Silver lining

“I hate to tell you this,” started お兄ちゃん.

I braced myself. “What?”

“You were rejected for the apartment,” he said.

“Are you serious?”

He tilted his phone so I could see the message for myself.

It was the end of a very long week. I had just missed my last train and was in for a long and expensive taxi ride home. On top of that, I was already dreading the 6AM start I had the next morning for a new job in Tokyo. Bad news never has good timing but at that stage, I was a bit too tired to hold strong.

“Well,” I started, scraping the bottom for any remaining wit or positivity. “Well… that sucks.”

“大丈夫ですよ (daijoubudesuyo: it’ll be ok),” my now-former manager said, patting me on the back. When I didn’t respond immediately, she switched her gentle tone to a more serious one.

“プリシラ (Purishira),” she snapped, demanding my attention and effectively halting my self pity, “大丈夫 (daijoubu: it’s going to be ok).”

Switching jobs and all it entails hasn’t exactly been easy. Which isn’t surprising. In fact, before coming to Japan, I had the worst year to date thanks to job hunting. But let’s talk about this year.

This year, when I really, truly realised that life isn’t always peachy, even while on a Japanese adventure. This year, when I realised that when the sun’s not shining, independence doesn’t seem so ideal. This year, which reminded me how much job rejections sting. This year, which, at the lowest point, had me questioning my friendships. This year, which drove home how desperately I want to remain abroad. This year, when insecurities over my future festered into insecurities about myself.

“In a month,” I said, looking at the calendar after coming back to the office from Golden Week vacations, “I will be homeless and unemployed. Good, good. Good. …good. Excellent.”

Despite all this melodrama, I actually haven’t had a bad year. Not by a long shot. But suffice to say that when I wasn’t having a good time, I just… wasn’t having a good time.

Having said that, this month of June has truly taken the cake. In a strange, up-down miss-mash of my immediate future falling apart and coming together in equal measures, I haven’t just been surprised by the turn of events as each week unfolded, but also by those around me.

The turn of events being health scares, getting a new job with a few other opportunities, needing to change visas, moving out of my apartment and living out of my overnight bag for the past four weeks (and counting), finding a new apartment, being rejected for that apartment, signing up for a share house instead. Leaving my school. Starting at a new company two days after.

And with a few exceptions, most of the fear stemmed from the last two: switching jobs. On the flip side, the largest storm cloud also carried the biggest silver lining with it. And that’s when my community started to surprise me.

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“People here actually like me,” I whispered into the phone. “Can you believe that?”

I had just finished my last day at my job. And although it was past midnight for the both of us on the phone, I was still up sitting cross legged on my hotel bed surrounded by a pile of letters from my students.

I heard a chuckle through the receiver. “Yes,” she answered.

I sighed. Of course she’d say that, I thought. Mums have to say that.

“People like you,” she said.

Yes, but that was before when I had the coolest brother attached to my presence, or when I was stuck in a prison cell with them and they had to learn to tolerate my presence.

It certainly wasn’t when I was left to my own devices where people have absolutely no obligation to talk to me. Or with people who are learning English and with whom I can’t speak to in their language even if I had the ability to. Or when there are other teachers around who are wildly more charismatic than I could hope to be. Or when I was in a country that doesn’t show affection as openly as Australians.

“People like you,” Mum reassured me. And with all the handwritten notes around me, some from students and parents who I haven’t even taught before, it was hard to argue with that.

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Being rejected by multiple jobs can feel disheartening and personal. The extravagant show of love from the students and the school community on my final week happened in a very timely fashion.

Even beyond that, friends, coworkers and acquaintances from every group I’ve come across in Japan have banded together in a feelgood season finale-esque effort to pull me through this slump.

They woke up at ungodly hours to hold my hands through hospital visits and testing. They suffered through the tedium of government beaurocracy for me as my translators. They escorted me through the world of apartment hunting and inspections, volunteering to act as my guarantor before I could even ask. They gave me consolation and the occasional (and figurative) slap when I’ve needed it. They even offered up their own homes for me to stay in.

They make sure that I remain hopeful, that I laugh hard and often, that I know I’m not alone.

When I first came to Japan, my goals were to become stronger and more independent. I wish I was strong enough, independent enough, that nothing would faze me. That no challenge would overwhelm me, even for a moment. The truth is, between my ignorance of the culture, my lack of language ability, and the frustrations that come with it, making any big changes – however necessary – can seem impossible at times.

I’m not the person I want to be – yet – but now, even before the resolution of each challenge, I can allow myself to still be overwhelmed, but more so by the strength of the silver lining around me.

Thoughts?