Thoughts and experiences that changed me in 2017…better a few weeks late than never 🙂
- For the first time, I had the experience of living with a roommate who was abusive, petty, and tyrannical. I know that sounds really dramatic, but if you ask anyone else who was witness to the situation (i.e. my other flatmates), they’d agree. This person went so far as to throw a chair at me, return home drunk and yell at us late in the evening on different occasions, and even stomped around the apartment slamming against walls and screaming while my mother was visiting and asleep in the next room with only a thin sliding door separating us. She woke up and was very upset and confused as she does not speak English. This (former) roommate is an alcoholic, not to mention a misogynist. Living with people can be difficult and I will not pretend I was faultless, but this really took the threshold of acceptable roommate conflict to the next level. Every time he spoke I felt my fight instincts perk up as I had to prepare to defend myself verbally and physically. I am so happy to be out of that situation but as I always try to see a silver lining, I am also grateful that I had the experience of living with someone I fundamentally disliked. It was an essential character building experience and I became close with my other roommates as we allied against our common foe. In the future I will utilize my ‘F*** Off Fund’ much sooner to get out of toxic situations like that. Sure, the rent was cheap and the apartment and location were superb, but future me will know better.
- I witnessed the birth of the dragon fan club. This is going to sound real cheesy but, having this family called CHOLA in my life (which I described back in this post and this one too), I never expected I’d find an equivalent chemistry in another friend group. I have always been better at relating to people on an individual level and as much as you can introduce your friends to each other, it’s not often that you will all have the same level of intimacy with each other. We all work together and were individually friends, and somehow organically over weekly viewings of Season 7 of Game of Thrones, we became a unit. Every time one of us needs a drink, a shoulder to cry on, or a meal to share, we’re there for each other and that has been a really beautiful and unexpected gift this year. So here’s a shout out to Nessie, Longerweenie, and Shushu ❤ ❤ ❤
- The new countries I traveled to this year were South Korea, Vietnam (Saigon, Hanoi, Ha Long Bay), and the Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo & Punta Cana). It’s kind of crazy to think about, but this was also my first full year abroad without any trips back to the States since I was a small child. I made trips around Japan to Yokohama, Osaka, Kobe, Fukuoka, Okinawa, Kagoshima, Yakushima, as well as return trips to Kyoto, Shimoda, Los Angeles, Miami, and Taipei. I love shaking up my external environment as it encourages me to both reflect deeply and step outside myself.
- It’s amazing how many deep connections with people you can cultivate over time without fully appreciating it, and again this year’s reunions have been rewarding and refreshing. I am grateful to all the people whose friendship I have had the pleasure to re-encounter in Japan this year. (Shout outs to Deanne, Dimitri, Colleen, Oscar, Chris JY, Harmeet, Heather, Molly, Dan, Elise, Chris C., Sam, Sarkis, Will, Priya, Charat, my mama (parts I, II, III, IV) and to Caitlin who I met up with in Vietnam!)
- I read 11 books this year, which I think is pretty weak. Now that I’ve finished taking the blasted LSAT and applying to law schools I will have more time freed up to read and I hope to blast through my usual diet of novels and add more non-fiction and science books to the mix. Sapiens by Yuval Harari for example has been recommended to me by several people. I think The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories was my favorite this year, which is funny because my favorite book last year was also gifted to me by my friend Fernando. Where will I turn for book recommendations when we’re not living in the same town @moveitlikef3rny? Guess we’ll just have to keep up a long-distance book club 🙂 Typically I read one book and concentrate all my energy on it, but in these past few months I’ve been reading 5 different books at once. My attention span has been flighty, but I much prefer losing myself in one imaginary world or way of thinking before moving on to the next. That way, each period of my life is demarcated by the magic of a particular set of written words. Check out more of this year’s reads on my Books page.
- My blog continues to be a source of inspiration, blood-letting, and self love. There have been days where I’ve missed a close friend only to scroll through the pages preserved from our time spent together and have those vivid memories come rushing back with full view of the photographic evidence. True to form, talking to myself has proven to be one of the best ways to work through my issues. This year I have had visitors to this page from 56 different countries on 6 continents (for some reason Antarctica does not appear on the wordpress visitor statistics map). Hello to friends far and wide! Thank you for stopping by.
- The most important lesson I have taken away from this year is the bittersweet embrace of impermanence. So many times in the past I have mourned the lost of certain relationships/friendships, routines, or wonderful daily sights. As I collect experiences that enrich my worldview, I encounter again and again this sadness over the loss inextricably tied to transition. But no moment can last and our true appreciation of the Eternal Present lies in knowing that it can never be lived again. This notion has brought me peace as well as pain. I read a book over the summer called The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy which interprets Stoicism as a school of thought and applies its principles to how to live a good life in modernity. It shares that to hug a loved one as if it could be the last time you will ever be able to do so can bring tranquility instead of anxiety. This reminder of appreciating every moment encourages me to not regret when things change, because I know that in the moment that it was, I loved it completely.
These were my goals for 2017:
- run my first marathon
- apply to law school
- go on a mid distance bike & camping trip
- get scuba certified
- learn to pull espresso
- string together some legit japanese sentences
So how did I do?
√ Crossed the finish line at the Tokyo Marathon.
√ Applied to law schools and am waiting to hear back.
X Sadly, I did not get the chance to go on a biking trip in Hokkaido and instead opted for a hiking trip on Yakushima instead. I hope to complete a multi-day cycling trip in 2018.
X Attempted to get my Open Water Diver Certification during my trip to Okinawa, but due to the restriction on flying within 18 hours of diving, I didn’t have enough days to accommodate the training. I hope to do this sometime in 2018.
Pulled espresso like a boss at Fuglen Coffee in Shibuya. Yeah, that didn’t happen, but in 2018 I will knock this one out for sure.
√- And I can speak more Japanese than I did this time last year, but still, I’d give myself a C+ for needs improvement on this goal. Language acquisition is a process of life-long learning anyway.
what I want to do in 2018:
- achieve B2 proficiency on the French DELF scale
(In case you’re curious…The diplôme d’études en langue française, or DELF, has 4 levels: A1, A2, A1, and B2. The B2 is an advanced intermediate proficiency required for undergraduate and graduate education in France and it tests whether the student has a degree of independence that allows them to construct arguments to defend their opinion, explain their viewpoint and negotiate. The candidate is expected to have a degree of fluency and spontaneity in regular interactions and is capable of correcting their own mistakes. I’d estimate that I’m at A2 level now but I am still awaiting the results of my official French language evaluation.)
- travel solo in a foreign country (seems extremely likely to happen with my globetrotting days ahead, and while I have traveled solo in Japan, I also lived there so it doesn’t really count in my mind)
- get scuba diver certification
- multi-day biking trip
- learn to pull espresso
- travel to 27 countries by the time I turn 27
- call my mother at least once a week!
take a peek at my year in review from 2016 here if you’re interested
Happy New Year my friends!
xo your friend alice
2017 best nine // @alicelenator on instagramLocation: Tokyo, Japan
Deep under the cover of leaves and rolling mist, the trees whispered their secrets to me. My heart expressed its sorrows and the moss blanketing the forest silently understood. I have been experiencing some personal heartache recently, and as much as reason exhorts emotion to be still, sometimes all you really need to do to reflect on pain is to temporarily remove yourself to a different reality to encourage a likewise change in perspective. It almost always works for me.
I flew to Kagoshima and then took the hydrofoil (a fancy word for a quick ferry) to Yakushima for a strong dose of shinrin-yoku (森林浴 forest bathing), calling upon nature as therapy. My friend Daniel, who I met back in January on a ski/snowboard trip to Nozawa Onsen, joined me (*friendship level-up!).
Mononoke Hime, known to English-speaking audiences as Princess Mononoke, is based on this forest. Apparently Hayao Miyazaki, one of his main animators Masashi Ando, and a team of artists went to Yakushima to sketch landscapes for the film back in 1995. Japanese people hold a deep reverence for nature and I felt this peace ring through my body in my two days in these forests. I could not have asked for a more warm embrace by my friends the veteran 3000 year old trees, moss, gentle deer, sly spiders, and mercurial skies. Not only beautiful to look at, but they expect nothing in return and are the best listeners 🙂
Heartbreak can manifest in many ways, whether it be romantic or platonic, and I believe it to be an essential human experience. It’s okay to feel sad, just remember that you are magical and you will keep radiating love into the universe. You will attract what you express. You may stumble, but you will not stay down.
Japanese wilderness explorer uniform
my spidey senses are tingling…
xo your friend alice
Location: Yakushima, Kagoshima Prefecture, Kyushu, Japan
Now is the time in my life
that has been filled with aspirations
over many long years
that I shake off the anguish of my heart and
send my lofty aspirations high up into the sky till
they reach the end of the universe
This fierceness of living
through joys and sorrows of life
sometimes distressed and sometimes
comforted by a joy
Agonising over the undulation of life and
moved to tears at the weight of life
I want to keep living until the last days of my life
– Yayoi Kusama, AnOther Magazine (2012)
I’m not an adolescent anymore, but neither is Kusama-san, who wrote and published this poem at age 83.
I couldn’t snag tickets to her new museum in Shinjuku (yabai) but luckily I caught her ‘My Eternal Soul’ exhibit at the National Art Center back in April. She has achieved a sort of legendary status in Japan and abroad with her ‘instagrammable’ infinity rooms and polka-dotted multi-colored, whimsical pumpkin art. Her concept of “self-obliteration” is to become completely engulfed by art. But I most admire her utter lack of apologism. She is completely free and unassuming about her sexuality, mental illness, abstraction, joy in life, love of freedom and desire for fame. Her soul strikes me as dense and light at the same time–but most of all she is free–and I understand why people are drawn to that feeling.xo your friend alice
Location: Tokyo, Japan
It’s September 24th again and time for another round of what did I do during my year in Japan?
This same time last year I thought I would be slaying the LSAT. Sadly I have not proven to be the all-natural standardized testing whiz I once thought I was, so while I ponder my fate as a legal professional, let’s take a look back on this wonderful year in Japan filled with a few transitions and leaps forward.
- served on bonenkai committee for my company holiday party
- saw one of my all-time favorite bands, the XX in tokyo
- took the LSAT for the first time
- trip to atami in izu
- hakone xmas with mama
- attended my first bikram yoga class in Japan at Bikram Ginza
- ran the Tokyo Marathon and Friendship Run, raising ¥100,000 to support Special Olympics Nippon
- britney spears concert at yoyogi national stadium
- Puroresu FMW (Japanese pro wrestling)
- trip to fuji-Q highland roller coaster park & lake kawaguchiko
- 26th birthday (star festival)
- tokyo disney sea
- trip to okinawa
- maguro cutting & tokyo bay cruise
- osaka & kyoto with the Suzukis
- universal studios osaka
- moved from kuramae to ginza (more on that later)
- softbank hawks vs. nippon ham fighters baseball game
- took the LSAT for the 2nd time
- worked on law school applications *crossing my fingers & toes*
- ultra music festival
- booze cruise in tokyo bay
Goals before I say Ta Ta For Now to Japan this December…
- visit all 4 main islands in Japan [
hokkaido, honshu, (coming for you!) shikoku, kyushu]
Looking back at this second year in Japan, I feel so happy and blessed to have witnessed so much beauty, both in humanity and nature. Of course there have been low points but they serve to make the moments of connection and growth all the sweeter. I’ve had a few personal revelations and challenges this year that I will save for reflection at the end of 2017. If you’re curious, take a peek at last year’s japanniversary post. Thanks to you for dropping by dear reader.
xo your friend alice
Location: Tokyo, Japan
a pair of kick ass ladies
photo credit: papa suzuki
Location: Kyoto, Japan