Japan has been a little bit like ammonium for me lately. If you’re subject to smelling ammonium for too long, you’ll lose the ability to sense what smells good, what smells bad, or what smells at all. Being in Japan I’ve been overwhelmed with highly concentrated necessity and enjoyment to the point that I’ve started to forget what exactly I need and want anymore.
Since I arrived here I have changed a lot; I think about myself differently, I think about the world around me differently, and I have different hopes and dreams. But sometimes I wonder if the choices I make are due to those internal changes or if I have simply lost my way.
So many times I’ve been told that I will change my mind throughout college: it’s part of growing up. But ever since I was a very young girl I have always had the same dream. Sure, my path has differed a bit from time to time, whether through deciding to add a passion, forget one, or do something different with those passions, but for the most part I have always wanted to grow up, enjoy a family, and write.
My relationship with Japan began when I started high school, and I decided to start learning the Japanese language. Until the day I wrote that class in on my schedule I had never really considered Japan to be a part of my life.
But once I began, it only seemed logical to stick with it. My main reason throughout high school was to show potential colleges that I had the ability to stick with something, and that I didn’t simply complete the minimum requirements. I thought about potential futures with the language, and decided it would be fun to teach English in Japan. So, as before, it seemed logical to continue to study Japanese in college. And when I realized that I had completed half of the Japanese minor requirements by the time I finished my first year of college, the next logical step was to add and finish the minor. I knew I wanted to study abroad long before college, or even high school, and I always assumed it would be to Japan. So everything just fell into place, one thing leading to the next, building my relationship with Japan and pushing me down the path I am now standing still on.
Why am I on this path instead of the one I see running parallel to mine? I seem to have veered away from the straight path I have been heading down for as long as I remember, away from my desire to create, and am now walking a new one. Is this the case? Am I heading toward a life different from the one I always imagined? Or is this just a detour that will lead me back to what I truly and loyally care about after the year is done?
I know that when I came to Japan my reason was to improve my Japanese so that I could return sometime in my future and teach English here. But after some time I have lost my passion for the language and have decided that I no longer hope to live here or to teach English at all.
So, after having so many opportunities and experiences I have become confused. Though I do not enjoy my Japanese class, do I really want to end my relationship with Japan after I return to America, or am I simply frustrated that I am not able to progress this relationship in the way I always imagined I would?
I now question every decision I make, because the Alysse I remember being before Japan entered my life has now split into two: a hard-working scholar who cared most about accomplishing all that was put before her, and a creative spirit who cared most about creating, enjoying, and loving. So I wonder whether I should continue my Japanese journey the way I set out to complete it, as an accomplished scholar, or if I should embrace it as an inspirational experience that allows me to better understand myself and the world around me.
I don’t believe that I have to choose between the two; I will absolutely focus on both, because they are both important to me. However, I feel like I need to point my efforts toward one more heavily than the other because up until now I can’t say I’ve progressed substantially in either academics or creativity. I fear that if I continue my time here without recognizing what I truly want to get out of it then I will be short-changing both.
So as I said, after so many experiences, both academic and creative, I am now unable to sense which experiences and choices are important, which experiences and choices are unimportant, and which experiences and choices are mine to make at all.
I realize that this post won’t be useful for a lot of people to read, but this blog is a place for me to document my experience here in Japan. This dilemma has been on my mind a lot, and has really been shaping my experience, so I decided to do what I love and write, while hoping that this outlet will have been an acceptable one.
Even though I no longer enjoy learning Japanese in the environment I currently do, I want to assure anyone who reads this that I do, absolutely, still enjoy Japan. I love the language, I love the culture, I love new experiences and new friends. And most of all, I love this struggle I am facing right now because I really use my mind and have been inspired to revisit my creativity and work hard every day to simply enjoy my life. And that’s what really counts.