Our Vulnerabilities Make Us Strong

Down below, in Osaka’s bustling Umeda district, life flows forward like it always has.

But now I’m here watching it, in a position that I’ve dreamed of for years.

I’m in Japan, going room to room at our Umeda school, the most prestigious location of the foreign language institute I work for.

It’s a glitzy, polished, beautiful office.

I’m going from room to room — refilling tissues boxes. It’s part of the job and I don’t mind tasks like this. Somebody has to do it, why not me?

I stop to look out of the window.

Way out in the distance, I view the mountains which surround Osaka. It can all mean nothing, just endless earth from here to there.

Or, it can mean everything, endless life to be lived.

I watch the massive HEP FIVE Ferris Wheel turn, ever so slowly. It would be a cool spot for a James Bond boss battle.

Umeda, Osaka.
Umeda, Osaka.

Its reflection gleams off the adjacent buildings, and I think about how much is happening in the world at once.

I watch as a plane soars through the Osaka skyline, its shadow drifting upon the cityscape.

Countless people cross the street, take out the trash over there, sit in the park over there — and then there’s me, looking upon all of this, plunging deeper into my own thoughts in this silent room.

When alone in nature, you feel small, yet important in some vital way.

You’re a part of something, a family that is the forests, the sea, the mountains; and if they could be so beautiful, so natural and serene, so could you.

In a city, you draw from its well of energy.

You feel small, too, but not compared to something grandiose. Rather to the endlessly passing faces that seem just like faces, but are so much more.

You might realize that there are endless people, yet they are just like you and me, with the ability to dive deeper and deeper into this river of thought that’s individual, unique, yet feeds a greater ocean of possibility.

There has to be some reason to that, how we’ve all been gifted this thing called life, and it may feel like we’re alone because often we are, as I am in this room.

But we’re not.

We all grapple with the same daily trifles and thoughts and worries — yes, they vary and change — but we all deal with something.

It’s nothing new; people throughout history have battled and wondered, just as we do now.

And what differentiates the individuals from the masses, I believe, is not those that try to stand out for its own sake, putting others below them.

But those that stand out through connection.

Those who hit on something intrinsic: our longing to understand our time on earth and embrace it in a way that speaks to the universal spirit.

Shared pain, that can be overcome.

Shared love, spread in the most trivial of ways.

Shared striving, to be what we’re meant to be.

Shared discovery, by living every day as if it matters.

We worry about our lives, as there are no shortage of things to worry about. We all feel pain, and seek to lessen that pain; we struggle to figure out what we’re supposed to do, where we’re meant to go, how to give meaning to the meaningless.

How do we make that struggle lessen in ourselves, which in turn helps others? Well, perhaps it’s the opposite.

How to make the struggle lessen in others, which in turn, lessens it in ourselves.

It doesn’t need to be anything more than a smile; a smile beams like a star, connecting us all in this great constellation.

Ever since I visited Japan in 2019, I wondered what it would be like to live here.

Not just traveling through, trying to get as much done in as little time as possible. But taking things slow, experiencing moments like this, everyday life.

I remember wondering what it would be like to be the chill dude working at the beautiful hostel my friends and I stayed at in Tokyo.

Well, I’m here now.

Some things have changed, but I’m still me, dancing with life.

I still feel the pain in my body, the uncertainty in my mind, the doubt that we all undergo; it’s what it means to be human.

I wonder what I’m doing, where I’m headed every day. I fear never making it to that next threshold — I really don’t know what that is, only what it’s supposed to be.

The only way to discover what’ll happen, is to try. One step at a time.

Fear could have stopped me from taking this step and moving to Japan, because it’s scary to move across the world when you don’t know how things are gonna work out.

What if you don’t like it? I was asked.

Then, at least I know, and I’ll never regret not coming here.

Where are you then? I’ve discovered something new, instead of being stuck.

That in itself is some sort of victory.

Knowing I tried supersedes any doubt I feel; I’m not here for any other reason than to have the adventure of my life.

You don’t have to move across the world to have the same.

You’ll know when you’re on the adventure of your life — it’ll be full of joy, and pain, and a striving to understand.

Stray from the shore. Do what scares you. Face fear, and smile. Shed some tears.

Sometimes, you don’t have to be so strong.

Just continue with your heart on your sleeve.

Maybe it is our vulnerabilities which connect us, as they shine light into those imperceptible places we all feel within our bones.

Our vulnerabilities make us stronger than we can possibly understand. But it’s challenging to see them until we’re grappling with something worthwhile.

Then, in the midst of that hot mess, what we share becomes the most beautiful.

The ability to watch the setting sun; we’re not alone in that, ever. We all feel that color change, that light shift, the cold fall like a blanket upon the city; the neon lights begin to glow.

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