Saturday, May 3, 2014

Where We're Going, Where We've Been 2

This is the second part in a two part series. It details my experience between being accepted onto the JET program and leaving for Japan. Below is the video, followed by a transcript.

It's August of 2012, and I have just decided to throw the full weight of my commitment behind my application to the JET program. I prepare to draft a statement of purpose, and I brainstorm potential sources for letters of recommendation. I reflect back on the last few years and try to pick out my most shining examples of international experience and teaching. As I agonize over checking every detail before I send out my application, I am totally clueless that the hardest part still lies ahead of me. That I will spend handfuls of near-sleepless nights wrapped up in my own anxiety like a blanket.

You can find many videos on the JET application and interview process, so I don't think I can really add much to that. For my part, I made the trip down to Nashville and felt like a fish out of water all dolled up in my suit and acting the part of an accomplished young professional. To double down on the weirdness of it all, it was around Valentines Day and I was interviewing for the opportunity that would end my relationship of four years. Though much is said about the process of interviewing and applying, not much is said about the other 99% of the time. It varies wildly from person to person I guess, but for me the period between being accepted onto the program and actually going to Japan was sometimes very difficult. I felt a building sense of anxiety as the departure date grew closer and closer. Some of my friends started to inexplicably pull away from me and I couldn't figure out why. I became aware of how little I knew about my new life as I tried to put together the things I wanted to take with me and the things I could leave behind. I felt extremely insecure about losing all my safety nets and moving. In my last video I mentioned how I had things pretty well -  I was in a long term relationship, had an OK job, and lived in an apartment with two of my friends. I wasn't setting the world on fire, but it was predictable and comfortable. As I started stripping that stuff away and preparing myself to lose all of it, I felt more and more anxiety about leaving. I laid awake every night for hours as I turned over every possibility in my head. I'm not exaggerating about this, either. I actually laid awake for HOURS each night for over a month before I left. I resorted to taking over the counter sleep aids to help me fall asleep. I was all messed up about it.

But the hardest thing, and I will never forget this, was the night before I left. I was with my girlfriend and one of my best friends, and I just felt weird going through the motions like I wasn't going to abandon them the next day. At the end of the night I saw my friend off, and walked my girlfriend to her car parked under a streetlight. That was rough. That goodbye was rough. What kind of a man can hug and kiss someone even as he chooses to hurt them? I watched her car disappear down the street and felt like the worst piece of S in the world.

The next day I was up early and on to Nashville. We had a pre-departure orientation and a dinner with the Japanese ambassador. At the end of the day I sat on the edge of a hotel bed and swapped stories of family and home with a guy I'd never met who was brushing his teeth in his underwear. The next morning, wide-eyed and still slightly in shock, I got on the plane and changed my life forever.

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