Last night I dreamt I went to Tokyo again.

It occurs every once in a while. I find I spend a lot of the dream wandering through shops trying to find the things I miss from Japan, trying to find small everyday household items or snacks that were so ubiquitous and useful to me there. And in every dream I hunt and I hunt, but I can’t find anything I deem worthy of the luggage space. And then eventually I just wake up and there’s still I sense that I’m looking for or missing something. Some part of me. Something important.

I left Japan, not in a hurry, but pretty laden down with trying to carry home 6 years of life in a country, and I didn’t know which of the possessions were important to me. I had a lot of pairs of shoes. Sometimes I think I miss those. The tea towels were very specific things whose like I haven’t found here. I sometimes miss some of the convenience store food, like umeboshi onigiri or kombu. Sometimes I miss the comforting isolation of those enormous crowds, where you could be visibly invisible.

I think I miss the neatness of the home I had there, and the young neatness of the body I had there. I miss the feeling of being a cosmopolitan grown-up, suited up for business and moving through an exciting big city. I miss the parks and the museums and even the weather.


And here’s what I think I’m getting from these occasional dreams and their focused searches.

I don’t really miss anything.

I spend these dreams trying to find something to bring back with me, and I can never find anything. Everything I pick up is somehow wrong for the life that I have now. I’m just ghost-hunting memories, and it’s telling that I can never find anything I value enough to take back to Ireland with me.

When I first came back from Japan, one clear front and centre thought to me was that we would soon travel again, that I would soon spend some more years abroad in a different country. Nothing has changed to make that impossible, except for my desire. I didn’t think having children would affect my desire to live again away; I didn’t think getting a permanent job would affect it either – if anything I thought the job would make things easier given it’s the type of job I should be able to “easily” take a year of a sabbatical from, and the skills are transferrable. But the desire has faded.

Sometimes I worry that I’ve been growing myself into a bigger person, but meanwhile my desires and expectations for my own life have been shrinking into a smaller space. I think about some of the projects I started when I moved back here in 2008 – like a comic book, for example – and I’m shocked at my own audacity to think I could do something like that. Recently a “reminder” from Facebook told me that myself and G. were running in 6-minute bursts at this time in 2009, about 8 months before we completed the full 42km of the Cork City Marathon. And again I’m flabbergasted. And not in a “wow, go me!” way either. I view that self as a bit reckless.

But I also feel a bit sad. Won’t I be “reckless” and ambitious again? Will my dreams be forevermore corralled in 0.7 surrounding acres of land in the middle of Cork City?

I keep telling myself that it’s all just temporary, that all my energy has been taken up having these small humans and getting them a modicum of stability and self-sufficiency, and in getting somewhat established in my teaching career. And the last 7 years or so have contained battle after battle. Is it settling down a bit now?

Actually, I think it is settling down a bit now, but that my reserves are just so very very depleted from more than a half-decade of pitched battle trying to fight for and scrape together some of the basics of what I’ve wanted.

Now. next priority is the house, I guess. And that’s appropriately exciting (and stressful), but also a little bit … static? I think it won’t feel so very static once things start moving again, but for right now? That’s a bit how it feels. We’re not going anywhere as such.

Look. Anyway. My hope is just that life will be long. I don’t think I’d mind spending 50 years “doing” the life I have now, if only I could be guaranteed another 50 years for a different life too. But I’m not even guaranteed the first 50, or the next 5.

That’s absolutely terrifying.