A Year in Review

It’s really strange to think that I’ve been here for just a month shy of a year.  A lot of things have changed in a year.  Some good, some bad, but overall the changes have been positive.  I’ve got a new apartment, some new goals, and a renewed confidence that I really lost when I first moved here.

I’ve become more social.  Or, rather, I’ve gotten back to where I was before leaving Drake.  My senior year of college was a big year for me in terms of transformation.  I’m incredibly grateful for my jobs and internships that forced me to situations outside of my comfort zone and made me adapt.  For my internship with the Department of Commerce, I had to send out e-mails to other professionals.  People who had no idea that I was just an intern hiding behind my .gov email address.  It was terrifying and thrilling.  I called companies asking them about up-armoring techniques for vehicles and was able to stumble my way through the conversation.  In my job in the International Center on campus, I was responsible for updating records so the students stayed legal.  And I have to admit, I really miss that level of responsibility.  Yes, I was just in charge of sitting at the desk and staring at the computer some days, but I had clearly defined tasks.

But interacting with a variety of people, like I did in my jobs and internships, gave me a lot more confidence to socialize in general.  By the end of my senior year, I was a fairly competent president of two clubs and had several balanced groups of friends.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to find my social side again here.  I’m an introvert by nature and, believe it or not, I’m shy.  So it takes a lot for me to get to the point where I can just say, “Tonight, I’m going to mingle.  I’m going to say hi to everyone and try to chat with them all for a bit.”  But I’m starting to get back to feeling like I can do that.  The start of the new school year brought a lot of changes as well.  I’m more confident in the classroom, more ridiculous with my gestures and noises, and overall less caring when the kids try to make fun of me.  I’m confident enough in my role (or I guess I’m just relaxed enough in it) that I tease them back.

There is one student in the elective third year English class who thinks it’s hilarious when I speak English.  He laughs at my pronunciation and when I pronounce things on purpose.  Last year, he was a major pain in class.  In such a large class, it was really easy for him to get away with it and for me to feel overwhelmed.  But now he’s on my turf.  There are only 16 students in the class, instead of the normal 40, so I can actually call him out on these things and maintain control of the class.  I’m proud of myself for that and proud of myself for not rising to the bait.

When I first got here my plan was to stay for 2-3 years.  By February, I was struggling to get through the first year and regretting my decision to stay another year.  Now, I feel I could go either way.  I’m not ready to leave yet because I finally feel like I’ve found my groove and reached a sort of balance.  However, unless this next year has some drastic changes in store for me, I really doubt that I’ll stay a third year.  But who really knows what the future holds?  I’m looking forward to meeting the new JETs and really getting to know the ones who are staying.  There will be rough patches, but I have a lot to look forward to which should help me through the difficult times.  My dad is coming to visit in November, I’m going to travel abroad at least once, and now that I am part of the MAJET board (Miyazaki Association of JETs), I am going to help plan a lot of cool events.

And in the spirit of new goals for the new year, I present my updated Japan Bucket List:

  1. Learn to surf.
  2. Visit Aokigahara (Suicide Forest)
  3. Climb Fuji-san
  4. Go to the Studio Ghibli Museum (This is happening in July)
  5. Get my gamer geek on in Akihabara (Also happening in July)
  6. Pass the N2 Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
  7. Do hanami (cherry blossom viewing)
  8. Visit all four main islands of Japan (One more to go)
  9. Visit Ellen way up north
  10. Visit the Peace Memorial in Hiroshima. (Happening in November)
  11. Snowboard
  12. Go on a bike trip
  13. Visit the synagogue in Tokyo
  14. Visit Osaka again
  15. Explore some abandoned places
  16. Try taiko
  17. Visit Shizuko again
  18. Jazzercise once a month
  19. Visit South Korea
  20. Take a train trip from the southern part of Kyushu to Sapporo
  21. Visit the Imperial Palace
  22. Watch a sumo match
  23. Go to Universal Studios Japan (with Cherri)
  24. Participate in a festival (not just go to one)
  25. Wisteria Flower Tunnel
  26. Go to a concert
  27. Participate in another tournament (only do form, no sparring)
  28. Visit Jennifer again
  29. Visit Thailand
  30. Only speak Japanese for a whole day
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