What a difference a year can make

Reflecting back this time last year I was depressed, absolutely miserable and fighting many insecurities, internal conflicts and struggling at work. I hated my supervisor and English co-teacher. She was overworking me and still does to this day and even though she was ‘nice’, she could be cruel. My students don’t like her and I’m not quite sure why. When I wanted to go to my elementary school graduation, she refused because she needed me at junior high school to do 3 normal lessons. It was frustrating and useless as I wasn’t even doing anything important in those lessons. My students were teaching me a game and playing the piano with me and she said they could no longer teach me anymore. She said the other students couldn’t play piano during lunchtime, but we already asked and were granted permission from the music teacher. So in my mind at those times, she was a cruel, jealous and horrible woman. She wasn’t nice or even a good teacher in my thoughts.

Likewise, I hated my 2nd grade students and resented my 1st grade students at Junior high school last year. My 1st grade students were so shy they didn’t want to speak English with me. My 2nd grade students were so mean, they laughed at me, one girl ignored me and turned her back to me when I was talking to her. They were rude. In January, one boy said at lunch during one of my lowest points when I was trying to speak to them that he doesn’t speak English. He hates English and no-one understands. I sat there in silence not daring to speak after that, in such a foul and angry mood wondering what the hell I was doing wasting my time on some useless children who didn’t even want my help nor my teaching. Not that anything would help since their English was beyond despair, since their level was so low and they weren’t even motivated to try. After I finished eating I immediately stood up abruptly and without saying goodbye walked away. I think I shocked them. I almost gave up that day. I almost gave up a few months later after the earthquake.

One year later. 

I am happy. That same boy who told me he didn’t want to speak English began speaking English with me. He taught me a Japanese game and tried to use English to explain. He was patient and kind. That rude attitude and that distrust, suspicion and dislike melted away though I’m not sure when. He still dislikes English, but now he at least tries and has promised to do his best. He’s in 3rd year and has now graduated. I was so sad to see him and the fellow 3rd years go. I fell in love with my students (platonic off course).

I almost gave up on them, but somehow I kept eating lunch with them and I kept speaking English to them. They didn’t like it off course but eventually they opened up, eventually we started to joke and laugh. Those mean 3rd graders became kind and friendly. I don’t know why. The girl who rudely ignored me while I tried to speak to her when she turned her back to me, I was so shocked. six months later she began to thaw. She wouldn’t cover or hide her work anymore, she let me look and check. She didn’t ignore me but would say hi. When I spoke to her, she would try to speak English. She had such a strange personality transplant I wondered what happened. In all these incidents I have no idea why they changed. Maybe they got used to me. It’s hard to replace your predecessor who was so loved by them. It’s hard to fill big shoes, but I managed to change my attitude and they changed theirs. And somehow we improved and they became my favourite classes.They were still naughty sometimes, but more cheeky than bad. They certainly improved a little bit – mainly their speaking and conversational skills.

I don’t hate my teacher anymore. I just accept her, though she still pisses me off from time to time, I no longer care. She is not significant. She is just part of the job and will be¬†leaving in two days.

During graduation, my favourite student when giving me a present told me that he was very glad he met me. He truly had fun in my classes and one day he wants to speak English with me as an adult. Earlier when I met his mother, she told me that he always spoke about me and how kind I was, how he enjoys my classes and wants to do well in English. Truly he was the kind one. He also was enthusiastic about my ideas and games, getting other students involved. He always spoke to me and asked my questions, not letting the conversation die. He always tried even though his level was very low. He always did his best speaking. I was very proud. I managed to inspire one kid out of 44. Only one, but it makes a world of difference to me because I was extremely happy to know I had succeeded with one. He wants to go to America one day. It’s not England but it is abroad at least. It’s not just about Japan. I changed that view.

My 1st years who were very shy have also improved and opened up. They are still quite shy but they are very kind and always have been. They try to speak English and even when I ask questions in Japanese, they reply in English.

I can’t believe the transformations. I have met some wonderful and lovely children. I am so very happy now. I am also sad because my students are leaving and graduating. I am sad because soon I will be leaving and the harsh truth has hit me. I’ll never see them again. But I’ll always love them. I am so so glad I stayed. I am so glad I stuck it out and never gave up because in the end, the benefits reaped were far greater than the losses I’ve experienced here. I am stronger emotionally, internally and as a person. I am more confident.

What a world of difference a year makes. I don’t know what changed and why. I only know that I am now happy.

 

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The next steps are sometimes the hardest

So imagine you’re sitting in an office, in a comfortable job surrounded by lovely people and the relaxed hum of work. Everyone’s busy, except you. Instead you’re bored stiff trying to find something to occupy your mind before you decide to run around screaming with a gun to your head. The work you do is menial and completely soul destroying, but everything else, the perks of the job, the money, the commute and the colleagues, they’re all lovely. There’s just one catch – the work is utter crap with no challenge or hint or progression. How long do you think it will take before you go insane? For me, it took 1 year and 4 months counting down the days and wondering when I would get off my arse and find something else. But everything was just so convenient. I didn’t need to take the busy packed tubes, I could take the trains which were less packed and quite reliable. If I was ill, I would be sent home to recover, if I took holidays, it would be okay because at least I actually had paid holidays on a fixed term contract. When I did get sent out the office it was to a flashy all paid for conference once a year. How could you possibly complain? Champagne on Fridays, treats and sweets practically every day and the knowledge of your hopeful departure to another country if you’re successful. So how long do you think it would take you? It’s easier to stay believe me and I didn’t have as many responsibilities as most people such as children to consider and balancing family life. But I decided to leave. When I handed in my resignation I was euphoric, but then after a week or so, I was distraught. What the hell did I do messing up a perfectly good job just because I was bored? All I had to do was stick it out for a few months, but here I was giving up a great company, great benefits and excellent colleagues. Ironic that the joke was on me.

On my last day, I was terribly sad because I was giving up so much. The week before I left I found out the company was merging and therefore increasing the opportunities within the firm to learn new software and meet new people. I was terribly annoyed to discover that this was the worst kept secret which was concealed from me from every person I asked who knew, when it was quite blatant everyone in the company knew except me. I was unfortunately the last person to find out and by that time I had already handed in my resignation. It was too late, a replacement had been found, my new job was waiting for me and yet I felt cheated somehow. I couldn’t turn back time, but I lost a lot. If I knew, perhaps I would have reconsidered and stayed, but then I would have had to say no to this new opportunity. I cried when they did the leaving speech, but my dear colleagues promised they would see me for my leaving drinks the following week. So I left with a heavy heart, but little did I know that business is simply business and I was just a meaningless person in that company. But did you know? I was like a dog within the company – the lowest of the low. I knew something was going on, but no-one trusted me to tell me. While everyone knew and gloated about that knowledge, I was left in the dark. I was never privy to news because I was junior.

I arrived to my leaving drinks and I waited. I waited and waited painfully aware that one by one the colleagues I thought were friends palmed excuse after excuse and I was left standing alone in a packed bar. Only two people attended, though I only really count one of them. The first to arrive was my lovely replacement who only stayed for less than hour, but I was embarrassed to find only one other colleague who I worked closely with came along soon after. The two of us went along to another bar and while she regaled me with all the new treats they were being given, I felt a stab of envy burn brightly. Trips to abroad for a conference, fancy parties at London hotels, new Ipads for every staff member not to mention at least 2 bonuses in store. Well you can imagine how much I wanted to kick myself. Until I walked away and I thought. No one really cared I left. I thought I had so many friends, but in the end I had only one. I was clearly living on another planet. It hurt. Have you ever had one person turn up to your leaving drinks? It really hurt, if it wasn’t for that one person I would have felt so alone. But you learn fast and boy did I learn. Business is business. Colleagues are not friends, they are colleagues. Work is work and that is the way of the world. Don’t get too emotional, don’t get too sentimental. All the false promises of keeping in touch – everything it wasn’t true. Don’t hide beneath those rose-tinted glasses. Don’t expect to see those people again, because expectation will only seek to disappoint. I am missing out on so much and yet I am not. I have moved on to a new job at an international excellent firm with new challenges. My colleagues so far are very nice and the work is different and new with room to progress and develop and opportunities to shine. I am moving forwards and the lesson that I will bring to the new place? To make sure I stand out and shine like I did in my first job. There will not always be people who want to push you and make you do better. You have to push yourself. If you’re bored you should consider leaving because even though materially it sounds amazing, its not worth it if you’re writing a book as well as working.

If you don’t leave you’ll never leave. If you stay, you’ll be missing out on all the new things you could have learned, all the new people you could have met. Sometimes I still wonder, but I reckon if I turned my current opportunity down, I would have regretted and played the what if game then too. It was one of the most difficult learning curves of my life, but necessary. I will continue to fight for my dreams and I will not let anyone put me in a box again. Don’t let fear get in the way because that is exactly what I am letting prevent me from my future by holding onto my past. But I am trying to let go. Every day is a new reality check. Every day is a battle.