Difficult Goodbyes & Beautiful Beginnings


MY DAD AND I park the car at Sunayama Beach, a cove on the island of Miyakojima, Japan. I snap a few photos of the vending machine draped in vines and the Shisa statue, one of the ubiquitous guardian lions of Okinawa. We walk through a sandy hilltop of vivid green brush beneath a mercurial sky on the brink of rain.

A storm crawls from the furthest edge of the ocean.

We pass others coming from the beach, leaving because of the impending storm. There’s a man on the beach, deeply tanned and shirtless, picking up trash.

“Daijoubu,” he says offhandedly, nodding towards the storm. It’s okay. I trust him. A substantial arched cave sits at one end of the small cove, and through it one can enter the light and sloshing waves.

It starts to softly rain. Then harder. My dad heads for the water, the blue-green ocean and deep grey sky starkly juxtaposed as serenity and chaos; for the first time it truly feels like we’re on a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Many huddle under the cave, laughing children and smiling adults.

This is what my dad and I live for, a love he’s passed down to me: unordinary circumstances which, when embraced, evoke the essence of place.

The water’s churning emerald brilliance and the spirit of the storm are meaningful not only on their own but in how they interplay, a slice of life imparted by the man collecting trash, reticent and enduring, memorable in how he told us it would be okay.

We circumnavigate the entire island in a few hours, hopping from beach to beach amid the threading of sun and rain. We rumble along back dirt roads and sugarcane fields beneath a wide open sky, dark with rain in the afternoon. The rolling fields are bright and green. The sea is crystal clear.

We sit at a small wooden table at an outdoor food court for dinner. The sun’s going down and it’s humid. I love this vibe immensely, my body feeling quite good from a day in the ocean.

Red lanterns sway overhead from wooden beams; kids are sun-drenched and tired and adults sip drinks in sweaty t-shirts, dresses and Hawaiian shirts. My dad and I are practically the only non-Japanese tourists.

Everybody looks at us, smiling, rarely asking, although sometimes — wondering why we’re here.

The sky’s a mix of silver and topaz blue, and surrounding us are the ever-present green hills. We have glasses of Orion beer, noodles and steaks.



My favorite time of day. Dusk. The storm has subsided as it usually does when the sun goes down. Our hotel has a beautiful swimming cove and I pop in for one of the best swims of my life.

I dive into the now opaque water, green and soft like sea glass. I enjoy just being down there, floating, moving with the fish.

This is what I love in life, and I gotta share that love.

The things we do around the world — differently — with distinct cultures and nuances. Regardless of where we come from we as humans crave the same things. That fascinates me endlessly, the style in which we do those things — the art of living.

Nature, love, beauty. Family, friends. Universal goodness.

Find those things in life that simply make you happy.

It doesn’t have to be much; the ocean; people; drawing, cooking, whatever.

Appreciate those simple things to the utmost.

Share that love, no matter how weird or out there or different it seems, and you’ll be surprised where life takes you. I’m in awe. Fuckin awe of where life’s taken me.


Swimming in the black water alone for my last swim of the trip. What’s below me I don’t know; I feel safe. Peaceful.

My dad’s asleep and I sit on the lawn under the black night sky, dotted with stars. I watch couples and families and I wonder. I can’t wait until that’s me. How crazy is that?

Not that I want to escape this season; not by any means. Some would give anything to be where I am, drinkin’ a beer with music in my ears, just watching. Alone.

Cherish every last damn drop of each and every season. Don’t move on until it’s time. We never really know, do we? We feel, and we want what we don’t have when we have so damn much right here and now.

Things are far from perfectly clear, and I’m okay with that. That’s how it’s supposed to be in our youth — we explore, we try, we fail, we wonder, we go, because we can and we must.

I see an elderly woman and man. The woman puts her hand on his shoulder and I imagine what that’s like. To have the one you love, and to know it, and be in it. That’ll be cool one day.

Fireworks erupt in the black night sky.

I didn’t see this coming. The beach fills with people.

After a few moments I start to cry — tears roll down my face, which is rare. It’s usually just misty eyes. Two little girls look into the darkness as the lights burst over the obsidian sea in the distance. They grapple over a pink stuffed dolphin.

A little kid stands on the shore and throws rocks into the black water. Why? Why do we throw these stones into the water?

To see where they land and how the water splashes; or, perhaps, to feel our muscles move. To know ourselves as we touch the unknown, on the precipice of life and death and truly living.

A dad pats his kid on the shoulder. I fucking feel it, what he feels; not the kid. For some reason I feel the dad’s emotion; it’s as if he doesn’t want to give too much, doesn’t want to say fuck ya this is sick! I’m so happy we’re here together experiencing this.

His hesitation, his gentle patting, tells me he wants to, perhaps, let it out and say what he feels. But he can’t, so he pats his kid on the shoulder instead of letting it all go and doing something unordinary.

Maybe that’s okay, too. That’s the life we live in, as I seldom fully express the things I hope to say; fear holds me back. Although sometimes I let it go and that’s when I feel truly and totally alive, doing nothing more than saying what my heart longs to say.

The father lays it on a couple of times and backs off. I tear up at the beauty of that. We all dissolve. Dissipate. Go back to our separate lives. And I remain on the grass, watching. Waiting.

The crowd is gone and there’s just a light on an empty beach. Black water and a red blinking light out to sea in the distance.

Saying Goodbye

Trying to hold it together. I want to let the tears fall. I move to the corner of the terminal and look through the glass. The Okinawa sky is hazy.

Tears stream down my cheeks; is anybody looking — no, nobody gives a shit. Others on vacation, a couple of sisters and their parents are spread out across an entire row of seats; hardly talking. Are they happy? Is this the beginning or the end; why do I feel for them?

My dad’s heading home to LA. I’m headed back to Osaka. We said our goodbye. It was quick like a bandage being ripped; I know it hurt him too.

What’s more important than what we said or didn’t say was being in each other’s presence; maybe those pats on the shoulder were enough, for at least that dad and son were together, and sometimes that’s more than enough, just being there.

It’s all a kid really wants.

It hurt to watch my dad walk away, not knowing when I’ll see him again.

Life moves quick. It’ll come sooner than we know. Music in my ears coaxes out the emotion. I wipe my eyes.

What a fucking time. What a fucking life. The talks we had drinking whiskey under the stars. Discussing the past, the future, wisdom between us.

Two human beings seeking the extraordinary; I think we know it, for it’s moments like these. My dad has paved his path and I’m finding my own. We’re learning from each other every step of the way.

It’s hard to say goodbye to the people we love. Maybe the most difficult thing in life.

Just because we’re apart from the people we love — heart to heart soul to soul — doesn’t mean we’re not together.

Know that. Feel it as deeply as you can.

New found inspiration and energy always overflows from an experience of deep love. That’s why it hurts so badly, because it’s the beautiful beginning of something new.

It feels good to sit here in the thoughts. Emotion feels good. It means we’re in it. They overwhelm and flow through me and that tells me I’m alive, a soul attuned to feeling.

Love this bloke. Pops and me.
Love this bloke. Pops and me.


I’m on the train heading from Kansai Airport back into Osaka. A typhoon is brewing.

The sea is choppy and dark and the sky is pale grey. I’m happy. Excited. Watching falling rain splash the windows from the faint yellow blue clouds. Years ago, I felt this feeling of returning home to the life I knew.

I felt severed, two halves of me stepping in different directions: the life we’re expected to live and the life I’ve dreamt of living.

I was a shell of myself. But I’ve taken the steps to conjoin the different facets of I, and while it’s undoubtedly a lifelong journey, I know because of how I feel now that I’m on my way.

I’m in Japan and this is home and life ain’t easy but I’m full of so much fucking love.

The adventure’s just begun.

Take that first step towards the life you long to live and although there will inevitably be difficult goodbyes, each one more deep and real as you step closer and closer to living your truth, each will give way to a beautiful beginning, a doorway, another stone to step upon or throw into the glistening black water; you’ll be okay with the uncertainty, craving it in fact, as the stone sinks beneath the surface and you’re at peace, perhaps with eyes full of tears, content in the magnificent unknown with the future before you.

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  • Pingback:The Inability To Capture Light ⋆ Vincent Van Patten
    Posted at 08:06h, 30 August Reply

    […] Difficult Goodbyes and Beautiful Beginnings PT 1. […]

  • Tom Okamura
    Posted at 07:02h, 26 August Reply

    I love your wonderful, beautiful, heartwarming, and authentic articles, all of which brings joyful tears to my eyes! Aloha and Mahalo, Tom

    • Vincent Van Patten
      Posted at 08:21h, 26 August Reply

      Thank you so much, Tom. Means the world to me my friend!! Much love!

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