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.

 

New adventures await

I have discovered some amazing news. I applied to become a Teaching Assistant abroad in Japan and I found out recently that I have been accepted and I am due to leave in August. To be honest I couldn’t believe it, such incredible news, I couldn’t believe I was actually going, that it had happened. It slowly sank in and when I started to break the news to friends, I was dismayed to learn that not all was as it seemed. My best friend was extremely happy, proud and supportive. But my other friends were shocked, sad and not as happy. This is my dream, to travel the world, to learn a new language and to live in Japan. All I am doing is leaving for a year.

“You are coming back right?” Will I be back? That is the most famous question I receive and honestly I don’t know. I might enjoy it so much I decided I want to stay. I might want to try South Korea. I might decide that there is no longer a place for me here anymore, that I might be best in another country. I get so bored easily I wonder if it would be easy to come back. I can already feel my grip of life and reality slipping as I watch my friends progress up the career ladder, as they turn corners in their life, I realise I’m not quite going down those paths. Instead I am wandering in a completely different direction and I am becoming a traveller who might just get lost. It only hit me that I am sacrificing my career for an uncertain reality, but isn’t life all about taking risks?

Through my excitement to leave, I never imagined it would happen and now it is, I am preparing. I will be okay. It will change me. I will miss my dear friends for sure, I will miss my beautiful family, but I am young and I need to take this chance. If I don’t I will regret it. Some people think I’m crazy for giving up a secure, comfortable and well paid job. Others think I am brave for doing this alone. But all I want to do is discover the world and meet different people. I want to explore and perhaps I am crazy, but who gets to be 23 again? I haven’t a boyfriend, husband, lover or long standing commitment. I only have chance and if I let fear and the comfortable get in my way, I’ll never be happy.

Everything involves a little fear, but I only wish for hope to prevail. I am trying my best to float and I am hoping I won’t drown in this new adventure. I am sure everything will be fine. I should probably stop reading thriller novels and horror stories about Japan. To be fair, they are based in Tokyo and are mostly about hostessing in their’ “red light” district.

Time flies so I know a year will pass me by. I’ve lived in America before and I know if I set my heart on something, I can and I will do it. I don’t like to upset my friends, because I know they are shocked. This isn’t something Miss Goody too shoes, quiet, reserved me would do. I don’t want to leave them, I’m not abandoning them. But I am continually trying to develop and I am trying to be a better person. So if you have a dream, I would pursue it, because you only have one life. Why not make the most of it, instead of living in fear. I don’t know what my future will be like, but I trust it will be okay and I have faith everything will work out in the end.