A part of my own existential crisis since hitting the “growing up phase” full time has been meeting kindred spirits that relate to the frustration of just existing in your 20’s. On more than one occasion, these spirits have borne burdens larger than I can think to carry myself, and survived them somehow in extraordinary fashion. This is the awe-inspiring journey of one such friend, who realised one day; he had to take control of his own narrative if it was going to be anything close to a happy ending. I was supposed to post this last year, but I shift from procrastination to forgetfulness much more than I like to admit to myself. I am so proud of his journey and his commitment to self, and even gladder he agreed to share his story with me. Ladies and gentlemen, Hikuto.
We grow up with wild dreams, making promises to ourselves about what cars we’d be driving, what houses we’d be living in, what jobs we’d be doing. Sometimes they become a reality, but most times we’re simply forced to make do with whatever cards we get handed by life.
I grew up naïve, with hope, that all my dreams would come true, but living in Ghana wasn’t a cakewalk. It was saddening to see the huge barrier of reality that one’s socioeconomic status had in determining where they end up, not just for me but for others too. There may be success stories, but we tend to forget the countless unsuccessful ones.
Most of my life was lived in naïveté, thinking that things would just automatically work out somehow. But when your already-distant father point blank says he cannot fund your dream career, you slowly start to wake up a little and a spark of self-reliance is ignited. Like a wakeup call, I knew I had to take my life into my own hands, whether or not I failed. Because there was no guarantee that my life would succeed the way things were, so how much worse could it really get? But for that, I knew I had to leave to truly be independent.
Since that realization, I slowly started to feel disconnected from the country and place I had grown up in. Like this wasn’t my place anymore. Everything began to slowly fall apart too, like I had overstayed my welcome on a video game level, and now the AI was throwing everything at me to get me to move to the next stage. Maybe it was just my imagination, but it did feel like life was giving me a sign that it was time to move on.
I shot arrows in the dark, trying to find any job that would pay me enough to survive and maybe even live a little. My ultimate temp job would be to teach English in Japan, but that was a job not just anyone could easily get. Companies are picky, and you’re competing with tons of others for the same job. Surprisingly, it ended up being the one I got.
With the way life had a fun time kicking me whilst I was down, having been rejected from a bunch of interviews, I did not allow myself to believe it was real till I had the actual visa in my passport.
Regardless, I had worked long enough at an underpaying and overworking job to scrape enough money to afford a plane ticket. I still lacked enough funds to survive till my first paycheck, but luckily I had enough of a dependable friend circle to borrow from them.
I had spent so many years in this place, and now there were only a few more days left here.
The night before my flight was an odd one, “These are possibly my last few moments in Ghana. Maybe for a long time. Maybe forever.”
I had always thought that I’d be with my brothers, but it wasn’t until the days before my flight that it fully hit me that all the time I had to joke around, grow up, and have them around as a constant in my life was coming to an abrupt end. I never expected it to be that abrupt.
I had been living a routine until then, and living a routine life tends to numb you to actually living and feeling. You already know what you’ll feel on a particular day, at a particular time, all because your brain is able to retreat into a bubble of safety and run on autopilot in its comfort zone. It’s a jarring snap to reality when it slowly begins to dawn on you that you’ll be flying halfway across the world. Working and living in another country. Speaking another language. Being an adult in general. All alone.
It was an extra spice to it all with the news that an Ethiopian airlines flight had crashed right after taking off from Addis Ababa. This happened only a few hours before my flight. On Ethiopian airlines.
If my comfort zone had been a dream, I was wide awake now.
As the Ghanaian coastline slowly receded from sight after takeoff, the reality of being completely alone and self-dependent slowly quickly began to set in.
I was a bit on edge during my journey, but it was mostly drowned out with the barrage of thoughts in my head, about the life I had left behind, and about the one I was about to begin.
I finally landed in Narita Airport, Japan after my 40 ish hour journey. It hits you like a brick wall when you have no other option than to communicate in a new language, one that you’ve barely even scratched the surface of in terms of understanding. You’re essentially back to being a toddler. Luckily I was able to make my way to my hotel (shoutouts to google translate).
On my train ride there, it was announced that a particular train line had been cancelled temporarily due to a “passenger injury”. This would be seemingly insignificant usually, but I had read online beforehand that this essentially was a “polite” way of saying someone had committed suicide via train. “Oh… welcome to the real world kiddo.”
It further began to dawn on me that I had jumped in on the deep end, and now I had to swim. I had to drag my heavy luggage from the station to my hotel 45 minutes away. Whereas in Ghana I had a car I could just take anywhere without a care, over here I had nothing except my bags and the cash in my pocket.
It would be about 2.5 months before I got my first paycheck, so I had to do my best to survive with what little I had. Instant ramen was the bulk of my meals, and some days I had to ration even that to be able to pay my bills. There were times that I had to use discarded cabbage scraps from supermarkets to “spice up” my meals, since buying an actual cabbage would make me go over my daily spending budget ($2.9, if you’re interested).
Somehow though, I managed to stick through the brunt of it, make it through work training, make it through my initial (freezing cold) days in my posting location, make it through my first days of teaching, and most importantly make it through a decent chunk of the initial “oh my god what the fuck have I done, did I really just move here?” thoughts.
The existential crisis remains, but it’s good to look back and see what has been accomplished despite that. I have no idea what my future holds but if I’ve made it this far, I guess I’ll just wait and see.
I may not be driving my dream car, or living in my dream house, with my dream job, but hey, at least I have a nice bicycle that I ride around a town of ever growing familiar faces that has become my new home, an apartment that may be empty but I have all to myself, and a camera I’ve wanted for years, all gotten with the paycheck that I earned on my own.
It might not be much, and this may just be my naïveté talking, but, it might not be so bad after all.