Bulgaria changed my life forever

I’m one of the rare mixed race people — Okinawa and Bulgaria. Only God knows how an Okinawan opera singer (my mother) and a Bulgarian businessman(my father) met in Bulgaria and moved to Okinawa…

My father has really interesting background in life, so even I’m mixed, or “half” as they call it in Japan, I do NOT have an “English” name or Bulgarian citizenship. I cannot speak Bulgarian. The last time I saw my Bulgarian grandmother was when she came to Okinawa when I was 5 years old. The last time I saw her face and heard her voice was on Skype, 3 days before she passed away.

6 months after she passed away, I went to Bulgaria with my father for the first time.

I had quit my job, the love of my life just got married 3 months ago, I had lost 200,000yen (2,000USD) to some stupid sales guy.

The only thing I wanted to do was to get away from the reality so I decided that I will join my father since going to Bulgaria was in my todo list.

The fact that she passed away didn’t really change anything in my life. The last time I saw her was when I was 5 — it was almost as if she didn’t really exist in my life. I didn’t really have any expectations. I was just curious to see where my father grew up and where my grandmother lived.

But when I stepped in my grandmother’s apartment, I saw pictures of myself when I was a baby. and when she visited me when I was 5 years old. and then some pictures of me in Australia. and in middle school and high school… and even pictures from Hawaii.

“I” was a huge part of her life.

Her husband passed away 40 years ago. Her son left the country 25 years ago, the last time she saw her fist granddaughter whom she dearly loved was 15 years ago. I couldn’t stop crying. Even she wasn’t present, I could tell how much she loved me and at the same time, I felt empty.

We met her neighbor, she greeted me and said “I am happy to see you, your grandmother talked about you all the time.” We didn’t exchange any conversation, but the other neighbor who lived right across from my grandmother broke into tears when she saw me. The people at the coffee shop downstairs said “So you’re the famous girl, huh? It’s so quiet here without your grandmother.”

Everyone around her knew me.

I still cannot find the perfect word to express this experience. I felt all the love in the world and at the same time I felt completely empty. Something inside of me was completely lost. It is still lost up to this date now, but I still don’t know what I had lost in Bulgaria.

Besides this, everything was new. People were mean, but I liked it because they don’t have that stupid fake smile like the Japanese do. On the other hand, our close friends and family were very affectionate. They kiss and hug all the time, which I really liked. The food is amazing, people are playing at the park with their kids, reading books under the tree, exchanging conversations on the bench, walking their dogs, and I loved this kind of atmosphere at the park.

10 days quickly passed and it was time for me to fly back to Okinawa. I didn’t want to leave because I wasn’t ready to go back to the reality.

I had quit my job before I left to Bulgaria. All I have is bills to pay with no income, but I didn’t feel like working because money didn’t mean anything to me.

Money wasn’t important in my life anymore.

Now, it was the people, experience and love that mattered most to me and money just simply had no value in my life. It had ZERO value.

As I landed in Okinawa and went back to my apartment, I severely felt lonely, and an emotional breakdown quickly followed. I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t see ANY of my friends for 2 weeks. For two weeks, I didn’t speak to anyone except for my family. I had no-one I wanted to, or could share the things I felt in Bulgaria. That’s when I realized —

the reason why I wasn’t satisfied with my life is because I didn’t have anyone I dearly cared about.

Yes, I had friends here and there but there was no “love”. Maybe, the reason why I felt empty was because I felt all the love grandmother, but I didn’t have anyone that I loved.

I didn’t have any motivation. I would stare at the ceiling for hours and hours. After a few weeks it got better and eventually I went to play tennis with an invitation from my friend and that was the turning point — I got a job, and started getting back on track. But nothing was the same anymore. I knew what was important in my life and what I had to prioritize.

There are many kinds of “love”, but when you dearly care for something or someone, and when you’re purely loving the “being” of whatever that is or whoever it is, you know what you want to prioritize in in life.

And life, is very different when you know what you want to prioritize.

I thank my grandmother, for her strength to endure the pain of not being able to see or touch, or to talk to someone she dearly loved for that person now knows what the most important things are in life — and the significance of people who really matter in life.

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