I think I want to quit learning Japanese.
But at the same time I’m not sure if I can.
It feels terrible and wrong to even think it, let alone put it out to the world like this.
I developed an interest in Japan when I was a teenager, and when I could finally begin to learn Japanese when I started university it felt like a dream come true. I’d tried self-study as a teen and I was terrible at it and I thought that the structure of classes would solve all my problems. I took classes in my first year, my third and fourth years too and so it only seemed natural to look for classes when I moved to this new city for work. So I did. So I am. The thing is, maybe classes worked for a while, but ultimately learning a language, as with learning all things, takes a fuck tonne of discipline, motivation and self-study. And I just cannot anymore. After 4-5 years of study I am burnt out and fed up.
And it makes me feel awful. I am very good at starting things, and then backing off once they get difficult. I tried to learn horse-riding, but I felt anxious around the horses and didn’t like my teacher so I quit. I tried to learn musical instruments, but I didn’t have the confidence to practice or perform so I failed and I quit in shame of my failure. I tried to join societies at university – I tried archery, I tried badminton, I tried charity, I tried hill walking. I didn’t last a year in any of them. I am a master of starting things and never fucking finishing them. Japanese is the thing I’ve stuck with the longest. My love of Japanese and Japanese culture has defined my teenage years through to the beginnings of my adulthood. I have told everyone possible I am learning Japanese and how much I love Japan. I have been to Japan twice – both of which were significant investment. Actually, on that note, learning a language is a serious investment. I have spent hundreds of pounds on classes and textbooks and bus journeys to get to class. And ultimately all this, for what.
I am in a very frustrating place with Japanese now – with a basic grasp of the language but unable to quite push through to the intermediate level. I never study enough though.(Though I will never understand how much is ‘enough’…always feels like there’s more.) I don’t want to; I don’t particularly enjoy it and I don’t particularly want to do it after a long day of work (I tried to study during my lunch breaks but work has been too full on lately that I haven’t been able to, and I can’t use my commute as I get travel sick when reading on buses.) But aren’t we told that the best things in life are the results of struggles and hard work? If it’s easy, then it’s not worth it? So I should struggle even though I’m miserable, for the sweetness of the reward?
What is that reward though, when learning a language for no real reason other than the love of it? I am not going to use Japanese for business reasons, I am not going to live in Japan, when I travel to Japan it’s easier and quicker to speak English (the Japanese grasp of English is significantly better than my clumsy attempts at communication in their language) (And I doubt I could afford another trip to Japan any time soon anyway.) It’s pretty fun to understand bits and pieces of the Japanese music and dramas I watch, but I feel like learning the language has in some ways ruined those for me – I’m too busy trying to translate, but not quite able to, that I end up completely distracted from my listening and enjoyment of said media. It’s really frustrating.
My love hasn’t died but I am starting to resent it somewhat. Why did I have to love this thing and what can I do to stop. It breaks my heart to think about this thing that was so precious, that defined me, my choices, and saved me in this manner, become an object of such resentment, to have faded. (Both trips to Japan were taken during two of the lowest points of my life, and they transformed me. My love of Japan has kept me going, a bright hope in dark times, something to look forward to, and something to love amongst all the bleak things. I loved it very much, especially my classes during university. I remember how at the end of the semester we would go out to eat as a group and even though I usually hate socializing it was so much fun to be surrounded by people like me, who loved other cultures, who had travelled and loved to do so, who loved Japan. Those moments when I am listening to a Japanese song and I understand a line, or I can understand a food item on a menu in a Japanese restaurant I feel so happy and proud.) I don’t like feeling this way about something I love, but at the same time maybe I am supposed to feel this way – that my love should be painful and it should be difficult because only then is it worth it? Again, I come back to this idea of no pain, no gain. It makes me feel so lazy and worthless to want to give up because it’s difficult. That’s it, isn’t it? Ultimately I am trying to make excuses for my own laziness – like all those other hobbies mentioned above. Like come on self, stop being a baby. That’s the whole point. You’re learning something here, that’s gotta hurt.
And because it feels like I should be doing something like this in my free time. Without Japanese, all my hobbies will be strictly home based and solitary and am I allowed that? And I think I will miss it – being around these like-minded people, hearing their stories. And then the fear kicks in – of that black dog sleeping deep within my soul, beginning to stir. Is this depression coming back, this lack of motivation? This desire to just chill at home by myself with a book or a drama? Is it depression to feel this demotivated? Am I letting my mental health stop me from something amazing here? Is it my mental health saying no to this or is it me? It’s a terrible thing to not be able to trust your own brain, your own heart.
I have a test tomorrow for Japanese. I haven’t studied. After all else failed, I decided to self sabotage. I will fail and then of course I will have to quit from the embarrassment/shame of failure.
Or will I? Do I say OK, this was a bad year make some lists as to why and start over again, retaking this year once more, trying again (actually trying!) to complete this level next year?
What am I trying to prove, and to who, by clinging onto this?
I don’t know why I am doing this anymore.
It’s stressing me out so much.