Musings

Get Derailed

Photos by Ivana Micic, @imivamic

I’m not gonna lie, today was not my best day.

In a new city where I know no one and nothing, with no connections or leads and a million things I want to accomplish, I was feeling a little scattered. 99.9% of the time I say THANK GOD for the fact that my life is non-linear, I know if it was laid out in a step-by-step plan I would be out of my mind with boredom. There is, however, maybe one moment a week when I would like a guide map. An, if-you-do-this-then-that or a, finish-this-list-and-you’re-definitely-successful, yay! Something to that effect. Being in the unknown is difficult, and for a lot of us trying to do our own thing, this is where we live.

Needless to say, after the newness wore off and there wasn’t any more time I could justify site-seeing, I was having one of these moments.

“I should probably start trying to work now, right? Where do I start? What do I do? Who do I contact?”

Slowly spiraling into, “Did I do the right thing? Was this a mistake?”

And even, “Should I just go home?”

Not bad for a day’s stream of consciousness, huh?

In addition to my ‘this is not real’ mantra which I like to employ when my imagination is running away into negativity land, I had the thought that getting out of the house might end the slow spin in my head, and for whatever reason, had a gut feeling that wherever I go it should be Shibuya.

Shibuya? But honestly, why? It was 20 minutes away and a bit more tourist laden than work friendly…

… my first thought. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about being on the insane track of a creative it’s that you learn to recognize and heed these feelings. So that was it then, I was en route to find a Shibuyan café with wifi.

It’s both funny and amazing how you can have a plan for your day (life/love/career) and end up in a completely different stratosphere. And by funny I mean yes, fuck me up, fate.

Chance encounters + handing you everything you never knew you needed on a silver platter is what I interpret from life as, hey, you’re in the right place. I am definitely a believer in signs and I used to be the type to flip a lid over the destruction of carefully laid plans, but now I relish in the fact that I’m having a ‘derailed’ moment. Because, let’s face it, anything we can manage to plan for ourselves is going to be wildly inside the box.

And this seemingly small sign was (thank goodness) one of those un-boxed moments.

I get to Shibuya, the Starbucks (which as a whole are surprisingly legitimate here, Hojicha latte anyone?) is standing room only. The only other café I can find is more like a diner… table service and not a laptop in the place. I decided to momentarily postpone my search for a workspace and head to the boutique across the way, I needed to collect some supplies for a shoot the next day, anyway. I was staring at the sidewalk internally kicking myself for wasting so much time when a stranger breaks me out of reverie.

“Hello, I promise I am not weird. I just wanted to tell you you look very cool and wanted to see if you would like a coffee?” In adorably broken English, no less.

Well that doesn’t seem that strange, you might say.

Then you don’t know Japan. The people are quiet. They look down when they pass. They regard foreigners, or ‘gaijin’, as oddities, uncouth (lol), and somewhat of a spectacle, definitely not friend material. Don’t get me wrong, the people are so polite and inherently kind with an air of deep obligation to their fellow human being, but those walls they put up might as well be new age steel. With all of this, I had pretty much resigned myself to not meeting anyone for a longgggg time. No biggie, I had accepted it; accepted a probable stint of isolation plus some awkward, engineered social time at events through my shared house, and possibly some strained conversation with the other foreigners in my hostel, but lo and behold, an outlier!

This gesture from a couple of Japanese youths practically defied the laws of gravity in my eyes. I think I stared at them for a moment, like you’re talking to me, right? But once I accepted it, it was everything I didn’t know I needed. Coffee, drinks, karaoke and general hangs for the rest of the night (don’t worry, I did my own special brand of vetting first to make sure I wasn’t about to be sold off into the sex trade, that one’s for you mom) completely snapped me out of my downward spiral. I was reaffirmed, refreshed, and by the next day, inspired by my re-assimilation into reality. The reality where I am a good person, life is fine, and anything can happen at any moment.

So, gut gut gut, listen to your gut!!! If I had stayed close to home at my usual coffee shop so as to save a couple bucks and a bit of time, who knows where my head would be at now. I could even be in one of those depression sink holes I tend to wander into sometimes (where I would have lost more money and more time, no?). As far as I’m concerned, those sweet Japanese things changed my trajectory.

This is why this year and for every year to come, gut feelings are my be all, end all in decision making. At this point, it is more logical to me than traditional deduction and reasoning, and has brought me to the most enriching experiences of my life. It’s the reason I get called ‘ballsy’ or ‘crazy’ on a regular basis. It’s the reason I have trouble articulating when asked, “why Japan?” To me gut IS logic now; it’s the only option.

Long story short, don’t live your life in the closer coffee shop. Take that calculated risk, get out of your comfort zone, and trust yourself. Don’t worry about the details, just give yourself a little room to be derailed.

Additionally, and because I would be an idiot to not understand the power of a human interaction by now, I thought I’d direct you to the fact that my inbox is always open. Write out a stream of consciousness thought, ask me questions, share your fears, make a spelling error, write it all out and get some perspective, I don’t bite (hard). Maybe we should be so bold as my new Japanese friends and dare to make a connection today.

See you in Shibuya,

Chels