Let’s Stay in Touch

I am starting my new life in Tokyo, where new challenges await.  I’m really excited, but the move still feels quite surreal.  I don’t think reality has quite sunk in.

Twenty-one years, 3 months and 10 days passed between my residency in Japan.  That’s a long time.  I haven’t felt nostalgic yet, but I’ve started to notice the small things first, like the metric system, driving on the right with wheels on the left and open malls on Sundays.

And I suspect the reality will become harsher.  Football Sunday will be football wee hours Monday.  People will see no distinction between the love of my life, Boston College, and the bane of my existence, Boston University, both of which translate the same in Japanese.  My sole impressive skill–memorization of James Bond lines–will not be transferable in Japanese.  Any discussion of handguns will invite looks of fright.  I will have to search for Altoids in vain through the vast metropolis of Tokyo rather than walking into a random CVS.

I’ll get over all of those things eventually, but there is one aspect of my life that I will miss dearly.  In leaving behind America, I also leave behind the great people that made my life in America very special.

Many such people are, of course, friends.  When you live in a country for as long as two decades, you make all sorts of friends.  I have friends who I grew up together, went to school together, worked together or shared interests together.  It’s funny that just as I was about to leave, I reconnected with half a dozen people in the last six months that I had lost touch with over the last decade.  I’ll miss reminiscing about the past, debating politics, going to see movies, sharing war stories and, more recently, worrying about our futures.

Then there are the teachers, professors and mentors who made me the person I am today.  I’ve realized recently that, as I enter the third decade of my life, I will more than ever need the advice and guidance of these people with greater life experience than I.  In the period I need them most, I leave behind the mentors I can rely on most.

It’s easy enough to say let’s stay in touch. The sad reality, though, is that distance and passage of time compels people to  drift apart.  It happened with my grammar school friends when I transferred to a private high school.  It happened with my high school friends when I went to college in Boston.  It happened with my college friends after we graduated and I continued on to law school.  It happened with my law clerk colleagues when our one year term ended.

Moving on is part of life; I’ve done them before.   But this move to Tokyo is quite different.  So long as I was in New York, it was possible that I’d randomly bump into an old friend and re-acquaint.  It was possible to re-connect on Facebook and agree to get together for a dinner.  It was possible for my  friends in Boston to take the four hour bus ride and visit me in New York, or for me to visit them.  It was possible for me to get back to New Jersey for the weekend and get nostalgic.

All that won’t’ be possible anymore.  Now, face-to-face meetings will be limited on the rare occasions someone visits me in Tokyo or I get back to America.  With the time difference, it’ll be difficult to even pick up the phone and ask “What’s up?”  Sure, we can exchange Facebook messages or e-mails, but I can’t help but feel such interaction is rather wanting.

I believe that the value of my life is sum of the people who surround me, and in that regard, I’ve been both fortunate and unfortunate–fortunate because I met so many great people, but unfortunate because I lost touch with most.  The latter is true the longer I look back.  I’m overwhelmed with sorrow when I wonder how well I would know five years from now what’s going on in the lives of the people I met during the last four years working in New Jersey and New York.

Yes, I will make new friends and gain new mentors during my life in Japan, but I want to hold on to what I had in America as much as possible.  I’m hoping that the people I’ve said good-byes to feel the same way.  Our lives can only get busier and more complicated as we grow older, change jobs and foster new relationships, but I’ll do my best to shoot a quick “hey” as often as possible with the hope that it will be returned in kind.

Let’s stay in touch.


6 Responses to “Let’s Stay in Touch”

  1. 1 jon September 7, 2011 at 10:16 am

    since you asked, and as much as it pains me, I’ll try to leave a genuine response.

    …yeah no i can’t do it. Breathe. In, out. Whats making it more difficult is all the alligator tears clouding my vision after reading that touching tribute.

    But in all seriousness, change is difficult. I’ve never made a change of location, but others that I’m not going into. Its all those little things that you’ve come accustomed that really sting when you notice their gone. And most definitely, and sadly, most contacts will fade away. I’m not too worried about you and i though. We’ve played this game for years. If i didn’t see you again till the day before i died, we’d kick right back into gear, talking politics and wild ideas as I slowly drove you to madness with inane and sarcastic comments lol

    • 2 joesas September 7, 2011 at 10:53 am

      Oh Jon. I think I can pull my middle school yearbook and I have comments in similar tone in the back. How will I ever survive without you getting on my nerves… oh wait…

      Yes, I’m noticing the small things, like lack of decent sports coverage and Altoids that cost $2 (I finally found one and it costs $5.50 here). You know how they say don’t sweat the small stuff? That idiot didn’t have a lot of small stuff to sweat about.

      I think your image of what it would be like when we get together on our deathbeds is fairly accurate. Incidentally, I would no doubt be committed by that point, all thanks to you.

      In light of this wonderful tribute, I hope you stick around and read this bi-weekly.



  2. 3 jon September 8, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    How about you do a column on this quote by Sam Harris:

    “What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance . . . Ask yourself: how has “elitism” become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn’t seem too intelligent or well educated.”

    • 4 joesas September 9, 2011 at 11:01 pm

      No, thank you. But I would like to talk about myself.

      If you didn’t know, this is a pun on SNL’s parody of Palin

  3. 5 jon September 13, 2011 at 10:18 am

    one who does not conform to his readership risks having no readers


    • 6 joesas September 13, 2011 at 10:26 am


      Not all readers are as evil as you, insisting I talk about politics when I said I won’t and I said I shouldn’t.

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