As I was wrapped up in my tiny kitchen once more – subtly grooving to Bobby Darin’s “Beyond the Sea” merrily teaching myself a new dish – I felt this even stronger: so far, it’s been more than an external journey in this foreign land, but an introspective one, a journey into the core of my being, a journey into myself.
Ironically enough, with my limitations (as one would have when new to a foreign place), I’ve been more productive than I’d ever been in my life. Back home, I was busy in every sense of the word. Every day I had some sort of deadline, to be somewhere or finish something, not to mention household duties. Don’t get me wrong, the things I preoccupied myself with weren’t things I disliked – I enjoyed volunteering and being committed to my church and being with people I loved, but the problem was – in retrospect as I seem to see more clearly now – I didn’t have balance. I was one of those people who said yes to everything, the quickest way to getting burned out. In retrospect, I’d gotten so burned out that I wasn’t doing things for me anymore. I wasn’t investing in and fulfilling my personal goals and resolutions. I’d always intended to, and sometimes I got around to it, but my personal endeavors just got buried. For so long, I wanted to commit to writing, reading scripture, reading in general, learn how to cook, write music. I even had all this written down because year after year, these would be my New Year goals/resolutions, but year after year, when you’re exhausted from a demanding job and from the million other things you have to do, you just want to plop on the couch, order a giant pizza, and watch Netflix until you fall asleep. And when you do this often, it unfortunately becomes habit. I wasn’t getting enough sleep either. Sometimes I wondered why I didn’t feel completely fulfilled when I’d been fortunate with all I had – great career, a community, awesome people; it kinda made me feel guilty. It wasn’t until last year when I realized that the cause of my unfulfillment was from putting my personal endeavors in the back burner, some of which happens to be my life’s purpose (explained in Part VI of this blog: https://chivesrichards.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/2015-may-your-choices-reflect-your-hopes-not-your-fears-repost-in-honor-of-chinese-new-year/). When you’re not doing the things that give your life purpose, of course you’re going to feel unfulfilled! So, this Japan thing definitely came at the right time. I needed to reset. Start over. Reprogram my internal circuits. Some people can do this perfectly well in the same place, but I needed a change. When this need for change aligned with an opportunity to fulfill a dream, well, there goes a winning combo. But then again, things are where they should be. We are where we’re supposed to be. I don’t believe in accidents. Aside from actually experiencing Japan, being here is truly enabling me to find my center. I also realized that back home, my busy was defined by a handful of external obligations that needed to be met (which I know was my fault, but now I know it’s okay to say no to things because of a bigger “yes” burning inside! a la Jim Rohn (great motivational speaker!)), but now I am busy with things that really enriches my life, things that truly fulfill me, which translates into productivity. That’s really why I’d felt unfulfilled for awhile – I was busy, but not productive. I wasn’t producing and creating, and as a member of the creative spirit, not creating slowly kills you. But now I’ve been doing more than ever before: reading scripture daily, actually being consistent with a blog (I’ve started many blogs in the past but failed to maintain it), writing music, cooking, studying…to name a few. I understand I won’t always have this kind of time all to myself because one day I will go back, have another career, maybe (actually hopefully lol) married with a family, but at least I know what I shouldn’t compromise or put in the back burner. Being here has truly clarified my priorities, which means living a more balanced and purposeful life. Admittedly, I am eager to inject myself back in “my hood” where I can return to ministry life and have access to a library where I can read all its books and be surrounded with familiarity and the people I love, but I know that time will come. I do miss home. But I also know there’s still much to learn – both outside of myself and inside. I know that all this is preparing me for something. Like a knight sharpening his sword to prepare for battle, the Lord is sharpening me, this far and foreign place – His sharpener. I feel it: I am not who I was even three months ago. And it’s because of all I am encountering and learning in this journey into myself. And besides, I’m also meeting new and wonderful people, already some of my greatest friends here and no doubt will become lifelong friends.
When I go back, I will indubitably return to a life reminiscent of the one I temporarily left behind, but with my life’s purposes crystallized and rooted, I know I will be more balanced – knowing what to say yes and no to, and doing what I should be doing accordingly, including my personal endeavors – and more fulfilled because I now know exactly what I should be committing to. After all, being here is not an escape. Quite the opposite actually. It’s personal bootcap to develop and strengthen my discipline on a personal level so that what I do outside relflects the values I’ve cultivated inside, calling to mind what Roy Disney said: “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” Being here finally puts me on the concious path to physically manifest Ghandi’s immortal words: