The Things that Happen In-Between

Today I met with a friend of mine who I haven’t seen in 7 years.  Back in 2005, I was an exchange student in Shizuoka, Japan through the American Field Service.  I was a high school senior, and having won a 6 week study abroad to Japan the previous summer, my parents decided it was a good investment to send me for a gap year.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life yet (what to study, where to go to university, etc), so a gap year seemed appropriate.  I would have to say that both my stays in Atsugi and Shizuoka were major milestones in my life.  I know a gap year is common in Europe, but it really isn’t in the States.  I think it gives young people a chance to really grow (living in a completely different culture doesn’t necessarily come easy) and to figure out what the next major decision might be.

I went to Shizuoka Johoku High School, which was originally a “Joshiko” or “All girls school.”  When I was an exchange student there they were transitioning to co-ed, which was most likely due to a decline in popularity of same-sex schools.  At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about attending a same-sex school, but as time went on I realized it was actually a really good thing (and it makes a lot of sense in Japan, where young men and young women rarely even eat lunch together in the same group; it’s much more gender-segregated here).  I have spent time in two universities; one all-female, the other predominantly male.  While my second university was larger, more prestigious, and landed me my current job, my first year at the all-female university had its own positives.  Women feel more comfortable engaging in dialogue with teachers and asking questions in all or predominantly female classes.  

Columbia University points out some key issues in co-ed classes–> HERE.

Anyway, my friend S and I talked about our lives, where we’ve gone and what has happened to us in the years that have passed.  It’s funny, I don’t feel like we’ve aged, except now our hair and clothes are styled much, much better and we’ve outgrown that certain teenage-awkwardness.  We both discussed careers, relationships, family, travel, mutual friends.  It was wonderful and I go back and think how lucky I was to have been able to study abroad and to have made friends with people who I can still talk to today from that experience.  When all comfortable barriers are taken away and suddenly you find yourself at a loss both linguistically and culturally, I think you are presented with the opportunity to truly see yourself–and to have others see you–without the rose-colored glasses of your own culture.

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Shizuoka, 2005.

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With S, 2013

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This New Year’s Post brought to you by David Bowie

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I’ve been listening to David Bowie’s “Heroes” recently and have been inspired by its daring declaration of love amidst war. So I’m declaring love amidst war and happiness amidst chaos.

I recently returned home for my long anticipated holiday vacation. The plane ride across the pacific was easily the worst flight that I have ever experienced, with what seemed like hours of clear air turbulence violently shaking the aircraft. I have made that flight about 16 times, and none have been as terrifying as that one. And even though I was sandwiched in between two people but had previously selected an aisle seat when I purchased the tickets, even though things had just seemed to continuously be going wrong that day, I was elated when the plane landed in Chicago and I realized that all the things bothering me were so incredibly trivial.

2012 has been a very difficult year. It started off on a very bad note personally, and blows were thrown repeatedly at work. There were some very low moments where I just wanted to completely give up, but I muscled through and I realized something incredibly simple: my life is very, very good.

2012 started on a bad note because of a hurtful personal experience, but from that experience I started distance running. I also learned what I would accept in terms of treatment by others. Instead of dismissing poor behavior as being too picky, I now know to see what something is for what it presents itself as.

I experienced blow after blow at work. We passed every challenge handed to us, and more importantly, I HAVE A JOB–WITH A GOOD SALARY! I own my own home, travel as I please, and have never worried about anything financially. My job isn’t glamorous, it’s a constant headache, but it provides me with an incredibly good life for a 20-something college graduate.

The only thing I was looking forward to at the end of the year was coming home to see my family. The fact that I have a family who is so incredibly supportive of me and is constant in my life is perhaps the greatest thing of all. Because I could be nothing, I could fall, and they would still be there ready to receive me as is.

So my resolution for this year is to write more, because I’ve been denying myself the thing that has been with me all along. Seeing life and color and experiencing it all, happiness, sadness, boredom, anger, elation. It’s all there, and I’ve been living it all. This is what I am, for better or for worse. I have my problems and my issues (hey, who doesn’t?), but I know that truthfully they aren’t so bad. I’m worse off than some, luckier than most. I can’t remember the exact quote, but I read in a magazine recently something along the lines of, “Happiness is being able to do what you please in the evenings.” And I have that luxury; I can go out to dinner with friends or lounge around in my apartment reading or giving in to my Pinterest addiction (no shame). I’ve gotten my share of heartaches and embarrassments and frustrations, but right now, this New Year’s Eve, I’m doing okay. In fact, I’m doing better than that.

I’m doing pretty well.

memayumiyu
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from us!