By ISAO KATO
My safety standard engineer job in Japan was boring but cushy. Nine-to-five in a stable company with reasonable salary, zero overtime. The perfect work-life balance, enjoying scuba diving and a weekend rock-bottom band. But at 27 I lost interest in almost everything.
I got a job that allowed me to fly around Asia, and eventually settled in Taiwan. Five years later, did I find the missing parts in my life? No. But instead of the naked terror of 3 A.M. regret, I’m calm.
Because I’m not trying to mimic my local friends, I’m at peace with our differences.
The Taiwanese view me as “Laowai”, a foreigner. Not Japanese, more like Overseas Chinese. I act the way that feels right to me, and the Taiwanese view me the way that feels right for them, and we both feel fine about not understanding each other’s point of view.
I remember as a 6-year old kid in an expatriate family, I spent three years in the small Mediterranean country of Malta. I had a habit of stomping the ground, not being able to digest the fact that I was in a place far from where I had been born. Everything looked like a fragile dream, a moment that would disappear. I was floating and free-falling at the same time.
I see what went wrong during those years in Japan. I was looking for something to anchor me into my reality. I was an outsider in Malta but when I came back to Japan, I was still an outsider. Everybody else knew how to behave by “reading the air”, the unspoken rules. I was different even though I picked a lifestyle, as if picking a shirt, from the models nearby.
When I left I thought I was going to find myself. What I really wanted was to lose myself, again.
In leaving home behind, what have you found?
Isao Kato is a nomad technical writer in Taiwan, melting technology and communication in the Asian pot.