I have a good friend called Mutsumi. Every now and then we get together and she produces continual streams of amazing food while the two of us talk.. and talk... and talk... The majority of our talk focuses around the huge changes we are going to make in our lives. We are both at very different stages of our lives - she is now caring for her mother and grandchildren, while I am watching my own children slowly move through the school system and gain some of their own independence. But, despite all our differences we both have some deep down desire to do "something" different with our lives. Every time I leave her house I feel invigorated and ready to race out and conquer the world. And then time passes and nothing changes.
I came to Japan 16 years ago and am still asked by a lot of Japanese people "why did you come to Japan?" I think they expect some deep philosophical answer about my love for Japanese culture, my desire to inspire Japanese children to be perfect English speakers, my secret love of Japanese animation and all things weird. But the answer I always give them is "for the money". And it is true. I came here after graduating university for a break away from my life in New Zealand and to pay off my student loans. I did that within two years, but by that stage I had already fallen in love with this country and didn't feel the need to move back to New Zealand. Of course meeting my husband probably had a little to do with it too... but the area I was randomly placed in definitely helped a lot too.
We had a few "international" families here for Christmas and we were talking about what we would do if we won the lottery. One of my friends commented that he wouldn't want to shift from where he is living now - just maybe get a holiday house somewhere warm. I feel exactly the same way. I love the place I live. I love the people around me. Deep down I love the frustrations of dealing with cultural clashes. If I won the lottery I really don't think I would want to move at all. But, I would want to change my lifestyle.
I graduated university with a degree in physical education. Rather than the physical side of the study I loved the sports psychology, sociology and history side of it. I liked trying to look into people's minds. When I came to Japan I taught English at junior high schools and elementary schools. The work was mind boggling boring, but I actually enjoyed it because the whole "Japan experience" was so new that any small thing made me excited to be here and I could ignore the boring lessons I was asked to participate in and the hours and hours and hours of getting paid to sit at my desk and read a book or study some Japanese.
After I got married I worked at several different places teaching English. After our children were born I increased the number of kindergartens that I taught English at. I made a few mistakes along the line regarding the volume I was teaching as well as the late hours I was teaching. The family and work balance was thrown out of kilter many times. English teaching is pretty good money and relatively easy work when you get used to it. There are times when I actually enjoy it. But it is not what I want to do for the rest of my life. Lately my heart has definitely not been in it...
The New Year cards have just arrived and again they are filled with messages of "I wish we could have met more in 2012, I hope we can meet more in 2013". The cards I sent were full of exactly the same messages. As I went to sleep last night I kept thinking about the fact that I am determined to make this a "doing year". I have already made some positive steps towards this - I have given up some of my English teaching and will reduce the load even more from April. I won't give it all up as I will need some extra money to help with my next venture - which WILL slowly start to take shape in 2013. I keep telling my husband that free time is something that doesn't actually just appear all of a sudden - it is something that we have to actually make. Until now I have had this feeling that something will happen which will indicate to me that it is time to make big changes, but I've realised (as I should have many, many years ago!) that is only me who can make those changes. I can't wait till my sister comes to visit so she can help me, I can't wait for my husband to go and check all the legalities of what I want to do, I can't wait for me to win the lottery. I just need to do it. And this year I am going to. Well I'm going to start anyway. Of course I'll need to start with a visit to Mutsumi to give me another push, but I am going to!
In terms of this blog, I haven't touched it for 3 months. It was a conscious decision and not just that I didn't make the time to do it. But, I've missed it and I am now back! Although there are some conditions. As part of me being proactive I'm determined to catch up on the 3 months that I've missed, but how fast I do that is up to you. I often chat with people and realise that they read this blog. My family often makes a comment in passing, but there are many, many times when I write and write and write and get no feedback at all. I'm not complaining - as I have written before I do not write this blog for you, I write it for me as a record of what is happening in our lives here and if you are interested enough to stop by then that is fantastic. I read a lot of blogs and very rarely comment, so I am not exactly one to speak! Anyway, my wonderful family, if you miss this blog as much as some of you say you do then... I will post as often as I can in January, February, March and for as long as I can providing I get 3 comments on each post. They don't have to be deep comments.... just "hi Jo, love the handbag!" is fine. I'm going to try and do the same with the blogs I read, without spending hours and hours on the computer - because my new life is based in the kitchen. Which is where I am off to now for a cup of coffee!
I hope to see you back here very soon.... in the meantime Happy New Year!