When we first moved to Japan, I knew it would change us forever. So much of the change I anticipated was good. Honestly. We wanted to come here. We volunteered. And we are really pretty happy here.
People often ask us if we will extend our tour in Japan when our time is up. Countless military families do this, and funny enough, some stay for as long as 7+ years!
Our answer is easy…
When our tour in Japan is up, we will be ready to head back to the states. Japan is pretty much about as far from family as you can possible get. Half-way around the world is FAR.
And whether you are 300 miles away or 6,309 miles away (I Googled that), it’s not always easy being far from family. You start to miss a few things.
What you miss the most.
1. Being able to pick up the phone and just call.
There are so many times you just want to pick up the phone and call home, only to realize everyone is sleeping on the other side of the world. There are amazing technologies like Skype and Magic Jack that can make internationally calling completely affordable and easy to use. It’s just challenging to coordinate. The question you most frequently here is, “So what time is there again?”
2. Having Grandma on standby
Once you have kids, you REALLY miss having a family member close by to babysit in a pinch. It’s not that you mind asking others to watch your kids, it’s simply that you feel far less guilt about asking your mom or dad (aka the grandparents) to babysit your kids. Plus, they’re free!
We have a new baby coming soon, and we will have our toddler stay with a friend. This is a perfect example of a time when a Grandparent would be uber convenient for an overnight stay. It’s not that I mind asking a friend to watch our toddler; but our friends have kids of her own too. We need a babysitter though…I can’t be in labor and chase a toddler at the same time. It’s just physics.
3. The birthdays, holidays and special occasions.
We’ve been gone about a year, and wow, has our son changed dramatically. There is nothing we can do to replace the one-on-one time with close friends and family missed during this time. We spend holidays over Skype, but to be honest, it just isn’t the same as the real thing.
4. The closeness because distance unfortunately creates distance.
There is this ridiculous phrase that says “Distance makes the heart grow fonder.” Maybe this is true if your 16 and madly in-love and everything they do is so perfect and sweet and perfect some more. But once you’re into your adult life, and we are talking about friendships and family relationships, distance sadly does not make the heart grow fonder.
You notice that friends and family call and write far less than they used to. Even relationships that you know will last a lifetime become more distance. The relationships remain strong, but there is an ever-present disconnect from the day-to-day life that you appreciate living in the same city or state together. Friends that you spoke to once a week, may now go months without calling or writing. Things change.
5. Equal effort in friendships and family relationships.
There is often the unspoken expectation that you—the person living far away—will return “home” for visits. You will regularly hear the phrase, “When are you coming home?” And you rarely hear the phrase, “When would be a good time to come visit?” When you are the person who left, you are often the person expected to return.
How to stay close when you are far.
Keep your spirits up.
Make an effort even when others don’t.
Use your technology wisely (I know you are!)
Ask for visitors. Then ask again and again.
Find ways to make occasions special even when family can’t be there.
Have a good cry about it sometimes.
Reach out and connect with your community.
In two years.
In a few years, we will move back to the states, and we will be a little closer to friends and family. In a strange way, I know when we leave Japan we will miss this place, the people, and the friendships we founded here.
In moments like these, you learn to appreciate that you are lucky enough to miss and be missed by anyone at all.
Missing faraway things is merely a sign that your heart is full and that you love people enough to miss them.
There really is beauty in the mess of military life.
There’s beauty in the distance too.
Want more on military life?
- Why Deployment Meltdowns are Actually a Good Thing
- 3 Telltale Signs You’re Friends with an Awesome Military Spouse
- 10 Things Resilient Military Spouses Do Differently
- 21 Long Distance Friendship Truths Only a Military Spouse Understands