When I am alone

The past few days have been stressful, to say to the least. This is because, during a meeting with the former Dean of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, I was faced with the possibility to not take a gap year when I get home from Japan next June. This will mean that I will have to apply to colleges from Japan, the thought of which already makes me fret…

It just seems as if I should only focus on immersing myself in Japanese culture and tradition, as well as the Japanese language, this coming year. College applications, although definitely possible if filled out online, would be a chore…as well as, I just feel rushed. I would have to sprint from my year abroad into another transition into college, out of breath, confused, not ready. I would be overjoyed to pause, even for just a second, to reflect on my life – what I strive to do in the future, included.

The whole thought of pondering this growing debacle now, when only three tiny weeks of America – time with my precious family and friends – are left, and quickly dwindling…is enough to give me a migraine. Today, when all I want is to focus on objects to pack, I am stressing about colleges. It all seems unfair to me, this sudden change in my life. I do not understand how to tackle this problem.

Saturday was spent in bliss, making a list of necessities and shopping for them with my mom, with tonkatsu for lunch. All of what I bought is neatly placed in my room, ready to be arranged in my suitcase and to be finally flown over the great Pacific Ocean to the small island country of which I will call home for the next ten months. Recently, my parents and I dragged out some dusty Tokyo maps from when my parents lived there, in order to see where I will be living and where my host school is located. I also borrowed a guide book to Tokyo from the library, only to buy another guide book in a bookstore in Chicago this weekend. It goes without saying that I am excited- overjoyed in fact- that I will be in Tokyo, with my lovely host mother and sister, in just three weeks!

But, but. Lately when I am alone, visions of my airplane crashing keep invading my brain. This will be my first ever flight alone – thirteen hours of confinement with strangers. I worry that since I am a dreamer – mechanics do not make sense to me, as they should – the simple way of putting on an oxygen mask will confuse and lead me to a chaotic death, if, of course, my airplane does crash. I understand that airplanes do not crash often and that the possibility of this happening to me is slim to none. Yet, I worry. I stress. I bite my nails.

Strangely, this only happens when I am alone – in my room or outside working by myself in the heat. The nightmares come suddenly and take my breath away. I remind myself that my Japanese grandma, though she cannot speak a word of English, valiantly took every airplane flight to America by herself for over ten years. I strive to borrow some of that courage and stride into the airplane cabin with my head held high.

I honestly desire to – if it will really happen, I do not know.

So that is the way these days fly by before departure – in worry, stress, excitement, hope, and slowly brewing bravery.


  1. Adena Smith says:

    Hi Zoe:
    We’d love to follow your journey in Japan, so I have signed up.
    Adena (mom to Jarred, Ian & Mae)

    1. chasingyume says:

      Hi Adena (and Jarred, Ian and Mae!),
      I am thrilled that you have decided to follow my blog!
      I hope all of you are well! 🙂

  2. Rhea says:

    Im so sad you are leavinggggg….but so happy and excited for you to have this awesome experience!!

    Why can’t you take a gap year?

    And as for crashing on the plane….
    Remember in the eighth grade when we wrote that story…and your character crashed in a plane over Germany?
    Well, you aren’t flying over Germany…So in my eyes you are gonna be totally fine! 🙂 😛

    1. chasingyume says:


      I actually was thinking about one story we wrote where we were going to Fiji and your character had a dream that the airplane was going down…and then you woke up…When I first read it so long ago, I was like, I am NEVER going to be in this situation. Funny that now I am traveling by myself…and I just might have a nightmare that my plane is crashing! 😛

      1. Rhea says:

        BUT….are you flying to fiji??? I dont think so 🙂

  3. Henry Brockman says:

    Untz to mallali ga fulolli putz beero. Frach ko preto? Klapotz unt klapotz!

    1. Larissa says:

      zoe i got it! there are instructional youtube video’s that show you how to put on a oxygen mask!!

      1. chasingyume says:

        haha larissa!
        I’m sure the airplane will show us an instructional video before it flies off…

  4. Terra says:

    My 2 cents: You know better than anyone, even the former dean, what is right for you. If your gut instinct is to take a gap year, that’s what you should do. You are wise to value time to pause, to breathe, to absorb and process. We should all do more of that every day, and build it into our lives in a structured way, too . . . just like you are planning to do.

  5. Larissa says:

    zoe!!! dont be scared im sure if something does happen someone will help you put on an oxygen mask 😛

    1. chasingyume says:

      Larissa!! Thanks for commenting!! 🙂

      It’s strange, every time I boarded a plane with my family, to Japan, or to Italy, I always felt no fear. Absolutely nil. But now, thanks to the fact that I am going by myself, EVERY SINGLE THING is terrifying.

      You’re right, someone could help me put on the oxygen mask, but…what if they don’t? haha. 😛

      I’ll miss you… 😦

  6. barbara says:

    zoe, you are wise to borrow cupfuls of courage from your brave grandma, and to channel her as you board that plane, get comfy in that seat and watch the clouds whisk by, down below…..i will hold you in my heart and in my prayers for your travels and your safe and gentle landing. sometimes when there is much to be overwhelmed by, our sweet heads pick one concrete thing to channel all the worries…….my brother is a pilot and he tells us all the time how safe we are up there ……your grandma’s courage will be with you, in abundance i hope and pray……

    1. chasingyume says:

      Aww…thanks so much for commenting, Barbara!! You are sooo sweet. It means a lot that you’ve done so much for me already! Thanks so much for making this- college, Japan, life- so much easier to handle. 🙂

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