This is where I am meant to be.
This place is so far from my comfort zone. I am in Japan, a foreign land, with people I didn't know four days ago, a place of strange food, of tallest trees and hot-spring showers, and this is home now.
I feel in place here where I am so out of place. I can barely communicate with the women preparing my food, but a smile is worldwide and breaks down all sorts of barriers. I'm still clumsy with chopsticks and have consumed more rice in three days than I have in the past year, but I'm stepping out in faith and eating seaweed and tofu and fermented soy beans, and turns out it's fine.
This is not my home, my land, my family.
Yet it is a home.
They say home is where the heart is, or home is where the people we love are, but I think home, for me and many other TCKs, is wherever we are at the moment. We're so used to moving about, being thrown into the wild, that we adapt. We bring ourselves fully to whatever place we are, and we inhabit it.
I guess everyone can do this. Adults who didn’t grow up as TCKs can also find themselves adapting and making homes wherever there is a home to be made; I just think we have a more natural time of it.
And so, I’m in Japan. I’m sleeping on a hard mattress in a small bedroom with two girls I didn’t know a week ago. I’m spending close to 12 hours a day with children who have more energy than I can dream of having: running, jumping, twirling, reading stories, reminding them of rules, and sometimes navigating dissent. I'm doing all of this while eating strange foods, showering in a communal hot spring, and drinking coffee and Coke like caffeine is going out of style.
I am exhausted, yet full of energy; empty, yet somehow so full; I want nothing more than to crawl into bed and sleep, yet at the same time I don’t want to miss a moment because this is what I came for.
I came to build a home. I came to find a family. I came so that I might love and experience love, pour out, and be refreshed.
That’s kind of the beauty of working with children, I think: that in giving, you are given; that in losing, you are gaining.
And these children—man, these children. They are bright. They are joy. They are pure energy. They are depths of knowledge and understanding and experience.
They have my heart. And so when I leave this place in a few days, I will leave a home. I will leave a piece of myself here, and there will always be a portion of me, no matter how small, that thinks, “Home is in Japan, in Nikko, with the Navigators, with my Womples and Ways; with my face-painting, movie-watching, giggling bundles of joy.”
And I’ll be sad that I’m not with them, but forever grateful we had this time at all.