As I begin to wrap up my time in Japan, I have been thinking a lot about the crazy life I have been leading for the past year.
This was the first time I had ever relocated for a job, and everything was incredibly fascinating, new, and unlike anything I have ever experienced. This was my first time ever traveling abroad (EVER) and it was outstanding to witness a community operating in ways that were so foreign to me.
Toto, we're not in Southern California anymore. This is Japan, and what a thrilling ride it has been to make this country my home.
So naturally, my life must have been perfect out here… Traveling around Asia, living in a fairytale, having unlimited independence… How could there be anything wrong with that?
Well although my life may look like peaches and cream on Instagram, this past year has been ever so complicated with unexpected twists & turns.
The first month was like a prolonged vacation. I was living an astounding luxurious life that I had never experienced before, and it seemed as if it would last forever. I was exploring a new place every day, meeting up with everyone to socialize, and trying all the foods that I have never even heard of.
It was all so exciting to do all these things, but time passed by and I began to make some realizations; The biggest one being that I didn’t find this life to be sustainable (at least for me). I want to partake in a life of progression, not comfort. I want to challenge myself to be better, not average. I want to create goals for myself and ACHIEVE THEM. I don’t want a year of my life to pass by and wonder why I chose not to grow.
With this in mind, I did decide to set goals for myself.
I initially looked at these goals and did not feel intimidation. After all, I did all of this at home. How hard could it be to just keep doing it? Not long after I set these goals, I realized how wrong my assumptions were.
In this kind of environment, I found there to be a constant, and almost uncomfortable social pressure. There were signs all around me that told me that I had to be liked, I had to feel included, and I definitely could not be the only person going through life alone. Due to these pressures, I was consistently feeling the urge to do what everyone wanted to do, and not what I wanted to do.
Oh, everyone is going here for lunch? Yeah, I’ll go!
Oh, everyone is getting together for a movie night? Yeah, I’ll go!
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with doing these things. I love going out & having fun from time to time; however, during this experience, these opportunities arise DAILY. Never in my life had I lived a life like this, and I didn’t want to use my contract as an excuse to start now.
Depending on the type of person, maybe this situation is not too bad. To some it may even be seen as paradise. Unfortunately for me, it was torture.
I have goals! I have ambition! How can I do it ALL?! I found out through this experience that sometimes I honestly just can’t. I need to make choices regarding how I want to prioritize my life & stick to it.
If my goals are different from everyone else, the only way to achieve them is to be different. It can feel isolating. It can feel lonely. It can feel heartbreaking when everyone else seems to be having fun together on Instagram, while you’re alone & you’re doing your own thing.
This is something I struggled to cope with when I was first put in this situation, and it was honestly really tough. Especially when I enrolled in school, I felt like I didn’t really even have a choice because homework and studying was something I had committed to.
But you know what kept me strong? You know what kept me going even when I felt like I was living in a box? The fact that I WAS achieving my goals. I was watching my dreams come true before my eyes and I was amazed at what I was capable of regardless of the pressures placed on me. I ultimately realized that conforming was not going to make me happy. Achieving my goals was making me happy, and therefore it was worth it.
Don’t get me wrong, I was no robot. I was not perfect every day and no human should be. I’ve gone out and had a slice of cake (or 3) on a friend’s birthday, I’ve sacrificed going on a run to comfort a friend in need, and I’ve lost a couple hours of sleep so I could FaceTime my mom. Life happens and sacrifices must be made. In spite of this however, I never lost sight of the big picture.
When I finish this contract, will I look back and feel proud of myself?
Now that that time has come, I can confidently say that I will. I may have not lived a conventional contract life, but it was my contract life, and I am proud to have lived it the way I wanted to. Because of my experience, my independence has skyrocketed and I have no fear to be different. I don’t care about outside opinions because my choices are ones that have made me stronger.
My Advice to Anyone Struggling with Social Pressures
Dare to be different.
I’m not saying this to be cliche and I'm not saying that all of your life should be spent alone. What I am suggesting is to evaluate whether or not you are someone who needs company. If this is the case, it may be more difficult to accomplish what YOU want to do-if you’re simply waiting for someone else’s approval.
In a world where straying from the social norm is frowned upon, STRAY! Even if no one else wants to, venture out and explore the life YOU want to live. You will thank yourself and I promise that you will feel proud. It may not feel comfortable & it may even feel isolating at times; but at the end of the day, that isolation will turn into independence. From there, you will thrive.