Since my last post rambling the to’s and fro’s of recontracting I made a decision. Last week I decided to recontract for another year on JET! As well as many other things, this means I’ll be coming home in August 2020, when I’m 23, and I’ll (hopefully) be coming back much more travelled, experienced and wiser than when I left.
This is an important post, for myself as well as friends and family. I’m also hoping that it it’ll be useful to people in a similar situation, JET or not.
Why was the decision difficult?
Debating how long you’ll live across the world is always going to be difficult and a lot of my reasons why are in my last post. It mainly boils down to what I’m going to miss while I’m away, be it from my studies, career, relationships and love life.
Living and working in rural Japan at 21 is hardly status quo and, although I’m aware of the amazing opportunities, there’s a nagging reminder that I’m going to be missing out on things that a life back home would give me.
My 3 main reasons for recontracting
Putting it simply, it makes sense for me, but I have 3 main reasons that led me to go for it.
Stable, stalwart foundations: Being guaranteed work and comfortable housing for another year has its perks.
Coming from some pretty grafty jobs I definitely appreciate my job as an ALT. For me, it balances out hard work and reward well. After being in an unstable environment for a while, a bit of reliability is good for me; letting me look ahead, save money and just take a breather.
More time: When I was mulling everything over, I asked myself if I’d rather spend too long in Japan or not long enough.
Longer in Japan means more time to travel, to study and to plan for the future. Japan is a difficult and expensive place to get to and being on JET has taught me that living here offers so much more than I could possibly get from visiting as a tourist.
If I can see eternity in an hour, imagine how much I could get done in… a year and a half’s worth of hours (you do the maths).
Personal growth: I’ve grown so much already, reacquainting with myself and becoming more confident and self-aware. I can’t imagine how much more I’ll be able to do with another year to play with.
Recontracting is always going to be a difficult decision, but it was helpful to pick out my main worries and try and find a different perspective.
Changing schools: From day one, I knew that I’d be rotating so, despite wishing I could get around it and spend another year at my schools, I decided to change my mindset.
New schools mean new teachers, students, working environments and opportunities. Working in another set of elementary schools or in a junior high school offers experiences that I might not get at my current schools, as well as a more comprehensive view of teaching.
Loneliness: This is a worry for a lot of people, JETs (current and aspiring) as well as basically everyone ever. Worries about being alone aren’t strictly a JET problem, you can feel alone anywhere; it’s how you deal with that feeling that changes your experience.
I’ve decided to see loneliness as an inevitable at times and that when it happens, it’s OK to take some time out. Whether that’s to call home, binge out on Star Trek or rearrange my house for the 50th time, I need to remind myself not to feel guilty.
I also chose to see some positives of loneliness, seeing it as a motivator pushing me to see friends or get involved in something new. Making and cherishing relationships with other people, and myself, is going to get me through it.
Bad news from home: This has been a constant worry throughout the decision process, mentioned more in my last post.
It was helped by talking to people back home, being told that they didn’t expect me to come home nor do they blame me for choosing to stay. Plus it’s becoming clear that no matter where I am in the world, I’m always going to feel like I could’ve spent more time with someone.
I’ve decided instead to see the worry as a positive, reminding me that I care about these people and how important the relationships are; I even thing in the long term my relationships are going to benefit.
Now that I’ve signed and the decision is out of my hands I can start to get excited for the next 1½ years in Japan.
I’m looking forward to more travels in and around Japan, to see a friend in Hong Kong, visit Korea and just go wherever my little Tofu San will take me. I’m looking forward to all the opportunities too; Disneyland, tea ceremonies, random food, amusement parks, rafting and whatever else I drift into.
I can’t wait for my friends and family back home to visit. While other JETs have had chance to see family already, my first visit will be in April and I’m so excited. I get to play tour guide and show them around Japan. Even though when they leave I know I’ll be sad, it’ll be worth it to see them again.
A seemingly trivial one, but I’m looking forward to getting my house more homey. I’ve been holding off in case I didn’t recontract, but now we’re all decided, time to make some homey purchases!
The whole process has been very yo-yo, constantly bouncing between staying and going. I started off feeling that my heart was pulling me one way and my head was pulling me the other. Yet, if that was true, today’s result would be a lot different, for better or worse, I always go with my little blood pump.
It took me a while to realise that it wasn’t so black and white. My heart was actually pulling me in both directions, back home to people that I love but also towards Japan, to a future that offered me growth.
I struggled so much with this decision because, as I said when deciding to start out on JET I thrive in adversity. For the past few years I’ve had plenty of that and found it to be good fuel for hard work.
Moving to Japan has introduced a different kind of adversity, which I’ve both welcomed and shied away from.
Asagiri is a safe place, the people are friendly, welcoming and again safe. To move to this from a place that wasn’t so safe, from people that weren’t so friendly and environments that were again unsafe, is quite a shock. Similarly, non-problems back home like intimacy and familiarity have become major problems in Japan. So, out of the frying pan into… an ice bath?
Keeping in the present
Choosing to recontract is dealing with the unknown. Will I continue to feel alienated by this welcoming, if not amicably civil, community, or would longer in Japan get me accustomed and break me from the familiarity and bad habits that come with toxic experiences?
The answer is who knows.
I can’t predict the future and I can’t blame myself for anything in hindsight. I know that I’ve made the best decision that I can, at the time that I made it. I’ve done the dangerous business of stepping out the door, now all that’s left is to see is where I’ll be swept off to.