Sitting on the plane, writing this; It’s finally happened. I remember being 14 flying to Alaska to visit my mom. She bought me a Lonely Planet guidebook to Japan when we went to a bookstore. It contained information about Japanese culture, customs, and language phrases that are useful when traveling, in Japanese! I still have this book 10 years later, it’s tucked away in my one big suitcase, a checked bag to Japan. After all this time, I still have that book, and today I am fulfilling the dreams that started in my young 14 year old heart.
I’m not going to say that the road hasn’t been bumpy, or that coming to Japan has been super easy for me or anyone. It requires sacrifice. I recognize that I am privileged to have had this opportunity. Firstly for a post-secondary education, which most women around the world still do not receive, and secondly for having opportunities for scholarship come my way so that I can afford this trip. How many people have the privilege of traveling across the world and study away? Not many. I think if you have privilege and opportunity, you need to utilize it, and use it for the greater good and self betterment. Because my school allows me to use student loans and scholarship to attend school in Japan, I am here, sitting on this plane today. This huge plane, hurtling across the world with Typhoon Phanfone trying to ruin my plans! Haha!
I remember just a few years back, I was 20, married, and hadn’t entered college yet because I was unsure of myself. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, I was newly married to my wonderful husband. There were tons of personal issues happening. My husband held my hand and encouraged me to follow my heart. I didn’t feel like there was a place for me in the world, and if there was, what was it? I knew I still had all the hopes and dreams of that 14 year old girl, but I couldn’t see a way to achieve them. Should I pursue art, something that I had shown talent in? Should I pursue language, something that had always interested me? Should I just find a job at a fast food joint, because that was all I qualified for? I started searching the internet, YouTube, etc. I found something that would change the way I perceived myself. It may sound silly that a complete stranger on the internet influenced me in such a way, but its true! I saw a video by Micaela Braithwaite. She talked about commitment and being the best person you can be. She was only a few years older than me and was, like me, getting a later start on her university degree, or at least I think so. I had searched ways to study abroad in Japan, and found this video.
“Wow!” I thought, “If she can do this, I can!” However, after some research into opportunities in my area, I knew I could never afford it. A newly wed couple just starting out in life, paying for a trip to Japan? No way. I could never ask my husband to work that hard for my benefit, he had already done so much for me.
I sat at my computer, took a deep breath, threw away my pride and thought to myself, “What if the college idea wasn’t so bad? Even if the schools in my area weren’t great, wouldn’t it be worth ploughing through it if I could go to Japan in a few years?” I enrolled. I did two years in a vocational school, which I hated, so I got hungry. I bought some Japanese language books, signed up for iKnow, and started teaching myself Japanese. I did this for the first two years of my vocational schooling. I had no teacher, I just taught myself by reading, watching programs and anime, and repetition. Then I transferred that to my home university. I tested out of the first two classes for Japanese. After that I made an individualized degree (My university doesn’t offer Japanese language majors! Imagine that!). I created a program, catering to my interests. Lastly, I had to sit in a room with a bunch of older, scary adults and try and show them how badly I wanted this, to convince them to support me, a stranger they didn’t know. I explained how I had already tested out of 2 levels of Japanese at my university, how I wanted to teach English and move there someday with my husband. As of today, though I may not want to teach English forever because my dreams have transformed, I have finished one full year at my university. I’m sure my teachers wish my GPA was higher (those damn science and math classes!) but here I am with a high enough GPA to qualify for Study Abroad. Long nights, studying, embarrassing speeches in Japanese class, volunteering for the local Japanese festival, finals, struggles, working, quitting, planning, saving. Nothing I have was without struggle. It also took 3 years of schooling to come to fruition.
So, here I am. Full circle. A 14 year old girl who grew into a 23 year old woman with big dreams and ambitions. I made so many friends on my journey here, and became so much closer with my family. I changed as a person, but I am ready to push myself to change even more. I think people thought I was a little crazy to go on this trip alone without my husband, and I probably am! However it was important to me to pay for this my own way, with no help. It was doubly important that I go alone, to become a stronger more independent person. Both of us encourage each other to follow their dreams, and be our best selves. Some might say we are wrapped up in our own little dream lands, but I think that’s a good thing. Too often adults and children lose their fire for life, their sense of adventure and possibility. My wish is that the fire never leaves us. My husband pushed me through the security check point, gave me a few kisses and departed. I didn’t cry when he sent me off! I am pretty proud of myself! Although I cried a lot the previous day and the goodbyes were hard, I hope everyone can encourage me no matter where my crazy ideas take me. I have no idea where I will end up in this world, but having family who are happy for me, means everything.
I am not sure what else to say right now, or how to close this. I know I SHOULD study for my placement test here on the plane, however I want to show gratitude. Thank you to my family for accepting me, to Aaron and Virginia for teaching me to laugh again, to all the friends I’ve made and friends I’ve reconnected with. Thank you to my teachers who pushed me. Thank you to the Gilman Scholarship and the Study Abroad office. Thank you to my mother, stepmother, sisters, brother, grandparents, and everyone in between and people that I’ve missed.
Lastly, thank you to my husband. Who NEVER doubted me, ALWAYS encouraged me, and who stays by my side, no matter what. You are one hell of a best friend and partner for life. We are strong, powerful individuals, the world better be ready for us. I feel infinite with you by my side, no matter how far away I travel, no matter how crazy I get. I love you.