Savvy Tokyo's resident "Love in Japan" columnist, Hilary Keyes, answers anonymous questions from readers on everything from dating in Japan to women’s health issues. Got a question you’d like to ask Hilary? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve lived in Japan for seven years, ever since I graduated college. I’m single (since the pandemic started), child-free, live in my own apartment, have hobbies and friends I love, and otherwise am healthy. However, it’s my birthday soon and I’m starting to feel like I’m missing out on a lot. I’ve been talking to friends back home and they all have proper careers, some have homes and kids, some are getting married. I’m starting to feel like I’m missing out on having a real life. That the longer I stay in Japan, the less likely I am to get married, have kids, buy a house and so on. I liked my life before the pandemic, but now I feel deeply uncertain about my choice. What am I doing?
– Lost in Thought
Dear Lost in Thought,
Happy birthday! That is a very familiar feeling, one that a lot of people who have stayed long term in Japan experience. The pandemic is probably not helping those feelings and could even be exasperating them.
If you’ve been spending more time on social media than you normally would and are taking your cues from what your friends are posting there, then I recommend you take a break. Nine times out of 10, what is being posted on social media is a filtered, enhanced and otherwise fictional version of reality. It’s been proven repeatedly that people only post their idealized selves online, after all. Remember, anyone can post anything online and claim it as fact. If all you see of someone’s life is how constantly amazing everything is, then you’re not getting the whole picture.
A good question to ask yourself is this: are you jealous of their life or of the control that they appear to have over their life? Knowing that will help you to understand your feelings and may make that unhappiness you feel at your life in Japan disappear.
Generally speaking, I don’t recommend making any major life decisions during a pandemic or when you’re experiencing emotional turmoil. Sometimes, that turmoil can cause irrational but seemingly rational reactions and lead to different issues later on. Uncertainty breeds uncertainty, and while I won’t even attempt to predict when life will be “normal” again, I will say that rushing to make decisions now can backfire on you.
Think about what you liked about your life in Japan prior to the pandemic. I assume from your email that you dated, went out regularly, saw your friends and engaged in hobbies. If the pandemic is the only thing that is holding you back from enjoying life in Japan, then there’s a good chance that no matter where you are in the world you’ll still feel the same level of dissatisfaction.
The world has changed and the so-called “new normal” is something to which everyone needs to adapt. The mental health of people the world over has taken sharp turns both up and down in terms of depression, anxiety and overall stress. It’s not unusual to want to make a dramatic change when things are really getting to you, but keep yourself as grounded in reality as possible.
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