Have you recently moved to a new country? Have you ever moved to a new community and had to start over? I have. Read on to see what it is like dealing with loneliness in new environments, how I handled it and how you can too.
“You never really understand just how lonely you are until the day has ended, and you have so many things to talk about, and nobody to talk to.”
If you‘ve lived and worked in a community for a year, should you still be considered a guest? And if you are, when should this status of “guest” be removed? As bad as it may sound, there are so many times when I am made to feel like a guest in my own community. It’s as if no matter what I do, no matter how I act, I will forever be subconsciously labeled “the foreigner” and that really really sucks.
The question that I‘ve been pondering lately though, is whether I should be happy and embrace this situation, or fight to my last breath to be seen as an accepted member of the community. My simple answer is neither. I don’t know how long I will be living on this island, and it almost seems like a waste to spend my time worrying about such a trivial matter. I‘ll just be myself and live the best way I see fit. If I make genuine connections along the way; fantastic. If I’m only able to forge surface relationships; oh well, such is life.
I was told a story about a fellow teacher who lived on a small island, similar to mine. Being the sports enthusiast he was, he eagerly joined the local basketball team and played with them every day for 2 or 3 years. At the end of his time on the island, right before he was set to return home, there was a basketball tournament. Throughout sign up he had frequently heard that there would be a foreigner joining them. He was very excited and looked forward to seeing another new face. Imagine his disappointment when, on the day of the event, he was the one introduced by the team as the foreigner.
When I fist heard this story, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh, or to cry with him, because I understand. I understood every word he spoke, and it felt like a page had been ripped from my own story. Dealing with loneliness in new environments is hard enough, and all anyone wants, is to be able to assimilate so they can continue life as they had before. Assimilation into the Japanese society can be a seemingly impossible task, and this is mainly due to how foreigners are viewed in Japanese society.
What I’ve Done so Far
After much research and reflection, I‘ve come to realize there are two extremes. In this post, however, I have chosen not to focus on the extremes. Instead, I want to encourage others who might be “fighting” a similar battle, after having moved to a foreign country or moved to a new community. Below are a list of conscious moves I have made so far:
. Encouraged by a fellow teacher, I joined the island’s hula team and now meet with them twice a week. This allows me to meet many of the other females living on IE and get to know the islanders on a more personal level.
. I am studying Japanese and try to have simple conversations with as many people, as often as possible. Many times, I make mistakes, but that’s just a part of the learning process. I also try to ask as many questions as I can and this is great because the people of the island love when someone shows interest in the language on a deeper level.
. Whenever there is a festival, or event, and I am available, I try my best to attend, even if it’s just to show my face and say hi to a few people. I walk around and ask about prices and the food, and what each food item contains, to spark a conversation. Bonus: I get to practice my Japanese.😁
. From September to October, I hosted a Jamaican Cooking Class as a way to exchange information between cultures. Each class averaged 20 students and was taught in a mix of Japanese and English. We had the chance to laugh, talk, cook together and gain great advice for future workshop ideas.
Presently, I teach a Jamaican Dance Class to all interested in learning how to move like a “native.“The purpose of this class is not to become the best dancer but to bond with fellow islanders in my own way. My class consists of women ages 21 to 67 years old. It’s been a fun ride so far and am excited to see how they do when we perform the dance routines next month.
Each act has been deliberate as I am a Cultural Ambassador for my country, and I will consistently try to build that bridge, on a grassroots level, between IE Island and Jamaica. I have also made a few friends here without even thinking too hard or obsessing over the situation. The more I look around, the more I realize that I am not alone after all. It might seem that way at times, but the devil does like intruding on the joy people possess, and I don’t want to be a pawn on his chess board. I have no time for sadness, and I have no time for doubt. My mission here is to make as big of an impact I can, as often as I can, while I can. I have gained a lot from being in Japan, and my focus right now is giving back.
Advice For Moving Forward
It might seem difficult at the moment, but I promise you, that if you take the time to look, you will see just how many people are actually in your corner. The ones who matter will welcome you with open arms into their homes, hearts and lives. The ones who don’t, well, they don’t really matter. So I‘ve decided that I‘m not really lonely after all, I am living, for the most part, in solitude.
This is a chance to get to know who you are, while exploring all the things you possibly never thought you could before. Loneliness conveys the agony of being alone, while solitude, well solitude reflects the magnificence that comes with being alone. You decide.
If you want to read more about my journey thus far and gain more fantastic advice , check out any of the posts below: