Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Humility to a Fault

I learned something really huge visiting a foreign country. When you can't always communicate your needs to others, you find yourself very much "on your own," and in that circumstance I think humans grow best. That's why moving out from the family is such a big deal for everyone I grew up with. It's huge! You learn so much! I often ponder why on earth my parents didn't just tell me how hard it is. Did they think I wouldn't get it? I would have gone a lot easier on them! :}

I gained confidence. When you have to do everything for yourself, when you can't get any reflective feedback from anyone, you have to trust yourself. Well, I guess you don't have to, but the other option is too dismal for me to even consider. I learned long ago that if I sit afraid and waited, no one would save me. I'm the kind of princess who rescues herself; too impatient for princes. My prince may be too impatient for that kind of princess, too. ;)

When I came back, I was afraid of losing this great sense of self. I had always been afraid in the past of not being humble. Humility is one of those values that I learned about early in life, and while I had been pretty confident growing up about certain things, I was a pretty weak, scared individual deep inside. It's easy to doubt oneself, isn't it? I kept thinking, "If I'm doing the right things, then why does bad stuff keep happening to me?" Some of it was my fault (not letting go of friends who were horrible to me while ignoring the ones who needed me more; sorry about that! I was young and stupid!), and some of it was beyond my control. My negotiation and conflict course helped me to see that, and it was like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders. I can't blame myself for everything that goes wrong, and I am doing my best. But, I didn't know that for so long.

I was so afraid of being full of pride and becoming arrogant that the need to be humble became a sickening low self-esteem problem. I couldn't let myself feel good because if I did, I was being too arrogant. "No one is that good," I'd tell myself, or I'd explain that the situation made me great, not me myself. There is a fine line between humility and self-depreciation, and I didn't get that. Now I do.

And, thank goodness, too! I'm just getting into my second week of class and I dropped one of them yesterday. The me from a year ago would have been too scared to. I would have told myself that the professor must be right, because he's the professor. I would have taken the fact that he wasn't listening to me (or anyone else in the class) and made it out to be somehow my own fault. Even though there was tons of evidence that, despite great credentials and knowledge, he was a bad teacher, I would have talked myself out of standing up for myself. Finally, I would have told myself that no one would believe it was that bad, that they would tell me I'm being immature and complaining, that this is accepted behavior for a professional.

The me that just got back from Japan has realized her own self-worth. Not only did I stand up for myself in the class and to the Dean, but I posted in the discussion boards and stood up for the rest of the students, too. It was strangely fulfilling, to acknowledge that I'm smart (not a genius, but I know when I've done the work I was told to do and you change the rules halfway through the assignment; you can't make me believe that I'm ignorant after I read and reread the boards three or four times!), that my money toward the class has meaning to me, and that we all deserve better.

I didn't even realize how stressed out with the class I was until today. The immense relief of knowing that I wouldn't have to try and convince some guy out there that I was someone worthy is incredible. I had been so irritable, so unhappy! I feel glad for the students that I helped, and I feel sorry for the students who haven't realized that they deserve better. Sure, the teacher could have been worse, but that doesn't mean that we should deal with a mostly-bad situation anyway. And, the humility is still there. I admit that I don't know why he did what he did, what the circumstances were, and I even feel a little sorry for him. Perhaps he had been given the wrong impression about the course and how it was supposed to go. I really don't know. Feeling that little tinge of guilt/sorrow for him, even knowing that I did the right thing, is what reminds me that I haven't crossed the line into being arrogant. I know that I and my classmates were being hurt (all you had to do was read their many posts), so unfortunately his pride was his undoing.

I have to wonder . . . how many people suffer because of this? How many people have been abused and are afraid to stand up for themselves, not only because they think they may have done something to deserve it (the myth that there is a right answer to everything, so you must have just missed the que or done something wrong), but because they refuse to allow themselves to believe that they are good enough to get out of it? It's frightening! I want to run out into the street and shout, "Stop it! You don't have to put up with bad treatment!" . . . But, even when you try to support some people escaping bad treatment, you can't save them. In the end, we all have to save ourselves at least a little bit; no one else can save a person completely.

It also makes me think about rules in employment that make it difficult to fire someone when they're doing a horrible job and tormenting people while they're at it. Perhaps it isn't as bad as it seems and it's just that I've seen far too many HR departments who are scared of pulling the trigger too soon. Don't get me wrong; everyone deserves a fair chance. It's just . . . well, doesn't it seem like the good guys always give the bad guys way too many second chances to redeem themselves? Despite the prolonged torture and distrust it breeds?

Anyway, the last thing this made me think of is that illusion that I had when I was really young, one that seems common amongst many of my friends. I had this impression that the Adults knew everything. I thought, Someday, I'll be one of them, and I'll know everything, too! And then, as you get older, you start wondering what it will feel like to be "grown up," even though in a rebellious age, you may second-guess everything that they tell you. Those are just the bad Adults, right? ;) And yet, despite going through that, I still felt insecure around the Adults when I started working at every job that I've had. It didn't matter how I dazzled people with my computer know-how or the way I'd create new, innovative ways to solve problems; I felt insecure around them. It was as if I was waiting for someone to announce that I was one of them, an Adult. I think we're all waiting for that at some point in our lives, to be treated like an Adult so that we know that we are one.

I realized two things:

1.) Adults are not as smart as I thought. :} In fact, some of them are more immature than any of the children I grew up with! On a daily basis, I look at some of the people I work with or see in the news and go, "OMG, I don't get it! Why are you behaving that way?!" They're inefficient, lazy, and purposefully go out of their way to not learn anything. That's not to say that I don't know any other smart people, because I know plenty of folks who know things that I just can't get, but no one "Adult" knows it all. They're just like children, only bigger! I'll be learning until the day I die!! :} AHHH!

2.) No one is going to crown you an Adult and give you all the rights and priveledges that they seem to have. You have to take it, and then people think, "Oh, (your name here) is an Adult!" That's truly how it works! Everyone I know, myself included, who has waited for the go-ahead to take the reigns will not have it given to them. The fact that you're hesitating is a sign to the other Adults that you're not ready to be one of them. It's entirely foolish, anyway. All you're taking is confidence in your own knowledge and experiences, faith in yourself. The title of being an Adult only comes with priveledges because some Adults actually think that they are better than children. FOOLS! :} In all of our different stages, we have valuable aspects to ourselves!

So, I've taken my title. I still think of myself as young and enjoy it, but to those who think they can trample all over me, I have my Adult badge on, and it scares more people than you'd think! I guess I'm talking about cheesy, self-empowerment here, but I think it's important that someone says it this way. Someone else may have already said it before and I just didn't get the memo, but this is huge to me. I think this is something my brother tried to teach me a long time ago, but it didn't sink in as well as I'd thought it had: Whatever it is that you're waiting to be, all you have to do is be it. Believe it, and do it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Final Days in Japan

To see related photos, please go to

The below was written from Canada while we were laid over yesterday.

Our final days in Japan were hard for me. Despite initially feeling anxious and concerned about how I would do in Japan at the beginning of the trip, by the end I was feeling very comfortable in Japan. And, even with reminding myself of the things our countries have in common and what's missing from Japan, I found it difficult to start our trip back.

Our hostess in Miyajima was very sweet, even when she had to prepare breakfast for us extremely early in the morning so that we could leave for Tokyo as soon as possible. She took a picture of us to remember us by; I think I will send her a post card once we return to the states to thank her for her hospitality. I don't think I've ever slept as well as I did on her futons, and it was fun to practice my Japanese with her.

As we rode the first train back to Hiroshima, I started to cry. I didn't mean to, and I knew it wouldn't help anything, but I definitely don't feel done with Japan yet. In fact, being there only inspired me more. And, from a honeymoon perspective, Terinati and I are even closer than before. We learned a lot about each other and I think we trust each other even more than we did before. We worked well as a team, getting each other around and listening to each other's needs. It started out rough, but only got better and better as things went along.

I pondered a lot of things on the trip back, like how I want to study even more Japanese when I return, the things I would miss, and all that we went through. By then, we had 302 photos to upload to Flickr and 2 small videos, along with many other souvenirs and inexpressible memories.

So, in that line of thought, some things I learned while I was in Japan!

New favorite foods: cinnamon and red bean ice cream, okonomiyaki, English-style in the pretty little teacups, tempura momiji, and many eggplant dishes, including spaghetti with eggplant and bacon.

Insightful thoughts: When I couldn't understand what people thought of us for sure, it became easier to be myself, and I was happier. I know I shouldn't care what other people think, but now I feel even less scared of the consequences. They maybe bad sometimes, but I do my best and I have someone who supports me. I am coming back to America looking at it and its people in an entirely different way. I think it's healthier.

Cleanliness: America is really gross. We could learn a lot from the Japanese. However, I'm glad to have the resources available to me to wash my hands again after using the restroom. :}

Green Tea and Kit Kats: If you love Green Tea, you can find anything Green Tea flavored in Japan, from ice cream to chocolates, even Kit Kats. In fact, Kit Kats come in a bizarre variety of flavors in Japan, including Soy Sauce, Apple Vinegar, Caramel, Vanilla Lemon, and Green Tea. Those are just the ones that I saw, and I suspect there are more. I didn't care for apple vinegar, but caramel and vanilla lemon were alright. I have a green tea variety in my bag to try later. But, again, if you love Green Tea, I don't think there's a tasty treat you can't find in Japan that comes in Green Tea flavor. It must be quite popular!

Video Games and Cutesy Things: Video games are, at least environmentally speaking, much like being in Japan, especially the RPGs. The music in the inns, particularly the old Final Fantasy stuff by Nobuo Uematsu, is just like what they play when they prepare breakfast in the morning, be it Japanese or English-style meals. Video games seem to come to life in Japan, with its incredible style, people, and atmosphere. Also, everywhere you go, you can find somewhere cute, even in places that seem extremely serious. I think this makes Japan a more happy place. Perhaps the U.S. could use more cuteness! Speaking of, why have I never seen Yoshikitty in America and just Hello Kitty?! Yoshi Kitty is so much COOLER! :}

Japanese Hotels: They provide you with just about everything. In every hotel, we were given toothbrushes and toothpaste, fresh every day. However, I found that I preferred my own toothpaste after a while because the hotel toothpastes just didn't cut it. There was also always towels, body soap, and shampoo. However, conditioner was sometimes combined with shampoo, and girls with hair like mine will need to bring their own conditioner. Also, every hotel we stayed at provided either a bathrobe or a yukata (the modern style, not the ones that take forever to put on), so there's a lot you can leave out of your luggage; traveling in Japan is convenient because the hotels are excellent in this way and a lot of traveling signs are printed in English.

There's so much more, but I've been awake for about 22 hours now (trying to kill jet lag before I get back to the states; we're laid over in Canada without internet as I write this up) and I just can't think of it all.

Anyway, when we got back to Tokyo after traveling nearly all day, it was raining pretty hard. It matched my mood, but was okay because I wanted to blog and upload photos from the previous days anyway. It was sad, though, having our final meals. The regular bed that night was not as comfy as the futon, and the cake just seemed bittersweet when I thought of returning to our apartment and our previous lives.

We made the most of the Shinjuku district, where we stayed our final night in Japan, even though it was pretty rowdy and relatively filthy compared to everywhere else we'd been in Japan thus far. We saw obvious hookers, love hotels, and other stuff inappropriate for minors very much in plain sight. I was kind of like, “Whoah!” but . . . it's not like everyone doesn't know that someone uses those services, so it wasn't really a big deal. It was just weird to see it. The night life in Shinjuku was mostly in rowdy, loud gaming centers that often were full of smokers. We did go in to one to use the restroom and saw the most AMAZING game player just doing his thing, blowing the game away . . . It was like guitar hero for your hands, but there were so many more buttons and the speed at which he played, perfectly, blew my mind. I wanted to give him applause, but really Terinati and I felt embarrassed for gawking when he had finished. His girlfriend seemed pretty proud, though!

One thing that saddened me was seeing homeless people in the street. They were just sleeping there, a few of them inside cardboard boxes, and some of them only with something to lay on to separate them from the street . . . and everyone just walked around them like they weren't there. 100% of the homeless people we saw there didn't even have a shirt to wear, and were older men. My heart felt for them, but at the same time I reminded myself that perhaps they had put themselves in that situation. Still, to pretend they weren't there was impossible for me. It was just too sad to see someone cramming themselves desperately into a large bundle of cardboard boxes to go to sleep at night. The stray cats there weren't pretty either; I'm guessing food on the street is slim pickings when it's a clean place like Japan.

We finally found a Mos Burgers, but it was pretty much the same as the Lotteria restaurant we'd found in Hiroshima. Still, I was pleased we had found one in Tokyo, just so that we could say that we had been there. :)

After stuffing ourselves, we went to bed. It was hard for me at first, because the night life went on long after we returned. It was also strange because we didn't find out until that night that all the news showing pictures of Michael Jackson were talking about the fact that he had died! Whoah! Had he been sick for a while? What happened? We still don't really know, as we probably won't be in the loop until we're home again, and it's just weird. I mean, I was only a kid when he was really big and the 3-D feature of Michael Jackson appeared in Disneyland in Los Angeles. He's not that old, is he? I guess, “was” he is more appropriate, but it still seems hard to believe. Weird!

For our trip back to the airport, we had reserved seats on a bus “limousine”. It was big for Japanese buses, but pretty average size for our buses in the states. It was a nice trip, and I spent so much time just admiring how beautiful the trees are, so green and lush, much like the rice fields we passed so often. It's like magic, how beautiful and vibrant they are; I've never seen anything that kind of lively green in America.

But then, it was over. We were in the airport terminal, spending the last of our yen on some Maneki Neko chop stick holders and music I heard playing and candies, and the rest we have now exchanged back to dollars. We really have to thank those who paid to dance with us at the wedding; your money paid for our meals and other expenses while in Japan that weren't initially covered. We wouldn't have had such a relaxing time if it weren't for you! We had been planning on having to really scrimp the whole time, but because of our loved friends and family, we were able to have a real honeymoon. Thank you so much!

I know I'm only in Canada and there is still some traveling left to go, but I guess I feel that things are now over. Terinati is falling asleep at the table we're sitting at, and the line is getting long in the cafe where we sit, so I should finish here and make some space for other people. Only two more hours until we're on the next plane headed to America. I miss Japan, but Terinati has promised me that we will return there someday. I'm holding him to it! In the meantime, it's back to my ordinary life. I hope my blog has helped other potential travelers headed in that direction! . . . * sigh * I hate endings, but without them there are no new beginnings.

So, with that, I say a final sayonara (at least, for now), to Japan. I miss you!! :( . . . Sayonara.