Today I said goodbye to a friend from our neighborhood who is leaving for new adventures. She’s been a colorful character in our area for several years and as the only middle-aged white American women in this part of Chiba, we’ve become close and had each others backs for the unexpected events of country living. Maybe I should be sad that I am now the “last white rhino” in my town, but I am not sad. I am happy for her and grateful for the experiences we’ve had together. The Internet makes it possible to keep in touch and that makes the transition a lot easier.
Her move got me thinking about all of the friends I have made in Japan and how my perception of their departures has changed over the years.
When we first arrived in Tokyo, we had only a few friends – mostly work colleagues – and when any of them left, those goodbyes were painful. Eventually, I made time to find new friends outside work and while comings and goings still happened, my social and professional circles were broad enough to absorb an occasional loss of frequent contact. When a close friend left, the sayonara stung more, but so many friends, neighbors, and acquaintances have moved, that I have learned to enjoy helping friends pack and prepare to leave as part of the friendship experience.
Some long-term Japan residents avoid meeting new people. They don’t like investing energy into people that move on after a year or two. But nothing is permanent in the long run, so I try to have enjoyment from the present moments without much expectation for the future. Friendship doesn’t have to be constant to be worthwhile.
People coming and going works fine for me. I am an introvert, but I love knowing interesting people, sharing ideas, doing projects together. The friends I have in the moment are a delight, and the diaspora of those friends gives me a lot of pleasure. Often, my distal friendships sit on a back burner until we bubble up with news and connection. Sometimes paths cross in real life and rekindle closer contact.
So while I will miss my neighbor, I know that it’s not a forever thing. We’ll stay connected, one way or another. Also, she gifted me many of her tools and using them will keep her in my memory regularly. 🙂