The Irony of hindsight
It was 1986. I had lived in Japan for 2 years. I was really into Japan. The people, the culture, the language, everything about it. I had begun studying Japanese and had 3 different teachers at the school I was attending. One of the teachers, Bob, was leaving to go back to the U.S., and we were having a farewell party for him. Bob had been pretty silent as to why he was leaving. He seemed to have a good life. A beautiful wife, 2 wonderful children, a good paying job, he was good enough in Japanese to be teaching us Japanese. Bob had lived in Japan for 12 years.
I asked him why he would leave, and what he would do in the states. He told me some story about it being "time" to leave, and left it at that. As the night wore on, and we drank a bit more, Bob started talking a bit more. I did not like what I heard. I even resented it. Could this be "Bob", the teacher. He said that he had had enough of the crap. He had come to the point where he could not assimilate anymore, and had no care to. He had bought into the hype that one day he would be treated with the same decency that any human requires to lead a purposeful life. That as his Japanese got better, he would become more a part of the society. He complained to me for over 2 hours about all the crap he had put up with for 12 years, and that he still felt as if he was just spinning his wheels. He had such high hopes, and Japan had taken them from him. Tried to make him ordinary. It had reached the point where he knew he did not want to be "ordinary", and that even "ordinary" was out of his grasp in Japan. He told me about descrimination, about the dificulties he was having within himself about his children going to a Japanese school, about walking on eggshells so his neighbors would at least forgive hime for being his neighbor, even if they did not accept him as their neigbor. He told me that the Japanese staff at his school, although starting out at lower salaries, were being paid so much more than him, and had all the benfits, while he had no hope of ever getting what they were given so easily. He told me that he felt raped by Japan. He said he would rather go home and be a taxi driver than stay in Japan any longer and continue to live the illusion he had been asked to live.
At that moment, I hated Bob. He had everything that I wanted. Man, if I could just trade places with him. Near perfect Japanese, a house, a car, a great job. I would never complain, I would be grateful. I thought he was an A-hole. I thought he wanted more than he deserved. I "HATED" him. Good riddance. Get out if you don't like it.
12 years after that conversation, I found myself sitting at a table in an Izakaya at my own farewell party. I too, had reached the point that Bob had reached so many years earlier. I had everything that Bob had all those years ago. I was surrounded by young faces, new to Japan, who could not believe I was giving up my job to go home and start over. I too, started the evening with it is "time" for me to go. I too, opened up a bit as I drank more. I too, could not keep the frustration inside me, and eventually let it out. As I talked, I looked around the table and saw all the disgusted looks of my co-workers who were so happy with Japan. One guy said, "hey, if you don't like it, just get out, but don't bash Japan just because you couldn't make it."
I had forgotten Bob until that moment. As I sat, looking at those faces, I realized than 12 years from now, they will be at "their" farewell party, and they will start off with "it is just time to go home"........
Irony? More like something out of a Alfred Hitchcock book.
It lives on......to repeat itself.....over....and...over