Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Birthdays, far from home

It was my birthday today. Though it slipped by in disguise as any other day, what with a normal routine and work and chores, and husband gone at work as well. I've already learned not to have expectations of people, events, and the like, as when you do it seems more often than not you come away disappointed. So I try to just take things as they are and expect nothing more.

I went into today not expecting much. I knew I would carry out a normal routine. I figured not many people would say anything. And husband and I are planning a weekend trip for it all, so I've been looking forward to that more than anything.

And yet now I feel incredibly sad.

Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones. I suppose it could always be that.

I grew up loving my birthday. Every year it felt special and important. I felt for one day I mattered to so many people, and I was also happy to be able to share my birthday with my younger sister. Even when I entered those ever-so-fun teen years, and the birthday parties melted away, my friends always made sure I had a good time. They celebrated with me, as I would with them. Our special day mattered to each other.

And I'll never forget the year I turned 21 - the year one of my beloved dogs had to be put down just days before. The year my family was supposed to come down and have a special birthday dinner with me (for my sister and I) and then being completely heartbroken when they couldn't. My two best friends (one of them now my husband) reassured me right away that they would take me out for my special birthday dinner instead, as if it was matter of fact. We had a lot of fun that day, and I'll never forget that they were there for me when that could have been the worst birthday I've ever experienced.

Yes, the birthdays became less exciting over the years since then, but this year it seemed to disappear completely, and I suppose I wasn't prepared for that. Even with few expectations, I'm finding it hard to see that it even mattered at all.

I think being an expat has made it worse in some ways. Most of my loved ones are in the US, a day behind, and aside from my parents and the few who seem to grasp the time zone difference (I know, it can be really confusing unless you've experienced it yourself), special days seem to occur the day after they actually occur for me here in Japan. So tomorrow, isn't really my birthday, but some will think it is, in the US. You can't really argue with that, it is that day, there, but where am I? I'm not there. I'm 4,000 miles away.

And as each year goes by, I find myself becoming more and more dis-attached from "home." Events happen, relationships continue, daily life happens as it always does and I'm absent. It seems that the longer I'm absent, the more absent I actually feel. I feel less and less engaged, part of that world, part of those circles. And yet it still hasn't been long enough here for us to form a good sense of community - not that we don't have good friends here, but it shifts and changes so much, and we feel will change again drastically in the next year. We haven't quite found that "settling" place yet, even though we feel more at home here in Japan right now than anywhere else.

So I suppose this is just something else to accept as part of this life as an expat - knowing that there are likely others who feel the same, and that it's not as if I'm always the best at remembering birthdays either.   And besides, with a little one coming, I'm sure birthdays will be more fun and exciting again. I want them to experience that special feeling I always had as a kid, or really, mostly up until this year. Birthdays are important, as they celebrate one's life and the milestones they hit along the way. We should celebrate them and look forward to them.

As for me, I know I'll have a fun weekend with my husband, my best friend - and I do wish for a moment that I could be in the US, even just for a day, to celebrate with others and feel that love and warmth again, but it's just one more thing to deal with, accept and live with, with the life we chose. It's not always easy, but I know in many other ways, it's still worth it.

Here's to my 26th. It may have gotten off to a bad start, but I've always been known to finish strong.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Life transitions

It's been quite some time since I've posted here, what with working so hard on Surviving in Japan, being pregnant, becoming a columnist for Japan Times, among other things. I have to look back on the past few years and count my blessings - particularly to see how taking that leap of faith to come to Japan was such an integral and necessary part of how I got to be where I am now. Even coming down with labrynthitis propelled me forward onto the path I am currently on. So for that, I'm thankful I was sick for six months, as miserable as it was.

And now I'm looking ahead to August with a bit of apprehension - I have no idea how things will change, concerning all I've worked so hard at the past year and a half. I know I've always been meant to be mommy - there's no doubt in mind. David and I look forward to becoming parents, finally. And we found out our little bundle of joy will be a girl. To be honest, we never envisioned ourselves as parents of a girl - I've always seen us more as parents of boys. I never had brothers either, which may play some role in that. The initial shock that this little darling is indeed female was a bit difficult to swallow (not that we weren't excited - just surprised). But now we move ahead, preparing for her arrival - the arrival of a child. Our child.

Honestly, I've hardly had much of a chance to reflect on having a baby as I've been working so much. But when I stop and think, I realize how blessed this child will be to have parents who love her unconditionally and will always keep her safe, physically and emotionally. It's reassuring for me, especially as an adult child of divorce, to think about this little one and how she will be the generation of my family that won't have to grow up with all this pain and these issues. She won't grow up worrying if someone will ever love her or if she's even worth loving. She won't question whether her dad wants to spend time with her or not. She won't look at every relationship in fear, thinking that they could fall apart without notice, from simply expressing a thought or emotion. This child, and her siblings, whenever they arrive, will grow up radically different.

What a gift for me, as a parent yes, but also as an ACOD who has done the hard work and come this far - for my husband, yes, for God, yes, for me, YES, but also for my children. I did not want my children to experience the same fears and worries and turmoil. Yes, many parents want this to be true for their children. They don't want to repeat their parents' mistakes. But then many often find they are indeed repeating some of those mistakes, unknowingly, and repeating history. It's impossible to completely break away from the cycles unless you've done the hard work for yourself. It's impossible to just decide you'll be different and then be different. You have to decide to be different, and then attack that pain and those issues with vengeance. Those adult children must find healing so they can leave the past behind.

This doesn't mean we won't make mistakes. I know I'll make mistakes. I make mistakes as a wife... but my husband has been patient and understanding enough to allow me those mistakes and never take away love and safety. He lets me put my knowledge and healing into practice. And so I have continued to move forward, even in baby steps at times.

Becoming a parent will be no different in this way, I know. I need to put my knowledge and healing to practice, and I don't think it will be easy at first. (Although I am thankful for my extensive amount of experience working with kids... as this has given me the confidence to know how I generally am with kids, so I worry less about being a parent). But I do know that I am in a healthy place to move forward with that and to deal with these emotions as they come up. Oh, and a highly recommended book for any couple about to become parents: "When Partners Become Parents." Please read this book - it's essential for your emotional and relational health.

With all that said, I'll move forward into this new life transition, hand-in-hand with my husband, my best friend. And I look ahead to the other things in life I'm moving towards, whatever those transpire to be in the next year or two. What a blessing it is to live without such a deep well of pain inside, finally. Sometimes I feel as though I need to be experiencing some kind of pain to really feel alive, but then I feel so foolish for not recognizing that isn't really living. It's part of life, yes, but that is surviving, not living. There's no need for me to hold myself back now, from truly living.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Life of an Expat

I've been rather neglectful of this blog, due to other projects, such as work, my Surviving in Japan blog, photo blog, and other ideas in the works. Time is exciting, albeit full, as I rush endlessly between everything. Full of adrenaline, yes, and enjoying everything, of course, but a lazy Saturday afternoon seems the perfect time to take a short break and write about some recent thoughts.

I am by no means yet experienced at expat life. The end of July marked two years in Japan - my first real experience abroad. I've experienced some of the best times, such as marrying David, and the worst, as I was ill for six long, cold months. Everything pushes me out of my comfort zone on a regular basis, and I find the idea of my self challenged as often. And another concept of expat life has snuck up on me this year, forcing me to think about serious issues that I had not thought to consider before.

My great-grandfather passed away a few weeks ago. My typical take on death is to rejoice the legacy of a beautiful life well-lived, and the hellish journey at an end, only to slip into a place most of us only dream about. Death isn't something I'm well-accustomed to in general, and I feel that words, no matter how well-intentioned, fail to resonate in any meaningful way to those hurting the most. Of course, some may consider any words a reassuring gesture, and so I, along with most others, say them anyway.

Yet with this death, and subsequent funeral I was (obviously) unable to attend, I felt at a loss. I was not in the midst of it all. My life has become so completely separated from any life I had in the States before. Everything in my life carries on in typical fashion, work, deadlines, projects, etc. A moment's pause to say a few words feels almost out of place. My emotions are out of place. I find myself unable to completely conceptualize this event. I'm not traveling with my dad and sister in the car - traversing miles, over mountains and through long stretches of farmland to Eastern Montana for the funeral. I don't see the sad, yet thoughtful faces of my extended family around me, meeting after a long period of separation. Nothing transpires in my mind and I sit here helplessly, wondering, what can I do or say? It feels hardly real to me.

Around all this time, I discovered my mom needed a serious surgery. Of course, in her typical, positive, half-glass full way, she reassured me everything was "no big deal" and that she would be fine. The shock of it left me in a state of incomprehension, and my body seemed to go into self-protection as I found myself fully convinced everything would be fine. As it turned out, it was, though the doctors had been much more "realistic" about it all. Once I knew my mom would be just fine, I went into panic mode. What if something had happened? What if the surgery had gone wrong? What if the results were opposite of what they were? Any number of things could have happened, and do happen to people every day. And I'm here, across the ocean, 4,000 miles away. What could I do?

Along with this is a family wedding in the near future. One that we didn't expect I would be able to attend in the first place. With various difficulties, financial and otherwise, I find myself confused and hurting over feeling as if I cannot be involved in such important events - simply because we live across an ocean.

Am I angry we live in Japan? No, of course not. We are building a life here. This life excites us and reassures us we have a purpose to live. Yet at times the struggles of living far from family transpire into emotional stress. The knowledge that no, we can't just jump on any flight back to the States at a moment's notice. Life has become more complicated in that sense, that we cannot predict it, and we have no control over the events that occur. When things go wrong, we want to be there to help and assist, or say our last goodbyes, hold a baby for the first time or kiss and hug the happy couple as they begin their new life. So how does one acknowledge and accept that they simply cannot do all those things for their loved ones back home? How do expats and their families cope with this life of loss and struggle and community, with such great distances between them?

It seems that anyone who lives abroad for any great length of time must face this issue at some point or another, even if they lack familial attachments or come from an unconventional family. Not only do I deal with the issues that accompany being an adult child of divorce, but now I combine those with the realities of an expat lifestyle. I accept it all as part of my life, even with the difficult emotions that tag along. This is my life - the life of an expat.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

enjoying the ride

My husband and I were riding our bikes home from the sento (public bath) last night - essentially becoming more sticky after we'd just cleaned off. My bike typically rolls faster than his due to my road tires, and his mountain tires. So I slow down, wait for him to catch up, until, inevitably, my bikes zooms ahead again (hardly me pedaling it forward).

Later I asked him if he was riding so slow as to avoid becoming sweaty.

"That's one reason," he answered, provoking my curiosity for more information.

"What's the other reason?" My poor husband has to live with someone as endlessly curious as me.

He sat, still focusing on whatever he was doing on the computer. My patience doesn't often last long as I spoke up again:

"just enjoying the nice night?"

"Yep. Just enjoying the ride."

Earlier that day, I had thought the very same thing, as I forced myself to slowly pedal to 7-11 for cash. Even when I set out to have a calm, relaxing joy ride, I still end up pedaling hard, weaving around people, grumbling at the traffic and close-calls. No matter how hard I try, it just happens. So yesterday afternoon, I went from pedaling slowly and smiling and admiring the gorgeous day, to speeding along the roads and sidewalks. Until I realized I was speeding again, and slowed back to my lackadaisical pace.

In fact, the only time I seem to not be able to speed up, is when I'm just going for a walk. But, stick me in a city somewhere, with something to do, I speed up again. Sometimes I just attribute this to my need for speed (I didn't do track and cross country for years for nothing). And other times, I think maybe I'm so determined in the path to where I'm heading - that I forget to slow down and enjoy where I am.

Even now, with the various opportunities I have and am pursuing, my excitement for the future drives me to work hard in order to reach those goals. I want to get somewhere - I want to be somewhere. It isn't that I'm not happy about where I am now, but I look forward to the path ahead of me. Yet there are times when I stop and seem to wish that time wouldn't pass so quickly. I remind myself that these years are precious and valuable.

I've heard that before. "Enjoy being single! You won't get it back again!" Yet, I hated being single, and was miserable a good amount of the time. Not because I was single persay, but for a variety of reasons that stem to family, transitions, and change. Being married is far better than being single, in my opinion. However, I do acknowledge the necessity of those formative years for my personal growth - and I wouldn't have been ready for marriage without them. Yet, even then, I was speeding forward, as fast as possible, until I would finally find my partner in life.

Even as a child, I longed for the day I would be 16, or 21, or just an adult. I desired freedom - to feel more like a human being and to not be looked down upon. I enjoyed the games and imaginary life that came with being a child, but I don't wish for those days again. And now, I am in the best place I feel I have been in my entire life. Why? Marrying my husband was part of my purpose in life. Everyone has their own opinion about all this, but I KNOW David and I were meant for each other, and evidence to prove that has shown up regularly in my life.

In fact, the good memories of the past were directly related to purpose - the things I did that felt meaningful. When I was utilizing my skills and gifts, and being the person I was made to be, was when I was the most content.

Now, I'm using many of these skills in a variety of ways and feel more full than in situations where I cannot. And I'm watching to see how they grow and transpire, excited for fruit to come forth. I enjoy the little moments, especially with my husband, but I also work in preparation for the future. The goals I want to achieve are bold in my mind, and written on paper. Some things we don't know yet. We don't know exactly what will happen in the future, or why we feel Japan is such a part of it. We don't know when we will have children, although that's another life transition we look forward too.

Nothing is certain but the fact that we are in preparation for those transitions. I don't think there's anything wrong with being future-minded and anticipating the great things to come. Yet, I also know I need to slow down at times and remember, good things are still happening now.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

the loss of misunderstanding

Considering I now mostly work at home or Starbucks, aside the few stints of English teaching a month, I get to enjoy all that comes with sitting around at home (working). It's awesome, at least until the businessmen or Jehovah's Witnesses come around. I'm often waiting for something to be delivered, so sometimes I fling the door open, excited for my new box. Until I see the suits. The promotional materials.

No... NOOO.... I think desperately. Where is my box? I don't want to talk to you!

They begin with their standard greeting and then move right to business. When I first arrived in Japan, I never understood them. So I stood there stupidly, saying "I don't understand" over and over until I could shut the door. Now, unfortunately, I can understand more or less the gist of what they are saying. Usually, I won't answer the door if I bother to look through the peephole first, but as I said, I'm often expecting something.

So the other day, this happened again, and I found myself face to face with a man holding out a promotional brochure. He started speaking. I looked at him, ensuring that I had my "I'm so confused" face on. As he babbled, I said "I don't understand Japanese" (in purposely bad Japanese). Sales guy was beside himself, "your Japanese is so good!" (in Japanese).

Crap. That didn't work... but that ALWAYS works...

He went on about some new internet service, after asking if we have internet. I kept playing stupid in Japanese, "I don't know... I don't understand..." To which he seemed to gather his own confirmation, and continued on. I slowly let the door creep closer to the frame, hoping he would get the hint. He kept going.

Finally, after my tenth time saying I didn't understand, with only a few inches of open door now between us, Sales Guy asks:

"When will your husband be home?"

 Me: "I don't understand..."

Sales Guy: "Does he work late?"

Me: "I don't understand..."

Sales Guy: "When does he come home?"

Obviously, my strategy was failing miserably - I couldn't get RID of this guy.

"Uh.... 6?"

Sales Guy nods, "Ok, we'll come back at 6. Thank you so much. Thank you. Sorry to bother you."

And with that I finally shut the door.

Poor David (husband), he got to deal with Sales Guy after coming home that evening. Somehow my fake stupidity didn't work. When did this happen? Is it some kind of rite of passage after two years of living here? Did he somehow know that I understood more than I let on? Oh pushy Sales Guy, were you just desperate enough to fill your quota that you had to pick on some poor-looking, foreign girl who says she doesn't understand over and over?

Need to plan a better strategy for next time.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

sick in translation

You'd think that without a full-time job, there's all this time to do everything. Except that there isn't. I have part-time work, on top of that studying Japanese intensely since I decided I might try to shoot for the JLPT N3 this December (yes, lots to study), and then I started a blog in February: Surviving in Japan: (without much Japanese) , for anyone new to Japan or even those living here who might find some unique resources. Oh that's right, you must be thinking, and didn't she say she was working on writing?

What have I gotten myself into.

The work is good, in many ways, perfect for where I'm at and what I'm doing,  and of course, gives us a little extra money. Japanese, well, it's nice to have some extra time to study more intensely. Finally found someone willing to practice speaking with me (in exchange, we'll practice English for her as well), as speaking is what I'm the worst at. I'm basically like an adult two year old who walks around saying the same ten words all the time, just smiling and grinning every time someone else says anything. Seriously, I'm learning this language the natural way, though I'd rather it all catch on more quickly.

What about the blog? I've been tweeting, socializing, networking, designing, programming and doing about everything I can to put myself and the blog out there. I want people to find it. And, hopefully, people will find it useful. So, if any of you know anyone going to Japan, send them the link, and let me know what else is useful to add - I'm beefing it up.

Never before did I understand how much work and time building something like this takes. Can't say I don't enjoy it, because honestly, I love it. It's fun and it incorporates things I love to do - writing, photography and design. A lot of the programming is self-taught, which makes the process take even more time, but I enjoy it nonetheless.

And then there's writing. Oh dear, sweet writing. Writing on this blog, or working on my book. I've discovered Starbucks is the best place to go - my perfect office. Except that Starbucks is a half hour away by train, so whenever I can go, I seem to be most productive. So for now, with all the other stuff, the writing is coming along, albeit rather slowly. Extremely slowly...

No matter. My body mounted a revolt against me last Friday - I have no idea what is wrong now. Sometimes I think I have some alien cells inside of me just mutating as they wish, evilly laughing as they poke around at my intestines, my liver, my bladder, my nose, my lungs, and whatever else they feel like disrupting. This should all seem normal - the extreme-I-can't-move-at-all fatigue, head that feels like it has doubled in weight, and volume, upset stomach, weakness that leaves me shaking just to lift a hand over my head. Yeah, yeah, been there, done that. I may as well dub myself the Queen of Illness and just move along with it.

As this happened over the weekend, and I had a training Monday morning, I frantically e-mailed my supervisor (since it was the weekend) letting him know something had happened and that I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it. Then I call Monday morning where the training was taking place, but no one answers so I leave a message. No one calls back, I wait. Then I decide to call again to make SURE someone had gotten the message and passed it along to my supervisor. The phone rings. A woman answers. "blah blah blah, company, blah blah," is essentially what it sounded like to me since it's Japanese, my head is cloudy and I can't focus at all. I knew she had just said the standard greeting, so I asked if English was ok (in Japanese).

She answers (in Japanese): "Oh yes! It's ok!"

Me (in English): "This is Ashley Thompson, Native Teacher. I have training..."

Lady on Phone (in Japanese): "Ah yes! What is your name? Are you a home teacher?"

Me (in English): "Ashley Thompson. No, not a home teacher, I'm a native teacher."

Lady on Phone (in Japanese): "I see. Where are you from?"

I knew she meant what country, but since this wasn't going the way I had imagined, I just said:


Lady on Phone (in English): "No, what country."

Finally, she speaks English...

Me: "No, no, I am a native teacher, and I called this morning. I left a message. I am sick. I have training right now. There is training and I am sick."

Lady on Phone (in English): "Oh! Yes, yes! Native Teacher!"

Me (thinking, I want to sleep, why is this conversation so difficult): "Yes, I called this morning. I am sorry to miss the training but I am very sick."

Lady on Phone (English): "Ah yes I understand! I will tell (supervisor). I have your number and will call you with any questions. Take care!"

Me: "Thanks. Bye."

I still don't understand how we managed to have this conversation, but alas. I don't fault her really, she may have been confused about what I meant for all I know, but I didn't have the mental capacity to explain myself in this other language I'm trying to master. It's just my life. My life in Japan.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

journey on

Sitting on the shinkansen (bullet train), staring out the window, as Fuji-san comes into view, trees, rivers and buildings blurring by in the foreground. I've witnessed foreigners jump up in excitement enough times, leaning over Japanese folks in the window seats, shoving their cameras against the glass. Strangely enough, Japanese people often do the same, although they are more subtle, and don't crawl into people's laps just to snap a photo - but I'll hear gasps and exclamations as they pull out their camera phones and snap away.

Fuji-san represents Japan, in all its glory. Even I, homegrown in the Pacific Northwest - home to some of the most majestic mountains in the world - feel a sense of awe when I see it. Mt. Rainier always captures me with its booming voice - a beast of a mountain that presides over everything around. Rainier feels wild and untamed, a mountain boasting its splendor. Mt. Baker is friendly - smiling over Whatcom County, shining on those few sunny days - inviting everyone to come out and play. Its presence is familiar, understandable, and trustworthy. The other volcanic mountains of Washington all have their own characteristics and feelings they provoke. Yet none capture the essence that Fuji-san offers, (likewise, Fuji will never be a beastly mountain like Rainier). Its song is subdued, melancholy, and humble, much like the traditional behavior and culture in Japan. The Japanese consider Fuji-san sacred. So I see Fuji, and I feel Japan - its heart. Those feelings sometimes become something I can't distinguish from what I feel - they are fast becoming ingrained in my understanding of Japan and the world.

History. Culture. Post-modernism. Japan was what it was and now is what it is, as it continues to change - holding onto parts of itself in the process, but allowing other parts to adapt, or being forced to simply because of the pace of this world. Japan is often accused of not keeping up, of not changing or adapting relations, or ways of thought. This is evident. Is it not understandable? When we are hit with change, with circumstances that force or require us to change, we often resist, hoping to hang on to the things that we think we are and define our identity. We don't always want to let go.

My time in Japan is fast approaching two years. My Japanese is improving, as it has suddenly taken hold as never before. My eyes and heart are seeing things even more clearly than those first days - taking in situations and events, looking at them through my Western eyes, but putting them through an Eastern view, a Japanese view, and adjusting, learning. I learn to distinguish, what equals culture and what equals humanity. What does it mean to be Japanese, or American. What does it mean to be human.

I never felt called to go overseas when I was young. There was never a pull or draw for me other than travel or perhaps school. Japan wasn't on my radar. Meeting my husband changed all of that, but coming to Japan changed even more. Meeting precious youth, learning their stories, feeling their pain. Realizing that my heart for children is the same no matter where I am, no matter what these darlings look like or act like - I still love them dearly. Seeing loneliness, heartache, and despair on a daily basis. Hopelessness. Helplessness. The feelings of people, of humans, who just want something meaningful -  want to be loved and appreciated. Want to know they can reveal who they are as humans, without fear of shame or rejection. People who feel the same feelings I have felt, even though we've grown up across an ocean, we connect over those very basic emotions and events that make us human.

I'm not Japanese. I didn't grow up in Japan, like my husband. Japan is part of who he is. Yet, my life here, though short, has influenced me in ways that every other place I've ever lived has. Parts of Japanese society have found their way into my psyche, causing me to look at things much more than simply my own Western lens, one in which I've always known. My most significant life events thus far have happened in Japan - becoming engaged and married. I've met wonderful people and made friends who mean as much to me as anyone in the States. Though I'm a foreigner, and though I often live in a bubble - in between the two - I feel that Japan is now part of me. It's part of who I am. If I ever were to leave, that would stay with me forever. I can't erase the changes. I've allowed myself to be open to Japan, allowing it to speak to me, listening to the voices of people - voices that aren't always audible or said, but voices I hear just the same. This is Japan, and this is my home. Just like Seattle, Bellingham and Montana before it. Places that are part of who I am and who I've become.

Sometimes, it's hard. It's hard to let go of the past - of those relationships that were once so dear. But so many fall away. This stage I'm in, I'm adjusting to Japan. My mind knows it's a place we'll be, at least for a little while. So I'm letting go of before. I'm letting go of the ties that bind me so closely to the U.S. - the ties that won't let me move much farther. The connections will always be there, they will always be a part of me and who I am. I know and realize more and more that being American is such a part of me, but I also realize more and more how I don't really belong, truly, to any one nationality. I know I'm American, but I know my identity is found in much more than that. In Japan I'm a foreigner, and that and being American go hand in hand here. So, a bubble - but to me that's a good place to be. I'm neither here nor there, but I'm in the place I need to be, in the moment I need to be in. Hanging on to the past has me tethered.

Not anymore. 

Cutting ropes is the only way to go forward, to live the life I'm meant to live, to change and become who I'm meant to be. Though I'm slowly becoming part of Japan, I also sense myself slowly becoming less a part of the U.S. I'm not who I was when I got on that plane almost two years ago, in fact, I'm surprised to remember her. Even from a year ago, I am different. Marriage has had a hand in that too. So much of who I am and was has been weeded out, changed, and adjusted - but for the better, or just differently. It wasn't surprising; I already knew it would happen.  I knew, as I strapped in and watched the Seattle skyline shrink and disappear, that I had left myself behind.

*all photos taken with my iPhone