I have noticed two behaviors of mine that linger still (and consistently), despite my having been in the USA and out of Japan for almost four months. They are 1) constantly looking right first before crossing the road, naturally walking to the left, and casually beginning on the left side of the road when riding my bike; and 2) silence.
The first has been improving significantly, and is almost never present when I am driving a car (though those two-lane, small town style, empty roads do make me think twice before I pull out onto them). It is mostly just my bicycle riding and walking that is still in the habit of Japan’s side. Seeing as how I am aware of the road-crossing issue every time I approach a road, I feel confident that things will be fine there – even if I must continue constantly checking both directions over and over again, because I don’t trust myself as to from which way the cars actually will be coming on which side. The second is a bit different.
I wonder if the silence is something about which I need to worry. I feel like it is no big deal, however, when I look at it from an outside, USA perspective, I seem almost oppressed in the action. The silence comes in the regular everyday passing of people at work. I often only smile and nod when we make eye contact, and I regularly say little-to-nothing in group conversations. Partly, I have no interest in discussing the present topic with the present company most of the time. However, I wonder if part of that is because I am not accustomed to discussing things with people like I once was.
My distress tied to living in Japan significantly affected my desire and will to learn Japanese. Therefore, I really didn’t put forth almost any effort in the language beyond the absolute necessary, until I was on the rise from all of the depression, only a few months before my departure. This means that I was not able to participate in most conversation around me. Yes, I could understand a good amount of it, and often all of it (though, occasionally almost nothing), but I usually was unable to respond. It was my first experience with what I previously had only heard other people say they did, and the development of which I couldn’t understand: understanding a language, but not speaking it.
So, I grew incredibly accustomed to speaking very little and to listening a lot. And this was not a conscious decision, necessarily, though I had intended to observe for the sake of learning all about the culture and language. My goal was to learn, not to separate and somewhat exclude myself. Transferring the same behavior over here to the USA, my native country, has the behavior occur quite differently. As mentioned, I seem somewhat oppressed, like something is preventing me from speaking. All I notice is a lack of desire to say anything most of the time. But I also don’t even consider whether I want to speak or not – I just don’t speak… So, I am wondering about this, whether there is something more there, something in the way for me, preventing me from full self-expression.