My Work Life, a Guest Post

A few months ago I was asked to write a guest post about my work life for the blog My Life in Japan. This blog is run by Michele, a fellow JET ALT in Shizuoka who is also a part of my Shizuoka Writing Circle. Michele’s blog is a great read if you want actual information about living in Japan posted on a reliable schedule instead of whatever it is I am doing over here. I definitely recommend checking it out! And what better place to start than with the guest post from yours truly, which you can read here.






Body Love


I’ll never stop wearing horizontal stripes, though. 

Recently I’ve been struggling a lot with body image, which is something that is hard for me to admit as I strive to always be a good fat positive activist. It started slowly, and then the hatred I felt for myself quickly grew and grew until one day I almost couldn’t make it home because I’d barely eaten for days, and even though I knew what I was doing wasn’t healthy, I was congratulating myself on having lost 7 lbs that week.

The pressures I feel about my body and my life in general have changed drastically since graduating and starting my life in Japan. I left a wonderful, supportive doctor, and am instead seeing one who felt losing 2 lbs in 2 weeks wasn’t a good enough start and doesn’t believe that I walk 5 miles a day because it must be impossible for someone to be fit and fat. It was difficult for me to find clothes in the US, and while I knew it would be nearly impossible for me to find clothes here, it’s still frustrating, and all of the clothes I do have are quickly wearing out from my subjecting them to all kinds of weather conditions and activities. And really the biggest struggle I’ve faced has just been the everyday people in my life. While before I was surrounded by extremely supportive and positive people who appreciated me and my efforts as a body activist, I have had to deal with many people here, usually other foreigners, who openly and indirectly criticize my body.

Compounding all of that is an insane pressure to be in a relationship. Apparently I am wearing a sign that says “Please ask me why I don’t have a significant other” because everyone, from my students to taxi drivers, seems to want to know why I’m single. And that itself is something that I internalize and blame on my body. It’s so easy to say “I’m single because I’m fat and unattractive” instead of owning up to more complicated reasons like I’m too self-centered to maintain meaningful long-term relationships with other people, I don’t trust anyone, and maybe I just want to focus on other things.

All of these thoughts and pieces of conversation kept floating through my head until suddenly I realized I didn’t like myself anymore and I wasn’t sure what to do about it because, as a fat person, wasn’t not liking myself the right thing to do? Is that not what it means to be a woman with a body?

I realized that all of this was coming from a place of fear. I’m afraid of never being happy and I’m afraid of never fully being able to love myself, but I need to stop living my life in a place of fear. Sometimes I think everything I’ve done in my life has been because I’m afraid, that all of my successes have been because I’m afraid of failure, not because I want to achieve. I don’t want to feel that way anymore.

Learning to love yourself isn’t a class that you can pass and forget after the final exam, it’s a commitment to your self-worth that you have to make every single day because you believe you deserve to be loved. There are good days and bad days, but I’d like to believe it makes you better in the end.

I posted that on Facebook a few weeks ago when I realized I was falling into a negative body image spiral and wanted to get out. It’s true that learning to love yourself is an every day commitment, and I’d like to add that it’s the kind of commitment that is made deeper by failing and deciding to try again.

Earlier this week I was able to meet an inspiration of mine, Mary Lambert, at her first ever show in Japan.


Me and Mary Lambert at the Cotton Club in Tokyo. 

I think what I got the most from listening to her perform and talking to her briefly afterwards was the importance of being kind. Not just to others, but to ourselves. I must learn to treat myself gently because no one else has an obligation to do so.

So I don’t have any answers for you today. I’m not sure how to learn to completely love yourself. I’m not sure how to lose weight from a place of happiness instead of a place of disgust. I’m not sure how to love my body while still trying to change it.

Also, though, I’m not sure what I’m going to eat for lunch tomorrow so maybe the only answer for now is to do it the way we do everything else: one step at a time.

Leaving, Traveling, and Arriving: Three States of Being

It`s hard, I think, to write about going through airports and having seemingly endless meetings with excitement and a clear, engaging narrative. I have tried my best, but the fact is that I was bored myself through much of my week of traveling. Somewhat intentionally, I think, the life of a new ALT has a lot of downtime to make the adjustment smoother. I, however, do not handle downtime well at all.

Traveling abroad from the U.S. is always a hectic experience. Most of the places you`re going involve at least one layover and crossing the ocean. There is traffic at the airport, lines at the airport, and expensive food at the airport once you make it inside. You have to sit next to strangers and decide if you`re going to have a conversation. Then after the however many hours you spend locked in a flying chunk of metal, you have to wait in more lines to get through customs and immigration. Moving abroad is all the more stressful because the bags you have with you are, in my case at least, all of the possession you are bringing to your new life, and even if everything goes wrong there is no turning back.

But even before all of that, you have to get moved out of the place you’re living in already.

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How to Pack Your Life into Three Suitcases or Less

In 18 days I hop on the first of two flights on the way to Tokyo, the first stop of my journey in Japan. While I am of equal parts exhilarated and terrified, I am also in the middle of condensing my life into the three suitcases I am bringing with me. This is not an easy task as the space I am leaving is the master bedroom in a 2-bedroom apartment, which was completely full of my things. I love my things. The minimalist movement is great and I’m all for tiny living, but being surrounded by my things comforts me. I like coming home and knowing that the space is mine because look, there are my things. The time has come, though, for me to part with many of my things. I’ve been carting around the same things from place to place for the last few years, and never really took the time to sort through what I needed to get rid of.

Having graduated in May, this summer was the perfect time for me to take a good look at exactly what I’d been dragging around with me. One of the many changes in life since graduation for me has been a change in priorities when it comes to my things.

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A Brief Introduction

I feel this odd compulsion to introduce myself to new blogs, journals, apartments, or really any new space I plan on occupying for a time. It just seems like the polite thing to do. I want this space to have some time to adjust to me before I take it over. I anticipate that this blog will mainly be for people who have known me in person to keep in touch, but I also don’t want to alienate anyone new who wants to share in my adventure.

My name is Annamarie Carlson. I am 22 years old, and I am about to leave to spend a year teaching English in Japan through the JET Program.

The first thing you should know about me is that I’m probably incapable of actually writing a brief introduction. I could talk about myself all day.

Let’s start with some facts.

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