Four years ago, almost exactly, I was supposed to start my semester abroad at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan. I had been wanting this to happen since the first week of college. This was the semester I would become fluent. I would experience life as a student in another country. I would get to learn more about my mother's culture. And as a bonus, I would be arriving for the one week of the year the sakura trees were in bloom.
However, ten days before my departure, Japan was hit by the most powerful earthquake it had ever seen, followed by devastating tsunamis and the meltdowns of three nuclear reactors...
I had to cancel my trip.
Nearly 16,000 people died. Thousands more were injured and missing. I was, on the other hand, snowboarding in Colorado… My education being put off course was a trivial, first world matter. I could never complain about my privileged situation but I can’t deny that I was disappointed that the plan I had for myself didn't pan out.
Instead of studying in Japan, my life took a different path. Since then I have traveled places, met people, formed relationships, and had experiences that have shaped me into the person I am today.
A few weeks ago my friend and I were in Tokyo, Japan staying at a hostel in the Shinjuku area. We had been traveling together for a good while and I was in need of some alone time so one morning I decided to head out for a run at the park. First I was disappointed the parks were way too crowded (because of cherry blossom season), and ran along the sakura lined roads instead. Through a random train of thought, I unlocked my phone, opened Google Maps, searched "Sophia University,” and it just so happened to be a few crossings away. In a city as large as Tokyo, how crazy... So I walked to the campus, wandered around a little, and sat down at a central picnic area. I took an apple out of my backpack and enjoyed my snack among the students there.
The what if thoughts didn't really show up. I wasn’t resentful that I didn’t study here. It was hard to even imagine myself being a student again. Instead, I thought about the series of events, places, people, and decisions that lead me here to this very moment...
Because of all that has happened, here I was, in Tokyo, Japan, sitting at a table at Sophia University. It's strange that somehow, I still ended up sitting here.
Yeah, it's cliche, but the dots only connect when looking back.
I can only wonder what this whole trip will mean to me ten years from now...