, all that jazz. I took the time to take stock of my life and decided I’m pretty much happy with it. I have a place to live in an awesome city. I am employed and health insured. My job is fairly easy, gives me a decent salary and allows me a good deal of free time. I am moving ahead on plans for life post teaching English. I’m developing a network of friends and starting to solidify the core of it. This is also allowing me to keep my social calendar as full or as empty and I wish of it. Everything is, for the most part, pretty darn good. Are things perfect? No. I’d be lying if I denied that something big is missing.

It is no secret that I want a relationship. There is also nothing wrong with that. I am human; this is how we are wired. We are social creatures, and while friends fill certain aspects of our needs, little else provides the companionship and intimacy of a significant other. I do miss those. The issue is I was pursuing relationships in a western fashion. I mean, why not? Doing so worked perfectly well for me before. Lately, however, it caused me a bit of trouble. The result being my life is a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Highs and lows, things going really well then plummeting down to the gutters. All while I am left frustrated, disappointed, confounded and clueless. I’ve also had a combination of the best and the worst luck dating wise in quick succession. I have a number of stories I would be happy to share, but this would not be the right forum for it. What I will say about my romantic attempts with the opposite sex is this: I wish things turned out differently. I wish I had better timing. Especially with the most recent one.

But, there is nothing one can do to change the past. You can only move forward.

From all of this I am learning that Western dating culture and Eastern dating culture are vastly different. A conversation with a Japanese lady friend of mine who found herself equally confused after a few dates with a Western man began this realization. I have since spoken with a number of my Japanese friends and come to learn a good deal more about the Japanese way of doing things. From a Western perspective, the Japanese style of dating seems very regimented, strict, serious, immature and perhaps even prude. From a Japanese perspective, the Western style of dating seem brash, arrogant and slutty. Both side views the other as crazy. The Japanese language not having any gradation on the words like and love certainly doesn’t help either.

In my case, a number of people misunderstand my actions as hunting for a girlfriend- thinking that anyone will do- and that all I want is sex. This is far from the reality, and it bothered me quite a bit. Then I decided that whoever likes me and will be my friend is going to like me for me and will try to understand me. Whoever doesn’t simply isn’t going to regardless. The ones who aren’t going to like me can jump off Skytree for all I care.

I’m going to write two posts following this. One of the Western culture of dating, and one on the Japanese / Asian culture of dating. These are going to be fairly big posts, and I’m looking for input and feedback from others on this. Keep tuned you Western boys and Eastern girls. It could be useful. Or at least interesting.

Negativity

I write a lot of very negative and depressing sounding posts. Especially lately. I do that mostly so I don’t talk about such things and be negative quite so much in my everyday life. Or at least that’s the idea. It’s not working out as well as I had hoped. But it does help a little. By writing down all the crap in my head that I am feeling I (usually) get it out of my system. It has to go somewhere. I’m starting to write more of them down and then just putting them aside. The simple act of writing it sometimes helps.

I don’t like negativity or being negative. I want to be more cheery, positive and up beat. Yet I am not a terribly reserved individual and my enthusiasm is met with mixed reactions. I suppose I should learn to tone things down from time to time.

At my darkest times emotionally, I faked being happy. Oddly when I’m really, truly terribly upset I don’t want anyone to know. Yet that is when things have turned positive the fastest. Perhaps I should fake it all the time. If I pretend to constantly be happy perhaps I will eventually trick myself into actually being happy. Sure it’s living a lie, but lots of people do that. I should join the club.

In all seriousness, my life has seen a great many changes both recently and in the past four years. If I focus on doing what is right for me I’m sure it will come together for the best. Probably. Maybe.

Confidence

I was told the other night I should be more confident. This is not a thing I disagree with. I should be. I would love to be. Sadly, it is not that simple. What, after all, is confidence? A belief in oneself? And where does that belief come from? Achievement? Goal attainment? If one has certain goals, or certain ideals for what things should be and does not match them, wouldn’t that be cause for a lack of confidence? I am such a case.

There are three core issue for my self image and my lack of confidence. The first is achievement. Irrelevant to anyone else I had one of two goals for my life. Either be heavily involved with a career in film -for richer or poorer- or be married with a steady office job. I have neither of those, and neither seem terribly likely for my upcoming future.

I have without question lead an interesting life. I have a story for every hair on my head. But this was never the life I intended for myself. Is this a bad thing? No. I simply need to readjust my course. Make new goals. Force myself to pursue them. That last part has been tricky. I have no idea what I want to do or what direction I want to go in. And I am not a person who is fond on uncertainty.

The second issue is women. Or I should say woman. No matter what course my life takes, I have always wanted to have someone to share it with. I have rarely been good at that goal. Meeting people? Having fun? That’s never been at issue. Making and maintaining relationships unfortunately are not my strong suit. Acquaintances and friends are easy. I am a good guy and fun guy (or at one point I was.) I have known some amazing, beautiful, enchanting and fun women. Not just beautiful physically but with engaging personalities. Women that all men want to know. Women that men want to meet. They call to us like sirens amidst the rocks, and they were in my confidence. All who wanted to hang out with me. Yet just as friends.

That drives a man crazy. When you are good, so good, but not quite good enough. Sorry, but let me tell you about the other guys I like, who treat me like crap, who I’m concerned about. I want a guy who treats me like you do, but more attractive and not you. Let me get drunk and flirt with you and then tell you how I’m glad we’re only friends. Sometimes I am happy for these friendships. Sometimes. They can be very good people; they can be fun to be with and can make excellent friends. Sometimes. They also often have hot friends they can talk me up to. Throw me a bone. Even without this I like the attention.

I like being part of peoples lives and caring for them and hoping they in turn care for me. Maybe they won’t care to the same extent. I might want that but it’s not realistic. Yet some of the more admirable women I have known seem to view me as less than themselves. I am not as they are. They do not treat me the same as they treat others. I find much of my value in how those I care about view me and treat me- men and women both. I want people to view me in a certain, positive way and that is often not the case. Secretly, I want to be one of the cool kids.

A sub issue from this is physical appearance. I have always been tall and skinny. I am a bit lanky and awkward as such people can be. I don’t quite fit in the norm and I’m not sure where to go. I enjoy the ability to reach high things, but would rather be smaller and fit in with the rest. Hitting my head on low doorways in this country also gets old. Really fast. Subconsciously I slouch and crouch down as a result. It makes me look even more awkward and worse: weak. I don’t own my stature like I should. I’m not even sure I know how to. Neither do I grow muscle mass quickly. There’s more space to spread it over I suppose. But no matter how much I work out, I stay my lean self. I want to be bigger, stronger, more fit and attractive. I want women to look at me and want me. I suppose everyone does. And I’m working towards that now. I tried before half-heartedly. Now I’m putting in much more effort. I worry it may be too little to late. None of this comes easy to me. But no matter how hard I work out I can’t change some aspects. I’m losing my hair. My nose is kinda long/big. I’m a hairy mother fucker. Some people don’t like that. What can I do about it? For all my work, will I ever be ideal? No one can guarantee. There will always be others more attractive than me. I suppose that’s true for everyone. It would be nice to be number one for a little while, though.

In the realm of dating I have more failures than successes. My success are often short lived and end poorly (to put it lightly.) More frequent are failures to launch. Girls I will go on one or two dates with that will go really well and then they lose all interest. And I am left baffled. Sometimes they met someone else. Sometimes not. In any case I get left in the lurch. It tears a man down.
But seriously.
I am human and I need to be loved. Just like everybody else does.

The third and final issue is stability. I have a job for the year. If I want I can have the same job next year. It is not much of a job. It provides enough for me to survive. Not much for savings. Not much for a future. Not much for others. There was a time I had a good job that paid well, set a nice nest egg and gave me security. A combination of the economic downturn, unemployment and my foolish actions have garnered me a notable debt. I’m working hard to nullify it, but it is a constant concern. I don’t know what I will do for my future and what sort of security I will have. I am a skilled, moderately intelligent and adaptable individual yet without a career. I imagine I’m not alone in that but it is certainly not comforting.

I want to be able to provide for myself beyond my basic needs. Fiscally I want to be comfortable and never have to worry. I want money to be a non-issue, but I don’t seek to be rich. I want to be able to provide for whoever is in my life: family, friends, a girlfriend, wife or children. I do not like not being unable to do that and I am lost on how to achieve that goal with the current state of my life. Uncertainty is my greatest enemy. Were I to take a set path with some assuredness, I would be better. As in days of yore when I cast aside these regards and dived into life with full force. These times were mostly in San Francisco. But I don’t know that I can find such liveliness again. Largely because I don’t know where I’m going.

Going back to women, there are two things they seek in mates whether they realize it or not. The first is fitness, generally viewed as physical attractiveness. Does the person have features viewed as attractive by the viewer and society? Is the person fit, muscular and in theory virile so they would produce good offspring? Whether or not we are conscious of this, lust (the physical desire and draw to be with someone) comes before love. It’s the spark, the chemistry that drives things at the beginning. Biologically all people are driven to reproduce, and to do so with the ones that seem most fit.

The secondary thing a woman seeks is support. If something goes wrong, can this person support me? Someone who makes good money or has the potential to make good money does well here. Will they be available emotionally? Will they help them when they hurt, give them a good life and make them happy? The ability to do this is less important than the appearance to be able to do so. It creates a sense of security.

I don’t fit into either of those categories right now.

I can end with cliched child psychology. Spend enough of your life being bullied and told you’re not as good as everyone else and it sticks with you. You start to believe you are not as good as everyone else. Sure, my parents and friends tried their darnedest to be supportive and counteract this. There’s only so much they can do, though. Toss in a few betrayals from former friends and your trust begins to fade as well. Of course I am not blameless. There past actions I regret and I am ashamed of. Things I have tried to learn and grow from.

Why don’t I have confidence? Right now what do I have to be confident in? Physical appearance? Nope. While I am not ugly I am far from highly attractive. Accomplishment? Not really. I have no accomplishments I can tout. Stability? No. My life is far less stable than I want. It at times feels like I am treading water. Relationships? Barely. I’ve lead too nomadic a life to form many close bonds. The ones closest to me I’ve failed to keep contact with. A big penis? Well, yeah but that does me no good given my failing dating prospects. I see the way I want to be. I see the kind of life I want to have. I don’t have that, and I don’t know how to get it. That is why I am unconfident.

I hope all this is temporary. I am a worrier. Really I wanted to be a warrior but my personality has a speech impediment. The upside is it makes for better writing. Despite my worries and my lack of confidence I am trying my best. But it can be hard to keep your head up when you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Once I build my life in the direction I want things should get better. I just need to find how to take that first step.

Resolution

When I wrote my most recent post I did not expect any change within the situation to occur. At least not so quickly. I don’t expect anyone within my guesthouse to read my blog, and if they do I don’t know who does. I mostly write this stuff to vent and keep up with friends back home. I am, however, terribly vain and love the attention when people do read my writing. More reasons to do more of it. I received a large number of comments (mostly through direct e-mail) encouraging me to stick with it since I’ve only been here a short while. It is true, and so I have. But I’ve also taken efforts to expand my horizons. I hope good things will come of this.

Since my last post a few members of the guest house have taken extra effort to say hello and be friendly with me. A specific group of awesome Swedes come to mind, but they were never at fault to begin with. That just makes them double awesome. If you guys read this, thank you. There are other groups as well. People who were awesome have continued to be more awesome, so if they felt bad I am sorry and really happy I know you. The situation in question is beginning to resolve itself, but through a separate set of circumstances. I’m not certain what will happen, but one way or another it will resolve.

This is post script. It shouldn’t even be here. It’s separate from the message and tone of my post. I know myself. I know who I am. I know who I want to be. I know how I act. I don’t always like it. Memory is a tricky thing to rely on so it is not always accurate. But here I go.

I feel there was a time I embraced myself. Insecure as I have always been (though would like not to be) I was goofy, fun, and lively with disregard for who might judge me. I went out and embraced every day. Took every hit on the chin and kept churning forward. I kept my head high and tried my best. Maybe that was a dream. Maybe I was never like that. But that’s how I want to be. I never want to worry. I want to take all things in stride. I want to push forward and embrace my life wherever it takes me. But There’s just enough crap in my life to hold me back from doing that. I need to sever the dead weight and nourish the healthy aspects.

I also understand now why many writers are alcoholics. This is much easier after knocking a few back.

It was brought to my attention again today that I think too much. Sadly, not about anything of importance. I worry, I fluster, I pout… I act very unmanly. I live greatly in my head for what might be rather than what is. Especially if I am not given specifics. I like details and I like to know. But I do sometimes (often) worry too much and have trouble letting things go. I know that about myself. And I’m finding the more I write the better I become about managing the parts of myself I don’t like. No question I need to write more. I just hope my writing is worth reading.

Getting my feet

I’m trying to meet new people. That’s always the thing you do when moving to a new city. Make new friends. I’m never quite comfortable in a place until have my regular crowd I hang out with. I’ve been here two months and met a good number of people. Many of them fun, exciting people I enjoy when I hang out with. But I don’t know that I can call any of them friends yet. I don’t have that regular stability or comfort to know I have people welcoming me to whatever is going on. I find it somewhat ironic to feel lonely in the most densely populated city in the world.

Strangely enough I felt a bit more optimistic and involved when I first moved to Tokyo. I suppose at that time my expectations were a bit lower. I just moved into my guest house and was beginning to meet my housemates (there are about fifty of them.) We hung out in the kitchen, and on a few occasions went out. Yet I don’t feel like the relationships have developed beyond the point of casual acquaintances.

I feel as if I came into Tokyo completely clean, knowing no one, like I did with San Francisco. In reality that isn’t so. I know some Japanese businessmen who lived in Berkeley, some of my former students, the goons and two of my friends from high school who all live in Tokyo. The trouble is they have all lived in Tokyo for a while and have their own lives. They are busy and unsure how to fit me in. Some are worried because of age difference, others because of the language barrier. I can’t blame them, but it is a shame and a bit frustrating. Usually I meet new friends through other friends.

For many of the people in the guest house, they have built-in networks. They are students and can join a circle (social club,) have very social work places or lived in the region for years. The events occur organically, and they never need to worry about what they are doing this weekend or who they will hang out with. I do not have that benefit. Though I am trying to build a network, most people I meet are busy with other plans. I would love to join them, but invites to groups outside of the guest house.

As time has passed, people in the house have divided into groups. This is natural and existed to some extent when I first moved in. I don’t mind them. Normally everyone can kind of float in between groups to socialize at dinner or what have you. Recently, though, there are a set of three that have become a bit cliquey. They get on really well, of which I am happy for them. I am not happy that they get on so well that they tend to cut others out and mostly socialize with themselves. They go out together often, but they do not invite anyone else from the house. Frustrating as before everyone was welcome. What bothers me most is two of these people I really like and want to be better friends with. While I hung out with them before I’m now on the outside. More so, this trend began on a night they went clubbing together. A night I was invited to but had to miss because of work.

I find myself getting jealous and angry and a host of emotions that do me no good. If I could be my happy, fun, foolish self I might find myself spending time with them. Or I could ignore it and build stronger relationships with others. Being in a funk just makes the situation worse. No one wants to hang out with someone who is grumpy, complaining and unhappy. The trouble with emotions is they don’t listen to logic. Adding to the problem is I’ve never been one who could hide their emotions well nor keep them under control. So being this jealous perpetuates the problem. I act awkward, unconfident, foolish, mean, stupid and just not good. I hate how I’m acting, but currently at a loss to stop it. I know well that the issue is I don’t have other groups of friends to turn to, hence the jealousy.

I need to make friends outside of the guest house. Once I have a stable set of people I hang out with I won’t be so insecure. I will find confidence from my friends and lose that jealousy. I’m not sure yet how I want to handle those three. I’m upset with them not because I don’t like them but because I do. Emotions are silly that way. When I get back to my normal, fun self I will probably be able to approach it with a better head. I just worry how I may act towards them in the mean time.

The trouble is I’m not sure how to meet people in this city. In San Francisco it took me two months until I found my core of friends, and a lot of that was luck. I joined a group and met them there. So I suppose I should find a hobby. But what are my hobbies? Drinking? (the San Francisco group was a dive bar group.) I should reach out to the people I already know more, busy as they are. Find a way to fit into their schedule and build from there. I know this funk and loneliness won’t last forever. No less, it blows in the meantime.