Our little universes

I’m currently writing this from the third floor of a creaky hotel in a small Japanese town where I spent a good chunk of my formative years. In the distance, I see some rolling hills peppered with trees that look like they could’ve been drawn by grade schoolers with dark green crayons. Thick, angry clouds are slowly migrating from north to south and a breathtakingly blue sky is staring down between them. Way back when, this used to be my entire universe.

Having bounced back and forth a lot between the US and Japan as a kid, I felt a lot of magic every time I visited Japan. There were revolving sushi bars, anime characters used in store ads, and extended family who I love very much. I took some time to catch a glimpse of my old elementary school where I made lifelong friends and solidified my grasp of the language. I’m reminiscing over how we used to run around outside in the playground and play baseball in sandy gravel as kids.

Spending time back in my second home town as a slightly jaded adult, I noticed that things seem so much less magical. This is probably because I understand much more now compared to when I was a kid, but it got me thinking about how everyone has this process of their universes expanding over time and that changes their lives forever. We’re just chugging along on this train of life collecting new experiences and those new experiences shape how we view everything.

There’s something kind of magical about this idea though. My grandpa is 90 this year. He isn’t in the best health at the moment, but is well enough to crack some jokes at the dinner table. My cousin has two kids. Those kids are my grandpa’s great-grandkids.

Great-grandkids. Bonkers.

On my trip to Japan this year, we have four generations of family members all having dinner together, all with different experiences, different world views, and different universes. All of our universes are still expanding. Colliding. It’s like a cosmic event.

I know I’m running this metaphor into the ground but it’s really making me appreciate time together, both in a familial and general sense. It helps me frame things in a way that makes judgment evaporate and empathy flood in.

We all have our little universes. That’s magical. Let’s make them collide beautifully.