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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New revelations

My life right now seems to be like one of those soap dramas that many people watch. Every day is a new drama whether it’s politically; division and consequences of the EU referendum result and post-Brexit, the US political campaign drama, social and online drama with regards to racial abuse on twitter or just general life drama in Japan. The whole universe seems to be in a massive kerfuffle and mess. My life recently has been very busy and exciting, but the drama has peaked and doesn’t look to be receding anytime soon.

A brief summary of events in the past month. My best friend in Japan, in my town is leaving and returning back home. I am utterly devastated. She has been my rock, my amazing senpai and she is absolutely lovely, smart, fun and talented. When you find special people, treasure them for life – they are worth the effort. I am going home for a holiday next week and I will have to say goodbye. I am crap at goodbyes and I really don’t want to say goodbye. I could say see you soon I suppose, but life won’t be the same in Japan with out my biggest supporter. I will miss Ju-san so much! Every time I see her, I just want to shout out: “Don’t go!!” But life is such, we all move on. It’s time for Ju-san to leave so there it is, the cold, hard fact.

Anyway, onto another dramatic topic, since my birthday, I thought there was a guy interested in me. We had a few intimate moments of hand holding, flirting and great discussions. He is my friend. He is one of the good guys, a lovely, sweet guy. ‘This is it!’ I thought, I can see myself with this lovely, kind guy. He’s a great match. This weekend I found out the startling revelation that he is in fact a player. My new lesson learned? Don’t trust nice guys. Sometimes it’s a mask or a trick. I won’t go into too much detail but I found out from my friend that this guy had been on a few dates and had told her that he knew exactly “how” to attract the girls and “what” to say. It seems that he’s not used to such high levels on attention which isn’t surprising since Japan is a washed up shore with limited choice. When I found all this information out, I wanted to do the opposite. I felt confusion and annoyance that he used my attention and compliments to flatter his ego, but his intentions towards me were narcissistic and in vain.

During another one of his moments when he tried to get me to tell him how great and talented he is by putting himself down and self-deprecatingly telling me how useless he was, instead of saying the usual; “Aww no you’re amazing! You’re so talented, you can play the piano, violin and the fiddle! Don’t be so hard on yourself!” I instead resorted to agreeing with him. “Yeah, you’re shit.”, “Yeah you’re talentless and useless.” He looked at me like a wounded dog stunned into silence and disbelief. I didn’t feel one ounce of pity, I felt pleasure. That sounds horrible, but let me justify it – he needed someone to disagree with him and shut this bullshit down. I don’t like being taken advantage of and I especially don’t like attention-seekers. I have had enough of telling other people how great they are when they are being absolutely annoying.

I later realised that he is very insecure and his negativity rubbed off onto me, but as soon as I realised it, I shut it down. This happened because he kept complaining and blowing his own sad trumpet. It started to manifest in my dreams where my old insecurities and pain rose to the fore. I was shocked into awareness and consciousness with a bitter taste in my mouth but also a strong resolution that I would not get tangled in them again. I dealt with my issues years ago, I healed those wounds and nothing would make me want to cut them open again and revisit the pain and the past. I already have enough baggage. This is not the kind of boyfriend I would want. I don’t want to have to keep affirming that someone is great. I don’t want to have to sort out someone else’s life. Mine has enough shit in it. I am trying to sort out my life. I am trying to teach children to the best of my ability and I am trying to do that with confidence. I can’t be part of a pity party. So that part of the drama in my life has simmered down. I’ve made it clear I’m no longer interested and I’ve walked away. End of chapter.

Onto the next drama,  since Ju-san is leaving, her new successor is a young woman with a 4 year old child. This is problematic for my small, rural town which has rejected her. But she doesn’t know yet that they don’t want her and she is still coming because the rejection wasn’t accepted by the organisation because it’s too late. I feel for this woman who will have to settle into a new life in an unwelcome town because I know how it feels to be isolated and cut off. Believe me, the indifference and silence is just as damning as the quiet, simmering hatred. I have a huge task on my hands to help her. Coming alone is hard enough, but coming with a kid is even worse. This town has never had an English teacher with a family so it will be revealing and interesting to see how this develops. I only hope it works out in the end. But I’m not so sure.

When will the drama end?

Difficult lessons learned from travelling with friends

So here it is lessons learned from travelling with friends:

  1. Make sure you are actually on the same page.
  2. If they don’t know what travel insurance or a visa is, be worried. When I asked my friend the night before we were due to travel whether she had bought her travel insurance, her answer couldn’t have shocked me more. “What’s that?” Cue *blank face* “Are you s****ing me?”
  3. Push for what you want especially if you planned the whole thing.
  4. Be worried if they suddenly panic the night before asking if you’re taking them to a really dangerous country with terrorists. Every country has terrorists. But NO in case it wasn’t obvious, do I look like I’m going on holiday to be kidnapped, tortured and then potentially murdered?
  5. If they can’t tell you where we’re going, you’re screwed. It means they’ve done ZERO research and looked at NONE of the material you sent over.
  6. Don’t let them get away with doing jack s**t unless you’re the kind of person who likes to plan everything cough *controlfreak* cough – which is fine if it’s your holiday they’ve invited themselves to. Not that I didn’t ask for suggestions but I was given carte blanche. I did ask where she would like to stay etc. but she said she trusts me!
  7.  Turns out she didn’t actually trust me after our first hostel. Where is our 5* hotel? I can’t live among the poor! They are so different! I’m scared. No, I’m being melodramatic she’s not into 5* hotels and she’s not demanding, but she was very scared and felt the disparity between the rich and poor as well as being a tourist.
  8. Don’t trust them when they say – “You fit in more because you look more like them.” Me: “Wtf!? I’m Asian and I’m brown. I look like a tourist just like you.” Friend: “Yes, but I’m paler and noticeably more touristy.” Me: *mutters under breath* Yeah because you act so unnatural.
  9. Frankly just don’t listen to them. They are irrational and pass on their own anxieties.
  10. If they mention that they’ve only been to two other countries outside of their own, be worried. They’re not seasoned travellers, they’re newbies which is fine if you’re a newbie too.
  11. If you try to take them to historical sites, but they keep diverting you, just know you will never reach those historical sites.
  12. If you want to go on daytrips, but they don’t set an alarm and the only one you set went off but you couldn’t hear it (due to being hard of hearing), but they could and didn’t wake you up, you can be sure they’re not into going on that trip.
  13. If you want to go anywhere, but they don’t want to book anything nor do they want to just go – you can be sure nothing will materialise except wasted time and effort.
  14. Finally – my last and most important piece of advice: just go by yourself – solo travel seems so much easier unless you have amazing friends who you’ve travelled with before.

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.