Reason #83 to Keep Living: Screen Time

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Although screen time often gets a bad rap (it isn’t the best for your eyes, and it can be a huge time waster), it’s one of the things I am most thankful for in my life right now. Amidst starting a new semester at school, a new job, and new volunteer work, there is no better way to de-stress than to plop down in front of the TV and completely zone out.

Of course, your screen time doesn’t have to be meaningless. I’ll admit, there are times when I watch TV purely for distraction or to get myself laughing (The Office, anyone?), and that’s okay too. But there are certain movies I come back to over and over not only to relieve my mind of my everyday worries, but also to dig myself a little deeper into my beliefs and my creativity — to remind myself of my values and goals. Continue reading

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Reason #82 to Keep Living: Memory

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It’s a new year, with new resolutions and new reasons to keep living. And yet the past still sifts around me, like sand in the air.

I’m still living out of suitcases since I returned to Canada. I’m still incessantly looking at photographs of the past year in Japan. I’m still clinging to this place I used to be, this life I used to live. Continue reading

Reason #81 to Keep Living: Communication

Transitioning into my new life in Canada hasn’t been easy. Since arriving in my home country on December 13th, I’ve been dealing not only with jet lag, but also with a very strange type of culture shock.

It’s uncanny: things which used to be familiar to me are now foreign. Everything’s loud, the sky is impenetrably grey (I forgot winter here meant no sunlight), and the people are — to put it nicely — a little more forward, a little more open, a little less professional.

One aspect of Canada that has made my life simpler instead of harder is the language. Communicating in Japanese was a challenge that only got marginally easier throughout my year in Japan. Nearly every public part of my life was affected. From ordering food and filling out government documents to running errands and shopping, every personal encounter outside of my apartment was potentially stressful and complicated. Continue reading

Reason #80 to Keep Living: Heat

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There aren’t many long-term sensations I hate more than being cold. Of course there are plenty worse things — insomnia, chronic pain, an uncountable number of mental and physical illnesses — but, for me, being really, deeply cold probably tops the list of regular, unbearable sensations.

Thank goodness, then, for heaters and for the money to turn on these heaters. Thank goodness for stoves that can boil water and blankets that can warm the toes. If it weren’t for these things, the winter season would be deadly and Christmas would be wretched.

So thanks for fires, for sweaters and mittens and hats, for furry pets, for electricity and hot food. Thanks for giving some warmth this time of year, to the body, to my poor cold writing fingers, and to the heart.

Thank you, heat!


Read the original post of 101 Reasons to Keep Living to discover the genesis of this project, or catch up on any posts you might have missed here

Foreign As Normal and Time Like Quicksand: 10 Months in Tokyo

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Squeezing myself into a crowded subway car at rush hour, scrolling through my phone while crushed within a hoard of suit-clad businessmen and women: this is normal to me.

Ordering food using a total of three words, kore wo kudasai (“this please”), and a whole lot of pointing: this is normal to me.

Meeting gaze after gaze that hangs just a moment too long on my face, telling me without any verbal communication that I’m different, I’m strange, that I don’t belong.

This is normal to me.

Now, before you leave because you’re sure I’m about to drown you in my sob story about being a visible minority in Japan, wait a minute. I’m not. That isn’t what this is about. I’m not writing because I need someone to comfort me, to tell me that I’m not so strange, that I belong (I don’t) — I’m writing because I haven’t written purely about Japan in eight months. Because, for the longest time, I couldn’t think of anything to write about. I didn’t think there was anything to write about. Everything had become normal. And normal is boring. Nobody wants to write about “normal,” and certainly nobody wants to read about it.

But normal was exactly what I should have been writing about. Because normal was leaving my apartment at 8:00 in the morning and getting home at 8:30 in the evening. Normal was dedicating around fifty-five hours a week to work and still double-checking my bank account to make sure I could pay rent. Normal was coffee, coffee, and more coffee (and I’m not usually a coffee drinker). Normal was that deep pull in my leg muscles as I ascended the last set of stairs to my apartment at the end of the day.

Normal was also travelling only an hour on the subway to visit Disneyland and DisneySea (unique to Tokyo). Normal was taking one of the fastest trains in the world to cities all over Japan, including Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Nara, and Nikko. Normal was eating some amazing food for some even more amazing prices. Normal was watching the cherry blossoms bloom.

Like I said, normal was exactly what I should have been writing about. But normal happened in the same way quicksand swallows the body: all of sudden you’re up to your knees and there’s no use struggling. All of a sudden you’re up to your neck. Continue reading

“And why I’m going on about any of this right now is beyond me. I’ve never even seen a Bird of Paradise. And I sure as hell have never boxed or been on a barge. In fact just looking at this story makes me feel a little queasy all of a sudden. I mean how fake is it. Just sorta doesn’t sit right with me. It’s like there’s something else, something beyond it all, a greater story still looming in the twilight, which for some reason I’m unable to see.”

— Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves

Reason #78 to Keep Living: Writing

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And, just like my post on books, I have somehow never given writing the spotlight as a reason to keep living.

Writing has always been a love of mine, but it has also been a continual frustration. (If you write, you know what I’m talking about.) When I was working full-time, trying to explore a bit of Tokyo, and completing assignments for my online courses, I had hardly any time for my own personal writing. When I did have the time, my writing came out garbled and confused. I was out of practice. I had no good ideas. Not even any decent ideas. I wrote awkward and bizarre story after awkward and bizarre story. I was angry and tired.

Why did I like writing in the first place? I couldn’t remember.

Then, I quit my job. Continue reading

“You have it good, … you can still feel fear, my head is dark, I haven’t had any dreams for a long time.”

— Herta Müller, The Fox Was Ever the Hunter

Translated by Philip Boehm

Reason #77 to Keep Living: Looking Forward

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My dad used to say that he never wants to retire because when you retire, you die.

But this isn’t true. For example, the average Japanese person lives far past retirement. There are more centenarians here (people who live to the age of 100 years) than anywhere else in the world.

Don’t worry. I won’t let this turn into another long spiel about Japan. The point is, many elderly Japanese people are more active, both physically and mentally, than elderly Canadian or American people. I’m not saying this is the sole cause of their longevity, but it can’t hurt. They go to the park and exercise; they volunteer in the community, cleaning up garbage around their grand kids’ schools, sweeping up the roads, or running classes at the local community center; they read and play musical instruments and bike, bike, bike.

The elderly Japanese fill their lives with not only things that keep them busy (like watching TV or listening to the radio), but with things that give them purpose. Things to look forward to. Continue reading

Reason #76 to Keep Living: Partnership

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Although the word ‘partnership’ elicits a sense of formality or legality, here I mean partnership as more of a long-term friendship or relationship. I mean it as the pact you make with someone, however overtly or implicitly, that says you will be leaning on each other now, counting on each other, working for each other.

Partnership means there is someone out in the world standing up for you and standing by you. Making you laugh, making you talk, making you go to work, go to bed, making you tea (or coffee, or a smoothie, or bringing you milk and cookies).  Continue reading