There have been all the expected changes. New buildings have been thrown up as if overnight. Partially completed community initiatives are now farther along. Zellers has transformed into Target. Improvements and expansions have been made to my university. Television shows have all progressed another season, so I have a lot more material to enjoy of the few that I watch. And apparently we've stopped using pennies. I find the whole concept utterly baffling and have to pause for like twenty minutes every time a price comes up as like $9.57 or whatever, totally unsure what I'm supposed to pay. Never mind that the numbers are all ridiculously small and I'm not even sure what things should cost.
My uncle asked: “So, are you happy to be home?”
What a weird-ass question! And I don't just mean the “home” thing. I don't expect most people to understand what Japan means to me, that as far as I'm concerned I'm only visiting Canada, or how deeply it irks me when people imply that Japan isn't my home. That part I get. But what the hell good can come of that question? Yes. God am I glad to be home. Japan was awful. What a waste of a year of my life. Or, and this one is closer to the truth: No. I need to get back. I hate it here.
When I arrived at my parents house, I breathed a heavy sigh. I don't want to be here. And as much as I want to be in Japan, I want to not be in Canada nearly as badly. Even if it were a place I had no interest in, like Stockholm or something, at least it'd be an adventure, an experience, and a chance to learn something new. Rather than rediscovering it, I'm finding that my hometown, and all the places I used to frequent, are all too familiar. The only way I've kept from lapsing into full-on Reverse Culture Shock Mode is by reminding myself that if I work hard and play it right, this will be only a stopover, and I'll be on my way soon enough.
For the first few days, I tried to keep a low profile. It worked reasonably well. Oh, I was spotted at once – President saw me walking past her Starbucks, trying to be incognito, my very first day out. But every time I encountered someone I asked them not to tell, so I got to see startled reactions over and over again, which was basically all I wanted. Just hanging out, doing stuff, what are you talking about, I've been here the whole time.
I dropped in on a couple of the Japanese restaurants I used to frequent and reconnected with the staff. Everybody was very excited to see me. Shit, it's like I never left. How the hell has it been a year? They were all at my farewell parties and I remember those so clearly.
More importantly, although I missed out on volunteering for my beloved International Orientation, I at least managed to swing an invitation to the Welcome Lunch, where I touched base with a few of the new Japanese students.
Rude Boy: So I was just talking with a few of them, and I thought, I'm really enjoying this conversation, but there are a lot more students floating around, I really ought to go and introduce myself so that they at least know who I am, and what Club is. And then I realised...
President: “I don't have to do this anymore.”
Rude Boy: Exactly! So I just stood there with them and kept right on chatting like I had no other responsibilities!
President: Isn't it nice?
No longer Japanese Club executives in any official capacity, she and I will both be dialing back our contributions from here on in. For one thing, I already sweat, bled, and cried for this club, and I feel I've earned the right to let someone else take over the heavy lifting. Who knows, maybe I'll even get to relax and enjoy an event. Not that running them wasn't enjoyable, itself, but it was tough work, rushing the fuck around and making sure everything was in place and providing social lubrication and watching the clock and being prepared, at any moment, to throw out the entire plan and craft something new on the spot to ensure people were enjoying themselves.
Certainly I'm not going to excuse myself entirely. Where before I likened myself to a former President of the United States receiving daily CIA briefings (that is, wistfully keeping an eye on Club through its Facebook feed), now I more think of myself as a retired Hells Angels chapter president. I'll have no official association with the organization and may not even be involved in its day-to-day activities, but I'll still show my face occasionally, attend and help with events, provide mentorship, order a hit on my cousin's abusive boyfriend, whatever. And I'm happy to do translation or interpretation, seeing as I'm the only one who can. President has adopted basically the exact same attitude.
President: I mean, Club is still my baby—
Rude Boy: Our baby, President.
President: Right, our baby, and he's gradu—he? She? Is it a girl?
Rude Boy: She's definitely a girl.
President: She's graduated high school, she's ready to go off to college, and now it's time to let go...
Rude Boy: Like, we'll still be there for her when she needs us, but we've gotta, like...
President: Let her out into the world, she has to learn for herself now, make her own mistakes...
Rude Boy: Exactly.
President: Learn to survive on her own.
To paraphrase Ezio Auditore del Firenze: “I built this Club to last...with, or without me.” Unlike President, I don't have every confidence that the new people will do a good job (well, definitely not as good a job as we did. Obviously!), but what the fuck do I know, I haven't even been around for the last year. Maybe they'll do awesome. I mean I certainly hope so. It doesn't matter either way; they were the ones who stepped up, the membership ratified their succession, and now the pirate ship is theirs to either steer towards fortune and glory or mismanage straight into a lethal encounter with some shoals.
Ok seriously, you guys, don't fuck up my pirate ship. Worked on her for years. I will fucking murder your face right off if you so much as scratch the paint on this pirate ship. Be home by 11.