As my contract quickly comes to an end this August I’m starting to wrap up schools as well. A part of leaving means coming up with something, something that fully articulates this experience you’ve had over the four years, as well as articulates where you came from, and hints at where you’re going. I see this time of reflection as less for those listening to my winded speech, and more for me to evaluate where ‘ve been and where I’m going next.
So here it is, enjoy!
A golfer can’t play golf very well if he just whacks the ball so hard he’ll never find it. That’s the gist of “Don’t lose sight of your original goal.” A golfer who whacks the ball and doesn’t pay attention to where it ends up might spend the day searching for that ball, or worse yet, lose the ball and the game outright.
Just as important as not losing sight of your original goal; is to set goals you won’t forget. If, as a young person, you make this long list of things you wish to accomplish you’ll get burned out at the length of the list and end up forgetting the whole damn thing come middle age, or worse fall short of such high expectations. Losing sight of goals or not living up to them will be that “crisis” like the golfer searching for his ball(s). Either you’ll spend the rest of your life trying to remember what your goals were, give up and buy that corvette/Harley, or go into stupid debt, or end up with a shaggy dog and some adopted mystery kid.
The best approach is to keep it so simple that it’s silly not to forget it. “I want to be a dancer”, “I want to be a fireman”, “I want to climb Mt. Fuji”, etc. I would even say, aim to make it simple enough that an elementary schooler could understand it in a snap *snap*. Because the more elementary it is, the less you are likely you are to forget it and (obviously) lose sight of it in the increasing hustle and bustle of life, Namaste… woof.
Some original goals are noble, some are silly, some are impossible (like flying with the birds buck naked), and some goals even e v o l v e. (long run-on sentence watchout!) Look down the green-way to the inevitable tiny mysterious black hole, which everyone will eventually end up in, and decide for yourself whether you’d rather waste your time looking for complex goals and un-keepable promises or whether you want to (1) set the goal, (2) keep sight of it/track of it, (3) follow it, (4) accomplish it, (5) even evolve it, and at the end as you stand on the edge of the hole looking back – smile 🙂 – (as you fall backwards) at a full life of accomplishment. Choose wisely.
Joshua Sensei was a middle schooler in 1998. On the T.V. was the Nagano Olympics and the specifics of that event wasn’t important other than I found it fascinating that it was being held in Japan. I couldn’t tell you if it was the Olympics that made Japan cool, or Japan by itself. Perhaps, if it was the former, and held in Oslo I’d be typing from Norway. Anyway, at that time, I had a dream and it was simple.
“I want to live in Japan.”
And there it began. A “phase” that has lasted fifteen years. At the time I had a close friend who imagined the same dream with me. Both of us tried learning Japanese together and watching Dragon Ball Z (as if that’d would help us). This led to spending time with the Anime & Japanese Culture Club at Clark College. The two of us, entering High School, also brought others to dream about living in Japan and it rocked. My friend, however, got disillusioned with the idea. Perhaps clouded by “Car” “Women” and “Part time job” plus the thought of forgoing the American dream of “Make Money, Make Family, Make House Mortgage… whatever” was hard to swallow. In a way, he motivated me past the “this is ridiculous” phase to the “this could be cool if it happened” phase and when that motivation left me I had to decide if I too should drop the Last Samurai dream. Stubborn as I was, I decided that nothing else looked as cool and in as vivid color as life in Japan. I began going around telling people that I’d live in Japan someday and believed in it. Though I didn’t know how. What I did know was three things to accomplishing my goal was these:
- Graduating School (Jr. High School, High School, and College)
- Learning Japanese
- Getting a job (in Japan)
I was on track for goal 1 naturally. Goal 2 was a hobby I wasn’t completely sure at. Goal 3, yeah right (I’d worry about that when hair grows on my chin). Being in the anime club opened up some possibilities and some real life directional help, however. At one Anime convention in Seattle, while my friends were salivating over gundam dolls and DDR, there was an exhibit on the JET Programme. JET, or the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme, seemed like the perfect life. Teach English, get good money, live in Japan for 5 years. At the time, I said, “if I could do just that I’d be satisfied.”
The JET seminar lasted an hour with questions at the end. They covered a lot of things, but the take away was you gotta graduate college and we’re looking for future applicants who have a good working knowledge of Japanese, Japanese culture, and want to succeed in all areas of Japan. Those blue prints, I figured, I would go ahead and model everything after.
Looking for colleges sucked, all these options, and all I wanted to do was get into JET asap. I’ll admit my “fire for Japan” blinded me, as well as, the horrid drama of High School — so much so that my grades slipped to a C average. In retrospect, (don’t listen if you’re young) I should of cared if I wanted to get to Japan quickly, but I didn’t and well today (as I write this from a desk in Japan) I don’t think it really mattered. I had Japan on the mind and there it lays. So, ok, but the college admissions cared about my grades not my funky dream, and as a High Schooler, I sucked at “expressing my feelings.” I didn’t get into my plan A College, or Plan B~E… and resorted to Clark College. Which ultimately, showed me the light, the white light, the light that leads the way, as my dad says.
Clark was a no sh*t school full of people with broken dreams. Everyone was a golfer who shot too far and ended up at Clark because they lost their ball(s). And, I was there because I rushed my dream and had to back track on goal 1 “graduate.” Luckily, though I got some first class education on life, history, politics, and Japanese instruction. I got pumped up like Hulk Holgan and rocketed to my first Plan A college as a transfer student ready to kick butt. I signed up for ALL the Japanese Classes, ALL the Japanese history classes, ALL the Asian Related Classes. I was so gun-ho that in my second semester as a Junior at LC I hadn’t even declared a major yet. Stuck between Japanese & East Asian Studies, I was offered a tee-shirt at a EAS meeting and decided to join the small club of 4 or 5 EAS people. Remember, living in Japan was important to me not the undergrad major.
Living abroad (via LC) briefly, was an eye opener. It taught me one valuable lesson. “If you’re not in Japan, living in Japan, and talking with the locals in Japan — Everything you read about, hear about, or get taught about Japan is plain speculation.” This is hard nut for anyone to swallow, the but truth is the textbook Japan isn’t Japan. Historical context explains how the culture has evolved, but “Now” is what is in front of you when you’re here. If you can’t get “Now” then you’re going to crash, get disappointed ‘Japan doesn’t fit you — you gotta fit to Japan and that sucks”, so you go back home and get all pumped up again, write your book. Then don’t come back to see if what you wrote is what’s going on. Cheers… It’s ok.. those of us who live here just ignore the tourists anyway who read your books.
I graduated college and lost sight of that dream of joining JET because I was afraid of doing it. I got roped into a GREAT company doing something close to what I wanted to do, but things didn’t add up there FOR ME. I was happy, but timidly happy compared to what I felt it would be like to do “that Japan thing I kinda sorta dreamt of doing.” I gave that company a lot though and I appreciate the work experience. But 2007 was the catalyst for change. That ruckus of a political storm blew-up my “happy status quo” of living at home, commuting 20mi+ to and from work 8a-7p, just to get blasted everyday by people who wanted to barf their political dogma on my life. Good times..
It wasn’t just the Obama-bombs that blew up my FB stream, or the recession that threaten to fire the whole staff of that company, it was that yearning for happiness on the other side of the Pacific Pond. I remembered I had a dream and again I put it off by applying for the NAVY. When things went south there, it was sign. JUST DO IT. Ironic because I was working just a few miles from the Nike Campus in Oregon. I applied, got into JET, and in August was in country the second time with no plans to leave.
That was four years ago and JET has been a great experience, but it has been more like a really great sweater that you love and wear everyday and never wash. Over time it get’s a funky smell you ignore, a thread gets loose and you snip it, it get’s smaller (or you get bigger), and after four years you look at the sweater and stare. “I could wear that thing another year, but people say I look funky in it… There are better sweaters and worse. Plus, next year they’re going to take it away from me anyway.”
I decided to abandon the teaching sweater, because it turns out you grow up from the Anime nerd who wandered into the JET seminar once you’ve rocked the dream job for 4 years.
So what now? I hit the online pavement for three months and it’s been tough, but that dream still is there. Sometimes I don’t know… but after four years there are those who want to leave and those who want to stay. No inbetweeners.
All I can say right now is that I’ve decided which of the two is me and I’ve made a plan following JET.
This is where I look at the kids as the bell rings. If you think this doesn’t apply to you it does. Reach into your pocket, grab your (golf) ball(s), put them on the tee, and before you swing decide on that original goal and don’t lose sight of it.
It’s in the full swing of summer now and what’s better than a post about flowers to gaze upon while we escape the hot sun and enjoy the cool breeze of the air conditioner! (via Flickr) Taken June 21st, 2013.