The Bad and the Better

Hola amigos,

‘Tis Ern, your Greenest of Beans, here once again. Today I’d like to discuss some the feels I’ve been having lately. All the feels.

Four days ago or so, I was in a very pessimistic mood and wrote the most cynical, anger-infused piece of writing that has ever been spawned from my fingertips. I titled it, “Dear Japan.” It was essentially a four page letter detailing everything that I hate about living in Japan with not a speck of positively shining through. I was angry. I had a breakdown at school revolving some royal garbage that my Board of Education is throwing at me. I wanted to vent my feelings about how frustrating life is when everything you do is micromanaged by your workplace to an absurd level of nitpicky-ness. Is that a word? Probably not. I don’t care.

Of course, I am not going to post that entry onto this site. It was written in a severe moment of weakness. I don’t want to focus on the bad, but on the better.

When I first got to Japan, I did not experience culture shock the same way that most people do. Most people have a honeymoon phase that lasts a few weeks, couple months at best. Then when seasonal affective disorder kicks in around winter, that’s when the culture shock and bad feels start creepin’ up on ya. I was kind of…prolonged with my culture shock.

I experienced five months of heaven, followed by five months of hell. Five months of day, five months of night. It is my sincere hope that perhaps my culture shock just occurs in five month intervals and that soon I will be back in the upswing and all will be right with the world. Like a sine wave that oscillates up and down, down and up. Except I was never very good at math after Algebra II in high school so I could be spitting out total BS about sine waves right now, but frankly I’m too lazy to bother looking it up.

I’ve had a rough time since Christmas. Not going home made me experience a lot of sadness and a lot of homesickness. It was the first Christmas I’d ever missed, and I was jealous that so many people I knew were going home to see their families and I wasn’t. I started having  chest pains, which made me feel very withdrawn. I didn’t want to do anything or see anyone for a really long time. Then I got sick. Then I went home for my surgery, and I had lots of time to see my family, friends who visited me when I was too weak to move around, and my animals. My Sweet Potato, Buddha, Elvis, Dave, even Yuki was actually sort of nice to me. But getting a taste of home made it really difficult for me to  force myself to get on the plane back, in addition to the probably irrational fear of blood clots.

Between not feeling 100% better and getting harassed by my school so much about not having appropriate documentation for my surgery, I’ve been feeling even more down in the dumps. Being scolded by your workplace on a near daily basis for something that truly is not your fault, that they approved in the first place, is extremely soul-crushing. But, I want to do everything I can to make my experience better. Focus on the positive instead of the negative. I want to make my night become day.

I want to remind myself about the reasons why I came here in the first place. I wanted to get Japanese students out of their small bubble and remind them that a whole other world out there exists. I wanted to show them something new. Help them improve their English so maybe they can see the rest of the world. I wanted to experience what Japan has to offer. I wanted to broaden my personal horizons, to push myself to do something that not many people can say they’ve done in their lifetimes. This is my one shot, my one opportunity to truly immerse myself in another culture (I can’t say I’ll be moving abroad again based on how homesick I’ve gotten), and I want to embrace it while I can. When you’re in a whole other world on the opposite end of the earth, sometimes it’s easy to be pessimistic instead of embracing the reality that’s right in front of you.

So, off come my blinders. I’m going to open my eyes to the good things all around me. It won’t be easy. I may want to give up at times. But I am going to do my best to push through it til the end.

I want to remind myself of how I felt two years ago and one year ago. Two years ago, I received my first notification from JET after my first time applying. I had just wrapped up work at the kennel where I was working, and opened the email before I went home. It was a rejection letter. Not even alternate-listed. And I was so upset. I kind of stared blankly at the screen of my phone, trembled a little, and tears started flowing everywhere. It was one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. I felt so worthless. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, I did what I could to improve myself and try again. Then, one year ago, at the end of last April, I had just received news that I’d be going to Japan after my two years of work trying to get here. I was driving to my volunteer ESL classes, and checked my phone at a stoplight for the time, and saw that I had an email notification from JET. Then the light turned green, and I had to wait until I pulled into the parking lot to read the email. I didn’t know if I wanted to read it in case it was bad news because we were having a party in class that night. My heart was about to pound of my chest. But I took the plunge. I opened it. And it was good news. I cried again, but that time, it was happy tears that were cascading down my face. I called my dad. I called my sisters. I think I called another friend, if I’m not mistaken. That whole night was filled with euphoric calls and text messages to friends that I’d be going to Japan in a few months’ time. I didn’t even have to say the words to bosses at work the next day. A “guess what?” coming from my lips was all it took for one of them to day, “damn it.”

I was so happy, and so excited, and I don’t want to forget that feeling just because I’ve been experiencing some turbulence, some bumps in the road. If you know me, you’ll know that I think that literal turbulence is the most terrifying thing in the world. I freeze. I panic. I pray to God to let me live even for the smallest bump as I think the plane will come crashing down. There’s just something about airplanes, probably the fact that giant metal tubes are not meant to be soaring through the air, that always freaks me out. But it always turns out okay. That’s all my recent experiences have been: a little bit of turbulence. It’s scary in the moment, and it leaves me frightened and on edge for a while after it stops, but that’s just it. It always stops. It always gets better.

So here is to hopefully smoothing out my turbulence. I need to remind myself that I’m not the only one feeling frustrated. A few days ago, I posted on Facebook that I didn’t know the secret to happiness here because I’ve been unhappy for so long. I got a flood of comments and messages from other people saying that they were in the exact same boat right along with me, and even managed to arrange a few meetups out of it. I don’t regret that post. I like my choices. I didn’t post it for attention, but literally just to get advice for how to make my situation better. Even if it was posted in an extreme moment of weakness, it helped me understand that I’m really not alone. It helped me get suggestions for how to take life by the reins and make the most out of it.

I want to try to think of something positive, no matter how big or how small, every day until I leave. Whether it’s being able to see the mountains across the ocean on a really clear day. Whether it’s the beautiful sunset behind Awaji Island. Whether it’s buying a shark house for my hamster. Whether it’s simply acknowledging that I’m not doing too shabby since I am living in a foreign country, living by myself, paying my own rent, my own cell phone bill, my own electricity bills, water bills, gym fees, and truly adulting without outside assistance. I’m doing the thing. It might not be the same thing as everyone else, and it might mean that all my peers have a head start on me when I get back to the states. But for now, I’m doing what I can.

On that note, I also want to find an outlet for whenever I’m feeling down. At home, I always painted, so I want to do that more. Some people turn to YouTube, but I’ve always hated cameras in any form, so I won’t do that. Writing is my medium. It’s therapeutic for me, and I think I’m good at it and that I truly have a voice (or so I’ve been told by many people) when I write, so I really want to start posting more regularly on this site whenever I feel like something is bottled up. Given that I have a small following of strangers who read this blog, I’d say my writing must not be too shabby. Hi, strangers! If you’re reading this right now, I’m very grateful for your presence and readership! Spread the word to any friends who might like my blog! I’ve also had a life epiphany in the last few days that really should have been more obvious to me.

Animals. Animals are the one thing in my life that have always been there and have always given me comfort, which is why I think that I’ve been having a particularly difficult time. Missing my own animals is a huge part of it for sure, but I miss working with animals, being around them all the time. I miss Sad Lilly, the dog I fell in love with and fixed at my old job. Sad Lilly, who even though I haven’t seen for well over a year now, I still love like my own. I miss my Whalerus Bear, also at my old job. Whalerus Bear is part Whale, part Walrus, and part Polar Bear, if you’re wondering where the name came from. I miss seeing dogs, helping dogs, making them feel better. I want to actually go down to ARK, Animal Refuge Kansai, sometime soon, to volunteer my services.

As for my future career, it’s definitely something that’s been on my mind. The JET program is not a career; it’s an experience. And while I’ve flip-flopped on my career many times, I hate to say I’m still uncertain. I’ve had a very hard time making a decision as the most indecisive person in the world. So the two options I’ve come up with are (A) Attempt to get a master’s degree, possibly a second bachelor’s first because my undergraduate grades don’t appear to be good enough to get into any grad programs, and then continue to study English. Option (B) Go to vet tech school in Louisiana where it would be dirt cheap, and start a career in that field before half of my life has been wasted. 

So, I think I have a plan. Sort of. It helps me have even a vague end in sight that will make this experience less miserable. It gives me perfectly viable career options that I can start working toward as soon as I get back to US. It won’t be easy either, but I want to try. Having a plan has already made me feel much happier.

Apologies. This was very long-winded. But I am starting to feel okay. And I think things will be okay. And I wanted to let you know that everything will be okay.

The bad will become better.

Until next time,

またね!

-Erin 「エリン」

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