We’ve officially lived in Japan for 1 year and 3 months now. Wow has the time flown. I want to take some notes and reflect. Not just on the exciting life of ours that’s seen on social media, or all of the amazing places we’ve been, but stuff deeper than that. I’d like to start by saying nothing that I write in this post is meant to brag or seek praise. I’m writing to have something I can look back on, and hopefully inspire someone, somewhere, to keep pushing with GRATITUDE through the growing pains.
Let’s start with the growing pains. They haven’t changed too much since we got here. All that I can change is my attitude towards them.
The language. After over a year of private Japanese lessons for 2 hours/week, I’m just now becoming comfortable enough to attempt conversation with someone who doesn’t speak English. I may blank after the 5 sentences that I know, but it’s a step. I’m going to share my umbrella holder story I posted to Facebook last month (so skip over the story if you read it before), only because I can’t remember the details of every language struggle, nor do I want to focus on the struggles. Because, they happen nearly every week at minimum.
It’s rainy season. I ride my bike 45 mins round trip 2x week to teach at the gym. It’s illegal to hold an umbrella while on a bike. I’ve been to 3 stores this week looking for an umbrella holder for my bike.
While at a shop near home today, they said they don’t have any but recommended another shop about a 10 min walk away. The guy helping me spoke broken English, so I asked him to write down the other shop’s name and phone number. I asked him to call and ask in Japanese if they carry the umbrella holders but he was so confused. So finally I just started dialing the number myself. “Hello. I have a question. Do you have an umbrella bike holder,” I asked in Japanese. Then they hung up on me! Maybe I scared them with my accent so I started laughing and telling the worker what happened. Five mins later I pieced the story together… He gave me the shop’s number that I was standing in and HE hung up on me! I was too busy concentrating on my Japanese that I didn’t even see him pick up the phone next to me and hang up 😳🙈🙄those 5 employees got a GOOD laugh today!!!
- Saying matane (see you later) to friends. As an expat, you have the privilege of meeting people from all over the world. Most of us are many time zones away from our actual families, so these friends become like family and help you through
tough times living abroad. In the past few months, we’ve had to say matane to many friends we’ve gotten close to here. It’s quite a revolving door. New people are always arriving, and there are always matane parties. It’s not always easy as you watch them move back to life (usually) in the States. Back to having a house, yard, no more language struggles, then you catch yourself missing them, the rest of your loved ones back home, and suddenly many of the comforts of home.
- Sweat. People, the amount that I sweat here is ridiculous. I’m the girl who when I lived in the US and finished a tough workout, someone once asked why I wasn’t sweating. Not the case here! I literally drip sweat 12 months out of the year. Some of that is probably due to the fact that I walk a lot, ride the stuffy trains, or bike everywhere that I go. I only wore a long sleeve shirt 5 days this past winter. Five weekends that we were snowboarding in the mountains.
Okay, time for the gratitude and growth. Again, none of this is to brag or look for praise. Here to inspire 🙌🏽
- Confidence. Probably one of the top ways I’ve grown. I’m sure I have a long way to go, but even Jeremy helps remind me of this growth. Here are some things I’m involved with that have helped me grow in this area, along with the original lies I heard in my head. I had to push hard through these lies at the beginning, but wouldn’t trade these amazing responsibilities for anything now.
-Teaching English: “You aren’t a teacher. Your students won’t learn anything from you. You studied fashion, business, and art in college.”
-Teaching fitness classes (most are in Japanese): “You have no direct experience (fitness or Japanese).No one will come to your classes. All you have is a certification but have never even done it in the US.”
-President of the Cross Cultural Exchange Association: “You were only a member of the group for 3 months before saying yes to presidency. You’re too busy already. You’re too young. They won’t respect you as a leader, you’re a push over.”
- Ability to slow down. The Japanese culture has taught me this in many ways. Their appreciation for seasons for one. During cherry blossom season, hundreds of people sit under the trees at parks just having a picnic and enjoying the flowers. They also are always open to a cup of coffee or tea and will pause (no drinking while doing something) to sit down and relax, no matter what they are currently doing.
- Team player. I considered my self a team player before, but I had never been involved with the Japanese culture. A quick example of this firsthand for me would be after I finish teaching my fitness classes, one or two people will mop the floor. Occasionally they will fight over who gets to mop. Then everyone else stays until the job is finished. I made the mistake of leaving right when I was done teaching the first few months, but now I stay with my team.
- You can learn something from everyone. Every single person I have met, I try to
remind myself that I can learn something from them- no matter their age, nationality, or if their beliefs are the same as mine. I’ve learned how to judge less, monitor my outlook, how I don’t want to live, and how to continue growing in my faith just to know a few. I’ve learned through mentors, teachers, bible study groups, friends, and strangers, with spoken and unspoken words.
- Jeremy. We would be lying if we didn’t tell you that we’ve had numerous “learning moments,” as we like to call them. I can also honestly say that we have grown a lot closer having to rely on each other in our life here, which is
so so different than back home. I am beyond grateful for him working his butt off everyday at work (I’m still asking him to blog about work 😉 ), so that we have this amazing opportunity to live abroad. His support, encouragement, accountability, and listening ear, have helped me get to where I am today. Since day 1 of our relationship, continuing through here where he still musters up the energy to listen to my hour long pointless story after a long day in the office.
I still have challenging moments, hours, or days. But I try not to let the day turn into a personal pity party that lasts a week, month, or year. You can’t control how someone treats you, but you can control how you react. Regardless of where you are right in this moment, I challenge you to also look for gratitude through your growing pains.