Happy Easter Sunday to those that celebrate! Since today is technically a day of celebrating rebirth and new beginnings (to put it very simply), I wanted to share with you my trip to San Francisco last weekend, where I attended Japantown’s 55th Annual Sakura Matsuri (Cherry Blossom Festival), which was a kind of new beginning for me in this solitary journey through life. Thinking about it helps me on my down days, and maybe it can help inspire or help someone else’s down times as well.
Last weekend, I had made plans during the week to visit Japantown for this festival, but the night before on Friday, I ended up suffering from an intensely awful bout of depression and contemplated cancelling the whole trip. I wrote down a list of over twenty reasons why I shouldn’t go, none of them were logical or feasible at all, and for every good reason to go, I would just remind myself that I’m a lonely and pathetic, socially awkward human that didn’t deserve to have fun. With those negative thoughts, I went to bed.
When I woke up in the morning around 6am, I read some manga while I tried to fall asleep again, but then I received a text from one of my close friends. When he found out I had bailed on my plans, he called me and yelled at me like a sassy Asian aunty. I realised that everything he said was true, which mostly consisted of how I needed to get off my arse and learn to live and enjoy my own company because I did deserve to go on adventures, whether I had someone to go with or not. So, I rolled out of bed, packed up some shite and headed out the door before I could change my mind again. It was the best fucking decision that I had been shouted into doing in a very long time.
I got to San Francisco around 9:30am (after getting dressed and getting my stuff gathered, I left my house around 8am PST). There was no traffic, there was a lovely breeze in the air the entire ride down, I listened to happy and energetic music, and anytime something negative or melancholy began to flitter into my head, I would instantly start thinking about my cats and how much I loved cherry blossoms. Getting there early also did wonders for parking, which was fairly close to the exit, so whenever I was ready to go, I wouldn’t have to fight to get my way out of the parking garage.
For the first half an hour to hour, I sat down under a beautiful tree while watching some birds playfully banter back and forth, and I read a book. My mind and my heart were completely at ease, and it gave me time to slowly work on breathing exercises to help alleviate the social anxiety that I could feel looming behind the excitement and chill vibes of the moment. When everything was more set-up, I began to explore the festival.
I didn’t take a lot of pictures of the festivities out of respect for the younger performers (quite a few of them were kids and teens, and I didn’t feel comfortable photographing them, so it was easier for me to just keep my phone tucked away). Even so, I had such a lovely time walking around and seeing such a large community of Japanese and Japanese-Americans coming together to celebrate what is considered to be quite a big seasonal commemoration in Japan. Not only that, but there were tonnes of members from other Asian groups that came out to support this festival and the local Japanese-American neighbourhoods. Seeing such a beautifully diverse community of folx mingling in such a fashion with their families and friends just really made my heart swell with so much love and joy.
Plenty of the booths were owned by local business owners and a lot of it consisted of custom clothing designs, unique Japanese-inspired jewellery and photography, foods and treats, and plenty of unofficial otaku loot too. My favourite part was listening to the Taiko performers. They were of all ages and super talented. I’m always in awe of people who can maintain such phenomenal coordination and rhythmic sync. As a klutzy, stubs-their-toe-on-an-hourly-basis type of goofball, it’s definitely not a skill I have.
Anyhoo, after checking out the booths, I visited my favourite local shops in Japantown and grabbed some treats for myself (and my parents), hit up my favourite bookstore, and then I took pictures of the blossoms! Unfortunately, the flowers weren’t in full bloom as of yet, but I did get to see some gorgeous ones popping out on that lovely sunny day.
After seeing the flowers, and wrapping up my snack-shopping, I went ahead and left the festival. As I got lost trying to finagle my arse to the motorway, I realised that I wasn’t quite ready to end my trip. Not only was I feeling absolutely fucking fantastic, but I also loved the weather and just being in the Bay Area. There was no way that I could come this close to the ocean and not see it before going home. As such, I pulled out my nifty GPS dude, named Thomas, and searched for the closest beach outside of the peninsula. Thomas took me down a very windy road (which may or may not have brought out the racing, Initial D loving coconut within me) called Shoreline Highway to the cliffs overlooking Stinson Beach.
As I stood there, on that cliff and not having palpitations from my fear of heights, with the ocean breeze raising gooseflesh along my arms and the exposed parts of my legs where my shorts and knee-high socks didn’t cover, I took a deep breath and felt such a magical emotion of relaxation and self-love.
With recent events in my life and the falling out with a very important individual, I honestly believed that I could never enjoy my own company because I was boring and damaged, fucked-up beyond the help of anyone or anything. Being atrociously gaslit for a year can make one really wonder about their self-worth in so many outrageous ways. But by getting out of the house and going to the festival and then visiting the beach, I recognised that I have the power within me to do whatever I want so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else and if it can bring me a lovely sense of contentment and joy. I spend the whole day with myself and aside from some mild social anxiety due to the hefty crowds, I didn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable walking around alone. I wasn’t worried about people thinking that I’m a loner or pathetic, or anything else along those lines that’s hurtful. I just kept thinking: for the first time in my life, I’m doing something that is entirely for me and it’s something that stems from a source of growth and a desire to live as fully as I can. I know it seems like such a tiny arse thing, but in reality, when one reaches that point, it’s such an extraordinary feeling and experience; an awe-inspiring awakening, as it were.
As I stared at the ocean waves and the seagulls and these weird looking purple flower thingies with bees hovering around them, I actually started crying a little bit. And I was also smiling. And my heart felt warm and gracious for the first time in years. I looked at the white foamy shoreline and realised that I was being reborn into someone new. All of the negativity and trauma that I have faced in the past year and a half did in fact kill a big part of me. However, from those remains, a new person who was wiser and more open-minded, and more focused on their sense of self-love and self-joy as well as the joy and peace of others, was being born. It was a resurrection of life in the sweetest, metaphorical manner.
After I came home, which was around 6pm to 7pm, I unpacked all my snacks and books. Then I took a shower and put on my blue and green plaid pyjama pants with a Scooby-Doo shirt, curled up in my favourite recliner with a Fluffington on my chest and the other four floofballs scattered around the living room. While watching one horror film or another, I eventually passed out and it was the best fucking sleep that I had had in such a long, long time.
When I woke up Sunday morning, I still felt that glow of becoming a different person who had chosen to no longer be controlled or manipulated by their depression and darker thoughts (I also felt fucking sore as Hell in my legs and in my sternum/chestecular area due to the physical strain from the day before, but worth it!!!). I still struggle because depression is an illness, not an emotion (at least not only an emotion), and I have those days where I want nothing more than to hide in bed and not give a single fucking…fuck. Nevertheless, now when I have those days, I drag myself out of bed regardless, make a hot beverage and then collapse on the couch, where I then force myself to watch something stupid and funny. It’s not much better, but it’s far better than being in bed in a dark room, stewing and ruminating in my illness. Not everyone can do this, Hell I couldn’t do it for over thirteen years! But I strongly believe that every single person has it within them to get to this point in their own time via their own efforts in whatever that means for them. So… don’t give up. One day you will have a Sakura Matsuri and ocean drive of your own (figuratively? speaking) that will help you recognise the awesomeness of your fortitude that’s buried in there somewhere, and when that rises to the surface, it shall be such a kick-ass part of life.