Four weeks ago, as I was preparing to leave Tokyo, I drew this comic about the things I expected I would miss the most. Above all, I thought I would regret the experiences I didn’t have–the activities and places that had been on my list, from amusement parks and zoos to tiny cafes, most of them places I would visit once just so I could say I went. Now that I’m back in Chicago for just over a week, I’ve found that hasn’t turned out to be true. Here are the things I actually miss.
I put all this pressure on myself to have as many extraordinary experiences as possible, but what I miss most are my routines. The walk to the convenience store in the morning, the click as I scanned my Pasmo in the subway, the dinner places around Hakusan, the black sesame buns I’d eat warm and a little bit soggy in my night class, the warmly lit comfort of my room–thinking of them gives me such a powerful feeling of fondness and nostalgia, a sense of comfort amidst uncertainty, the quiet excitement of being totally independent in a huge city.
If I could give one piece of advice to myself at the start of this trip, or to anyone else who is just about to embark, I would say this. Push yourself to leave your comfort zone, say yes to everything, but don’t be afraid to seek out comfort: go to the same cafe every day, spend time at home, embrace your routine. The extraordinary, unusual, sometimes scary experiences–exploring unfamiliar neighborhoods by myself, talking to strangers in Japanese, taking train trips out to the countryside–were fun and growth-producing, and I’m glad I had them. But they don’t matter as much as the little things, the things which seemed mundane at the time, but add up into the fabric of everyday life.