Transition and Translation

Waiting for the train

As the dust begins to clear from moving, I am truly starting to see what my life has become. It’s boils down to spending all day moving between Japanese and English, in an effort to better understand both. Usually, by the end of the day, I have a substantial headache and I am exhausted. In honor of the title of this blog, it’s only fair that I share both my adventures in Japan and my thoughts about them. You see, I always thought that I would “find myself” in Japan, but it’s been quite the opposite. Everyday, I feel a slightly more lost in translation than before. No pun intended.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Japan, and I love living here. This is a dream come true for me. The people are great, the food is amazing, and the experiences are life changing. That’s the problem, you see. I can feel my paradigm shifting, but it isn’t clear what it’s shifting to. I always thought I had it figured out. I would go to Japan for a year, learn Japanese, make lots of friends and memories, then return to the states. Now, I’m not sure about that plan any more. When I entered college, I was one of the few freshmen who actually knew that the major they’d chosen was the one. I stuck with that major for all four years. Pretty rare these days. My major was Visual Langage, which is basically the study of computer graphics as it applies to film and games. I’ve always dreamed of being an artist in the video game industry.

Now, I’m not so sure.

I know, I know, who wants to read a blog about a girl who isn’t amazing perky and funny. But this is real. I can pretend to be amazingly happy all the time, but I’m not a robot. I make decisions based on logic and emotion, and I have reservations about those decisions. What I’ve come to realize is that I love languages and cultures. I can think of no better way to spend the rest of my days than traveling the world, learning tons of languages and learning from the experience of others and their culture. I love learning about the world around me. Japan is great, a little too great, if you get what I mean. Now I don’t know if I actually will leave in a year.

I could, actually, go teach English in another country. A lot of the Asian countries need English speakers as teachers. What’s to say I don’t spend the rest of my days doing that? I guess what I am getting at is this: on my great journey through life, a thick fog has settled. I want to believe there is a fork in the road nearby, with a clearly definied sign outlining where each direction takes me. But you see, the fog is too thick right now, as it’s early in the day. I can barely see my own hand in front of my face. The only thing I can think to do is wait for the sun to rise and burn away the fog.

But just how thick is this fog?

8 thoughts on “Transition and Translation

  1. I was the same, I always thought I knew what I wanted from life, since the age of 5 I wanted to work in movies, and for the past 6 years I’ve been doing just that, after uni I did some further training and have been working as a cameraman ever since. I never thought I’d ever want to do anything else, but then one day I decided to make the change almost impulsively, I don’t arrive in Japan till august but to me the thought of travelling and see new cultures has taken over my life, I know longer care about my current job and I can’t wait to leave it. :)

  2. I know how you feel in a way. I was positive that I wanted to go into the video game industry, but then I started working with the renaissance fair and doing reenactment. Suddenly the “life plan” I had so carefully crafted shifted and changed. Good luck on your quest wherever it may lead! I’ll keep reading and cheering for you!

  3. Hey Jess. Sounds exciting. I know you may not feel that way, but I think it’s true that almost everyone goes through this stage, and its okay. Sometimes we go through it multiple times. I was in my late twenties and with my Ph.D. before I switched fields (biology to computer science). If this were a race, you’d still have 5 years before you’d be behind me. For the near future, maybe it’s just to take it a few days at a time and enjoy what you’ve got? And if you’re really feeling like getting in touch with the non-happy-perky side, visit Hiroshima. The museum there was so … real.

  4. In Japan, as you may know you have to decide what you are going to major in before you apply for colleges. The majority of colleges in Japan do not allow you to change your majors after you are accepted. My major was applied physics and I thought I had known what I wanted to do. In addition, I was enjoying my college life as a “moratorium”, living in a large city away from my family. One day, however, all of sudden I got confused and lost. I could not understand what I was studying. I realized I did not have any talent for mathematics or physics. I was almost in the same situation as you are in now. I decided to change my fields after graduating from college, which lead me in a direction that I had never imagined. Now, I have been living in the US for quite a long time. I can say I know the American culture well enough, but not 100% because it is so heterogeneous. So many cultures and values exist here. When I came to the US, I did not have a job and had to compete with Americans for it. There were a lot of hardships in the past, but I am very grateful that I was given an opportunity to experience this country’s culture and to know American people. From my limited experience, to understand a different culture and people very well, one year would not be enough. I also think a life is trial and error. From it you have to find out what you really want to do. One more thing I would like to tell you is that your life is so unique that nobody else but you can experience it. It could be a happy one or a painful one, but whatever you feel at each moment is your own and very precious. So please cherish your own life! I hope you understand what I’m trying to say.

  5. I went through the same things when I moved to the UK. It’s easy to be set on a goal, dream, or job when the entire world around you exists in a comfortable status quo, easy to say you want to go away to attend university when your hometown hasn’t changed since you can remember. And then you end up getting “out there,” past the borders of the city you grew up in, the country you call home, and the possibilities are not as linear as they used to be. It was always “do well in high school, get into a good uni, major in something practical, graduate, and settle down into marriage and children by the age of 25″

    But now you cannot go back to that formula… ever. You took the red pill, so to speak, and you cannot ever “un see” the possibilities your newfound freedom and worldliness has to offer. I’ve learned to mostly float along and see where life takes me, and even now I’m no where close to where I thought I would be at 18 when I went to university for the first time. But its a good thing, because the life I found is awesome. And it sounds like the one you’ve discovered is as well.

    Don’t worry about labelling things for the time being, Explore the possibilities of teaching English, and travelling. Embrace the fog, because chances are you had a path to follow long before high school, and now you don’t… and that makes things terribly exciting.

  6. Consider the probability that you’d be having these soul-searching thoughts regardless whether you’re teaching in Japan or designing games in the USA (there’s just as much fog in San Francisco). This is your time to choose a path, and the best advice I’ve heard is “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” (Confucius) Just make sure the job pays the bills or you’ll fall out of love pretty fast :)

  7. Wow, thank you everyone for the input! I really appreciate and it’s made me feel much better about the whole thing! I agree, it’s definitely time to take a break from trying to control every detail of my life. For now, I think I will sit back, and see what happens. Hopefully, it works out for the best! I’ll be sure to keep everyone posted on how that’s working out for me :)

  8. ” I always thought that I would “find myself” in Japan, but it’s been quite the opposite.”

    Sounds like that’s exactly what you are doing :) If you think you need to search for something, that’s because you don’t know where it is. If you know exactly where you’re going, then that’s not a search, it’s a commute. Nothing wrong with either, of course, but it seems a bit naive to actively seek out life-changing experiences and then be surprised that you’re changing in ways you’d not anticipated.

    That’s not meant harshly. I speak as someone who came to Japan for one year to do something interesting before going back to Uni. 11 years, a wife, and a child further along, I’m quite happy I called that one wrong.

    Sounds like the bubble(gum, sorry) might have burst a bit on your culture shock curve. It’ll pass. I know that sounds hideously patronising, but it’s true. With the BBQ and all it seems things are looking up already. As you say, it’s early in the day, and getting lost in the fog can be liberating. No need to stick to pre-defined paths if you don’t know they’re there.

    Chin up, lass

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