Oddly enough, last week – besides being the week I expected to have my daughter home with me and in my arms – also marked the end of my third year in Japan.

I am not the same person I was when I came to Japan three years ago. Even if things had gone as planned this year, I would still be a much different person. I embraced my role as a teacher and truly enjoyed my job for the first time. I furthered my horizons as a wide-eyed observer, taking in everything Japan had to offer and seeking more, always more. I had no expectations; I wanted only to experience and to enjoy. And I did, more so than I could ever have imagined.

I did not expect to fall in love. I did not expect to fall pregnant or get married. I did not expect to become a mother. These were not things that could be planned, and they were certainly not things I would have made plans for anyway. But if I were to go back and start anew, I would not give them up. I would not change them, even knowing how these three years in Japan would end. I would give anything to have Lauren alive and with me, but I would not want to give her up at all. Better to have her memory and the profound impact she has had on my life than to not have her at all. It is she who has changed me most, who made me a mother and, at the same time, deepened my love for Geordie as we walked the path toward parenthood together.

Though Geordie and I both continue to love Japan, neither of us feel that we can stay on after what has happened. We can’t stay in Susono, and Geordie can’t remain at his job here. It has been hard enough just being in this apartment and sensing how unchanged it is, how normal. We can’t continue where we left off, waiting for Lauren to make her arrival and dreaming our hopes for the future. We need to be grounded and start again, rebuilding our lives and recovering from Lauren’s sudden absence.

It’s not the way I want to leave Japan. I had never given much thought to how I would leave Japan, but this isn’t the way I want it to go. With Lauren, I thought we would be going when she was a couple years old, returning to the States to be closer to family, so that friends and relatives could be active in her life. I thought we would be going as a family, not with empty arms.

I still love Japan – I will always love Japan. One day, I think Geordie and I will end up back here; it is our hope that will happen. But for now, Japan is not for us. For myself, it is a time to look inward, to process all that has happened to me in the past three years and to ready myself for what is to come in the future. Japan gave me so many wonderful things, not the least of which being my husband and daughter. It also gave me confidence in myself and my abilities, it brought me job fulfillment and satisfaction, it showed me wonders and beauty that I could only have imagined, it introduced me to people who affected me deeply. It taught me much about myself and prepared me to welcome Geordie and Lauren into my life. Three years ago, Japan was exactly what I needed, and I will remember it as a place of magic and love. It is my treasure, and for a while, it was my home.

I hope that it might someday be my home again.

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