lost in time – JAPAN [3/3]

lost in time – JAPAN [3/3]

To put a long story short, our Hakuba stay was an exhausting but blissful 3 and a half days in a winter wonderland. Before I jump into the lowdown, I’m already putting it out there that there isn’t much to do but ski/snowboard/onsen. You can take an hour’s drive to see the snow monkeys (which we didn’t do though), but that’s about it for the entire town.

Day 7 / 0102 – A trip to white town

We started our day early to make our way to Hakuba, Nagano. Since we didn’t opt to take the shinkansen, we had a very scenic 4 hour trip all the way to the Hakuba station – it required several train changes along the way, but it was worth it.

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Nagano’s mountain ranges

Train views, Lake Aoki on the way to Hakuba

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After a long trip to the other side of the country,  we finally made it to Hakuba – a small but beautiful winter town.

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Outside the town’s main station

Our lodge – Kamoshika Views – was located on a hill that overlooked the Happo-one slopes. So our very friendly host (and lodge owner), Rus, picked us up from the station and checked us in.

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First snow experience!!!

The lodge’s breakfast nook had the best view ever. Wouldn’t have minded staying in all day just to appreciate it.

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Since it was winter, the sun set almost immediately after we arrived. So we drove back down to the town proper to meet up with James’s parents, for dinner and drinks before calling it a night.

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(like I said earlier, there really isn’t much to do)

Day 8&9 / 0103-04 – Tripping down slopes

On our first day of skiing, we went to the Hakuba 47 Resort slopes, and on the second day, we went to Escal Plaza. I’m bunching these two days up because I essentially only got to go boarding on the first day. By the time we got to day 2, my busted knee could no longer handle the pressure. So instead of talking about what we did, I’m gonna talk a little bit more on budget – going on a ski holiday is hella expensive!!! Don’t do it if you intend to go on a cheap trip. There are multiple things you pay for – clothing rental, board/equipment rental, safety gear rental, a lift pass, and sometimes, an expensive cab ride to the slopes (when you miss the shuttle service). I spent more in 3 and a half days in Hakuba than I did in the previous days in Tokyo (minus the shopping of course). I’m glad to say though, that it was still an experience of a lifetime and I’m glad I got to do it.

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Food, food, and more food though…

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Not photographed here was my absolute favorite thing to do in Japan – onsen. An onsen is a Japanese hot spring and public bath. The hot springs promote blood circulation and relaxes tired muscles – perfect after a long day of struggling on the slopes. For those who don’t know what happens in an onsen, I’m going to talk about how I did it.

First off, onsens are typically segregated into males and females (mixed bathing isn’t too common anymore). So upon entering the “locker” (more like baskets) area for women, I’d completely strip down, and bring only a small towel face towel to the bathing area. The bathing area is a completely open space where I’d sit and wash myself with the amenities provided – soap, shampoo, conditioner. After bathing, I’d step out into the outdoor onsen, instead of staying in the indoor onsen. I liked the feeling of having my body submerged in really hot, silky water, while being outside in negative degree temperature. Sometimes the water would be super hot, so I’d have to step out, rinse off at the bathing area, and then step back into the water. Some people can actually spend hours just doing that. In my case, I’d stay for a maximum of an hour in the onsen. There may not be anything too special about taking a hot bath, but for some reason, it was still the most meditative yet empowering experience I had in Japan.

Day 10&11 / 0105-06 – Last of Japan

On our last (half) day in Hakuba, Aunt Flow arrived a week early. I guess spending too much time in the onsen got my blood circulating pumping too much. So unfortunately, I was feeling very sick and nauseated. I was forced to take things very slowly, so not much happened. We were supposed to go back to an onsen one last time, but for obvious reasons, we just hung out at a cafe while waiting for our train back to Tokyo.

We stayed at a very hip and cute Goldilocks themed cafe called Bear Cafe. 

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Then we took one last stroll around the town.

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Snow! Snow! Snow!
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Snow! More snow!

It was evening by the time we arrived back in Tokyo, so we did the obvious thing and ate at our favorite sushi train, Midori Mawashi (for the 3rd time) in Meguro. Then we capped the night with Japanese McDonalds, which I must say is my current favorite.

The next day, upon waking up, we went straight to the airport and we were in transit for over 15 hours. It was a hectic day, with no time to appreciate the last of our stay, but I spent a lot of time going over all my photos, with so much gratitude. Leaving Japan was bittersweet, but our stay was still 11 days filled with great experiences to last a lifetime.

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Grateful for my favorite travel buddy

READ:

lost in time – JAPAN [1/3]: First few days in Tokyo, Tokyo Disneysea

lost in time – JAPAN [2/3]Yokohama, Hakone, New Year’s Eve

 

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lost in time – JAPAN [2/3]

lost in time – JAPAN [2/3]

So our first few days in Japan were spent going around Tokyo, getting the feel of everything. And right on our third day, in Disneysea, I busted my knee. I don’t know what exactly happened, but it came to a point where I’d have to either penguin walk or hop down the stairs on one foot because I couldn’t bend it. So basically very early on in our trip, I set myself up to be extremely slow paced in the fastest city in the world. Thankfully, the next few days for spent away from the city.

Day 4 / 1230 – Further down the road

Since we had a long day the day before, we decided to take things slow. We slept in a little (but when I travel, “sleeping in” means waking up at 9:00am latest), and decided to have brunch at the Tsukiji Fish Market. By the time we arrived (around 10:30AM), it was pretty late so we barely made it inside the actual market, and just entered the first sushi shop we could squeeze ourselves into.

We pigged out again on classic sashimi and nigiri, but I think the highlight of the meal was the live scallops that were served and grilled right in front of us – talk about fresh! Again, everything was fresh and delicious, and still made the trip to the area worth it.

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Since we had pigged out early in the day, we had enough energy to make a trip out of the city, and into Yokohama, which is a 30 minute rapid train ride away from Tokyo. We were very excited since that’s where the Cup Noodles Museum, Ramen Museum, and the Sankeien Garden are, all of which we had carefully mapped out for our day trip there…

Too bad everything was closed!! The Cup Noodles Museum was closed for the period (probably because it was nearing the new year), and the Sankeien Garden opens only on weekends (it was a Friday when we went). Here’s another tip: always check schedules of the attractions you intend to visit before heading out!

Anyway, we took the rest of the afternoon slow, the city itself is much more laid back and gave a bit of a Sydney/San Francisco-y feel to it. They do say that Yokohama is Tokyo’s rival, and I could see why. It was beautiful.

The vibe immediately felt more relaxed and carefree.

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The best view of the city is over at the Minato Mirai. We sat by the harbour, sipping on piping hot drinks, just watching the sun go down and the skyline light up.

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Feeling like I was caught in between the East and the West walking through the city’s streets.

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We got back to the city just in time for a late dinner. But even though we had just come from Yokohama, we couldn’t get enough of the East-meets-West fusion that the Japanese are so into. James took me to an old favorite of their family, a spaghetti restaurant called Spajiro, in Meguro. Apparently, the Japanese really love their spaghetti, and that resto features a whole menu filled with different Western, Asian, and Western+Asian style recipes. It felt a bit strange to be eating spaghetti, when I could have been eating ramen or soba, but I have no regrets.

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Later on that evening, we walked around Meguro, James showing me bits and pieces of the areas he used to frequent every time he’d come visit Japan. It’s definitely a more quiet side of the city, but because it’s still Japan, it held loads of lovely surprises in every corner.

Day 5 / 1231 – Shopping and guy things

Last day of 2016! And we ended it quietly.

Started the morning off with doing some last minute shopping in the 12 story Uniqlo in Ginza. Quick tip: never leave your companions because you can literally lose and not find each other for a really long time. James and I separated on the 2nd floor, and an hour and 2 long distance + roaming calls later, I ended up on the 11th floor, while he was back down at the 3rd floor.

Anyway, several thousands of yen later, we walked out with a new set of clothes to take on the snow in the next coming days.

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After dropping off our new things back at the apartment, we ended up back in Midori Sushi in Meguro. If you can recall in my first Japan post, that’s the sushi train restaurant we ate at on our first night in Japan.

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No food photos, just the damage that 2 people can make.

Later that day, James took me to Odaiba, which is kind of a hub for all things robot and gaming related.

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Odaiba at 5:00PM

We went inside a mall called Decks and came across an old-style arcade. It had rows and rows of stores with random Japanese toys, old school arcade games, and the most fun photo booth machines ever. Inside the mall there was also a small Sega Theme Park with loads of video game and 4D simulation rides.

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Old school arcade fair

We watched the Rainbow Bridge light up, before heading back to our apartment for another quiet night in.

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View of the Rainbow Bridge from the Sega cafe

Here’s a funny story: every new year’s eve, the Tokyo Tower lights up with fireworks bursting out from the top. Our apartment, being right by the Tokyo Tower, would have been the perfect spot to watch the countdown. After spending the evening by the Tokyo Bay (because that’s where Odaiba is), we rushed back home, bought some noodles to cook (noodles for long life), and cava and loads of other alcohol. I prepared our midnight snacks, and set up a small dinner area right by the window. At 11:45PM, we were all ready. 1 bottle of cava later, at 11:58PM, the Tokyo Tower went completely dark, so we turned off the lights in the apartment for added drama. Then all of a sudden, it was 12:01AM and nothing had happened, the Tokyo Tower still dark. What a bummer!!! Maybe the Japanese were late? So we turned the lights back on and decided to watch festivities around the world via Youtube. We watched Sydney first (since they’re the first to ring in the new year), and then suddenly Japan’s started playing – and all the festivities were happening in Odaiba!

Well tough luck on us. Haha! It’s still a story to tell, and a milestone still. 2017 was the first year I rang in away from home.

Day 6 / 0101 – Traveling into a dreamscape

We didn’t stay up too late after midnight that evening, since we had to wake up early to make our trip to Hakone. Then a rapid train, a tram ride, a cable car, and a skytrain later, we finally made it to the park. Transit time getting there was a little over 2 hours, so by the time we got there, we were very cranky and hungry. We weren’t prepared at all for the long ride. But before we got our food, Mt. Fuji surprised us.

One of the best viewing points is from the skytrain going down to the pier. I never expected Fuji to be so perfectly shaped and so majestic, that I couldn’t stop smiling as I stared on. It made the transit time so worth it.

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The skytrain dropped us off at the pier where we had a quick lunch, then took a ferry around Lake Ashi, which is another area to get a lovely view of Fuji.

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Our trip was very quick, we basically got to the park, took one round, and then left. Quick tip: allocate a whole day and wake up at 6:00AM to maximize time. We probably spent more time in transit than in the park, but the views and photos I got totally justified the long journey there. Also, I was still grateful that I got to spend the first day of 2017 that way.

We got back to the city and decided to try eating at multiple places to make the most out of our last day in Tokyo. And as I mentioned, we ended up back in Shibuya for that. That was one of our only lively nights out.

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Last night out on the town

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This basically wraps up 90% of our Tokyo stay, although this post was mostly about the time we spent away from the city. Still to come would be all about our ski holiday in Hakuba. Keep reading, the Japan journey isn’t over yet!

Much love,

Erica

READ:

lost in time – JAPAN [1/3]: First few days in Tokyo, Tokyo Disneysea

lost in time – JAPAN [3/3]: Hakuba

lost in time – JAPAN [1/3]

lost in time – JAPAN [1/3]

Over the Christmas holiday break, I finally got to visit one of my dream destinations – Japan. It was 11 days of excitement, stress, fun, and extreme exhaustion. Our time was spent hopping around Tokyo (and other nearby destinations) and Hakuba, so here’s the lowdown:

Day 1 / 1227 – 13 hours in transit

Here’s a tip: comfort should always trump cheapness. We got our MNL – NRT flights on EVA Airways, so we had a stopover in Taipei. The flights were super duper cheap at the time we booked (USD$300 RT), so we went with it – but oh my god, was it the most tiring thing ever. We left Manila at 3:40AM, and landed in Narita at 1:00PM. Took the Narita Express into the city, and finally settled in at around 4:00PM. I had never felt so exhausted, and that’s when I realized I would have rather spent an extra couple of dollars on a non-stop flight, so we wouldn’t have been too tired that evening.

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James + Erica en route to Tokyo!!!

The apartment we stayed at was located in Minato-ku, so it was right by the Tokyo Tower, but not much else going on around the area.

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View from the apartment

After about an hour of enjoying not moving, James’s mother (who we met up with once we arrived in the city), took us to Midori Sushi in Meguro. We queued up for a little over 30 minutes, but wow, it was the best sushi experience of my life. I thought at first it was just the exhaustion and hunger telling me that, but we ended up going back twice after during the duration of the trip, because the food was that delicious.

Midori Sushi is actually a sushi train restaurant, and I know those are notorious for not being good. But everything is prepared on the spot, and most of the plates are gone after maybe 2 revolutions. You also have the option to order (checklist style ordering) if you want it extra freshly made. The had the entire world – fresh sashimi, aburi, nigiri. My favorites would have had to be the fatty tuna, and the shrimp nigiri (so fresh that the body would still be twitching even after it’s served).

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We spent the rest of the evening walking around Shibuya, which was going to be our go-to area for people watching, shopping, and fun searching.

Day 2 / 1228 – Parks and spending

The next day, we got up early for breakfast at the ANA Intercontinental Hotel. I don’t need to talk much about it, everyone knows how amazing breakfast buffets are. Fun fact, we spotted a Philippine politician and some celebrities that morning over there.

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Breakfast buffet at ANA Intercontinental

Afterwards, James and I visited the Meiji Shrine. I must admit, I was a bit underwhelmed with the building itself, but the gardens were very beautiful. Entering the park is free, but there’s a fee to enter the Inner Garden (JPY¥500).

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Then we took a quick walk to Yoyogi Park, which would be like the autumn/winter inner city park of my dreams. Winter colors are my favorite.

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Man made ponds inside Yoyogi park

Then we briefly attempted to go to Harajuku street, but….

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Sardines of people at Takeshita Street, Harajuku

And then we had American food… I was still very upset that I wasn’t able to join my friends in NYC earlier that year, so I made sure to eat at the one chain I was dying to try over there, Shake Shack (Tokyo edition) in Ebisu.

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Shack-ago Dog, Cheese Fries, Shack Stack, Double ShackBurger

We spent the rest of the afternoon in Shibuya, where James bought a proper windbreaker (he thought that a down jacket was enough to block out 5 degree weather). We went into a tech store called BIC CAMERA. I was hoping to find those disposable Fujifilm cameras because I wasn’t sure where to get those; tip – you can get it in almost any Lawson/convenience store. But instead, I walked out with a brand spankin’ new Sigma 30mm F1.4 lens (for a not-so whopping JPY¥32,000)! Definitely burned through my money too early on in the trip, but it was super worth it.

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Salt and Pepper in Shibuya!

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We then took a break for the rest of the early evening, so we were back at the apartment for just a couple of hours before heading out to Shinjuku in an attempt to meet up with my friends who happened to be in Tokyo at the same time. Sadly, that didn’t happen, so we ended up trying out Ichiran Ramen. Admittedly, I was very underwhelmed given that the concept was going viral on social media. The experience is interesting, but for the ramen itself, I’d give it a 3.5/5 stars (Ramen Nagi and Ippudo for me are still much better Ramen chains).

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Day 3 / 1229 – The happiest place on earth to queue up

Obviously this means that we went to Tokyo Disney Sea! Attractions were fantastic, it was such a beautiful and picturesque theme park, but the queues were horrendous. To make a long story short, we lined up for over an hour for a 6-minute ride, and didn’t bother trying to queue up for anything else anymore.

Quick tip: Always try to go for the fast passes, standard waiting time for many rides can go up to 200 minutes (yes the Japanese people are willing to wait that long)

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Oh and theme park food is generally very lousy. Plus the queues were so long, didn’t seem to be worth it. We ended up going for one of the most expensive restaurants in the park, Ristorante di Canaletto, but it turned out to be pretty good, and a very lovely date night.

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Since it would be a bit lengthy to cram all my activities into one post, I’m going to wrap this up for now. Still to follow would be my rundown on Yokohama, Hakone, and Hakuba. Keep reading! Posts are coming very soon!

Much love,

Erica

READ:

lost in time – JAPAN [2/3]: Yokohama, Hakone, New Year’s Eve

lost in time – JAPAN [3/3]: Hakuba

in between borders

in between borders

The year just started and every day so far has felt like a battle field. There were moments last year when I felt waves of discomfort and unhappiness with where I was and what I was doing, but I knew that it was all part of the process. We have our highs and we have our lows, but we go through the motions anyway. But ever since this year started, I’ve been getting up each day, trying to rationalize why I was still doing what I’m doing, and coming to no good enough answer.  And for the first time ever, I’ve never been more motivated to get the hell out of where I am.

The little voice in my head used to tell me to “be happy where I am”, and to “stick it out, it will be worth it.” I always felt it was best to not shake things up, because security and comfort were the norm. But I’ve spend the past two years living with security and comfort, slowly allowing my passions to die, the longer I stayed on. And now all I can hear is, “recreate your life.”

I’m in between borders. I came up with that blog title when my love for travel began. I loved the idea of exploring different places, hopping from one destination to another. I found so much thrill in an unchained life. But I’m realizing now that it doesn’t have to do with just travel. I’m right now, in between where I thought I should have been, and where I want to be. It’s a scary place to be in, especially if you’re afraid of heights and aren’t quite sure what you’re falling into. But sometimes you just know when it’s time to jump and fall and trust that God will catch you. And my time is now. Or this year, rather (let’s be real, I’ve had to make some careful calculations because I couldn’t be entirely aimless).

It might be a bit late for new year’s resolutions, but I promised myself that this year I will reclaim my life, lift it up, make the jump, and have faith that beautiful things will come.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

this and that – life updates and others 1017

We’re halfway into the month, and well I am so behind on my blogging/writing/expressing myself in any form for the matter. I’m losing my rhythm and my ability to articulate how I feel, so pardon the rusty lingo, I’m forcing myself to get back into this slowly.

We’re finally at the last quarter of the year (THANK GOD). Not that the past year was bad, it was fantastic actually. For reference, here’s a quick rundown of my favorite highlights in the last quarter so far:

  • YE14
  • Australia*
  • Some rewarding stuff at work
  • the best Wednesday night of my life
  • Back to the beach

*Australia will require it’s own blog post. So that’s hopefully coming soon.

Anyway, going back to what I said, I’m glad that the year is almost over, mainly because I’m so looking forward to the new year. BUT the past year has been pretty fantastic, so I intend to end this quarter strong. Just a few things to kick off the month/start of the end:

  • got a new fitness pass – been doing yoga and spinning regularly again (separate blog post to follow)
  • I literally just booked a flight like 10 minutes prior to writing this
  • Japan itinerary/plans are finally becoming more solid
  • work rhythm is picking up again, exciting stuff coming this Christmas season
  • I can say I know how to save money – my bank account is looking pretty solid compared to this time last year (not to mention the fact that I went on a really expensive trip I paid for on my own)

I’m quite excited for how the rest of the month and how the rest of the year is going to turn out. My yearly cycle finally broke itself, no longer taking me hostage in different shitstorms. So unlike how I usually start a new month/quarter/year, I’m going to get into this with my eyes wide open, hands in the air, saying “time’s up, I can no longer be your bitch”

8 days a time ago

8 days a time ago

I woke in the middle of the night calling out your name, frantically searching for you in my single bed, too big for one. It took me a while to realise that I fell asleep alone that night, that I had woken up from the best dream I had ever had.

It started with you leading me through unfamiliar territory. I remember you didn’t quite know how to interact with me, but somehow our hands found each other – ironically we got lost in the city. It didn’t matter to me, all I remember is that I was with you, and it was almost perfect.

The next day I woke up to the sound of your snoring. I nudged you and you apologised, and then you held me close. I remember finding comfort in your arms, listening to your heart beat in and out of the moment. But soon enough the moment was ruined with the sound of your snoring once again. Regardless, it didn’t bother me too much at that point. There was no where else I would have rather been.

We spent the next few days still searching for adventure in what was slowly becoming a familiar city. At the same time somehow, our relationship fast tracked itself, one of innocent and awkward high fives to slow kisses by the lake in the middle of autumn. We joked around about wanting to get married right then and there, the city had such a magic to it. But slowly I realised that I didn’t want to be joking, I wanted you, I wanted that moment to stay frozen forever. Nothing else mattered, and by God, I had eight days of that with you. I dreamt of eight perfect days in paradise. 

But had I known it was a dream, I would have found a way to never wake up. All I wanted was to wake up next to you every day, to stare at your eyes, how they glowed and radiated a light I had never seen before. Most days I wish it had never been a dream, that I didn’t have to keep waking up alone. So tonight, I will go to bed alone. And I will keep doing so until the day that I finally wake up to another eight infinite days with you. 

Apology

I am not sorry for fighting back when you were kicking me down.I am not sorry for never returning your messages.

I am not sorry for standing my ground in what I believed in.

I am not sorry for keeping you up all night to argue back.

I am not sorry for working my ass off for what I want, even if you couldn’t stand it.

I am not sorry for deciding to finally let you go.

But I am sorry you couldn’t move on.