Arigato, My Good Friend

Many moons ago- I can’t quite say exactly how long as the ol’ memory ain’t what she used to be- I took the decision to do Transition Year. Partly because the very thought of spending a year free from homework and the monotony of regular classes greatly appealed to me, but mostly because I had absolutely no clue as to what path I wanted to take in life. The question of What do you want to be when you’re older? haunted me, to the point that not only did I struggle to find an answer, but the very process of trying to find one made me feel incredibly anxious. I figured if I could delay making a decision as to the path I would pursue in third level education and beyond, I would. Transition Year offered me a chance to do just that, so I threw my heavy schoolbag in a corner, and powered up my PlayStation.

The year that followed wasn’t just worthwhile- as many of the naysayers warned me to the contrary- it was life changing. I was joined in class by a young Japanese girl, who was joining us on an exchange programme: the idea alone was enough to expand the mind of a young boy from rural Ireland, as you could imagine. As the year unfolded, Megumi and I would forge a friendship (with the help of her trusted pocket translator). I was introduced to a brand new culture; a new and exciting world very far from what I was accustomed to, and I was intrigued. When it came time to part ways at the end of the school year, we said our goodbyes and made promises to one day visit; a promise made simply out of politeness, on a conscious level at least.

Well over a decade has passed since, and last week I had the pleasure of being able to fulfil that promise; as we stood in a fast-food restaurant in the heart of downtown Osaka, Megumi and I caught up over a steaming bowl of udon, laughing and shaking our heads at the craziness of the whole situation. I’m chuckling at the very thought even as I write, still in a state of disbelief that it actually happened. Through the conversations and the stories that we shared during those wonderful couple of days, we were able to rekindle an old friendship, and in getting to know more about each other, we realised that we actually have a great deal in common.

I’m sure that my 15-year-old self in his oblivious, spaced-out nature, would never have imagined that he would one day travel to Japan to pay Megumi a visit, but I suppose that is part of the magic of this life that we live; we can never be fully sure of the beauty that is in store. On the other hand, perhaps on some level the wanderer inside of me knew all along, that a desire from within would one day ignite to leave the shores of Ireland and go in search of something more. A romantic notion indeed. Either way, one thing that I do believe to be the case, is that we were brought together for a very special reason all those years ago.

We don’t meet people by accident, they are meant to cross our path for a reason.

– Unknown

As I reflected on those few days, making the most of the short flight back to Shanghai with a pen and notepad in hand, I was left with feelings of deep gratitude and immense joy. When I think back, I feel so lucky that I prolonged my introduction to the real world by deciding to do TY.

I still feel as though I am yet to enter into the real world, as it happens. I’m still very much in search of something; a process of self-discovery and self-rediscovery that I suppose never quite ends; an endless journey towards inner growth. And in moments where the essence of life’s true beauty is revealed to me- as it was in those few days spent in Osaka- the notion that I am indeed on the right path is reinforced. I suppose all we can do is to keep making decisions that are aligned with our inner compass, and continue to revel in the magic that unfolds along the way.

As we said our goodbyes and sayonaras at the departure gate, tears of joy accompanied a solitary sincere thought that held not a single shred of doubt: that we would most certainly see each other again.

Arigato, my good friend. See you soon.