The Unraveling

My first month in Tokyo left me wound up, quite like the miniature chick I remember playing with as a  child at Grandma and Grandpa’s house, that I used to wind and wind until that exhilarating moment when I would let go, to watch it go flying, buzzing mechanically as it spun across the floor. But, luckily for me, the letting go, or the unwinding of it all, was gradual. So gradual, in fact, that I did not realize the change until the process was ending.

The first discovery of change happened before dinner one evening, when it hit me that I was not as hungry as usual. This was quite different, since during the past month, not only had I devoured a full breakfast, lunch and dinner, but I had also gobbled up snacks before and after supper.

With this discovery came a flood of others, starting with the realization that during the same time that I had been gorging myself constantly, I had also experienced full body muscle pain and incurable exhaustion – as if I was going through a growth spurt. Also, I remembered that I had felt like my mind was constantly at work, ceasing to rest, even at night. My emotions had also been affected: I always had been in a nervous and restless state of tension, at home and at school.

I was able to connect all of these symptoms back to the stress of adjusting to a completely new and different environment. I also discovered that the symptoms were inter-related; for example, the restlessness caused by my stressed condition in turn caused me to turn to eating to keep me occupied.

With time, though, as my body and mind got used to my Tokyo life, these symptoms went away. My nervous condition lessened, and I began to feel more relaxed, even a bit lazy. I stopped eating snacks and the pain in my muscles disappeared, and with that the exhaustion.

Sadly, though, the story of my first month does not end with a happily ever after, for one of the above symptoms caused problems later on. The symptom I am hinting at, of course, is the growth of my appetite, for hardly no exercise combined with eating an awful amount of food day in and day out always seems to lead to disastrous outcomes. The reason for my state of hardly no exercise is that I had decided not to join any sport clubs at my high school in Japan, since none seemed to suit me. So walking the route to school – to the train station, switching train lines, and the walk from the station to my school and back again – was the only form of exercise that I had been getting.

When I first began to take note that my jeans were getting harder and harder to put on, I ignored the extra fat thinking it was just a phase. But when others began to notice and comment, I became alarmed and took immediate action.

First, instead of always taking the escalator when switching train lines, I began to take the stairs. I also practiced speed walking my route to and from school, which,  I admit, may or may not look a bit funny to others around me. But I find speed walking very enjoyable and love that I can get home even faster.

Second, taking a good friend’s advice, I made a promise to myself to do thirty sit ups right before bed. I may have broken this promise two or three times – okay, maybe more-  but even so, I can feel my precious abdominal muscles taking shape again.

Finally, and most importantly, using the good tennis shoes that Akiko-san bought for me, I have taken up running around the local park at night, two or three times a week. Sometimes I put ear buds in and listen to music while I run, past the park and up stairs, across a gigantic bridge and back again, but lately I like to listen to the night. All of the stress from packing my brain with new information fades little by little as I stride past other runners and walkers, increasing my pace little by little, until finally, when I arrive at the last stretch out of the park, I sprint as fast as I can, using up all of the energy I have left in me, my breath heavy and my face covered in sweat.

This, I have discovered, is great for both my physical and mental health. To be in control of something, in this case, my running, gives me great satisfaction and confidence.

So, now that my long period of adjustion has officially ended, I have turned my attention to doing well at school. I have midterm finals coming up next week, for instance, that I am gearing up for. There are about nine different classes that I have to take finals for, and most I still am having trouble with. The only classes I have a bit of confidence in are my two math classes. The other classes, such as World History, Classical Japanese, Modern Japanese, Biology, etc, have so many difficult kanji words and concepts that I have to memorize, so thus, are exceptionally difficult for me.

It is impossible, clearly put, for me to do well on these finals, but still, since I am a bit of a perfectionist, I imagine that I will feel a bit depressed when I see my scores. But all of my classes are very interesting and mind expanding, so I enjoy going to school. I especially enjoy Modern Japanese class, for we are reading essays with titles like “Myself: The Mysterious Existence of ‘Me'”, which I find thrilling. Philosophically, I have learned, the reason I understand that I am “me” is because there are other people to compare myself to, and if, for some reason, no one else existed, I would not think of myself as “me”, if that makes sense.

All in all, school is a fun place to be. My classmates are hilarious and all very kind and accepting, and I have made lots of friends.

I am indescribably relieved and glad that I have returned to normal, in terms of body, spirit, and mind. Now then, let my adventures in Tokyo begin! 🙂


  1. Terra says:

    YAY! So glad to hear of your return to normal, and your running routine. I have been with the writer Sandra Steingraber the past 5 days, and she runs every day to maintain her balance and lower stress. Even when we got home from the Champaign screening at midnight, she went out for a run! That same night, as I pulled into the driveway, your two fawns crossed my path. They no longer have their fawn spots, but are young adults, strong and graceful . . . like you!

    1. chasingyume says:

      I am very glad to hear that those two fawns are still alive! I wonder if they still show up near the greenhouses…

  2. I completely agree with Barbara’s comment. You are doing an amazing job maneuvering the difficult classroom of life. Thank you for sharing such intimate thoughts – you are helping all of us that read your writing to remember to find balance.

  3. barbara says:

    my friend, you are wise farrrrrrrr beyond your years. you amaze me. i hope you can try to turn down the dial on the worry about the exams, because the truth is you are ACING the game called life. truly. truly. you can’t pack the lessons you are mastering in any kind of three-ring binder, or hard-bound book. your resiliency is powerful. bless you…..

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