As we landed in Seattle after three years of living in Tokyo, I clung to the small, wooden Franciscan Toa cross a friend had given me. The cross was a symbol of what I wanted. I wanted more out of life than simply wanting more all the time. The toa cross represented the possibility of alternative to the normal American life.
In America there is freedom. Along with that there is the freedom to be lost, to never know your place.
I did not want to once experience the barrage of “what-ifs” that are such a part of everyday life:
What if I had a better car like the one in this commercial?
What if my kids are hurt because the neighbor girls have American Girl Dolls and mine don’t?
What if I would enjoy working a different job?
What if I could make more money?
What if I have colon/ovarian/skin/lung cancer like the billboards suggest?
What if I never figure out what I’m going to do with my life?
What if I never find myself and figure out my true identity label?
My life in Tokyo was not devoid of consumer culture. However, I was 90% illiterate and therefore relatively free from manipulative advertisements. Few stores had my size, and so the temptation to go out and spend money adorning myself with clothes and shoes was non-existent. My legal status in Japan prevented me from finding a paying job, so there was not a constant feeling like I should do more.
I got a bit of a break from my own American culture, a culture which pedals dissatisfaction for the purpose of triggering the desire to obtain, consume, and achieve more. I got a bit of a break from the push for constant up-grades.