A Watershed and an Existential Crisis

One year ago this month my son, Julyan, started his second year of university and moved out of the house. At the time I thought I was being clever by planning ahead, applying for a scholarship and a prestigious workshop, also picking up a few more part time jobs. Keeping busy would stave off empty nest syndrome, right?

Well, I was right. Kinda.


As it turns out it wasn’t empty nest syndrome that blindsided me. It’s not about me missing my son — actually, I’m thrilled to see him thriving after what was a horrendous high school experience. Instead, it became apparent that after he left the house, I began having my own little existential crisis. There was me trying to figure out who I am. What now? What kind of person do I want to become?

This last year has been a watershed. There have been enormous highs and painful lows. Through it all I kept trying to self reflect and look inside or, when that didn’t work, I attempted to see myself as a third party would, with some kind of objectivity. But I just couldn’t pinpoint it. All I knew was something felt out of whack. Wrong.

Then it hit me.

All my life I’ve been pretty good at fitting in. We moved around a lot when I was a child, and adapting to new environments was an important skill I had to learn. It’s no surprise then that after 25 years in Japan I’m an old pro at “being Japanese”. Not entirely, that’s impossible, of course, but I have the self deprecation card laminated and slipped inside my front shirt pocket for easy withdrawal.

Undervaluing myself and excessive modesty worked well when, for 18 years, I had to play the Japanese mom role and fit in as much as possible in an attempt not to be the nail that stuck up. Invariably the backlash of my gaffes fell upon my son.

It’s only been very recently, with the help of an amazing friend, that I’ve finally come to realize I’ve played the part of someone totally void of self-confidence for so long that I have in effect lost all my confidence.


Now that the problem has been identified, I can work on fixing it and rebuilding a new me. I can honestly say that for the first time in decades I’m tickled pink about my goals and dreams and my reasons to see them come to fruition. Add to that the fact I’m old and less afraid of screwing up and doing hard work. Time is running out. What else can I possibly do at this juncture?

Yes, everything might feel out of whack and wrong, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s exciting. It’s something to work with. Anything is possible.

Truth be told, there is a request from a publisher to read my new stories for a possible second collection. My agent still digs me. I’m moving way out of my comfort zone and trying my hand at (and really enjoying how difficult it is) podcasting. Even my website has been moved from one host to another and it’s all refurbished and shiny. I absolutely love it and thanks to a dear friend who did all the heavy lifting, it feels like just the push on the back to get me blogging again.

Stars are aligning. Ducks are falling into step behind one another. I’m sitting here about to set my lighter to this laminated self-deprecation card and see what happens.

Stick around, friends. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I got a good feeling about this. Are you with me?

7 responses to “A Watershed and an Existential Crisis”

  1. Theresa A Logan Avatar
    Theresa A Logan

    Change is difficult but not impossible…I wish you an interesting journey. .who knows?..a new novel in the makings♡♡♡♡

    1. Thersa Matsuura Avatar
      Thersa Matsuura

      I’ve got a giant outline to my novel on my wall at home. Once I get these short stories wrangled, I’m definitely going to work on that.

  2. Jeffrey Avatar

    I am still fortunate enough to still have my mom & fortunate enough to know I won’t always be able to say that. She’s 93-years old. She went from being a daughter, to a mom (pretty much a ‘single’ mother since my father was out just about every night of the week), to taking care of my father who ended up with cancer. When he passed I remember her saying how she felt like she lost her ‘role’.

    Right now, I’m a father to a 9-year old & a 13-year old. I don’t have to tell you that I don’t have time to do much of anything. Before the children, I meditated for two 1-hour sessions / day, journaled every day, taught meditation at a local prison twice a week, tutored students taking the Law School entrance exams (only for the section on Logic), started a non-for-profit Internet Service Provider with friends that hauled away broken computers from companies, swapped parts to make working computers, and get the computers to the physically challenged and ran the ‘Dial-Up’ so they could be on the Internet. (This was ages before AOL.)

    Now, besides doing things for my kids and taking my mom for groceries, I go to work and go to the bathroom.

    I don’t know how it will hit me when the rug is pulled out from beneath me. I used to teach first year English & Philosophy at local colleges, but I’m not sure those positions will even exist. I don’t have to worry because I have about 5,000 books on my ‘want to read’ list. (Then throw in some that I read over every year or so.)

    Through all this, remember you are not a body with a soul, but a soul with a body. Feed your soul from time to time! 😉 Try to show yourself the love, patience, and compassion you show others.

    You see! It’s actually easy. Just add water and mix.

    I hope you and those you hold dear remain within a circle filled with love, patience, and compassion.

    1. Thersa Matsuura Avatar
      Thersa Matsuura

      Meditation is *definitely* something I’m going to start up again once I get back to Japan (in Oregon now). I also did two one-hour sessions everyday. I miss it dearly. You are an inspiration. Thank you for your kind words, Jeff. And please know I’m rooting for you, too.

      1. Jeffrey W Mintz Avatar
        Jeffrey W Mintz

        Meditate and forget about counting sheep– count your blessings. You’ll be up later, but awake with a smile. I figure that a day that starts with my feet hitting the floor before my head is going to be a good day.

  3. james Hales Avatar
    james Hales

    Yes, it is difficult but you have the genes, talent and drive to excel.

    1. Thersa Matsuura Avatar
      Thersa Matsuura

      Thank you! I still remember you sitting in my book signing asking all the good questions.

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