The Other Sides Of a Year Abroad 3
Dealing with Loneliness in a Metropolis of 9 Million people
This part ist going to be the last installement of my series ‘The Other Sides of a Year Abroad” and because I didn’t find a good place to divide up the text, I am just going to post everything. This is going to be a very long blog post and you will need some time to get through it. I knew since I was writing the first part that I would like to talk about this topic. However, it was more difficult than I thought it was going to be. I was thinking about it a lot, but avoided writing it down, because I just didn’t know where to start and how to do it. I don’t think it’s easy admitting to yourself, let alone to someone else, that you feel lonely. I don’t want to seem pathetic or clingy and why should I feel lonely when I have a group of friends, despite them being far away? There might be people who won’t understand my point of view, even after I have explained it, but it’s okay. Talking about it is enough for me. These are my feelings and I can’t help it. I wished I had a switch to switch them off, maybe that would make my life easier.
The moment, when you get stuck and don’t know the way out
You probably ask yourself how it is possible not managing to find anyone to be close to, in a city with over 9 million people. Believe me, I also wondered about that many times. There are over 9 million people, so I should at least find one single person out there on the same wavelength as me. It was more difficult than I thought. I only talked to a few people who I usually sat next to during classes. In the beginning, it was even worse, because I isolated myself as soon as I realized that I didn’t manage to connect to most of the people, be it the other international students or the Japanese students and in the end I couldn’t find any community to belong to. It was like I missed the time to get into a group, it was not like I didn’t want to. Sometimes that leads to me feeling like it’s no use to put any effort into being friendly and sociable on a daily basis so that I automatically revert to my quiet self. I usually only talked, when it was necessary and that was always about stuff concerning university. On days when I didn’t have classes, for example during the weekend when I stayed in my room all day, it could happen, that I didn’t message anybody, except my friends from Germany maybe. However, I really pitied myself for not finding anyone in Japan I could talk to regularly, online and offline, about serious subjects or just random dumb subjects. It’s not like I could talk to my friends in Germany all day, everyday. First of all, there was the time difference and my friends have their own lives and problems as well, so I didn’t really want to pester them with any negativity. I realized that two or more days could pass without me talking to anyone. I mean that can be the case for everyone once in a while, if you want to have some quiet time to yourself. However, I think it happened more often than I would have liked. During most Japanese classes, there was someone sitting next to me, but I mostly sat alone during my International courses and I spent most of my breaks alone, doing homework or I was just sleeping. I tried to get to know some international students in the beginning, but they all got along with someone else better. There were classmates who occasionally asked me whether I would like to go to the cafeteria during break and I would have liked to, but when I came to Japan, my sleeping pattern got worse and I was constantly tired, more than I usually am, so that I always declined the offer in order to take a nap on the table in the classroom, just to be able to stay awake for the next class, because you can’t take a single second to be absent minded during class. You would be called on by the teacher the second she noticed it. Maybe that’s one of the factors that made university so tiring, because I never could rest my mind, not even on my days off, because I always had to do something for my university or I was thinking about it. On top of that, I didn’t manage to built up connections and hence saw myself as a failure.
Dealing with my doubts and insecurities
I felt sad very often during that year. It was also my first Christmas away from home. Before coming to Japan, I always imagined what I would do during the holidays with a group of friends that I found there. Maybe making plans with them, looking at the Christmas illumination together, then get some fried chicken and Christmas cake afterwards. We would eat together and just talk for hours. Christmas came around and I bought some cheap pieces of cake from a cake shop in Ikebukuro and some 100 Yen fried chicken from the conbini around the corner of my dorm, took everything home to eat alone in my room. It was an evening like every other day, at least with some cake. I did get invited by some people to their Christmas get together. However, the point for me was that they already made plans with their own group of friends and it felt like I was invited in addition, if you know what I mean, like an afterthought, like they remembered I existed. I really appreciated it, that they thought of me, I really do. I’m sure they meant well, but as you can guess already, as I feel uncomfortable in situations with people I don’t know, I declined. I felt like I would just be a hindrance and I didn’t want to feel like a thirdwheel and maybe even make their get together awkward, if they try to make me feel like I belong. At this point, I’m asking myself how I even managed to have friends in my life at all with this attitude of mine.
I tried. I really did.
I had some good days, when I met up with people I got along with. It made me forget my sadness for a while and I felt good, but there was one Saturday, when I had plans with someone. One day the person messaged me out of nowhere after they found out that I studied at Keio, telling me that they would like to meet me and I thought ‘why not’? I first met them for lunch, we talked a lot about how I got the place at this university, how they were hoping that their significant other in Germany would manage to come to Keio as well and I was telling them some things about the program, about my project and so on. On that Saturday, I was going to meet them a second time. At first, it was just supposed to be a meeting with them, but then they sent me a message asking me whether they could bring someone else along and of course I didn’t have the heart to say no. I remember that, when I woke up that day, I just sat on the bed and suddenly started to cry without reason, without a trigger. I just sat there and cried and I asked myself why I did that, since I don’t have any reason to cry, as I was about to meet up with some people to socialize. I was supposed to feel happy. I was pretty proud of me that you couldn’t notice any of that anymore when I started that day’s vlog.
I try to trust, but it’s hard. It’s really hard.
If I try to be nice or avoid conflicts, I always end up being only ‘useful’ to other people and nothing more. After getting what they want, they just move on with their own lives and sometimes it feels like I’m just a corn of dust in the universe. Those people only ‘value’ the relationship with me, more like the connection, since you can’t even call that a relationship, if I can be a use to them and I’m not having that. You have to know that the people I’m speaking of right now, whether they know it or not, have gotten onto my wrong side. For everything I do, there is a reason. It’s not like I behave like that with every person I don’t consider a close friend. I don’t want to think that people just approach someone and pretend to be their close friend in order to get some use out of them later, but seemingly that’s how society works. It felt the same in Japan. It seems like everyone pretended to be best friends with everyone, international students and Japanese students alike. To show how internationlly connected they are. One part wants to learn Japanese, the other part any other foreign language. So, in a way, they profit from each other. Maybe I’m just jealous. However, the reason I always end up alone, is because I don’t want someone just to practice Japanese with and I don’t want to be someone they just practice English or German with. In my experience, most of the time it seems like we can’t go beyond the point of talking about the weather and what kind of hobbies we have. The conversation feels shallow and disconnected. That is why, even with so many people in a city, it still feels so incredibly empty.
I really want to believe that the people who approach me are genuinely interested in friendship, but that way of thinking might be too naive. If everyone person existing only has genuine interests, there wouldn’t be exploitation and profit making. I have been disappointed and taken advantage of many times already, also by people I considered my best friends. It felt like a blow into my gut. I think a literal blow to the gut would hurt less than being treated like air, like a waste of their time, by someone I thought was my best friend. I will never forget. It really hurts and of course I don’t want to be put through a situation like that again. So I think it’s common sense, if I don’t welcome every person into my life with open arms. Apparently trust issues, which on the other hand seem to result into social anxiety makes it difficult for me to make friends or build up connections, because I want to be more than just convenient for people when they need it. Maybe I’m just asking too much and I should be satisfied with what I get, instead of whining all the time. The older I get, the harder it seems for me to find and build up relationships, let alone meaningful ones. How am I going to hold up in a society, in which connections are so important in every aspect of a person’s life?