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The First Dispatch from Exile: Departure.

In 3 hours, I will be on a plane to Japan.

My heartbeat has been steadily increasing by the hour and I can’t help but think to myself: ‘why the hell am I doing this?’. Having said goodbye to my parents and the last of the incredible friends I’ve made in the past year, there’s nothing left to do but think about what’s about to happen.

This is it: the first time crossing hemispheres on my own. And, as I stare at the jetway that’s about to become point of no return, I find myself struggling against a dark, yet familiar beast in my mind: self-doubt.

I fight it off, remembering the fact the fact that I’ll be landing in Tokyo along with one of my best friends. Together, we’ll travel across Japan by train for a month and I’ll have at least one other person for company.

After that, though, he’s going home. And I’ll find myself in East Asia, alone. The idea of being alone in a part of the world I don’t know terrifies me. I don’t know the languages, understand the culture, or know my way around. I’ll have to figure things out on my own. And if something goes wrong, it will be up to me — alone — to figure it out.

As I type these words, the beast of doubt that looms over my travels is even more terrifying. It asks: so why do it? Why put yourself in situations that are uncomfortable and uncertain? If you could stay home, live an easy life, work, make money and be with your friends and your family what else do you need?

Beneath the shadow of the beast, I’ve wondered this a lot: where the hell did I get the urge to go to Japan? Why did I quit everything I was working on, give up on the idea of trying to build a successful business and decide that I need to fly to Japan?

Burnout.

I was burnt out.

No, not burnt out in that standard I’m-working-too-much-and-I-need-to-eat-pray-love-my-way-out-of-this-shit way. No, for me, I was burnt out by the long struggle I’ve been having within myself. I was burnt out by my long, quiet fight against that beast of self-doubt and the fear of being alone with myself that it created in me.

Growing up, I’ve struggled to find myself, my voice, and identity. I’ve allowed anxiety to take my mind hostage. Thinking up crazy ‘what-if’ scenarios, I’ve allowed myself to become so lost in my own mind that I’ve forgotten to let myself exist as I am. I’ve taken the safe route, rather than follow my sense of wonder and natural curiosity. I’ve been on society’s ‘You should do’ trail rather than my individual ‘I choose to’ trail.

A trail I could label with my own name is one I never had. It was always easier to follow the paths of others. The courage to assert my own path was just too hard to find, growing up ashamed of my heritage, where I’m from, of my difference. Even of the very name, Jiran, that has been given to me. Growing up, I was embarassed when someone couldn’t pronounce my name. Still am. Hell, I even changed how my name sounds to make its pronounciation easier on others. But I got burnt out on feeling ashamed, too.

At burnout, I thought all the way back to the time before all that shame and embarrassment crept into my life. It was probably right around when I was 10 years old. So, I asked myself: ‘What would 10 year old Jiran do right now?’. That kid, who was so full of curiosity. Craving adventure and wanting to see the world in all of its richness. That’s when I heard a voice inside of me I haven’t heard before. It said, ‘go to Japan. Go to the place that’s been the source of wonder and curiosity for you your entire life’. The voice sounded confident. Relaxed. At ease with itself and the world.

I’ve been looking for that voice: The voice of calm, self-assurance.

Chapter One.

I see different parts of my life as a series of books. Inside those books are the chapters that make up the years. And every so often, a plot twist comes along that forces me to consider how I change the way I exist in this world. The opportunity to begin this journey is one of them. When a choice like that comes along, that’s when I put that book of life away and begin a new one.

When I land in Tokyo, a new book will have begun. This book will be labeled and pronounced: Jiran, exactly as it was gifted to me. Taking time to embrace my curiosity and explore my world through wonder, I will define the beauty I seek in life. Finding time to take a break from the digital life and experience the world as it is, I will discover the way others live. Following my curiosity, I will ask as many questions as I can. I will quiet it all down, rather than speaking acting on my first impulse. Being able to sit and truly listen to others, emapthize with them, share in their excitement, understand their sorrows — that’s how I’ll write this next chapter.

I know it will entail a lot of pain. Feelings of being alone in a dark place in my mind, making big mistakes in a foreign land, confusion and frustration. Facing down the beast of self-doubt on my own.

I think all of this is what will continue to refine my character.

It starts here with a flight to Tokyo, but really, the first step onto that jetway is the beginning of a journey I’m taking within myself: the one to find my own voice. To allow my identity to shine through and exclaim to myself: ‘I am Jiran. This is my way of being, and this is how I choose to experience this human existence.’

2 hours to go and I don’t know what to expect on the other side. All I know is there’s no going back now.

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