Tag Archive | writing

The Long And Short Of Why I Want To Travel Far And Wide

There are some things in this world that I shouldn’t have to explain.

Maybe I should rephrase that. There are things in this world that can go without an explanation.

No, that’s still not quite right. What about, once a person has made a few mistakes in life, they start to learn from them and can probably make better-informed decisions later on?

Well, I’ve made enough mistakes with this introduction. I guess all that’s left is to explain a few things. It seems counterproductive compared to the intro I was going for. Or, did I do everything as I wanted to do, and it’s now exactly what I was thinking?

Plotting and scheming aside, the point I’m trying to make is that I sometimes feel criticized for wanting to go to Japan. While it hasn’t been said in so few words, the statements come down to things like, “you should give up on going, I can’t understand why you would want to go to Japan, you will be disappointed when you get there.” I usually hear, “do you have to go now? Can you wait 10, 15, 20 years?” Why should I wait? I’m not getting any younger, my body isn’t becoming any more capable. I already have to wait until I get enough money put aside, and that wait will be long enough. But when I hear people ask why I can’t put off the dream of going, I feel like they’re really asking why I can’t give up on going altogether.

Clearly, I need new friends. Or I’m overthinking things.

The short answer is, Japan makes me happy. I feel like people who care about me should want me to be happy.

Why does Japan make me happy? It just does. I can’t really explain it, and I know if I try to explain it, I might lose the magic. But of course, I apparently need to explain the whole thing.

It didn’t start with Wakkanai.

My Dad was stationed in Wakkanai while he was in the Air Force. I don’t remember if there were slides. For you kiddies out there, slides are basically physical photos that you can shine light through, and you put a tray of them on a special projector to help a room full of people fall asleep quickly. Anyway, that’s not important right now. He was in the Air Force as a Russian linguist. For you kiddies, the United States had a grudge against Russia for a number of years, and it was called the Cold War. My Dad basically translated radio transmissions.

When his time had ended over there, he brought home some stereo equipment that probably still works to this day. I was raised with the knowledge that Japanese electronics were superiorly made in comparison to American electronics. I watched the movie Gung Ho, and admired the Japanese work ethic. I think I watched Big Bird Goes To Japan as a child. But, I barely knew anything about Japan, I barely had an interest in Japan.

I had an interest in the Moon.

By the time I became a teenager, I loved looking up at the moon and stars. Astrology interested me, and I learned that my sign, Aries, was a fire sign. And then I was flipping through the channels on TV one afternoon and saw a cartoon with these girls who defended Earth in the name of the name of the moon or one of the planets. I saw a bit of myself in the title character, Sailor Moon, but my favorite character soon became the one who’s a fellow Aries, Sailor Mars. When they weren’t saving the day, they were living their lives in and around Tokyo.

I started watching Tenchi Muyo as well, and even a bit of Yu Yu Hakusho. Eventually I watched Fullmetal Alchemist.

One time, I was near the comic and gaming store and decided to drop in. I found manga, and bought one book as that was all I could afford at the time. But after I started working and driving, one volume of manga turned into over one hundred. I was a bit addicted.

When I was still in college, though, I started getting into L’arc en Ciel. I remember looking up song lyrics and translations in the computer rooms while I was between classes or after I had finished up whatever I was working on. After I graduated, I bought an iPod while working at my first job, and I had some Sowelu and Utada Hikaru songs along with some L’arc on there.

It wasn’t an interest in Japan, just in Japanese media, but I was happy. Life seemed to be going well for me, I had both of my parents, I had started working and had a car to get around.

And then I met a guy.

When I first met him, he kind of had a significant other. She didn’t really want him, and had ended things with him by the time I saw him again. They were both at a party that one of my friends was hosting, and I was there as well for no reason other than I was invited to a party. He was there because his now-ex was going to be there, but he felt a need to heal his wounds by getting drunk and crying on the sofa. I had knelt down next to the sofa, the armrest being all that separated me from his feet. I wanted to help, I wanted to be supportive. He ended up calling one of his friends who drove over and picked him up to bring him home.

This guy’s life was a bit of a wreck. Someone broke into his station wagon and stole things from him. He was driving a station wagon because that’s all he could afford at the time, and it was already falling apart. He was also living with his brother, who looked Korean. He actually looked Japanese to me, but was apparently half Irish and half Korean. His brother had a different father and was full Korean, if memory serves me correctly.

Not that it mattered what he was, because to me he looked pretty good. I really didn’t feel worthy of being around him. Oh, I should mention that after checking up on him the next day, one thing led to another and I started going over to his place nearly every day. I thought things were going somewhere, but I had never had a boyfriend before and I had nothing to base my experiences on.

One day, he started talking about looking at newer cars, and had his heart set on one at a local dealership. Knowing his struggles, I did what any foolish girl would do. Well, because I felt a bit guilty for enjoying Japanese stuff while I had an interest in an Asian guy, I sold the manga and gave him the money to put towards the car.

After about a month, he didn’t want to see me anymore. I learned a lot in that one month, more than I really care to explain. But I lost my interest in manga, and my interest in everything else waned as well.

The second time wasn’t as good.

Eventually, I bought more manga, though my collection wasn’t as impressive as it originally had been. I didn’t read the volumes as often or as quickly. But I met a guy at work who became a bit of a friend, nothing more. To some degree, he got me back into anime, but I wasn’t as interested as before.

I went to an anime convention with him, my second ever anime convention. I remember feeling like I had outgrown anime. I was surrounded by people cosplaying characters that I didn’t recognize. There were anime titles I had never heard of. The finest moment was meeting Vic Mignogna, voice actor extraordinaire (seriously, look him up on IMDB or something, he’s in nearly every English-dubbed anime you can think of). Aside from that, the day was a bit of a waste.

Eventually, I was rescued…  by food.

While working at a well-known grocery store, I bought The Manga Cookbook. Unfortunately my ingredients were limited, and I could barely make anything in the book despite the grocery store having an Asian food section with imported goods. I did try my hand at making udon noodles, though, which turned out alright.

While working that job, I lost my Mom, which caused me to move to New Jersey. Okay, a lot of things caused me to move to New Jersey, most of which were bad decisions. While I was living in New Jersey, my boyfriend at the time introduced me to Mitsuwa Marketplace. At first I was interested in going, but after going I was in ecstasy! All the ingredients I couldn’t find before, I could find at Mitsuwa! And there was a bookstore nearby where I could buy manga in the original Japanese! And I spent more money than I should have, but it was necessary.

I returned a few more times after that. I always made sure that I ate something from the food court, because there was no way I’d be able to make anything that tasted quite like it should. I loved the feeling I had while I was there. I came home after my first visit, and realized that I didn’t have any L’arc songs in iTunes, just a couple of Hyde’s songs. I started tracking down all of L’arc’s albums on Amazon and eBay, which gave me a bit of an endorphin rush when I bought another album and when it finally arrived.

I had forgotten how happy I once was to listen to Japanese rock and pop music. I listened to Horizon, and it reminded me of a dream I once had. But the food also made me happy, because everything was new, and everything I tried was amazing.

Japan was where I needed to be.

The search for a job can make anyone go a bit insane. The thought eventually popped into my head that I could move to and work in Japan, so that became the plan before I even knew what I was getting myself into. But a plan like that is good to have when you think of all the angles, and in my case I realized that my then-fiance and I were two entirely different people. Ignoring what I had to consider for myself, I realized I couldn’t have my fiancé travel with me to Japan because the flight would be too lengthy for him to deal with his disability, and then he probably wouldn’t want to go out and do anything with me once we were there. Not only that, but leaving him behind meant that we were back to having a long-distance relationship.

I like to think that the entirety of that discussion was one of the many factors why we broke up. Our relationship left me broke, but it also left me with the freedom to go and do what I want to do once I’m not poor. Since I put more thought into going to Japan, I know what I need to do to go, and I don’t see a reason why I shouldn’t go.

So what else?

I’d like to think I’ll eventually meet someone while I’m in Japan, and maybe I’ll give in and have children, thereby helping out their birth rate and keep it from declining further.

If I’m in Japan before the Olympics, maybe I can get into hospitality and be of some use when the place is mobbed by tourists who speak more English than Japanese. Otherwise, I could always just assist in teaching the language.

My interest in Japan isn’t anime and manga. I might go to a concert, if time and finances allow. I might do some video gaming-related things. Or I might decide to be boring and check out as many temples and shrines as I can. If I lose interest in Japan, I could go elsewhere.

I’ll have to go over on a student visa and go to a language school, then work part time to make a living. I can’t get on a work visa because I don’t have the right credentials, and it would be cheaper to get my bachelors degree in Japan. But it is possible for me to go to Japan, I just need to get my finances in order before I can go.

Tomorrow, I think I’m going to make a PowerPoint presentation of this entry, then save it onto my phone so I can make the argument at a moment’s notice. Basically, the Japanese stuff makes me happy, and so I’d like to go to Japan and live there for a while. I know what I need to do to get there, and unless you’ve travelled abroad, you can’t say that I don’t know what I’m doing. But there are things I can’t plan for just yet, because airline tickets change prices, tuition costs increase, rent goes up, so those things will have to wait until I’m at a point where I have to consider such things.

This is what I want. This makes me happy.

I’ve spent enough time trying to make others happy. Now I want to do something for myself.

Self-Awareness Exercises, Question Five

I’m somewhat angered in regards to Rosetta Stone. However, I think my anger would be better directed towards the amplifier cable of my Turtle Beach headset. Perhaps the audio was cutting out because there’s an issue with that cable. Regardless, I haven’t tried using Rosetta Stone since then, but part of that is because I haven’t taken the time.

Things have been interesting, just the same. But this is yet another one of those self-awareness posts, so we won’t get into the latest happenings of my life… or will we?

For those of you playing along at home, there’s a five-minute timer in which I answer a writing prompt as a stream of consciousness. Of course, I explain myself after the five minutes are done, because it seems like a good idea to me but I’m sure it’s useful so I do it. I’m a rebel like that.

There’s also an introduction paragraph, which I’ll put… here:

“We each write our own story for our life.  What story are you writing for yours?  Set a timer (there should be one on your phone if no where else) for 5 minutes for each prompt and write as fast as you can for those five minutes.  If it goes off mid sentence, finish your sentence and stop.  You can always go back and do them again.  And if nothing come out at first, just start writing random words, and free write even if it seems like gibberish.  Remember to give yourself at least a little time to digest everything that comes to the surface for each prompt.  It may not hit all at once, or it may do so and it may even possibly overwhelm you.  Let it out and let it go.  There are no right or wrong answers here, only your deepest truths.  If it helps, look at these exercises as writing prompts for a novel, with you as the hero/heroine and write your story.”

Now for the magical prompt:

5.  The most incredible thing I ever did was. . .

And five minutes on the timer begins NOW!

The most incredible thing I did was selling a used flat screen television where the screen didn’t work anymore? I sold it for $50. That’s not my best work. Lately I seem to be recognizing my ability to make money appear out of nowhere. I’m the personification of taking your coat out of the closet and finding $20 in the pockets. I managed to have over $2,000 in the bank in NY when I thought I had very little, and that lasted me until now, but I have a job again so that helps. I was given a nickname by my Dad for my ability to always have money somehow. I don’t know how I do it, unless I’m irresponsible and lucky.

Stop the clock!

Yes, I sold a TV for $50. My brother said that no one would buy it. I might have been trying to sell it for too little, who knows. Mom and I had a few offers on it. We were trying to get it repaired, but the repair guy said there was nothing he could do. The guys who bought it from us said that they knew a way to fix it. That was fine by us. The television that Mom bought to replace that one is now my TV, and it travelled with me to New Jersey and back. It also has lasted longer than the TV it replaced, so I highly recommend buying Vizio televisions over Polaroid.

So I thought I was getting paid over the weekend. I checked my account, and there was nothing directly deposited into my account. I had an offer to settle one of my credit card debts, but “the offer would expire” on the 24th. Maybe it would, maybe not, but it’s an effective means of trying to get the debtor to pay back some of what’s owed. I made the call just the same, and I set up automatic payments to get this over and done with for that account. I told them I hadn’t been paid this weekend, and asked if they could postpone the payment by a week. So they set up the payment for the end of the month. And then my paycheck arrived in today’s mail. I’m not even mad, this actually gives me a bit of a cushion, but I still have to see what I have to work with before the weekend.

As for making a couple thousand dollars appear? I guess it wasn’t out of nowhere, but I had forgotten about it. I don’t remember if I set up my brother or my ex fiancé as the beneficiary, but one of those two… um, fine, upstanding gentlemen… one of them would have benefitted a bit off of my forgetfulness, assuming that either one of them considered accessing that account. And I don’t even know why I left that money in the account, when I knew I was moving to New Jersey and wouldn’t be near any branches of that bank. But I did, and leaving a little something for myself helped me out quite a bit.

One of my Dad’s nicknames for me was Moneybags. Part of that came from playing Monopoly, though my brother usually won while playing. Usually, it was my ability to make actual, real world money appear out of nowhere, as if I shouldn’t have some of the money that I did have. Part of my secret comes from having a frugal Mom, and part comes from having willpower at times, if I’m not just stashing money somewhere and forgetting all about it.

And yeah, irresponsible and lucky are both fitting. I’m probably making my Japanese friend panic because I told him I might overdraft my checking account this weekend. He already told me I should borrow a bit from family, just to get by and pay them back in a week or two when I’m able. I was sure that I would be able to get by, and that I might have enough if I moved some money around. I told him I still had something for gas, as I have cash in my wallet, and I had something for food because I still have a balance on my food stamps card. So even though finances would end up being the ultimate exercise in penny-pinching, I figured I still had enough to get by. And then my paycheck arrived in the mail. His mind is probably reeling, wondering if he can trust me with money and managing even my own finances. Then again, I’m already in debt and he’s still around, and I promised I’d never ask him for a dime and I haven’t needed to do so. And I have documents proving that I have this debt, so I’m not faking it for sympathy. All I can think is, despite my reckless behavior with money and my moments of derp, he must love me for me.

So, I must be pretty awesome.

If you want to participate in these self-awareness exercises, post in the comments or grab your own journal of some sort, or you can pop over to Facebook and post there! Don’t forget to check the “self-awareness questions” tag for all the fun I’ve had so far.

Self-Awareness Exercises, Question Four

I am dumb. There’s a retraction I might have to post in regards to a confession I made.

Then again, as far as going forward, I’m second-guessing things. It’s not him, it’s me, and it has to do with the Easter fallout with my brother and my trust being shaken. Well, my trust is shaken in the sense that my brother seems to be a textbook narcissist, so I’m really questioning how much my brother cared about me and if I might actually be part of the problem. But then that’s more baggage for other people in my life to deal with, which isn’t fair to them. So I have to work through it, maybe stop talking about my brother and just claim to be an only child (which, biologically, I am).

Ugh. So then, let’s work through another one of these self-awareness questions, shall we? It should help.

Just a refresher of the introduction:

“We each write our own story for our life.  What story are you writing for yours?  Set a timer (there should be one on your phone if no where else) for 5 minutes for each prompt and write as fast as you can for those five minutes.  If it goes off mid sentence, finish your sentence and stop.  You can always go back and do them again.  And if nothing come out at first, just start writing random words, and free write even if it seems like gibberish.  Remember to give yourself at least a little time to digest everything that comes to the surface for each prompt.  It may not hit all at once, or it may do so and it may even possibly overwhelm you.  Let it out and let it go.  There are no right or wrong answers here, only your deepest truths.  If it helps, look at these exercises as writing prompts for a novel, with you as the hero/heroine and write your story.”

And what’s the task at hand?

4.  If I were to descirbe myself, I would say that I am. . .

I am dumb.

Okay, let’s take this seriously! Five minutes on the clock… and GO!

If I were to describe myself, I would say that I’m relatively intelligent. I would also say that I’m a nice person, perhaps too nice at times. Usually I wouldn’t say that I’m compassionate, but then I have moments when I see something and I actually care, like my heartstrings are pulled or something. I don’t really know if I’m introverted or extroverted, so because I seem to go both ways, I must be an ambivert. I would say I’m antisocial, but then I do want to socialize with people, and then I just want to be in my own little world when I’m around people I can socialize with. As for looks, I don’t think I look terrible. I think I actually look pretty cute at times. Then there’s moments when I’m self-conscious but don’t have the means to fix the issues I see, like my skin breaking out because I stopped caring since I wasn’t going anywhere. But I don’t think I’m a terrible person overall.

And that was five minutes.

I use the words “relatively intelligent” because of a quote about everyone being a genius, but if you judge a fish on it’s ability to fly, it will always think it’s stupid… or something like that. I believe Einstein is quoted as having said that, and I could look it up, but then I’d probably find a page that says, “this was originally quoted as this person, but it was actually said by this other person years ago in this ancient manuscript.” Long story short, there’s a quote, I wasn’t smart enough or old enough to think of it first, and it applies. So when I say I’m relatively intelligent, I might know more about computers than you, but I know there are people who are hackers, networking specialists, programmers, you name it, and they can run circles around me. I might know my way around a kitchen, but I’m not a five-star chef. I might not be working up to my potential as it is, I could probably do more if I focused on something and honed my skills in that one thing for a while.

I’d say I’m too nice at times, not in the sense that I would tell others I’m nice and they should believe it, but because there are times when I feel like something should run its course because I can’t find a way to excuse myself that doesn’t seem rude to me. I’m not entirely sweet, because I can be sarcastic or cynical at times. But I try to use my manners, I try to allow others the right of way before myself, I try to save or hold things for people. I try to care for others, sometimes putting strangers over myself.

In regards to being compassionate, some things don’t affect me. Starving children or dying pets in those commercials? I’m sorry, but if these charities have money for advertising, then they have enough money to allocate more resources to help those in need. But if my friends have a pet or a child in need of help? What do you need? What can I do? I want to help, if I can.

No people, some people, a lot of people, it’s all the same to me. Talking to everyone, talking to people I feel comfortable with, talking to no one, it doesn’t matter. I can exhaust myself if I’m left to my own devices, I can be exhausted after being with people. So as far as I’m concerned, I’m an ambivert. I do have antisocial moments, but then I have other times when I want to be around people and get disappointed when I can only get a small group of people together. Again, it’s all the same to me.

Ugh, I let myself go and my complexion is suffering right now. I need to get to Lush and get some of my favorite facial scrub. My face has some good days, but this isn’t one of them. But I wouldn’t use that to describe myself, because there are times when my complexion is better than this.

And again, I don’t consider myself to be a terrible person overall. I don’t really try to make new friends, but sometimes it just happens. I don’t usually try to reach out to people, but sometimes I need people for something and I get to see who’s looking out for me. I don’t think I’m anything too special, and I’m probably not interesting to most people. But I’m not going to try to be popular, or highly sought after, or even loved. I’m going to let things fall where they may. Right now, I’m comfortable with my existence. There ARE people who care about me. There ARE people who I care about, who matter to me. But there’s things I have to do for me, that I can’t ask of others, because it’s my burden to bear.

That’s about all I have to say for that question. If you’re following along, click the “self-awareness questions” tag for everything so far. And if you want to do the question for yourself, you can post in the comments or write in your own journal or blog. I keep forgetting to mention, you could also post on Facebook if you so desire, or just go there to follow me and any brief updates I might have to make.

Kore Wa Pen Desu – How My Scatterbrain Learns Japanese

Mornings around here are hit or miss. Either everyone is reasonably quiet, or I’m just in a very deep sleep when they’re getting ready to leave for school and work, because some mornings I don’t wake up until 9 am or so. Other mornings, it’s either a manic 6-year-old with no volume control regardless of how many times you tell him to be quiet, or it’s a banshee in her mid-thirtees complaining about what does and doesn’t get done properly around here. This morning was a combination of both noisy individuals, but it was fine because I had to wake up at a reasonable hour since a guest was stopping by around 9 am.

With all of this time on my hands, what was I to do? Supposedly, early daytime hours are better for learning things. I’ve only learned to either obey the alarm clock or go back to sleep for another hour. As long as I was awake, I pulled out Memrise and Mindsnacks.

I had the word kore (これ, this) drilled into my head by Memrise. It reminded me that the first phrase Japanese-speakers tend to learn when they’re learning English is “this is a pen.” So, I decided to teach myself how to say “this is a pen” in Japanese.

Google Translate converted the English into これわペンです.

I, however, don’t understand why it can’t be written as これわぺんです. So when I typed that into Google Translate and made it spit the English back at me, it said “this is very confusing.” You’re absolutely correct, Google! It IS very confusing! The hiragana is phonetically correct, so why can’t it still say, “this is a pen?” But I’m here to learn, not to teach, so I’ll have to do some research on that and talk about it later.

The new hiragana I did learn, I could write about it here, but typing the hiragana isn’t going to help me learn the hiragana. The computer already knows the symbol, I just have to type the letters for the sound it makes.

Speaking of, I’m going to get thrown by め and ぬ. One is me (pronounced may) and the other is nu (pronounced new). So it’s not just a matter of looking at the one and thinking, “it looks like no but has a little u-like marking, so it must be nu.” NO! I have to look for the little curlicue on the bottom right of the character in order to tell them apart.

I tried doing the N5 sample questions for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test, just to see if I had advanced at all since the last time I tried looking at the questions. I still have much to learn, because even though I know more of the hiragana characters, I don’t feel as if I have all of the vocabulary learned and therefore there’s a disconnect.

And I don’t remember what word I was trying to commit to memory, but I was trying to put a word into context by putting it in a sentence so I’d remember it. Unfortunately, I noticed I was using Spanish articles. I learned some Spanish in high school, and I guess my mind only wants to have one secondary language. If it happens again, I’ll have to write down the sentence I was trying to make, because I had some wires crossing somewhere and I couldn’t help but shake my head.

Of the hiragana I do have memorized, I have ka (か) down pat. I associate it with my most recent Dungeons & Dragons character Kha’knacca, a tiefling warlock who acquired Hyde (yes, Hyde from L’arc en Ciel) as a sort of pet bard. Well, I’m far enough into Memrise that ka is now its own vocabulary term, and it translates to “mosquito.” Considering how many times people wanted to swat Kha’knacca, I guess か is rather fitting.

I’m watching more Kyosuke Himuro music videos tonight. I tried pulling myself away for a day or two, as my mood had changed a bit, but I’m still mesmerized despite watching the same music videos day in and day out. Also, I want to gaze into his eyes more, because they look like pools of ink from what I can see in the videos. I’m so used to seeing people with different colored irises, to the point where solid black irises are mysterious to me. That has nothing to do with learning Japanese, however, people have added the lyrics to his songs at the bottom of some of the videos. Knowing more hiragana helps a bit, because I can follow along with the lyrics even though I still don’t know kanji. One day, I’ll be able to do Himuro’s songs at karaoke without needing to look up the romaji lyrics, but that’s going to take some practice.

A Vamps song just came on. Hyde, you’re not helping my Japanese education by singing in English! You get a pass for putting dragons and a moon in the video for Replay. You did, however, inspire me to look up some of the first Japanese words I ever committed to memory, so you did teach me some Japanese. I’ll save that post for another day, or maybe I’ll turn a song into a vocabulary list.

For now, it’s late and I must be off to bed. Not that I have anything to do tomorrow, since my interview was cancelled. But there’s more Japanese to learn, and more self-awareness questions to answer. Tomorrow is just another day to do it all.

Self Awareness Exercises, Question Three

Can’t I just skip some of these questions? Tonight’s seems to be difficult and boring!

While I have been putting it off, I will admit to being busy and having other things going on. Also, I did want to get the entry written up about the Japanese-learning apps I’ve been using. Needless to say, if I don’t live a life away from a computer, I won’t have many interesting things to write about when I’m back at the keyboard.

Tonight’s question, I’ve put some thought into ahead of time. I’m not sure if that’s within the rules or not, but it’s a question where you have to debate whether your answer fits at all or even a little bit.

Anyway, let’s get this out of the way, shall we? Here’s the introduction, if you need a reminder:

“We each write our own story for our life.  What story are you writing for yours?  Set a timer (there should be one on your phone if no where else) for 5 minutes for each prompt and write as fast as you can for those five minutes.  If it goes off mid sentence, finish your sentence and stop.  You can always go back and do them again.  And if nothing come out at first, just start writing random words, and free write even if it seems like gibberish.  Remember to give yourself at least a little time to digest everything that comes to the surface for each prompt.  It may not hit all at once, or it may do so and it may even possibly overwhelm you.  Let it out and let it go.  There are no right or wrong answers here, only your deepest truths.  If it helps, look at these exercises as writing prompts for a novel, with you as the hero/heroine and write your story.”

And tonight’s perilous question?

3.  The dilemma at the heart of my story is . . . 

The thing here is not to confuse a dilemma with a problem.  Problems can be solved or fixed like a flat tire for example.  A dilemma can only be resolved by a shift in perception, like the bigotry behind women not having the right to vote years ago.  An example on a more personal level, realizing your parents aren’t as bad as you thought, and while they may not have been good parents, they did the best they could with what they had.  (This is a good one to come back to as you grow and work through things.)

I’m off to hide in my pillow fort now.

Oh, right, I actually have to write this, correct? For those of you following along, I could just post the question and bow out. But some of you might be interested in how I think, or at least how I’m going to answer. So let’s set a timer for five minutes, starting… now!

I would say my dilemma is that so many people think I make the wrong choices in life. Even if I don’t follow through in what I want or how I want to do things, there is always someone close to me who says I have the wrong idea about what I should do or how to do it. So I have to wonder, if I start to do things the way other people want me to do them, will I be true to myself and what I want? Will I achieve my goals, even though I’m not taking the path that I believe to be correct? Or will listening to others put me in a place in life that I didn’t want to go to? I can admit that I haven’t always made the best decisions, and while it would be easy to say that I have regrets and wish I could reverse time, the fact remains that my mistakes have caused me to learn something about myself or to rediscover some part of myself that I left behind. So should I start to listen to other people, so I don’t have to hear them complain that I’m living life in a way that they wouldn’t want me to live? Or do I continue to make my own decisions, considering the wishes of others but ultimately deciding my path based on all the information I’ve been given and have found on my own?

And that’s five minutes! I went a little over the time because I was finishing my sentence.

So where did I get that answer from? Well, I’ve been thinking about how my general plans for moving to Japan have some people’s undies in a bunch. I’ve been thinking about my upcoming interview this week and how I might have lost a guaranteed job that I interviewed for last week because I’m now gambling my future. I thought about moving to New Jersey and how I probably shouldn’t have done that.

But, moving to New Jersey caused me to find Mitsuwa Marketplace, which in turn reignited my interest in Japan. So I can’t say I regret ever moving to New Jersey for that reason. I’ll know if I did something stupid if I don’t get the job I’m interviewing for this week. As for moving to Japan, or even visiting Japan, I don’t feel as if I need to have everything planned out just yet, not when I have things I have to take care of first, so I have time to get everything lined up.

Why did I go with this as my answer? Well, can it be fixed? I would have to shift my perception and decide to listen to other people, then evaluate the results. There’s no guarantee that a shift in perception would resolve things, it might actually put me further away from my goals. There are times when people might actually know the best way to go about doing things, I will admit that.

Lately I’ve listened as people, in person and on YouTube, gave me advice on how I should go about learning Japanese and going to Japan. My favorite JVlogger Victor, who you might know as GimmeABreakMan and GimmeAFlakeMan, said in one of his videos that if he had to do it over, he would go to Japan first and learn Japanese in one of their language schools. Before I came across the video, my plan had become just that, enroll in a Japanese language school and go over on a student visa. The friend I’m staying with insists that I shouldn’t go over without learning Japanese first, because “nothing is in Japanese and the people don’t speak English.” There’s actually only SOME truth to that, as some Japanese people DO speak English but knowing Japanese makes things a bit easier for them, and there are some signs that are in English or have pictograms for people to understand. Still, I’m at least trying to learn a few things before going to Japan, so I’m not completely in the dark as I wander around, and so I don’t have to rely so much on translation apps on my phone. So do I listen to the guy who’s been in Japan for well over ten years, or do I listen to my friend of over ten years who has always lived in different places in Upstate New York?

And there’s my dilemma. What’s yours? As always, you can post it in the comments, or add it to your own digital or paper journal. Don’t forget to check the tag labeled “self-awareness questions” for the other questions I’ve done and the ones I have yet to do.

How I’ve Learned Japanese So Far

If you want to get a start on learning Japanese, there are many ways to do so without signing up for a language class.

A word of caution, however: you’re not likely to become proficient unless you put in the time and effort. Will you become proficient by just using what I’m going to talk about? Possibly, but not by using just one thing.

What’s the fastest way to start learning Japanese words? Just use Google Translate (translate.google.com) and type in English words (one at a time, not entire phrases). Again, that’s a start. You can also use Google to translate words that seem to come up all the time in Japanese music, tv shows, and anime, and then you’ll know when someone is talking about eggs, or love, or even dragons. While you can use the Google Translate webpage to translate entire websites and pages, you’re not likely to learn anything unless you have a grasp of the writing systems and you check the mouseover text to see the original phrasing. There is also a Google Translate phone app, in case you want to do word and phrase translations on the go.

In my opinion, and this is just my opinion, phone apps are the way to go. If you’re trying to learn basic vocabulary, at the very least, you’re going to do so when you have free time, and that might even come when you’re in line at the supermarket, or you’re in the bathroom (I’m not one to judge, you do you), or even just laying in bed at night. So let me tell you what I’ve used, what I think of them, and how they can help you.

To the right, that’s actually a screenshot from my iPhone 6S. I’m not listing the model to brag or anything, but I will say that if you have an earlier model, some of the apps might not work as well on your iPhone. As for you Android users, I’m pretty sure you have all of these apps available to you, so I’m not playing favorites but I am basing everything on my experience.

The folder is labeled “Nihongo.” Depending on your skill level, you might want to consider enabling the Japanese keyboard on your phone as I have done. If you don’t want to, that’s fine as well, because it’s one less keyboard to cycle through on your way to the Emoji keyboard. And that’s all it is, when you enable the Japanese keyboard, you’re making it so you can type in the Japanese writing systems (kanji, hiragana, katakana) when you need to write something in Japanese.

Moving on, before someone comments about the notifications above Memrise. So let’s begin with Memrise, shall we? Memrise is exactly how the name sounds, you are memorizing words and characters. It should call itself “Memerise,” because it sells itself by saying you can learn with the help of memes, those images that the kids are using these days to be funny. When Memrise isn’t teaching you a new word or reviewing one you should know, you are constantly in a multiple choice quiz. The quiz pulls words you’ve just learned and adds in words you should remember from previous lessons. The idea is that if you’re reminded about a word and its meaning, you will commit it to memory. The app has a simple interface, and you’re not likely to feel overwhelmed when trying to use it. As for my notifications, that’s how many words I apparently have to review. The app and basic features are free, but to get more out of it, you do need to pay.

imiwa? is a dictionary app. It’s pretty simple, you just type a word into the search box and go from there. If the word you typed is in English, it will give you the most relevant Japanese results. If you typed in a Japanese word, it will find it and you can look up what the word means in English. Each entry has sample sentences, so you can see how the word is used. I would suggest using imiwa? over the Google Translate app when you’re trying to “find the right word,” because of the fact that imiwa? will give you alternate words that you might find to be more appropriate. imiwa? has more features, but it’s mostly a dictionary app and that might be what you usually use it for.

Tae Kim’s Guide To Learning Japanese is like an e-book. If you want to learn about Japanese and how the characters are used, download the app. I recommend being familiar with hiragana before moving too far into the app, otherwise you’re going to hear silence in your head when you’re reading and come up to something that’s not in English.

Skipping ahead, HJ Lite is Human Japanese. It’s another app that’s like an e-book. I find Human Japanese to be easier to understand, and the look and feel of the app feels more welcoming. If Tae Kim’s guide feels mandatory, Human Japanese will feel optional but desirable. I do recommend having some form of text-based learning when you’re ready to go beyond vocabulary, and if learning Japanese sometimes seems complicated, download Human Japanese and give it a try.

The app that says “Japanese” with the happy face is Mindsnacks. It doesn’t really teach you, in the sense that it’s not like Memrise. It is, however, a great way to learn words by playing games. The app feels a bit like it’s meant for children, as the art is all cartoon-like and simple. However, it’s easy to pick up and learn new words this way, as it feels like when you were learning your native language. You will benefit the most from using other apps alongside Mindsnacks, and I’ll explain why later. You do have to pay for each language you want to learn, or there’s an all-language pass. I only paid for the Japanese pass, and I don’t really regret doing so.

The app that says “Japanese!” and has the hiragana for the “a” sound is an app that quizzes you on hiragana and katakana. It’s simple, it’s fairly nameless, and there’s other apps out there that will do the same thing. Why haven’t I deleted it yet? Because I have to buy the other lessons, and I don’t want to, yet I haven’t deleted the app.

Kana is a better app. It, too, is a lesson and quiz app that’s good if you’re focusing on just the writing systems. I’m pretty sure that one is free, because I don’t remember paying for it, and I’ve done more in it.

Innovative is brought to you by Japanesepod101.com, and I learned about the app through YouTube. The app makes you sign up for an account, and then you have a 7-day preview of everything the app has to offer. Free accounts are locked to the first few lessons of a level of learning. It’s the only learning app I have that makes you sign up for an account, so if that’s not your thing, then the app from Japanesepod101.com isn’t for you.

You do have to make an account for HelloTalk, but that’s different. HelloTalk is to make friends! Want to practice Japanese and teach English to others? HelloTalk is the app you want. If you’re a bit nervous about your language usage, give it a shot and practice more. The idea is for people to correct you so you learn how to be more fluent. I just started using the app today, so I might have to rethink how I’m going to use my tag for “My Japanese Friend.”

So you know how I said I recommended using a combination of these apps? Here’s how I recommend doing it. Pick a dictionary/translation app; I recommend imiwa?. Next, decide how you want to learn vocabulary; I recommend Memrise over Mindsnacks, but you can get both and use Mindsnacks on days when your brain is fried but you still want to move forward with learning Japanese. Now, pick a text e-book; I would choose Human Japanese, and you can get the Lite version like I did or you can get the full version. If you’re struggling with hiragana and want to focus just on that, add Kana to your apps. So you have a dictionary, a textbook, a game/quiz, and a means of focusing on the writing systems. It’s everything you could need!

Okay, but now you want to actually learn how to actually write the actual language. Human Japanese provides you a link to a page that you can print out to practice writing. Some apps also show you the stroke order. If you want to skip the paper, then you can get My Japanese Coach if you have a Nintendo DS of some variety, as the game cartridge will teach you how to write the characters using the correct stroke order. While it’s not a phone app, it is another option. If you don’t have a DS, just remember that kids who play Pokemon have to sleep eventually, so borrow a DS if you can easily get your hands on one. Otherwise, just use regular paper to write on and use the phone apps to learn about how the character is written.

Beyond that, you’re only going to get as much out of the apps as you put into them. If you’re not using any of the apps that often, you’re not going to magically learn Japanese. But, I’m just trying to get you started. I always feel like it’s a success when I hear a word and I know what it means, If that’s enough to motivate you to keep learning Japanese, then start by learning a few words and keep immersing yourself in the language.

Go do it!

Self-Awareness Exercises, Question Two

The month of March ended fantastically, and it was just what I needed after it seemed like I should start giving up hope. But that’s not the energy I want to put out into the universe, I want to be hopeful and have good things happen, and they have!

So I started doing these self-awareness questions to try and bleed out any negativity in my system. The first part was making lists of things that comforted and made me feel safe, and the next day I was feeling a bit better, probably because I was more conscious of things that I was doing to feel comfortable and safe. The first question was about why I was afraid to move forward in life, and maybe my fears are reasonable but maybe they’re just things I have to work through on my own.

And then I turned 33, and I had an incredible birthday that was full of tears and laughter and heartfelt moments. It reminded me of the friend who sent me the self-awareness questions. She once told me that my energy was “fire surrounded by water”, and that I shouldn’t be afraid of being emotional or crying from time to time. Maybe it was building up inside of me and needed a release, or maybe I cried just because I was moved to do so, but it seems as though it was necessary.

But I can’t just start these self-awareness questions and stop after only the first one! I feel like you’re counting on me to at least post the rest of the questions so you can do them for yourself, but that would still be giving up on my end. So without further ado, let’s do question number two!

A reminder of the introduction:

“We each write our own story for our life.  What story are you writing for yours?  Set a timer (there should be one on your phone if no where else) for 5 minutes for each prompt and write as fast as you can for those five minutes.  If it goes off mid sentence, finish your sentence and stop.  You can always go back and do them again.  And if nothing come out at first, just start writing random words, and free write even if it seems like gibberish.  Remember to give yourself at least a little time to digest everything that comes to the surface for each prompt.  It may not hit all at once, or it may do so and it may even possibly overwhelm you.  Let it out and let it go.  There are no right or wrong answers here, only your deepest truths.  If it helps, look at these exercises as writing prompts for a novel, with you as the hero/heroine and write your story.”

And tonight’s story of my life is…

2.  One thing I feel strongly about is . . .   (Think of something you belive in with such conviction you would fight for the death to defend it.  Ex. Love, Respect, Civil Rights, Animal Rights, etc.)

Let’s go!

One thing I feel strongly about is actually love. If there was one thing that has motivated me for so long, it was to find a romantic relationship that would make me happy. I’ve always wanted what my parents had, and that is to say that I’ve wanted a marriage that lasts well over three decades and works well in spite of differences in interests because there’s similar personal values. I don’t just want that for me, I want that for everyone, to be happy with someone who makes them that way. I don’t even care if they love someone of the same gender, different gender, or whatever the case is. I don’t care if it’s romantic love or platonic love, or even just the love that’s shared between a parent and a child. Love your parents, love your children, love your partner and take care of them. If you care about a person and you hope they don’t die, then show it somehow.

And my five minutes are up.

Love is really all-encompassing. Even if I said civil rights, or I said something about saving the planet, it would come back around to thinking of others and caring for them.

I’ve probably had more crushes on celebrities than I have had crushes on real people. Maybe it was just because it’s easy to project an ideal personality onto a person that I’m never going to meet, so I’d never have to feel disappointed that they didn’t match the version of them I created in my mind. Of course, as social media has blossomed, it’s actually become easier to find out more about my favorite celebrities. While it changes the perception, it also presents information that might make me idolize a celebrity that much more. There is a point to this paragraph that makes me seem quite pathetic. Say what you will about fantasizing over celebrities, because it hasn’t stopped me from meeting real people. I haven’t set my standards so high that my qualifications are, “you must be (a famous male singer/songwriter or actor) or similar,” because that’s ridiculous. However, knowing what I like about a celebrity is a pretty good start, because I know I like that quality in a person and will search for it in possible romantic partners. Even if it’s just something I projected onto a fantasy version of that celebrity, it’s obviously something I value and therefore worth searching for in a partner.

And yes, I’m more likely to fantasize about love than anything else. Even if I’m angry, I don’t contemplate violence and bloodshed, I’m just angry.

So a Yankees fan married a Red Sox fan and they lived happily ever after. A country girl married a city boy. A republican married someone who was more democratic/independent. A frugal woman married a guy who liked to buy nice things. A prudish lady married a gentleman who… you know what? These are my parents I’m talking about, and I won’t go into how I reformatted my Dad’s iMac after he passed so I wouldn’t have to see the porn he downloaded. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, and I would have kept it, but then I’d be reminded that it was my Dad’s porn.

Which brings me to my next thing. I’m bisexual. For the purposes of this blog, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that I support people regardless of their sexuality or gender. If you’re straight, that’s awesome! If you’re gay, good for you! If you’re asexual or aromantic, fabulous! Personally, I don’t think anyone should force themselves into something they’re not comfortable with. Be with who you love, marry them if you want to.

There’s not much else to say. I mean, I shouldn’t have to say much to defend myself. It’s love, love for all humans and all living beings. It’s not just love for people like me. It’s not just romantic love. It is the absence of hatred. Hatred is what I would fight against to the death, if I could try to show people that caring about your fellow man is far more rewarding in the grand scheme of things.

As always, if you want to do the questions, you can either comment here or fill your own journal (digital or paper). Just look for the tag that says “self-awareness questions” and click on that to get all of the questions so far.