As the EatMyBeats rap contest winds down, let’s take a trip down memory lane to probably the first “music video” I ever made over in Japan.
Tag: JET Program
What if I gave the JET Program another go?
I don’t think I ever would, but here are some important considerations:
- Would you take security over happiness? Are you actually unhappy now?
- What do you tell JET as your reason for doing it all over again?
- Why is there an “urgency” to leave your current situation?
- What about teaching in Japan still seems so great?
- Is there some place besides Japan for you?
- Are you looking at everything with rose-tinted nostalgia glasses?
- (Amy’s Second Opinion) Can you remember that JET is technically a dead-end contract job?
- (Tiffany’s Second Opinion) Is there anything more you can offer this time around?
- (Caitlin’s Second Opinion) Do you have a proper exit plan?
I know my last post on Japan was kind of a downer, but I promise things aren’t actually so bleak. I am rockin’ and rollin’ with my own business after all. It’s just… falling out of love with Japan– especially to this extent– has me more stumped than anything.
I mean, I really thought that love was going to be for forever, guys! Saying stuff like that almost makes it seem like I didn’t mature after all, huh?
Tracing things back to the source might be helpful. The time gap in between feels surreal. But the memories? Reminiscing where that love came from, and remembering the reason why I wanted to go in the first place isn’t hard to do at all.
Over the years, I’ve had many obsessions with Japan. Some were not the healthiest. To be honest, I think a lot of people thought my main reason to go to Japan were the girls. So when my girlfriend at the time dumped me, it’s no surprise those same people thought I’d be on a plane home the next day.
I did have some crazy, yellow fever; but that’s not why I wanted to go over there.
The idea to teach The idea to help students came from one of my anime heroes: Great Teacher Onizuka.
Onizuka, a high school dropout/ex-gang member decides he wants to become… a teacher?
How lame is that? Sure enough, he’s a klutz, unorganized, and by all accounts a crappy teacher– in the traditional sense anyway.
What separates him from the rest is his resolve to teach his students. It’s not all about books and scores, there’s a lot to learn about life. And what better environment to teach these kinds of lessons than a school? For that very notion, Onizuka thinks school is cool. School is fun. He tells his students that he’d go back to school in a heartbeat.
His students react in disbelief. I shared the same disbelief. Can school really be that kind of place?
He made school more than school. He was more than just a teacher. He gave a shit.
I’ve had my fair share of teachers that taught me about life, but they never hit that level of ambitiousness. And even in the days of having low self-esteem, I wanted to be that kind of leader. I wished at least.
And for awhile, that idea just floated in my head as a fantasy. “Yeah, that’d be nice.” But then in my freshman year, a former JET Program participant spoke at my school, and I was instantly hooked. Here was the path to make that fantasy a reality.
I was so excited to join that I asked the speaker to help me set up an interview. But then I found out I either needed three years of teaching experience or a college degree.
I decided in that moment that I would do both. I would build the beefiest resume that no way they could turn me down. I wanted to be the best ALT in the JET Program like no one ever was.
And that’s a real big reason why I chose my major and minor. That’s the key factor why I tutored and why I connected with the international community at my school. These are the steps, in addition to studying Japanese, that I had hoped would show the JET Program I was the go-to pick for the job.
When I was finally over there, I really felt like I was living the dream. I channeled my anime heroes into the dorkiest introduction speech ever.
(You can tell me how dorky it was. I can’t bring myself to re-watch it.)
But that level insanity worked. That crazy vision of making a difference drove me to learn all 600 of my students names. It pushed me to throw caution to the wind and make the craziest lesson plans on making commercials and building your dream hubby/wife.
I did have some challenges early on (i.e. being able to read the reactions of my students, recognizing shyness, working around low participation, etc.) but I enjoyed the challenge.
I loved my job.
I’d hear other people talk about the grind of the workweek and the dread of the weekend ending. I’d almost slip into the same line of small talk until I remembered, “Nope! I love what I do.”
I wasn’t perfect. I don’t know how close to being the “best” I actually was, but I enjoyed the hell out of the successes of the day to day. Being able to tweak a lesson plan that bombed in the morning into a crowd favorite in the afternoon? That kind of turn around victory is one of the best feelings in the world.
And maybe I could’ve ridden that momentum into eternity. At least, maybe I would’ve stayed the original 5 years like I originally planned. Maybe I could’ve settled down over there, if it weren’t for one change in my third year…
August is a weird time of year for me. Four years ago I came back to the states after living three in Japan.
The fact that it’s been four years is crazy to me.
Because no, it doesn’t feel “just like yesterday” anymore. But it doesn’t feel like a long time ago either. It kind of feels like it didn’t ever happen.
Sure, I’ve made a handful of friends that I’ve kept in touch with. Some of them being nice surprises– people that I’m way closer with now than I ever was while living over there. And for a lot of people that I thought for sure I’d be keeping up with?
Well, those connections are d-e-d. And, a lot of my original interests that tied me to Japan are dead too. No more RPGs, anime, drama, or J-Pop. I can’t even find a purpose to stick with studying Japanese.
So with the few memories I have fading, and the connections I used to have waning, I’ve been re-thinking what I truly got out of my life in Japan.
What was the real impact? Why did I want to go so badly in the first place? What changed?
These are the talking points I want to hit this month. Some of the answers remain the same, but I think it’s almost therapeutic to revisit them.
I think the best way to kick off this reflection is to cover, once again, the return home from Japan. The short story was it sucked. I talked about it every chance I had, but that might’ve been the wrong approach.
I’m not saying I should’ve suppressed my feelings, but the more I talked about it, the more I could play up the pain.
A few months before it was time to go, I made a promo video to hype up my return:
But that wasn’t for other people to get hyped. That was for me. You’ll notice the dialogue’s taken from the most heartbreaking scene from Terminator 2:
John: No! No, wait! Wait, you don’t have to do this!
Terminator: I’m sorry.
John: No, don’t do it! Don’t go!
Terminator: It has to end here.
I did that on purpose because that’s how I felt talking to myself. And his name was John! Could you get more prophetic?
But yeah, stuff like that. I’d talk about how leaving Japan was “the worst break-up” I’d ever been through. I told Chase it was like that scene from Black Hawk Down where the guy who’s clutching a picture of his family gets dragged away.
I likened myself to Dave Chappelle when he visited Africa and said it felt like home. Except in my case, I was losing that. I was having an identity-crisis.
I had shock of change, shock of loss, and shock of uncertainty. Yes, I was back home with friends and family, but what to do next?
And when I just couldn’t get a steady gig lined up, I got more frustrated. When I couldn’t even get entry-level jobs, I felt worthless.
The JET Program gave me an opportunity for amazing personal development, but as for career development, all these companies were acting like it didn’t mean shit. And it turns out, I wasn’t the only one who was going through this.
But many of the people who experienced the same thing kept quiet. Maybe it was because of shame, but they preferred to stay silent. And when people don’t talk about these kinds of problems, you’ll start to think that you’re the only one who doesn’t have their shit together.
Any JET who’s coming back home, know that you’re not alone in this struggle.