Friday, April 11, 2014

Where We're going, Where We've Been 1

(This entry was written in June of 2013)

It's coming up on mid- June now and already the new JET participants are filtering into our online communities and getting ready for their big move to Japan. Nothing makes you look backward like seeing someone else in the same position you were once in. Since I'm writing this blog at least in part for my own successor, and because I've never really told the whole narrative of my journey, I think I might reflect on it now.

The Genesis of my JET Idea

Teaching English in a foreign country was never a goal of mine. I didn't have the daring to think I could ever qualify for or do or afford such an undertaking. Other people in college would go on about studying abroad and the varied, wonderful experiences (and debaucheries) they experienced during their stay. But it was never possible for me. I didn't have the resources, the drive or the courage to make it happen. I was content with what I was doing. And anyway I was aimless through much of college. I had a goal I was working toward but I really had no idea what I would actually end up doing. So it was in this way that I rolled through college.
It finally came time, after 5 years, for me to graduate. At the time I was working in the distance learning office of my university, preparing courses to launch in the university's new online education program. But that employment stopped when I was no longer a student. So I began to consider other options.

Being aimless can become a habit. After five years of studying what I wanted, being comfortably stuck in college and job opportunities, I still had no career. Nor did I wish for a career quite yet. Throughout my college life I, like many people do, experienced a degree of wanderlust from time to time. It's that periodic existential crisis that you're stuck in a rut and one day maybe you'll just drop everything and go. Just GO somewhere and do something crazy, shake things up, meet new people, start a new kind of life. But of course, I never did it. I was on a roll; and in truth, I had things pretty well, but I did still want to travel somehow before I settled into the routine of adulthood.

So I began looking for opportunities to put my life on hold, to be aimless just a bit longer, while also doing something meaningful. And so I began to think about Japan, as it had been a samurai and video game filled dream of mine since I was a youth. My last year in college I had taken two Japanese language courses just for the fun of it. During these courses, I had learned about a few study abroad and international exchange programs. But it wasn't until my last summer in college that I sat down and began seriously looking at them. My job opportunities were slim, and this served as a kind of motivation. I figured if I was ever going to realize this dream, I needed to make it happen right out of college. Plus, I had just earned a black belt which had also been a dream of mine since I was young. I was feeling buoyed by that success and thought maybe it was time to get out of the roll of daily life, to satisfy my wanderlust and to chase another dream. Maybe it was time to try something really, really different…

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