Daily Life · Mindful Living · Random Thoughts

Living as an INFP: My Identity Crisis and the Story of the Empress Masako

I decided to share the story of my identity crisis here as I thought some of you might relate to it.

Ever since I got married to my American husband about 13 years ago, I was eager to be more assimilated into the American society and the culture. I wanted to be able to talk like him, communicate like him and work like him because despite the all of the problems the U.S. faced, at the end of the day, I loved the country so much, and when my time came, it was quite natural that I became a U.S. Citizen, renouncing my Japanese nationality as the duel citizenship is illegal in Japan.

In spite of my strong commitment to dedicate myself to the county and the aspiration to be like a real American who grew up in the U.S., my work constantly demanded the Japanese part of me as a teacher and a translator, which eventually made me feel suffocated as it seemed like the American society was telling me I was not good enough as an American and I felt guilty that I was not Japanese enough as I was merely looking at my motherland from the outside for over a decade.

Of course, I could have applied for any other jobs that were detached from anything related to Japan but I could not find anything that exceeded the salary I was receiving, so I went back to college to prove to myself that my English and communication skills were still good enough to professionally survive in the mainstream society here in the U.S. without selling the Japanese part of me, and I finished the program but the job hunt sucked, my career transition failed and I was back to the suffering phase from the suffocating feelings again.

One day, as I was doing some research for my work, I came across the interview of the Empress Masako and I was completely fascinated by how beautiful her Japanese language was with her sophisticated and humble manners. The aura she carried as the empress was so stunning that I was genuinely grateful that she was representing Japan. And, I suddenly remembered how she grew up abroad as the daughter of the Japanese diplomat and she eventually ended up graduating from Harvard University, Tokyo University, and Oxford University, working as the diplomat for Japan.

She met the emperor while she was at Oxford University and decided to marry him as he proposed her, saying that he would protect her with all of his might for her entire lifetime, which was such a romantic love story. And then I also recalled my former student back in DC, who has worked with her when she was the diplomat, once told me that the way she talked and acted was totally like the American who grew up in the U.S.

The realization that she was perfectly nailing both of the identities as the Japanese and the American was astonishing. In order to be more Americanized, you do not have to be less Japanese. it is possible to be both in the authentic and the natural way. However, it is not so easy to acquire the adequate balance as the nature of the culture of the two countries is so different, but when it is achieved, the true virtue can be formed, which can be incredibly powerful in a very positive way.

The notion hit me like an epiphany and she instantly became my ultimate role model even though I have no brain or elegance like she has, and the fact lifted all of the weight off my shoulders, and the suffocating feelings disappeared.

When I look at the photos of the cherry blossoms I took back in DC, now I reflect them as my new goal here in the U.S. The cherry blossoms in DC were gifted by the Japanese government over a century ago and they continue to be cherished and loved by the people in the U.S. Now I wonder how amazing it would be if I could become such a being like that here in the U.S. in the future.

Mindful Living

The Part of Me as a Language Instructor

I just wondered if it would be interesting to write about my work a little. I have been working as a Japanese language instructor for some private language school for quite a while here in Germany.  I teach both directly at the classroom of the school and at the students’ companies. Majority of my lessons are for complete beginners, but I cover every level, including the native level. Most sign up as they are getting transferred to Japan near the future and some participate due to the urgent need of improvement of the language at their work. And I truly love every minute of my teaching path.

Most of my students are Europeans and it is always entertaining to see their reaction when they face the language for the first time. They always have the particular look of shock on their faces mixed with excitement and nervousness because compared to the major European languages they are familiar with, Japanese is just way more different, sometimes even beyond their imagination. Yes, the key is different, not difficult. And when they start to learn Japanese characters, the class becomes sort of like an art project, practicing drawings. The courses that start with memorizing the greeting words finish with my students holding solid conversations in Japanese in less than six months or so. What is not fantastic about being a part of the process? If you are a teacher, you know exactly what I am talking about.

The sad thing is though, it seems I must quit this lovely job by this summer. Our fate is calling us to move to the U.S.. We have no idea which state, yet, but I am desperately praying and hoping that I still get to teach somewhere. It will be more than delightful if I could teach in person, and I am also considering teaching online as well as creating podcast that contains short Japanese lessons, making my own textbooks or even doing something on YouTube although there are already so many similar things available. The hardest part is always marketing, isn’t it?

If you are a Japanese learner, please feel free to ask me any questions. And if you feel like you need extra help to improve your Japanese, how can I help you? And if you are already a successful self-employed teacher? What is your story? I’m dying to know everything.