’18th January, well 11th, well 9th… 9th? 9th. Ok.’
After much deliberation from my supervisor, the deadline for my recontracting decision has been set for 9th. Tomorrow. We were formally asked to recontract in December and given over the Christmas holidays to think it over.
Christmas has come and gone and tomorrow I’ll be committing to either stay in Japan until August 2020 or return home in August 2019. I can assure you that the decision process has been a tricky, loopy, sobby rollercoaster.
Since beginning my time on JET, one year has always been my original plan, worried that even this would be a struggle and that I’d be an anxious, depressed mess before the first month was out. After coping better than I’d expected, the idea of a second year crept in.
Leading up to the decision, I tried not to wreck my head over it, knowing that it’d stress me out for no reason.
After making a fair few difficult decisions in the past, I have a lot of faith in myself when it comes to making them. I know my process; it takes me a while but when I decide, that’s it, the only thing left to do is get myself in the right mindset to work with it.
When deciding how to organise my thinking, I took advice from friends and family and made a pros and cons list.
My ex emo creeping out, I started with the…
- Changing schools: I LOVE my schools, anyone who knows me knows that. So one big (possible) downer is that at the end of year 1 I’ll be rotated and moved to another school.
- Homesickness: Missing home, family, friends, pets etc. has become almost a constant; there isn’t a day where I don’t think of home.
I miss 3am drives with my friend Stephen, zoned out, listening to synth wave. I miss living with my bestie, making food together, sitting on the stairs chatting bubbles, having lazy nights in, spontaneous nights out, late night trips to maccies in our pjs (night-drives are my thing ok) and dealing with all the chaos that comes with living in a rough neighbourhood terraced house… with 3 cats.
I loved when we’d decide to go out and start getting ready, we’d be in our own rooms until one of us decided to invade (usually me) loll all over the other one’s bed (usually me) singing really badly (…)
I could list a thousand things that I miss from back home. I’ll save you the read, but I can definitely say that it’s the small things that stay with you when you’re away, like the little trips to ALDI or getting together for films or, when people trusted my genius, board games.
- Distance: Since getting to Japan, people back home have had, to put it lightly, a shit time and while I’ve looked after myself as best as I could to cope, being so far away has been a problem. I’ve struggled, being unable to support family and friends like I would if I was home, leaving me feeling pretty selfish.
There’s also the distance from other people to deal with too. Physically living up a mountain can be pretty isolating but there’s also another distance that I’ve struggled with. Due to language barriers, busy schedules and just generally living quite far away from most people, connecting with people has been onerous.
- FEAR: I expected the usual anxieties, what I would do for work, being too late to get my masters, my cats forgetting me (valid)… but the biggest fear I had, which I’ve had since I was young, centred on how much time I have left with the people I care about.
Before leaving for Japan I became extremely aware of how much I love home and the people that I spend my time with. Being in Japan has only heightened that awareness.
After losing a family member while in Japan, my ol’ pal anxiety smashed open the sliding doors of my house, shredded across the tatami mat and dug its familiar claws back into my healing temples.
Even though my mum reminding me that I can talk to people whenever made me feel better, I know that messaging and calling online is never going to replace a hug, or that warmth you get collapsing into the arms of a loved one.
Agonizing over this for weeks didn’t get me far; so I decided to put it on the back-burner, as much as I could try to ignore that stinging in my forehead, and focus on the pros.
- Work: I actually enjoy the job: it’s fun, the teachers are kind, the kids are hilarious and no day is EVER the same. Recontracting would mean guaranteed work, being paid more than any job I’ve had before, in an amazing country.
- More time: I’d have more time to study the language and take on the TEFL course, which is supported by JET, as well as having more time to decide and prepare for my next career step. Having more time to travel and experience things I could never do back home was another positive to consider too.
- Relationships: Despite the distance mentioned earlier, I’ve managed to make friends here, ALT and Japanese alike. Staying another year would mean growing these relationships even more and becoming more integrated.
LOVE: here comes the titan to battle the big bad worry glob still pinned to my head. Since coming to Japan, I’ve grown so much that I’ve even surprised myself. Living and travelling alone, navigating my life in a totally foreign country has had so many benefits, I’m so much more aware to how I’m feeling, I can rely on myself more. But the main question is, how long will that continue?
While I’m pretty sure which road I’m heading down, I’ve got one more day to stare at my lists, speak to family and friends, have about 56 identity crises, comfort eat and endure another late night before I commit to a decision.