On giving up

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 for?

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.


This entry is so hard to write. I got back to the UK on Friday and I thought I’d write something on Saturday, but I underestimated just how exhausted and jet lagged I was.  I feel so tired that my brain feels like its turned to mush. Even this far on from landing in the UK I’m still waking up at  7am  every morning and I’m still so very tired.

And it’s difficult to know where to begin- how to put into words everything that has happened since I left Malaysia. I have a handful of half written entries written in Japan but most days are blank, and my memories are too bright and vivid, blurring out the little details.

Japan was amazing though. There were times where I was tired or moody or embarrassed. I tried to climb a mountain in the snow and failed. My dad changed plans last minute without discussing it with me and I got angry. I realized how useless just knowing hiragana was, and cursed myself for struggling with katakana still as knowing that alone would have been far more useful, and I felt frustrated because of this and embarrassed too, as my Father clearly expected more from me. I realized it is best to visit Japan with some grasp of Japanese or none at all- with just this small amount of knowledge, having just these bits and pieces is frustrating, as you can begin to try and comprehend, but lack the knowledge to really understand or communicate. On the other hand, there were so many more moments I felt so happy I was almost overwhelmed with it. After how difficult things have this year, it was a relief to feel free of that heavy weight. I succeeded in climbing another mountain, I was driven through lush forests along twisty mountain roads and through sleepy fishing villages in remote areas. I finally got to see Northern Tohoku and Hokkaido and I felt so blessed and so happy to have been able to have done so. It was all so breathtakingly beautiful and showed a hidden side of Japan, so far removed from the frantic pace and overwhelming crowds of Tokyo.

It was over so, so soon. The journey up to Sapporo was long and lingering- we travelled to Aomori by Shinkansen then stayed there for a few days, before working up to Hakodate, taking a brief stop there, then finally landing in Sapporo. Then we took the flight back to Tokyo and I realized then how little time I had left, and the last two days in Japan were clouded by that anxiety, that soon I would be back in the UK.

On Thursday 13th June at 4pm Japan time my Father and I boarded the limousine bus at our hotel and began the journey back. The bus journey was long and boring, with a little kid sat right behind us who was excited and chatty and loud about it. He reminded me of my sister and I when we travelled when we were younger- and I resisted the urge to apologize to my father. He was sleeping, anyway. I have a feeling I exhausted my father with this holiday, maybe was a little hard on him, although he’d never admit to it so I do not think I can be blamed for it.

Once at the airport we went to pick up the extra baggage we had left there then found ourselves a quiet corner by our airline check in counter to sort out our stuff and repack to get our weights in order. In the end my father had my 11kg of stuff that had been left at the airport, plus 17kg of checked in baggage and 7kg hand luggage. I had 29kg of checked in luggage and 7kg of hand luggage. I was amazed that we’d managed to meet the luggage limitations so perfectly and easily- having expected to be tearing through my luggage in frustration for much longer trying to make it all work, having been afraid we would not be able to make it work. We went and joined the queue and got our luggage checked in no problem and one of my major worries was totally erased. My dad and I hunted out a McDonald’s to eat supper then got through customs before rushing to the day rooms on the air side so we could make our 8pm bookings. We’d tried to get a late checkout but the hotel had wanted about £70 for that, so I’d looked into showering facilities at Narita and was surprised to find they had small hotel rooms to rent by the hour which we could use. I booked us two singles just for an hour so we could freely access our stuff and take a shower. I tell you, that hour made all the difference. The rooms were small but clean and simply being able to spread out all my stuff and take a long, hot shower left me feeling refreshed and ready as I would ever be for the flights. The first flight was 10 hours to Dubai. It was dull. I eventually slipped into sleep about four hours in, but it was not the good quality stuff. Then there was a 4 hour layover at Dubai.  It was also dull. My dad bought my a load of fruit for breakfast and we walked around in circles round the terminal for a bit, then sat at the gate and willed time to pass. Actually, my dad napped as I willed time to pass. Then there was 7 hours flying to Manchester. That was even worse than dull- time just dragged on and on and on and I felt so ill by that point, and tired but unable to sleep, and itchy from too long in the dry, unforgiving plane air conditioning. I flew on an airbus for the first time but it was nothing different- the seat was a little wider, and the toilets had fancy fake wooden seats is all. I think the air bus is better for the staff- they have more space to rest and also to work without having people queuing for the toilets or wanting to stand up for a while getting in their way. Finally, we arrived at Manchester. Lunchtime, Friday 14th June. We had a long wait to collect our baggage then dragged it all to the train station…onto the train…and then home…

The rest of the day was spent unpacking, giving out gifts, chatting with family before going to bed at 7pm, sleeping straight through to 6am the next morning.

Since then… On Saturday I went grocery shopping with my Father. We’d both woken early and headed out at around 8am or 9am to do so,  some crazily early time like that. I came back and freaked my mother out with the relish I ate a ham, pepperoni and salami sandwich. On Sunday we went for a walk through the gardens of a local stately house near where we live. On Tuesday I spent some time with my father dismantling my new computer  in order to clean it, and I’m pleased to say that although I’m still clueless about computers, I now at least have some idea of where everything goes in one. Which is a start. Today I spent some  time with my mother rooting through her makeup drawers. This is a task I’ve always enjoyed since I was little- my mothers vanity drawers are seemingly endless, packed with all manners of interesting, pretty, expensive looking things. Today I rooted out some eyeliners from kanebo, elizabeth arden and ysl. My timing was good as my mother was feeling generous and let me have them all.

I think that coming back was fairly underwhelming. Nothing has changed. I looked out the train and the car and its all the same. I come back to the house and there’s been some changes around the house and at first I feel uncomfortable, like a stranger in my own home- I couldn’t find a plate in the kitchen, there were no toiletries for me in the bathroom, even my room was strange and unfamiliar, something I’d not seen for so long, and I wondered if it was always like this. Now a few days later and I’m settled and this summer is like any other- days drag on and I’m bored. My mother frustrates me at times but I do my best not to snap. My cat is whiny but cute enough to get away with it. During the day, today, my Father and my Sister are not here and its terribly quiet, not a sound, not even from outside. The UK is grey and I’m sitting here in a hoodie and a scarf, indoors, with the heat on. But even I have not changed all that much. I’m a little tanned, I’m a lot cold, I have stories about foreign places, but I’m still the same person. Everything slides back into place so easily, as if nothing happened at all. As if I’ve never been away.

I’m not sure whether to feel relieved about this or disappointed. I thought coming back to the UK would be… something. Something large and difficult that I had to conquer. I thought it would be more difficult than this. Maybe in some strange way I wished it would be. I don’t really know how to explain why I have this feeling. Its just anticlimactic, I guess. That you can go away for so long and when you turn back nothing has changed.

The Big Holiday

So, its March already. Lets blame the fact that February was ridiculously short on the fact that the book post is not up and not on the fact that I am terrifically lazy, OK?


The day before yesterday my hearing came back! I would just like to point out that: I was right.

Yesterday, my sister turned 24. Speaking on the phone to my mother, she remarked that next year my sister would be the age my mother was when she (my sister) was born. :o Its kind of strange to think I have a sister in her mid twenties. Its kind of strange to think that actually, I’ll be 21 soon. Its cliche, but I really do not feel that…not old, not even grown up, I guess lets just keep it simple and say that age.

This weekend in its entirety, when I have not been asleep, I have been busy ignoring my actual work and instead planning a trip to Japan in June. Technically, I’ve been thinking about this trip since I accepted my offer of studying abroad. I knew I would be going to Japan and that I would not accept just a short weekend away. No, it would be my Big Holiday after uni has ended and before I returned to the UK. of course, dreaming is different from actual planning. That has been very stressful. But plane tickets and hotels have been booked now so its definitely happening. I leave Malaysia on the 31st of May, spend 13 days in Japan, and arrive back in the UK on the 14th of June. I can say that i am very looking forward to Japan and not looking forward to going back to the UK in the slightest. But lets focus on the positive- JAPAN!! I cannot believe I am actually being able to spend such a long time there. Honestly at one point I was wondering if I could afford to go at all, but I focused and thought it through and budgeted and ended up being able to realize my dreams of a Big Long Holiday. 13 days! I shall be spending 2 nights in Tokyo, where I will visit Kamakura and Yokohama too, followed by 5 nights (5!) based in Aomori, where I shall be visiting Hirosaki, Lake Towada, and Mutsu too, then I’ll go up to Sapporo, stopping at the Onuma Quasi national park on the way, and once in Sapporo I will also be checking out Otaru and either Furano, Lake Utonai or Lake Toya. THEN , yes there is even more, I’ll be coming back down to Tokyo, making a brief stop in Hakodate along the way, and once in Tokyo I’ll have just one more morning there so I can like, not miss my flight, but also go to odaiba to the museum of emerging science WHICH HAS ROBOTS. actual, human robots. ahem. Also, my last hotel in Tokyo has its own Aquarium, which I have got to see.

Of course, trying to fit so many places into as short a time as possible has meant the planning of this holiday has been a total pain. Yesterday I was up until 3.30am trying to put together an itinerary. This was not the first time I have spent hours trawling through the Internet looking for information but it was the first time I did not just give up out of despair. The sheer number of things to do in Tokyo alone is staggering. I was panicking for a while, worried about so many things, struggling to figure out what I wanted to do and how to fit it all together in a logical way, and most importantly, trying to decide what I could afford to do. Japan is not exactly cheap. And I have been living in Malaysia for the past year. Planning this holiday, I have been made to realise the extent that living in this part of the world has ruined me. I have gotten so used to paying near nothing for food, transport and accommodation that I have completely forgotten how the rest of the world works. Especially places like Japan. During the dreaming stage of this holiday I had been feeling pretty cocky. I had a good chunk of money- so I could do anything, right? Wrong. A big amount of money in Malaysia does not equal a big amount of money in Japan. I began to doubt my sizable chunk was enough. And that was when I began to doubt I could go at all.  I did not want that though and so I made various plans based on different budgets and tried to convince myself to choose the cheapest one.

Yet, I ended up ditching those and going with the original, expensive plan.

At the end of the day, as much as I do want to and will try to visit Japan again even after this trip, I feel like I should act like this is my last trip and I should just go for it and do what I want to do. That is, I’ve always wanted to go to Northern Japan. Sure, it would be cheaper just to spend a few days in Tokyo but I really wanted to just get on a train and head up and keep going. Even  for my first trip to Japan I wanted to go to Hokkaido and I was bitterly disappointed when I could not fit it in. Oh, my last trip to Japan was wonderful- I am so glad I saw Nagoya and Kyoto, but that did nothing to change the fact that I wanted to see northern Japan, and see all the gorgeous, dramatic scenery it had to offer. of course, Northern Japan is quite far out from Tokyo, and its not the biggest tourist hub. Its been a struggle to find information in English, and it will be difficult up there without knowing Japanese. It will be expensive. I’ll probably end up embarrassing myself. Maybe I’ll get lost. But living abroad has given me a sort of crazy courage when it comes to making a fool of oneself in foreign countries. I think the fact that this is not my first time travelling abroad myself, like the first time I went to Japan, will also help me have courage to really experience things and not shy away for such a silly reason as its difficult. difficult does not mean impossible.* And yes, its expensive but as it turns out, now that I’ve actually sat down and looked at costs instead of panicking about it all, my sizable chunk is actually just about enough.

honestly, this weekend of stressful planning has been totally worth it. Its all coming together so well. I still have so much to do but look at all those places I am going! This is pretty much exactly the holiday I had been dreaming of for years, now booked and ready for me to undertake it. How awesome is that? How lucky am I? And yes, I do say that in a smug sort of way. I kind of want university out of the way with so I can be there already! (sorry, Malaysia. its not that I’m keen to leave you or anything but…Japan!!)

(*Well, technically there are certain things that are impossible. Like, most of the nature reserves in Hokkaido. but that’s more because they are so remote that I’d need a car to get to them, and a lot of time. I had been disappointed that at first, but the more I researched the more I realised I would still be seeing so many lovely things even having to stick close to Sapporo. And Aomori. etc. It’s all OK. )

So I’m back in the UK. Came back about two days ago and have been spending my time catching up on Life is Beautiful and Friends and not doing much else. I’m really tired. It’s strange being back in the UK, in a way. Everything is in English again! There aren’t any vending machines everywhere I look or convience stores. All the people are white and just not as beautifully made up as the Japanese (Japanese woman dress amazingly well (and modest. it’s so great being in a place were I don’t have to see boobs and/or bras hanging out and people wearing leggings without long enough tops) and they wear high heels for anything! And police men and people who work at the station wear such formal uniforms. appearance really seems to be everything there.) And it’s strange how small the UK feels, when Japan is even more cramped than this place. I don’t get that. Anyway. Japan is a really beautiful, interesting place. I had a  lot of fun. Yeah it was uncomfortably hot and it was difficult with the language barrier. If I was to go again I’d have to learn how to speak Japanese. But I got by. And I got used to it. I liked it there, loved it even. It was everything I expected plus a load of surprises. It’s definitely different actually being there compared to just reading about it.

I saw tourist attractions and ate at nice places and shopped and bought some gorgeous clothes. It was scary being by myself, but at the same time I felt a strange sense of freedom. I no longer had anyones expectations to live up to, including the expectations of myself. I could just let go and be. Sometimes I just went out for long walks through the city, enjoying the feeling of being lost in the crowd and all those lights. It was an amazing 10 days. I didn’t think about anything and I didn’t go on the internet at all, it was truly a break from everything. I feel kind of bummed out now after coming back. I don’t miss Japan, for it’s far different living in a place for a long time compared to visiting there, though  I do miss certain things about it. And I just, all those things I could avoid thinking about there are all back on my mind. It’s like it was a dream and now I’m back to reality and it’s just as ugly as it has been for too long. I don’t want to be here.

Japan 2010

Tokyo Sunset by AltusJAPAN HOLIDAY IS BOOKED. 26th July-4th August. Plane tickets booked, tour booked, and found a good company to rent a cellphone from (I get to play with a Japanese cell for 10 days! My phone was the latest model in 2005. I am so happy to get hold of some modern technology!). Japan has always been this distant dream of mine, something I only saw in photos, read about and imagined. I never prepared myself for the reality I would actually end up going there. I am scared to be excited, because then I’ll expect things and most likely end up dissapointed but… I AM SO EXCITED DESPITE MYSELF. I need this holiday, and I need it to be by myself.