I want you, but I don’t need you: Personal thoughts on self-validation.

Social distancing has got me in the throes of passion. Passionate reflection, that is. Today’s topic is self-validation. I might have touched on it here, but it’s bothering me, so I’m going to yammer on about it again.

The Backstory

I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I’ve had a MySpace, a DeviantArt, a Gaia Online (is that even a thing anymore? – come to think of it, that’s where I started getting my first art commissions for a fake currency, met my first boyfriend, and met a bunch of cool people!), a Twitter, several Instagrams, and a Facebook that I’ve deleted at least once and deactivated a bunch of times. To this day, I can’t recall why I even bothered making the rounds.

One day I’ll be all, “Yes! Let me wow my friends and family with my art! BOOM. How did you like those awesome flower photos?! SNAP. Look at this video that I found interesting and have strong opinions about!”

And then there are the days where I’m like, “No one cares. I could disappear and no one would even lift a finger to figure out why. Seriously, the world is an ocean. What’s one more drop of rain that no one will notice?” Perhaps it was a case of “seemed like a good idea at the time,” as my dear ol’ pa likes to say.

The Current Irritation

About a day ago, JST (Japan Standard Time), I posted a piece of art I worked hard on and was rather proud of. Looking back now, I should have waited for the right time of day because back home, it was something like 1AM. WHO’S AWAKE AT THAT TIME BESIDES WEIRDOS AND INSOMNIACS?! Well, needless to say, that photo currently has 8 likes.

I’m left sitting here wondering why. Is it my art style? Probably. Is it my personality? Yeah, I could use some refining. Is it the algorithm? I bet that plays a huge portion of it.

What blows my mind is that I see these young people (granted, I just turned 29, so by “young” I mean 15-23 years old) who are absolutely leveling the field. They bust onto the scene with their mad skills, using iPad Procreate and whatever else they’re using these days, to make their path to stardom squeaky clean.

Yes. I’m bitter. I’m petty. I want the same kind of attention, damnit. Am I feeling entitled just because “I’ve been doing it longer?” Why am I seeking validation from them? Why do I so badly want to be included rather than take stock and appreciate the input that matters?

The Challenge

Instead of being productive in a way that would be beneficial to my livelihood, I’m here researching how to STOP LOOKING FOR VALIDATION.

Psychology Today says:

The problem arises when self-validation is not possible or is not valued. In other words, if an individual puts the opinion, approval, or recognition of someone else over their own feelings, they will need that external, other person’s validation on an ongoing basis.

If that ain’t me in a nutshell. Seriously, when did this Notice-me-senpai BS start? Is it my Only Child Syndrome?*

In the U.S., almost 70 percent of the adult population uses Facebook, with 90.4 percent of Millennials reporting themselves to be active users. By clicking the thumbs up, posting a comment, or sharing a post, people are validating each other at an increasing rate.

This, as well as the need for in-person validation, can create anxietydepression, and low self-esteem, and make it addictive to hear praise, acceptance, and acknowledgment in all aspects of life.

I can’t say that social media is the root cause of my general depression and anxiety, but it certainly aggravates the feelings that continue to churn beneath the surface. Might I also add that, because of social media, I’ve rarely formed a genuine, off-the-grid romance with someone? Ah, but that’s a another tangent for another day.

The main point here is that, without the attention, I start feeling like I’m not good enough. (One long-winded example is here.) Like my art isn’t good enough. Like my opinions aren’t good enough. Like my advice isn’t good enough. Like my character isn’t good enough. Like… my humanity isn’t good enough.

Man, when did the world become so mean and superficial?

The Eureka Moment

Another article that I was looking at comes from Medium. The author talks about their experience and thoughts on the issue between social media and self-validation:

When we’re so focused on how others are viewing our work or daily routines, we lose sight of who we are as people and what we really care about. Instead, we view every activity or daily routine as simply another opportunity to be seen.

This brings to my mind this cycle of thinking I have. One friend will tell me that they’d like to see a certain something about Japan. The most immediate thought is, “There are tons of other YouTube stars and high profile bloggers out there that have already talked about it. Why ask me?” That absolutely tanks whatever self-confidence I had in that moment.

I’m small and insignificant.

Wait.

WAIT A GOSH DARN MINUTE THERE, COWBOY.

I kid you not, as that statement left my brain and was pooped out by my fingers, I realized how stupid that just sounded.

When that one friend says they’d like to enjoy something from me despite the world being at their fingertips and instantly accessible, they’re wanting my spin on things. They want my personality. They want my IDGAF attitude, my weird facial expressions.

It’s the same with my art! The few people that take the time to look at and like my stuff are 90% of the time people close to me. They’ve known me for years! And they know firsthand what I’m capable of… they know my talents and good points… even if I can’t see them myself.

The real meaning of life comes only from living our own truth and creating our own happiness.

[…]

Instead of relying on others to give us the confidence we need, it’s important to remember that the expectations we set for ourselves are what ultimately matter.

[…]

…when we’re so focused on what our followers think of us, we’re no longer connected to our true purpose. Instead, we’re more concerned with finding the “best” moments and capturing them as a highlight in our social media stories.

I could go on, but I want to remember what one of my uncles told me.

Emotions are a natural part of you. YOUR emotions… your feelings… your attitude about your life and everything around you is absolutely unique to you and your experiences. […] But one thing you must understand… you… are… incredible. Just the way you are. For all your weirdness, silliness, sadness, happiness, and those moments of wild abandon… and for all those moments you will feel every one of those things and more in that very instant…. you… are… wonderful. You are loved just for who and what you are.

I may want validation, but I don’t need it from social media. I can find it within myself.

Self-isowhat?

Never would I have thought that I’d be stocking up on non-perishables and learning how to make a mask. Sure, the folks who have believed the zombie apocalypse would be coming all along have been prepared for ages, but what about the rest of us who can’t even grasp the idea? Part of me is still in denial.

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My stash of water, and newly acquired items: tissue, toilet paper, flour, tea, curry rou, udon noodles, chicken stock, rice, canned tomatoes, honey, and dressing.

According to the NHK, Japan’s largest broadcasting network, 197 new coronavirus cases were reported as of Saturday in Tokyo. (April 11, 2020), 674 nationwide. Just before that, dear ol’ Prime Minister Shinzo Abe finally caved and agreed to issue a State of Emergency (plus stimulus package!) for the 7 prefectures most currently affected by the outbreak. While many people, including myself, are on the fence as to whether or not his measures will be effective or not remains to be seen.

In wake of this “soft lockdown,” my own prefecture and Board of Education has advised the closing of schools as well. I consider myself lucky in that I’m still receiving pay and my company is working as hard as it can to keep the business up and rolling. Unfortunately, many are not receiving the same kind of care. The General Union, based in Osaka, was kind enough to get the most current information together and put it upon their website.

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The mask that was never finished.

None of us thought we’d be in this kind of situation.

With mask buyback programs in the works (at least in Wisconsin), closeted seamstress and grandmothers working their fingers to the bone churning out homemade coverings, and people walking around with water bottles on their heads, it’s clear to me that there’s some confusion going on. (Seriously, the number of memes on this stuff is lit.)

My real question, though, is: How hard is it for people to understand that they just need to stay home? The closest I get to going out is usually stepping out onto my balcony if I don’t have business to conduct elsewhere. And… by “business to conduct,” I mean go buy craft stuff from the 100-yen store and donuts from Mr. Donuts. HOWEVER, DO AS I SAY AND NOT AS I DO. There are tons of ideas for people to search for on the internet now.

Heck, the activities they choose don’t even need to follow someone else’s plan! They can make and follow their own! This is the age for ingenuity and critical thinking. For too long, as a society, we’ve been soft and comfortable with our sheltered lives!

TLDR; I’m feeling guilty over my conduct lately while all my friends and family have been so good about self-isolating.

Seriously, though. I want some donuts.

Give me corona, or give me soap!

Give me liberty or give me death” certainly wasn’t how I thought I’d start this out, but it came to mind anyway. I suppose it fits the current situation nonetheless.

Everyone is aware that the coronavirus is wreaking mayhem across the globe. It’s seeping into our already weakened economic sectors, scaring politicians into denial, and causing panic all around. Even I’m starting to feel the nervousness around me.

When Abe Shinzo hit Japan with his suggestion to close all schools, the whole country absolutely freaked out. Social media lit up and everyone was left wondering: what’s next? My suspicions aside, I suppose the crackdown has helped… a little. Despite Japan’s uncanny ability to adjust and adapt, the cons are causing the scale of balance to tip.

Stocks are dropping.

People are becoming scared and downright mean.

Events are being cancelled.

Places that were once teeming with life have emptied.

Every morning, I watch the local train pass by my window. It’s become a ghost train; not a soul aboard. I so desperately want to go out and experience the world around me, but cannot because it’s been recommended that I not go out unless I have to.

To avoid people.

To… exist.

I honestly feel like I’ve walked into a Ray Bradbury story. The hairs on the back of my neck are standing up.

Give me corona, or give me soap.

Cold, Cold, Aa-choo!

We’ve all been there. I was there earlier this month. Whenever sudden symptoms crop up, we rush to the internet and research them. 99.9% of the time, it tells us we have some rare form of cancer when in actuality, it’s a cold. Next, we look up “easy ways to get over a cold” or “quick cold remedies.” I get a rhino in the room every year it seems, so I think I’ve got my routine down pat, but what about you?

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We all know that someone somewhere has got some whacky home cure to give you. You’re also probably feeling just bad enough that you’re willing to try it. In my case, I’ve gargled apple cider vinegar, drank a rancid lime and garlic tea, and have even taken shots of honey and lemon juice with a dash of pepper.

Crazy, right? But what does Japan have to offer?

First, the internet said (pages linked are in Japanese):

Probiotic foods
Found on Google that was linked to this page on probiotic health.

(Source #1): Dr. Mako

 

        • Go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep
        • Do a sinus rinse
        • Drink an herbal tea
        • Try some Chinese medicine
        • Gargle salt water
        • Don’t go nuts with OTC drugs
        • Suck on some throat drops
        • Take care of your gut with probiotics
          • For example, yogurt, kimchi, miso, etc. (A.K.A fermented foods)

(Source #2): Meiji Food Co.

        • Get some good rest
          • If you snore or can’t breathe, use a breathing strip so your sleep isn’t interrupted
        • Relax and quiet your body
        • Eat nutritious foods (high in vitamins, minerals, and protein)
          • Specifically easy to eat foods, like yogurt, fruit slices, and Jello, if your throat is hurting
          • Suggested Meal #1: Hot pot
              • Recommended because the nutrients from the vegetables and meat bleed into the broth. Eating hot pot ensures you’re getting all of it and not just some of it
          • Suggested Meal #2: Miso (instant or otherwise)
              • Recommended because it’s chalk-full of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals
          • Suggested Meal #3: Rice porridge
              • Recommended because it’s easy to swallow and is hot, helping you get some water (especially if you’ve got a fever)
        • Drink water along with a sports drink to get electrolytes

I went around and asked some of my friends and acquaintances, seeing if they could provide any novel advice. Here’s what they said:

  1. Drink sports drinks
  2. Sleep… a lot
  3. Drink Kakkonto*
  4. Drink Yunker**
  5. Gargle with green tea***
  6. Soak a long time in a hot bath
  7. Drink water
  8. Encourage sweating through hot foods like spicy curry with lots of garlic
  9. Drink warm milk and honey
  10. Eat vegetable soup with grated daikon root drizzled with ponzu

Basically… it’s all common sense.

As for my personal methods, I pound back black tea with lemon and honey, use my NetiPot religiously, gargle salt water whenever my throat starts feeling thick and sore, swallow way too much cold medicine, and take A LOT of hot baths. A phone call to the family telling them how miserable I am always seems to help, too.

What do you do when you get sick? Bye for now.

 

goodbye

 

*Kakkonto contains the following: (1) puerira root – improves antioxidant function, among other things, (2) ephedra herb – treats membrane inflammation, (3) jujube – packed with minerals and vitamins, it is used to relax the body, (4) cinnamon bark – a Chinese medicinal serve-all, (5) peony root – another medicinal favorite, this helps with inflammation and spasms, (6) glycyrrhiza (aka licorice) – acts as a biological adhesive helping other medicinal components get through the body more efficiently… plus it adds flavor for an unpalatable medicine!

**This English website provides drop-down boxes explaining what the herbs they use do. It’s very convenient.

***Rumor has it is that this is something only people in Shizuoka may do.

A Weekend Diary: Summer Break (Part 2)

Being alone with my thoughts during this extensive summer vacation, of which ends in one more day (hooray!), has led me to wonder if I’m doing the right things in life. I suppose those are the kind of philosophical mysteries that I’ll never know the answers to. Even historians debate about the correctness of events long after they’ve happened.

Anyway.

In between gallivanting throughout shopping malls, playing PokemonGo, and cooking more food than I’ll actually eat, I participated in the English summer camp a local after-school club puts on every year. I wasn’t around last year to participate, but I hear there was a forest and tons of mosquitoes.

Have you ever gone to camp? I image it to be something like this.

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This particular camp is basically an escape from home that kids so desperately need once in a while to be something they don’t normally get to be. Instead of watching the girls this year, I was thrown in with the boys. Surprisingly, they were easy to entertain and keep happy if one remembered to give them space. I’m assuming we were all the same when we were preteens.

But… what actually happens at an English camp? Activities vary, to be sure, but this schools’ selection is pretty tame. It all begins with welcoming the kids into the school and making sure they’re rounded up, comfortable, and sorted into their groups. Name tags are then made (even though the wisdom of this is lost on me as the tags fall off after 5 minutes).

Board games and funsies came later as we waited for lunch to be made. If there was time, we worked on some kind of performance to put on on the second day. Two groups chose a song and dance, the third did only a song and mine did… a weird variety of things. I believe in letting them make up their own things while I monitor because creativity in this structured Japanese society is so important.

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Taking a quick break to check my phone.

After copious amounts of soda and juice were consumed, it was finally time to pack up to go to the pool. I can’t remember the last time I had bothered to go swimming and I still suck at it as much as I did before. While the latest pop hits were blaring on the radio, we all splish-splashed about, getting ridiculously tired and sun-BURNT. I’m still trying to figure out to this day why only one foot got crispy while the other made it out unscathed. As an added bonus, it was funny as shit watching all the boys run away from the wasps that remained determined to terrorize them on the train platforms.

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Gotta love everyone’s impression what a BBQ should be.

Oh! On the first day, we were permitted to wash up in the spa/hot springs area in the neighboring hotel. Man, I don’t think heaven could get any sweeter. Do you ever get the impression you belong somewhere else other than where you are currently? For example, you might feel you have an old soul and don’t groove with today’s lifestyle, etc. Well! Hot springs were made for this girl and the eucalyptus-scented waters were hard to give up. The ice cream at the end of it was nice, though.

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Strawberry-flavored shaved ice with frozen berry topping.

After going back to the school and having a lovely BBQ dinner, we gathered up the chil’ens to watch a movie. The choices were Lion King, Toy Story or Frozen. Even though Frozen was on the agenda to be watched, the kids unanimously chose Toy Story. Thank you, Pixar. The power you hold to manipulate childrens’ emotions extends across oceans. I suppose it’s a good thing to get the international attention because 100% of the girls and boys under my partial watch weren’t born yet when the first installment to the series came out (1995 to be extact!).

I had forgotten how cool the first movie was. As I got older, I developed a kind of… complex (?) against Tim Allen and Tom Hanks. Their brand of comedy and gimmicky behavior wasn’t my cup of tea, but perhaps it simply wasn’t flavored with the things I prefer. What was even cooler was that two of the ALTs who were attending the camp alongside me had never seen it before. To see them touched just as the kids were was something special to experience. When I go back home, I’ll have to make sure to get the 2nd movie to complete my set and that’s only if the VHS for the first one is still up and running. Man… I’ve still gotta turn all those tapes into DVDs but I digress.

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A mixed sandwich and Coke for lunch. The fried pork cutlet was fresh this time and oh-so good!

Even though I won’t see most of those boys and girls ever again, their faces will blur into the fun and fine memory soup that I’m sure all of my experiences in Japan will culminate into. Sitting here, it’s hard not to become proud, sentimental, and content with the hand I may or may not have had in their lives. I guess I can only hope that their continued encounters with people of other cultures and backgrounds will convince them that the world isn’t as scary as the main Japanese cultural mindset wants them to be.

A Weekend Diary: Summer Break (Part 1)

Do you have those kinds of days? Those kinds of days where you’re sat in your chair or aimlessly walk around the house, staring into space? Since summer break started, that’s ALL I’ve been doing. That’s not saying I don’t have things to do – I have plenty – I just don’t have the interest to do any of it.

Ha! My boredom is my own fault, isn’t it? That’s OK though because I wouldn’t be here trying to focus on my writing if I was engaged elsewhere.

Because I chose not to travel this summer (a.k.a I didn’t have any money), I’ve been putzing around doing a variety of activities. Some were relaxing and others, not so much. When you wake up with no plans to do anything, the day kind of unfolds on its own. Like Marie Kondo finds joy in the smallest of things, I’ve managed to do the same.

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Riding the train, on my way to Nagoya!
My first incident of joy was going to my first-ever concert in Nagoya on August 2nd. I bet you weren’t preparing yourself to hear that it was a classical concert, were you? While many others would be over the moon to go and see their favorite band or singer live, it’s not my cup of tea.  I kid you not. It was such a treat to be able to sit in a music hall and listen to THE MAN, Joe Hisaishi. In my mind, him, John Williams, Alan Menken, and Hans Zimmer are the best. They are the musical geniuses behind Ghibli, Harry Potter, Disney, and Pirates of the Caribbean, respectively, among others.

Sitting there in the second row, surrounded by the razzle and dazzle of lights, crystal fixtures and the gleaming instruments is a moment in my life I wouldn’t… couldn’t trade for anything on this green earth. Even now, I can recall how the music lifted and swelled my soul to popping as tears of emotion rolled down my cheeks. The smile I had on my face would’ve cracked my head in two if it were possible.

Joe himself was such a humble man, thoroughly enjoying the audience’s energy. I can only imagine the immense honor it was to play for him. At the end of the concert, he was free to select the scores he wanted to play as a surprise for us. I was absolutely ecstatic to be able to listen to Merry Go Round of Life from Howl’s Moving Castle, one of my favorite Ghibli movies.

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The Aichi Prefectural Art Theater.
If you ever have the opportunity in your life to see something classical, whether it’s a ballet, opera, or musical, I wholeheartedly recommend you do so. It puts you in touch with emotions and memories you thought were gone forever. You are literally transported to another plane of existence.

Stayed tuned for the next installment of my summer shenanigans, coming soon!

I’ll be back, Japan.

All (good) things must come to an end.
Good things come to those who wait.

What do you think about when you’re reminded of these words? For me, they put what it feels like to be standing on the precipice of change into context. Lo’ how the mind can so easily waver.

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Flashback to 2016: Entering Japan. The weather was quite foggy.

Who knew emotions could be so damning? Who knew that deciding to adult at 28-years-old would result in mental turmoil? Much has happened to me mentally in the past month or two and unfortunately, I can’t attribute the frenzy to that one crazy aunt.

In order to clear my head of all of its thoughts, I sat down to making a web chart. It had been so long since creating one, I was stumped on how to start for the first few minutes. Technicalities aside, my pen eventually went flying across the paper. What started the mess in the first place? What triggered me to get so wrapped up in my own mind that it has convinced me to set aside my dream, if only for a little while?

Let’s take a gander at the gist of it all:

On the Japan side

  • more travel opportunities
  • more time off than in the US
  • job security as an ALT but no career advancement
  • get certified in as many things possible
  • BECOME FLUENT
  • not being close to family -> failure to complete self-imposed duty -> going through belongings after death = panic -> fear of going home for too long would result in job termination
  • fear of responsibility?
  • high demand for skilled labor (i.e. nurses, engineers, scientists)

On the US side

  • family is nearby
  • easier lifestyle
  • not being tied to family frees me -> the fear of being alone is stifling
  • can work towards becoming skilled

Even now, I’m thinking to myself that if wanting to be free to do as I please with no responsibility, why is it that I go looking for it? Certainly, I would be saving myself a lot of trouble by staying in Japan, right? Why drop the reputation I’ve started here and make a new one back home? Anxiety, probably. I’m a full-fledged worrywart, after all.

The optimistic side of me says that it’s never too late to buckle down and be serious for awhile before taking off again. Hell, there’s people out there who make such a thing a career. Most of the advice I’ve received is “You can always go back.”

The pessimistic side is saying that it would be impossible for me to do so permanently. There’s sex discrimination, age discrimination, pressure to retire at 60 because most older folks can’t be arsed enough to keep pushing for a bit of financial freedom, higher tuition rates (should I decide to go back to school), and a damned point system for qualifying as an HSP (Highly Skilled Professional).

Again, why think about going back home in the first place? The biggest reason is because my parents are aging and I feel it’s my responsibility to be there for them. I can’t explain this duty properly because it’s unclear when it got started.

Friends have accused me of living my life for the two of them, though, when that isn’t the complete truth. My original plan was to come to Japan, satisfy my curiosity and then leave. The only dependent factor was how long would it take for me to be satisfied? I always believed there was a Higher Purpose for me in this country.

Should I go home, the best-case scenario in coming back would be to land a decent job using the Japanese I’ve accumulated. A glance at Indeed.com showed me that speaking another language will be invaluable to businesses downtown, especially hotels.

Second, being an ALT and skating by on minimum wage is not the greatest way to live. For those curious, I make about $22,000/year. Because I was a dummy and didn’t listen to those same friends regarding Japanese study and saving, I’m paying for it now. I have nothing to show for the sweat, blood and tears I’ve poured into this whole endeavor other than gray hair and a sad bank account.we got a dollar

I don’t regret the choices I’ve made. I just wish I hadn’t been so corrupted by the freedom having a decent job and an actual paycheck afforded me.

I’m scrambling.

A few pieces of advice to anyone wanting to do this ALT thing: save up as much money as you can in your first year because you’ll basically be tax-free. The next piece lies in the realm of qualifications. Have them before you come or work your ass off towards them while you’re here in that precious virgin year because Japan doesn’t want you long-term otherwise. Do you want to remain in education? Get a TESOL/TEFL. Not too interested in education? Go back to school and get your Master’s or PhD in the field of your choice – and make sure it has a job outlook and it’s not something fancy to decorate your wall or bookshelf with.marriage

You can relax if marriage is your goal, though. Most of the red tape disappears if it’s to a Japanese national. Also, too if you’re that golden HSP, you’ve got the digs coming to you on a silver platter.

Basically, after all is said and done, I want job security (because I feel guilty) with the chance to safeguard my parents (because I feel guilty) and the way I’m choosing to do that is to do a total 180 and wrestle my way into the hotel industry. Lord knows Vegas is full of them. That way, I can continue to use Japanese (because I’ll feel guilty) and get a nice benefits package. Not to mention I can pay off my pesky credit card in the blink of an eye (because I feel guilty). Let’s just hope that whatever company I double-down on has transfer capabilities. With Japan wanting to build casinos, I’ll be on the first plane to spearhead the project.

The local community college has certifications related to the hotel industry, too. When I hit the ground running, everyone better watch out. I’m determined to make it back to Japan in any capacity possible… even if that means I’ve got to once more don the ALT guise.

I’ll be back, Japan. Just sit tight.

Ashley Goes to the Konbini

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As I was eating my food, I realized that I could do a segment on the things I buy and try out. Unfortunately, the items I’m going to share with you today have already been ingested and are now succumbing to my acid. Wait… that doesn’t sound right. Let’s try that again!

Unfortunately, the items I’m going to share with you today have already been impounded and are currently going through processing.

ShockingPowerfulAardwolf-size_restricted

…moving on!

7-11 is a thing here and it is quite different than my American counterpart. Two words: NO. SLURPEES. Despite not offering the snacks and hot foods I grew up eating, Japanese 7-11s are dope in their own way. The main reason is the above. If I could live off fried chicken and rice balls for the rest of my life, I would but I’d hate to see what my body’d look like after 10 years.

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The Jell-O dessert.

First up to bat is this “cream soda jelly.” Yes, Jell-O is called jelly here. Which is easier for you to say? Honestly, my mind gets stuck on the #ujelly schtick…

Topped with a cocktail cherry (sorry, it’s not a maraschino), whipped cream, and lemon mousse, it’s actually pretty tasty. I was transported back to my childhood. Story time! Furr’s was a buffet or cafeteria-style restaurant my family would take me to every once in a while. It has since been closed for many, many years. But I distinctly remember their green (lime-flavored, maybe) Jell-O with whipped cream. I think it became one of those must-haves a child always looks forward to.

 

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Once upon a time, there was a place.

VERDICT: 7/10. The dessert here was extremely pleasant. The Jell-O wasn’t overpoweringly flavored. The whipped cream was light. The lemon mousse was en point. It’s probably one of the few Western things Japan is doing better than their competitors. The only downer was that cocktail cherry.

 

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Tuna salad and rice. Who’da thought?

Up next, we have the humble rice ball. Why it’s called a “ball,” I have no idea because in Japanese, it’s called おにぎり (onigiri, oh-nee-ghee-ree). The number of things you can wrap rice around is just about endless, but let’s talk about this particular one: tuna mayonnaise. The mayonnaise in Japan is not Best Foods. Whatever their egg to oil to whatever ratio is, it’s tasty cold or warm.

The rice is fresh and springy; not cold and hard. The tuna is your typical, flaked variety. The mayo is mild and I swear it’s seasoned with something. VERDICT: 8/10.

 

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Goodness on a stick.

Last, but not least is the fried chicken (called 唐揚げ [karage, kara-age]). Made from thigh meat, the chicken is marinated in some kind of soy sauce, sake, ginger, and garlic combination or simply dipped in seasoned flour and fried until golden brown. Instead of nachos or a hot dog, you can buy these babies for about $1.50 each. Their crispy, juicy deliciousness will not leave you disappointed. Just don’t let it get soggy. VERDICT: 9/10 (Maybe I have low expectations, but wait until you try it.)

Honorable mention: Popcorn is popcorn. I’ve yet to eat bad popcorn that I didn’t make myself.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my account of konbini food. Stay tuned for the next episode!

What do you mean ‘I’ll get lonely?!’

Disclaimer: Any advice given or situations are from my own experiences. Please take what I say with a grain of salt when comparing it to your own situation.

typingWhen you type into Google “teaching in Japan” or “ALT jobs in Japan,” it may not cross your mind that you’ll be lonely. You can only think of all that fresh, juicy anime you’ll be able to get your hands on, or the delicious foods you can finally try that’ll knock the socks off an instant noodle cup. Japan! Temples, beaches, cute boys, adorable women, fashion, music! YEAH! You find a company you like and click that “Apply” button.

Now it’s time to buckle up and brace yourself for the ride.

im ready

Fast-forward to a month in. Everything is uncertain. You’re uncertain of your choice, you’re uncertain of yourself; so, you call your family and cry. You complain of the prejudice. You complain of the lack of friends. You complain about how the food isn’t what you thought it was. The strings of malicious words are non-exhaustible. Most of all, you’re lonely. Oh-so oppressively lonely.

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Wait… what? “But Ashley, loneliness wasn’t on the agenda.” It never is. “How do I deal with it?” I’m still learning and searching for that answer myself. Ultimately, you have two choices: healthily or unhealthily. Do you want to save yourself from the agony your emotions will cause or tackle it head-on? As for myself, I feel it’s like walking a tightrope. Some days, I’m above my pettiness and others… well, I drown in it.

For the first 7 months of ALT-ing, I felt I was doing fairly well if I took out all the weekends I called back home sobbing. I was connecting with my school and connecting with my students. I was becoming a regular at many of the shops and even made a friend here and there. I certainly won’t knock my time in my original placement. However… but… a part of me kept listening to the niggly peanut gallery. The devil on my shoulder was getting louder. “You could have more friends. You could have more relationships. You could have more sex. All it takes is for you to log on. You’re a pretty girl. Think of all the attention you’ll be getting!” it would whisper.

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Call it confidence or call it stupidity, but I listened to that voice and stepped into the world of online dating in Japan. Yeah, I know. I can already hear your scoffing and see your eye-rolling. Why couldn’t I have been stronger and found other things to put my energy towards? Well… the answer is “Loneliness will do that to you.”

Being in another country with this newfound independence creates a drug-like effect in your brain. You’re free. You’re away from the judgment of your friends and family. I mean, what they don’t know won’t hurt them, right? I can guarantee that there’s so much going on in my daily life that doesn’t end up on my social media.

Without going into detail about that messy thing, I will tell you that life alone in another country is hard. Battling internally with myself has led me to question, has led me to doubt, has led me to self-hate, lowered self-esteem, a bad body image, and has led me to this ugly, clouded room of choices that look lifesaving but are actually there to hurt me. I am literally stuck within my own mind most of the time. “Ashley, you think too much,” you say. Yup, and I’m not ashamed of my problem.

Self-hate

I have discussed my issues with my friends and family attempting to find some kind of answer as to why. Why do I subject myself to this nonsense? This the advice I’ve received (as best as I can remember it):

  1. You need a pet or someone to take care of
  2. You need to ignore what everyone else is doing
  3. It’s normal. Don’t worry about it
  4. You should date more
  5. Concentrate on your hobbies
  6. Stop being so concerned about everyone else

Let’s address each of the points mentioned, shall we?

  1. In regards to pets, I live in a LeoPalace whom of which doesn’t allow animals in their buildings. Whether it’s because of noise or because of filth, I cannot have one on the premises. I did sneak fish into my place though but they don’t have the cuddle component one would look for in a dog, cat, or bird. As for having someone to take care of, that has backfired miserably and I want no part in it.
  2. Ignoring people is successful to an extent but keeping that up 24/7 is exhausting and once that barrier comes down, the world barges in. When I do this, I usually end up having an emotional breakdown. I’m surprised that there are less holes in my walls.
  3. Loneliness is normal, yes, but bone-crushing, fatigue-inducing loneliness with a side of depression is not. It is especially not normal when you’re thinking of ending it all during one of these episodes. (If you know someone who is suffering from suicidal thoughts or are suffering yourself, please do not hesitate to call a friend, a family member, your next-door neighbor, some randomly dialed number, 911 [110 for Japan], or the Suicide Hotline @ 1-800-273-8255 [or for Japan, +81-035-774-0992])
  4. Just… no.
  5. I have way too many hobbies but this has worked a bit. Lately, I’ve been trying to develop a caricature art style and it’s been fun. I’ve also invested money in coasters with the intent to design embroidered Sailor Moon themed sets to sell to the hardcore anime fan. Unfortunately, remaining interested is a struggle.
  6. Being concerned about everyone is in my DNA. For some reason, I’m always extending help to someone in some way. My heart is too big to not to. The downside to this is that I end up not taking care of myself. When I become worried over what everyone else is doing and thinking, it sends me into a funk that takes days to shake out of. I plummet right back into the Negativity Room. When I’m there, I don’t believe anything anyone says. I hear them but I don’t listen

I truly believe that rooms absorb our feelings. Being trapped in my apartment during the day or in times of rest when I’m not sleeping leads to ugly thoughts. I turn into this… awful, disgusting, vicious, spiteful, bitter woman. It becomes hard for me to relate to anyone or anything. I shut off. So, what do I do? I get out. I ride my bike to nowhere in particular. I take pictures of things I find interesting and share them on Instagram. I give my surroundings stories and characters. I let these small moments fuel my artsy-fartsy side and before I know it, I’ve emerged from the gloom renewed.

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Loneliness is tough and it should be taken seriously. Most of all, my advice to you is to analyze why you feel lonely. Finding the reasons while help you in punching the emotion in the face. You and I are smart. We are valuable to someone even if that someone is ourselves. We can overcome this.

The Ramen Virgin

I can’t remember offhand when I finally got around to having ramen, but I did give it a shot. On an unexpectedly cold day, I thought I would warm up by stopping in at this family-run joint next to one of the train stations.

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My first mistake was standing there waiting to be seated. As a tip, when you’re by yourself, you are usually able to choose where you want to sit on your own. Just wait for the OK from the staff.

My second mistake was thinking I was going to get the same kind of rice the guy next to me was eating. Wrong! As you can see, I overloaded on carbs. I went down into that deep spiral that results in pain and confusion.

My last mistake was thinking the red oil would be savory. Needless to say, my gyoza were particularly spicy.

I ordered a 醤油 (shoyu, soy sauce) flavored soup base. This is the traditional option and a recommended choice for the uninitiated.

It came with:

  • Soy sauce-based broth
  • Cuts of pork belly
  • メンマ (menma, sliced pickled bamboo)
  • Seaweed
  • Fish cakes
  • Green onions
  • Noodles*

*Some ramen restaurants give its customers the option of noodle firmness. They range from al-dente to really soft.

When you eat ramen, what is your favorite kind to eat? Let me know down in the comments!