July 24th was the official anniversary of my one year of living in Japan. Although a year is a long time, it really only feels like it was just yesterday that I landed in Tokyo. There’s still so much that I want to do and I feel like I have so little time left. Yet at the same time I’ve done so much. Much more than most people can say they’ve ever done in their entire life. I can admit that when I first landed I didn’t expect to change so much from my previous self. So in celebration I’m going to take a step back and reflect on some of the ways that I have changed.
Learning to Save
I won’t lie and say that the JET salary is incredible, but they do pay me more than enough money to travel somewhere at least once a month. I’m happy to say that I am one of the lucky few who graduated college without crippling student debt. So when the checks started rolling in, I wasn’t to concerned with saving a lot of money. For the first six months I spent a lot of money on things I probably didn’t need too. I don’t regret my decisions but I’m learning that I should start saving more and more everyday. I have two account books to keep track of everything I spend money on and I’m trying my best to put away more money every month.
Learning to be Open
I’m an introvert at heart. I could spend days just laying around my house pretending nobody else exists. There’s nothing wrong with that but I didn’t come to Japan to do the same things that I would’ve done in America. Being here has made me open to new experiences with people. I’m forcing myself to try new things no matter how awkward conversations may become. I figured it’s much better to let people know you’re trying instead of constantly running away from interactions.
Learning to be Alone
Sounds like a contradiction of the first but it’s not. Along with being a introvert, I sometimes get anxiety about doing things alone. I’m not currently dating anyone inside or outside of Japan. Sure I have friends but people get busy and they can’t do everything with you. Living here I had to learn that it’s okay to be alone sometimes and to really enjoy my own company. I’ve traveled alone, eat out alone, shop alone, etc. It seems daunting and scary at first but I think I’ve grown a little more self sure of myself.
Something that both fascinates and annoys me about Japan is the group mentality. Almost everything is done in groups and everything you do is to make the group better. So joining club activities or going to outside events it’s almost unheard of for someone to cancel plans at the very last minute (unless your sick of course) because it’s a hindrance on the group. I recently joined karate at the local gym in my town. It’s fun but there are definitely days that I wish I never joined just because I can be so lazy. It’s fine to miss of course but the idea is that you don’t join something unless you’re serious about it.
Learning to Appreciate Nature
I’ve always appreciated and respected nature. I try not to litter or create a lot of pollution in the world. And I’ve always enjoyed going on a good walk through a nature trail. Japan however has really made me see the beauty that mother nature has to offer. I’m not sure if it’s a Shinto thing or maybe Japanese people are just some how more in tuned to nature than the rest of the world, but there are really some amazingly beautiful nature sights that you can only find in Japan. Especially during the peak seasons during spring and fall, it’s hard to put into words how beautiful Japan is.
Well there are the top five ways I’ve changed since living in Japan for a full year. What about you, have you changed in anyway during a trip abroad?