I finally broke the news to my brother. I’ve been holding out on him because .......he doesn’t accept my world. My way of seeing life. And I was afraid of his punishment. Not in the physical sense, of course. His judgment on my decision. He is the realist of the family unlike the rest of us. He sees the world very differently. And it so difficult, if not impossible, to open up to him because immediately, a harsh and absolute judgment is followed.
Don’t misunderstand, I don’t think he’s wrong. Not anymore. Although, for many years I did. When you are in your teens and even twenties, you think you know the world. You think your truth is infallible. No matter what your parents or elders say, you know that your truth is the right one. I always thought this way. And whenever I disagreed with my brother, I was sure, he was wrong and I was right. What’s more, I didn’t want to open my mind to listen to what he had to say.
But I know now, in his own world, in his universe, in his way of seeing life through his experiences, his truth is the right one as well. It doesn’t negate my truth you see. Because in my universe, I am also right.
I told him I’m looking for a job in Japan. I told him I want to live there for a few years. I didn’t tell him why. Because he wouldn’t listen. I couldn’t explain because...............actually I don’t know why.
And he was as adamant as ever. I’m making a mistake. And one day, he’ll tell me “I told you so” as he has done before. He told me of my responsibilities to my family. I have to worry about mom and dad. I have to take their feelings and sufferings into consideration. He told me I have to think of myself. I’m soon to pass the age of having children, he said. That my lifestyle of living alone will take away the yearning for having a family. Did I actually think I could bring a Japanese man into the family if I found one in Japan? He said I wouldn’t be able to. He said he knows why I want to go to Japan. Because I like how secluded society is and I want to become as closed as Japanese people are. He said he noticed a difference in me. When I lived by myself in New York, I became a closed-in individual and it was impossible to live with me, to have conversations with me. That I am more fit to be a man than a woman. He said he can never understand me or give me his blessing. He just wished me luck.
Mostly it hurt because I know that he was right. Every word was true. I finally listened. All these years, when I tried to talk to him, I always knew ahead that we would disagree and I closed my ears to his arguments before he even uttered them. But this time, I listened.
What he didn’t realize was that I brought all these arguments before myself, oh so many times. That I’ve lived with this guilt, oh so long. That every day is a torture when I think I have to leave my family. That I have to leave my mom who needs me near if not for physical then for purely psychological help of having someone she loves near. That I have to break the news to my dad and make him think I am beyond hope for creating a family. That every day, I become more and more closed-in because no one understands why I’m doing this. That my desire for having a family might not be realized. That instead of allowing myself to be a woman, finding a husband and raising children, I’m choosing a path of loneliness. I have met foreign wives in Japan. All in unison said how incredibly difficult it was for them to live there. They had no voice. They were conforming to society. Slowly but surely, they were losing their opinions and wills. Am I sure I want to do this.
I know so much more than he thinks I do. He thinks I only have a fanatical and foolish desire. He thinks I haven’t thought about this.
Over and over and over again.
What can I do? Listen to his words spoken from his truth. Stay in New York. Find a steady job. Marry a nice man. Have children. Visit my relatives on weekends. Abandon my dreams. May be in time, I’ll forget how it feels. May be I’ll find another brand of happiness. No one said I have to be unhappy here.
But when I think of this alternative reality, my heart, my soul, my whole being explodes. The pain is so acute it’s physical. The aching seems eternal. It has no beginning and no end. It consumes me completely.
But I think the real truth is this.
When I was in Japan, up in the northern parts of Honshu, I met a couple. Although I stayed with Scott and Masako only a few days, I feel their presence in my life all the time. Their stories and words of wisdom bring peace to my disturbed mind. Masako said this to me, “If you were to die tomorrow. Perish. Vanish from the face of the earth. Would your family find the will and way to go on?” How egoistical and selfish of me to think they wouldn’t. “Of course they would” I said. “Then let them go. You don’t have to be their guardian angel all your life. You can find your own happiness, on your own terms.”
This was a revelation. I always thought of myself as an extension of my family. I’ve been taking care of my family for so long, I don’t know how to live life otherwise. Financially, psychologically, physically, spiritually, I was always there in some way, shape or form. To think of myself as a separate individual…..that was shattering the fundamentals of my being. But, oh how true those words were.
When my parents were going through divorce, they found me to be a perfect middleman. They poured out their pain and heartache to me. They made me go between one and the other to deliver messages of suffering. When my brothers needed large sums of money, it was me to whom they turned. I was seven when my younger sister was born. I felt she was my baby. Not my mom’s. Mine. I went through life making sure no harm ever came to her. How silly! I bought her material things she wanted, I made sure she knew I was there for her no matter what. When my older brother needed a place to crash for a few weeks, adamantly I agreed to let him move in. I knew he wouldn’t leave. I told him that, when he stepped through the doorway. He stayed. I realized, everything I’ve done in my life, when I thought I was helping my family, all of this was to satisfy my ego. To feel that I was a good daughter, a good sister. But because I always took care of everyone, my family members weren’t able to open their own wings. Through my care, I kept them grounded. And through that care, I tied myself to them so strong, we became one.
And now, when I’m trying to pry free, my brother and my parents are feeling this pain. I feel it too.
But this time, I won’t stop. Whether Japan is a fanatical desire with no substance, I don’t know. And I may still hear my brother say “I told you so.” But I won’t let my ego keep me here anymore. I’m leaving.
I’m letting my family and myself grow up.