In the last month where I have not posted on this blog my 24th birthday and my Japanniversary came and went, bringing me now to 13 months living in Japan.
My birthday itself was fairly uneventful, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I read some of my favorite books, watched some good movies, drank a lot, and ate so much junk food (beginning with chocolate and caramel pudding for breakfast and ending with fuji apple flavored potato chips after dinner). The next day I was able to go and see X-Men: Apocalypse at the movie theatre in Fujieda with a friend, and on Tuesday my friend Kozue and her daughter Ayane threw me a birthday party with homemade pizza and cake with honeydew melon grown by their family in Nagano. All in all it was a nice, quiet birthday.
Turning 24 feels like a small milestone. It is the beginning of my “mid-twenties,” and is also just a pleasing number. I have also reached the decision that unless something drastically changes between now and December, I will not be renewing my contract to stay in Japan for a third year.
As you know if you keep up with my scattered blog posts, deciding whether or not to remain in Japan for a third year was a very tough decision for me. What it came down to in the end was that the thought of leaving Japan made me happier than the thought of staying. I do not dislike Japan and do not in any way regret my time in Japan, but I cannot stay another year. For me, being an ALT is a stagnant life. This job feels like a placeholder. It has a strict limit of a maximum five years, and in part because of this every day feels like just filling up time waiting to leave while also trying to cram as much as possible into my limited time outside of work.
Of course being an ALT is valuable experience, and I’m sure there are many ALTs who do not feel stuck in the job the way I do. This is simply not what I want to be doing. The old ALT catch-all excuse of ESID (every situation is different) does really apply when the environment at your particular school can completely change your experience as an ALT. And honestly I do like my school and my students and I don’t hold any resentment about being here for two years—I just know that next summer I need to leave.
So begins the search for what to do next. I feel that grad school is the next step for me. I want to return to education, and I don’t want to lose my grasp of academic English any more than I already have after living abroad. Starting a grad program at 25 also feels right to me. That being said, the process of finding programs that A) seem interesting and B) might accept me, gathering writing samples, and asking for letters of recommendation seems really terrifying to me right now because I’m not sure what I have to offer. I don’t often have interesting ideas, I have a very limited understanding of spelling and grammar, and there is always someone who has done more and been more successful than I have been. My main talents are worrying, doubting myself, and writing about my feelings.
Despite my fears, I know I must send out applications this fall if I want to have something to do when I leave Japan next summer.
And while all of this is going on, I still have another 11 months in Japan to go. For this next year, I want to do as much and experience as much as I can. I want to continue reading things that matter, get back into writing regularly, and see as much live theatre as possible (including performances of kabuki, noh, the Takarazuka Revue, and Shakespeare in Japanese translation).
I want so much from my life, but a lot of the time I don’t know what specifically it is that I want. 23 was a big year for me. I learned so many things, lived abroad and worked full-time for the first time in my life, traveled Japan and visited Seoul, climbed Mt. Fuji, lost 35 pounds, started a writing group for the prefecture, made new friends, and ate a lot of good food. I’m not sure what 24 will bring. Maybe this year will be more of the same, more relaxing, or be full of many new adventures. I suppose since I know my life will be completely changing again at 25, though, I should try to make the most of the life I have now with its strange sort of irritating, unstable stability.