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.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Ashley,

    My name is Joe Pinzone and I’m casting an international travel show about expats moving abroad. We’d love to film in Japan and wanted to know if you could help us find expats who have moved there within the last 15 months or have been there for 3-4 years, but recently moved into a new home. The show documents their move to a new country and will place the country in fabulous light. The contributors on the show would also receive monetary compensation if they are filmed. If you’d like more information, please give me a call at 212-231-7716 or skype me at joefromnyc. You can also email me at Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Joe Pinzone
    Casting Producer
    P: 212-231-7716
    Skype: Joefromnyc