I think I am experiencing a mid-mid-life crisis. Soon after I first moved to Japan, I was talking to a friend of mine who arrived several months before me. I was talking to her about culture stress, and she said, "Wait until you don't even know who you are anymore." I called that friend last night to let her know I was there.
Before you start worrying about my emotional well being, let me start by saying that this experience is not nearly as disturbing or traumatic as I thought it might be. Mostly I find it interesting and a little confusing.
I think I can trace this phenomenon to the fact that so many things I defined myself by have changed drastically in my life in the past several months. I'm no longer a student receiving good grades to measure myself by. I am an obsessive communicator in a land where I can't communicate with most of the people I come into contact with daily. As I predicted from the beginning, all my relationships with my friends have changed. I'm not saying they've changed for the worse, but they have changed in their natures.
In America I had embraced those contrived qualities that identified me, but in Japan I am quick to step away from what the culture tries to define me as- a gaijin (foreigner). So when I am disrobed of what I liked to be branded by and refuse my newfound appellation, I am left with the essence of my true identity- my identity in God.
I think I have already likened this experience (in Japan) before as being similar to a boot camp of sorts. Of course I don't know from experience, but I've heard it said that the military uses boot camp to break you down of who you are so they can rebuild you into what they want you to be. I see myself being broken down of who I thought I was and being rebuilt into who God wants me to be. Not always pleasant, at times downright painful, but ultimately a blessing. There's no one else I would trust with my life.
This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: "Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message." So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him.
Then the word of the Lord came to me: "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the Lord. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. "