Moving to Nagoya, Japan was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Life-changing. Life-saving? Dramatic semantics.
One year ago, I had recently broken up with the boyfriend I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. The one who was my best friend, who I could talk to about anything, who I shouldn’t have been with because he’d already broken up with me once to get back with his ex. And after that – the final break-up – I was okay for a while, because I thought it just hadn’t worked out but we’d still be close friends forever and I’d always be his “day one,” until I found out that he was back with his ex, again. The ex I’d worried about during our whole relationship. The one he’d sworn he couldn’t see a future with anymore. And it wasn’t even him who told me.
And then it felt like I’d lost everything. I didn’t have anything left; a direction, a purpose, a future. And for the second time in my life, I wanted to kill myself. Sometimes, you don’t realize a relationship is toxic until you end it.
I’d already decided to take the jump and move to a foreign country. But at the time of the decision, a thought in the back of my mind was that when I came back, he’d be waiting for me. And then I realized the only person he’d ever waited for was her.
So I broke down. I cried in front of my friend and played happy in front of my family. I got black-out drunk at a bar and went to work the next morning like nothing happened. And then I packed all of the pieces into two suitcases and a backpack and changed the course of my life forever.
It wasn’t perfect immediately. I went through ups and downs so quickly it terrified me. But, slowly, everything started to fall together. The job title of “teacher,” the one I’d sworn I’d never stand under, started to tattoo itself on me and I discovered that I loved it. The freedom and beauty of walking around my city instead of driving through it gave me air I didn’t know I hadn’t been breathing. I stopped working out with the purpose of looking good when I went out to clubs with boys who had no interest in knowing me for longer than one night, and I started running so that I could breathe and feel again. And I started to return to music.
Nagoya is a city most people consider a passing-through point. It’s like my home state of Kansas, known as a flyover state. But if you’re in either one long enough, you realize they’re so much more. People playing music in the park or close to train stations, small bands meeting and joining to play like they’ve always known each other, bars that welcome you in like you’re family, and people who listen to you play week after week and encourage the beginners just as much as the experts.
Last night, I went to a jam at the house of a couple I’ve only known for a few months. I was encouraged to sit at the piano, pick up a ukelele, belt out some Beatles, and go home with an extra pair of drum sticks and a Rudiments practice sheet. And I realized I have a reason to live again.