I was freezing. It was in the negative Celsius in Morioka and my kerosene heater at home was broken. I had gone from wearing shorts around my house in the U.S. to a scarf and a hat to bed in Japan. I had caught a cold, and I had forgotten my favorite scarf on the train back. I was a little bit miserable. But that’s alright. It’s my fourth winter in Morioka – I know what to brace myself for.
I had a little bit of time after work, so I decided to do my hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the new year, at Sakurayama Shrine. The tiny shrine was covered in blue and purple shadows, electric lights faintly illuminating the stone trellises. A paper snake was tied up at the entrance – the Year of the Snake. Snake – sounds kind of ominous. And it’s two thousand thirteen, so that’s, like, two bad signs right there. Well, I better pick a good fortune out for this year, I thought, so I can counteract all those superstitions that I don’t believe in (right?) in one shot.
I tossed a stray 5-yen piece into the box and shook the rope, jangling the bell on the ceiling. My fourth hatsumode. The first year I was facing what felt like an infinite amount of time in Iwate, with hopes that I’d finally grow up a bit. The second year was in Tokyo, hoping I’d finally figure out what I was going to do with my life. And the third found me completely confused as to whether I wanted to stay in my beloved Iwate, or to move on and take a huge risk – one that would pay off in huge ways or end up sending me back to the states.
And this year, I was stopping by right after signing the piece of paper ensuring I would be the Iwate CIR for my fifth, and final, year. And I signed that piece of paper without any doubt or hesitation. It’s kind of funny, how it worked out. 2012 really had been the Year of Amanda, but not in the way I expected.
Throughout it all, I would always get a line on my fortunes that read: “The person you are waiting for will eventually come around.” 2012 was the year that he finally showed up.
Last year had really been a fork in the road, and I decided to stick around in Iwate, but I really did think that the fourth year would be the last year. I really did think that I didn’t have a future here. I thought it would be my last hurrah, to get myself psyched for the next step. And maybe if I chose not to recontract, I’d be living the life in Tokyo now, and things would have worked out completely differently. I’ll never know now. But I’m so happy with how it all worked out. 2012 had some rough spots, but I’ve felt a happiness that I’ve never felt before. And a calmness.
I’m not really sure what will happen next. I’ll have my job until 2014. Will I stick around Iwate, or will I move elsewhere? Will I be a “we”? What should my new goals be? Who will I meet? What will I be doing? How will I grow?
What’s next for Amanda in Japan?
I don’t know, but I feel okay letting life take me there.
I picked out a fortune from the bottom of the wooden box, my fingers trembling from the cold. I unfolded it gingerly, and smiled.
Daikichi. Highest possible luck for 2013.
“You know,” I said, “No matter what my fortune was, it almost always said that there’d be someone who would be coming around eventually. Like, he’d be coming, but he’d be late, or something.”
“That’s so weird!” he said. “I always got that fortune too.”
This year, under the “Person you’re waiting for” line, it said: “There’s been correspondence between the two of you, and he’s coming soon.”
I met him later at the coffee shop, so that we could go to the store to buy me a new heater. He was already there when I arrived.