Welcome to the new year!
And look at us all! We made it through another year. Whether we’re fighters who suffered in silence, or we shared our struggles with the world, we all have a hundred or more reasons to be proud.
After the frankly sadistic clusterf*** that was 2020, I have been hesitant to develop resolutions or yearly intention. But then I thought: ‘That’s probably a trauma response’, and decided it’s ok to gently return to how I behaved before the world went down in a dumpster fire.
Perhaps there are some readers who noticed that I took a break from blogging. Thanks for not making it A Thing that I needed to address. A basic summary of the situation is that the jenga tower of physical and mental health problems I’ve been dealing with finally collapsed and the thought of writing even a paragraph became unbearable.
In fact, it got bad enough that I tried to resign from my job.
‘Tried’ being the operative word there, because my employer did the kindest thing any employer has ever done for me and refused to accept my resignation. Instead, they offered something called a ‘Leave of Absence’. Apparently this is a done thing in Japan; people who need to take time off work for health reasons are offered that time at a percentage of their usual pay so that they can focus on getting better and not stress themselves out even more worrying about maintaining the luxuries in life, like living in a home and buying food. As a westerner, I was utterly unprepared for that kind of generosity – I know there are some European countries with robust enough safety nets to accomplish something like that, but I’ve never heard of a university in the west offering to let their lecturers take paid time off without trying to turn it into a professional development exercise. If one of you has, please let me know in the comments!
I’m living with my parents in Australia at the moment, working through the list of mental and physical disorders I’ve accumulated and trying to find some equilibrium. Coming home was the best thing I could have done. I was trapped in Japan by the pandemic for eight-hundred and ninety-one days (I counted) and a large part of my failing mental health came from watching everything affect my loved ones and not being able to be there for them.
I had to watch my nana’s funeral on zoom for fuck’s sake.
I never needed anything more than I needed to hug my mum. For the next year or so, I’m allowed to hug her whenever I want.
So you can see why I’ve named 2023 the year of Recovery. That is, after all, the point of a leave of absence: to recover. Not to be productive by removing teaching obligations so a researcher finally has time to do the job the university pays them for (looking at you, sabbatical). I’ve already been to a couple of doctors, a naturopath, a dietician, a physio, and a surgeon*. Therapy is a slow and painful process, but I’m finally off the anti-depressants that kept my creative mind shut down for nearly two years. I’m hoping that having a health care system I can navigate (Japan tried, but let’s be real: life’s a lot easier when you can tell your doctor your symptoms in your native language) and a much stronger support system, that I’ll be able to realign myself.
Basically, I want to use 2023 to relearn how to keep my mind and body healthy and happy.
Last year, I said that I wanted to read around the world. Obviously that didn’t happen because my brain broke, so this year I’m planning to wait until July and pick up where I left off. I’m also hoping to share some more creative experiments. I picked up a few new skills over the pandemic because I’d lost control of my life, so playing around with those might be on the cards – but I also want to try some newer things as well. We’ll see how we go.
Anyway, I hope that you’re all being safe and being kind to yourselves, and that you’re willing to enter this new year with some intention to leave your world better than you found it
PS – I love writing and I love eating! If you want to help with the latter (and ONLY if you want) you can maybe buy me a coffee? 🙂
*who absolutely botched a routine endoscopy and gave me something called ‘uvula necrosis’, which is essentially when your uvula doubles in size, turns white, falls off, then grows back like a lizard tale. It is agony. When I called to ask if he could prescribe some pain medication, he tried to convince me that it was a symptom of covid.