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A Yonsei's Reflections...

on Emerging from Hibernation

I was awakened from a dream this morning by a phone call. In my dream I had deeply gouged my hand, but it wasn’t bleeding. I was calmly, yet urgently, getting gauze and tape from a medicine supply cabinet when I was jarred from slumber.

Sometimes, I occasionally have very involved and detailed dreams. These stress-induced dreams tend to have recurring plotlines and even similar settings. I haven’t had them in a while, but I’ve had dreams in which I’m being chased. I’m alone and running through backyards and crouching behind trees and bushes. Suddenly I’m faced by several men dressed in suits—authority figures—and I’m physically fighting them (action movie style). Somehow, I, someone who has never been in a physical fight in real life, am able to defend myself and get away only to continue being chased. I find that I get these dreams when I’m feeling oppressed, although I don’t fully realize it until afterwards. I guess, in a way, it’s my psyche’s way of forcing me to acknowledge my feelings.

Earlier in this morning’s dream, I was at a college. It was the day for final exams, but I didn’t know where the classrooms were or anything about the subjects because I had skipped all of the classes for the year. There was a tremendous sense of panic and of being lost…pangs of guilt and remorse filled me as I searched desperately through my backpack for answers. Yet, even in my dream, I had a feeling of déjà vu. I knew that this was a situation I had encountered before in past dreams.

I realize today’s stress dream was induced by the anxiety I felt at returning to work after two weeks off for the holidays and vacation. I’ve spent the last few weeks doing almost nothing productive and now am faced with having to play some serious catch-up. Being the compulsive email checker that I am, I have actually been checking messages, responding to a few even. I’ve read some articles and did a little work probably every day that I was out. But, I felt free to just do what I wanted instead of tackling the important things that I should. Going back to work means that freedom is gone and now I have to stop procrastinating and face the realities of our current situation—the endless tasks, the enormous projects, and the overwhelming responsibilities to do everything in my capacity and more to help ensure the survival of our institution in this time of financial crisis.

But, I take some comfort in the last part of my dream…that I was able to take action with a clear head to address an urgent situation. The call that awoke me was from a friend and colleague at work with whom I carpool. On the drive in to the Museum, I was thinking that despite the frustrations and enormous tasks that I have to face, I really do enjoy working within the community. A lot of it has to do with the talented and dedicated people that I work with—fellow staff, volunteers, and people from throughout the Nikkei community worldwide—and what we’re able to accomplish together.

I thank you all for letting me indulge in some therapy. Writing these articles, particularly the past several pieces, has given me courage to face my realities. It has also helped me to know that I’m surrounded by friends and family who care. After the last one, a volunteer here at the Museum told me that she really enjoyed reading my last article and that it made her cry. At New Year’s my cousin said that she always enjoys reading my articles, but thought the last few were very different. It’s scary sometimes to write knowing that people I know will read them because I put so much of myself in them. I tend to hide these personal feelings inside. It’s easier for me to share them in writing.

Hopefully, the next time I write, I will be able to share more upbeat reflections on my life that are Nikkei in theme. I do feel better though after these two weeks away. Yesterday, after “vegging out” (attached to my laptap watching Japanese dorama almost constantly) while on vacation has finally given me a sense of being rested. Although my heart is beating faster and I feel so anxious, I do feel ready to “do battle”. As I write these last few sentences, I am mentally preparing myself. I took this photo of two items that I have placed on my keyboard as visual reminders to do my best.

Today I emerge from hibernation ready to face the new year!

© 2009 Vicky Murakami-Tsuda

About this series

Vicky Murakami-Tsuda is the Communications Production Manager for the Japanese American National Museum. She is a “self-proclaimed” yonsei from Southern California who comes from a large extended family who loves working at JANM (especially Discover Nikkei), eating good food, spending time with family, playing on Facebook, reading, and used to be an artist who explored Japanese American culture and history through her artwork when she had more time and energy. This column includes various reflections on her life and the world around her.