uri_mh1487720008757uri_mh1487720102263I’m looking through some of the photos I took over the weekend; the sun was shining and it was warm, so I headed out for a walk at a local green space. I’d last been there when it was snowing and it wasn’t too different, still a winter landscape, but the warmth and brightness and stillness of the day made up for the bleak surroundings. Eventually, I even found a patch of snowdrops. Spring is finally approaching. It was wonderful to get some air, and get some movement, burn off some of my restlessness from anxiety. I listened to an audio book and the birds singing and felt a calm I desperately needed.

(Sadly my camera battery died so I only had my cellphone to take pictures but well, that’s not a deal breaker in these times is it, it just means a sad lack of zoom.)

After my walk I went to the city center to what else, shop. I got my brows done and ate out for supper as a treat, a comfort outing but not excessively (I was pretty good about staying away from browsing so I didn’t end up buying lots of stuff I didn’t need just to cheer myself up!) The next day I went out to shop again – I got more fish!! I bought ten new white cloud mountain minnows and two cherry shrimp. I’m quite taken aback by how many fish there are, it’s a little overwhelming, and I am fascinated by the shrimps…They are a little creepy looking but maybe also cute. I’m not 100% sure about how to care for them but they seem to be doing ok anyway. And thankfully none of my fish (read: my boisterous danios) have eaten them. Yet? I hope not yet, they were surprisingly expensive.

Tonight I had my dreaded Japanese test. I can take small comfort in the fact that I don’t think actually studying would have helped that much? In the sense that I massively struggle with remembering kanji, and the test was pretty much a kanji test. I’m trying to be annoyed, but mostly I feel resigned. After writing yesterday’s post I have come to an acceptance, I’ve not given up yet, but I’m accepting that I’m not in the right headspace for this now, and it’s ok not to do well the first time. Failure is not the end of the world, it’s just a bit embarrassing, and a lesson to be learnt.

I can’t believe it’s only Tuesday . I’m eager for the weekend when I get to see the last of the Opera North fairytales – Cinderella!


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.


I had my Japanese Level 3 exam tonight. I was running a little late and I had not done nearly enough revision, nor nearly enough work during the semester, and so unsurprisingly it did not go that well. It was a decent paper too; I just struggled with the Kanji and the last essay I had no idea what to write so I just regurgitated as much as I could from my presentation on Monday even if it was not entirely related to the question. Oh yes, Monday evening I talked for 10 minutes in Japanese in front of actual people. It was terrifying. I had done my best to prepare – but I had a coursework due last Friday that took up all last week, so I really only had the weekend to prepare. I did my best to prepare, and of course ate a load of chocolate, cake, drank coke and sugary juice beforehand to get me all hyped up. The presentation actually went OK, I followed my script and did my best not to look anyone in the eye whilst still not staring at my script, it just fell apart afterwards when the teacher was asking me questions. Today I could answer her questions in Japanese, after mulling over them for some time and checking the dictionary. Put on the spot like that my mind went blank. The iffy presentation with the iffy writing test makes me nervous. I know it has no effect on my degree, but I want the certificate saying I did this thing. I enjoyed my Japanese classes – the people were so nice, the lessons interesting, informative not only on the language, but on the culture. We even got to play Japanese games and on Monday, we sat and did origimi. It was a unique, fun experience but I also want a record of it.

I do wonder what’s going to happen with my Japanese studies now. Studying Japanese is my hobby, of a sorts, but it’s a different hobby from, say, passing out in front of the computer or reading. There’s a certain amount of commitment and effort needed for it. I already struggled this semester to balance it out with my coursework, would I realistically want to balance it out with a 40 hour work week? And the question that has been hovering over me for all this time, and that I have been trying to ignore, what is the point of me learning? I don’t like to put effort into things without knowing there is some end goal. I still love Japan and Japanese, and want to go to Japan again, but is it worth carrying on learning Japanese for this? When speaking English in Japan has proved perfectly fine both times I’ve been, not to mention I’m not sure if or when I will go back. Is it worth it continuing it to try and understand the dramas and music I now watch and listen to less and less? My passion for Japan and Japanese has not died, but my academic life and soon to be career is demanding all my attention. Where does Japanese fit in?

It just feels so sad. Spending all this money, putting in some time (I won’t claim to be completely hard working), investing myself in this for so long. It’s like my other now useless skills – playing the violin and classical singing. I spent years learning music theory, practicing (probably not enough) and again, investing myself in that thing. Only to end up letting it go, unable to look at without feeling loss and regret of what I cannot have (talent, confidence, a career in it.) Even now I cannot listen to an orchestral piece without feeling regret and longing. How I long to play my violin, to learn the piano like I’ve always wanted to. To understand music theory again. To be able to sing. My voice sounds so weak these days. I miss my fun singing lessons too, where I also learned about how to be confident, about correct posture and pronunciation, and how to pretend I can speak different languages. I miss both my music teachers. I loved it so much. I hated it too – it was such hard work and I had no knack for it. Either way, it was such a big part of my life, and I miss it, but I cannot see a way to work it back in my life, nor can I really afford to in the literal sense. Not to mention once you stop, how do you start again? When you’ve already forgotten everything. It makes me sad to think that this is what Japanase will likely become for me.

I still love Japan and Japanese, but I don’t know how they fit into my life anymore.

My Japanese books will probably join my music books and violin, shoved into a forgotten corner of the house, growing dusty. The longer it goes on, the more regret, and guilt for spending all that money, grows. It seems such a waste.

Goodbye Days

So I had my Japanese exam this evening. I really was as unprepared as I thought I was and yet I found myself, very weirdly, enjoying myself. I’m sure that’s going to come back to bite me. But well, its doing wonders for my mood that I came away feeling good about it despite the whole completely unprepared for this aspect.

Perhaps this is one of those situations if you don’t laugh, you’ll end up crying.

I had been told the exam would start at 6pm. Naturally, I spent most of today distracted and fretting over it. I arrived at the exam 20 minutes early, sitting down outside the room to wait. There were only a handful of people, to my surprise. Time ticked by, well passed 6, with more people turning up and then finally the moderator appeared. More time passed and I was confused, so I asked the girls next to me and they said their exams were starting at 6:30pm. Could my Japanese teacher have at least given me the right time for my exam?! Like seriously, there I was with no idea of what I was being examined on and no idea of even the right exam time. At least I got the right room, hey. At about 6:25 there was a large group of people gathered and the moderator finally started calling everyone in by their languages. There was good mix of languages at various levels- Greek, Serbian, Portuguese, Spanish, German, French. Finally it was just me and a handful of other students. A bunch more were called in, leaving just me and two girls sitting next to me who were doing French Level 1. So…I was the only Japanese level 2. The fear that perhaps I had been forgotten about gripped me, and strengthened when the girls were called in and I was left sitting outside. Thankfully the moderator came out again to fetch me and she had a paper for me.

The exam started before I’d even finished taking out my belongings – it was very informal, no rules about bags at the front or anything. It was a nice atmosphere for an exam – a small-ish group, no heavy rules.

Firstly, before I could forget, I hastily scribbled out my essay – which to my surprise I had managed to memorize. I was painfully aware of how fragile my kana and kanji are though. They usually aren’t the neatest, but nerves were making my hands shake which was making it worse. Nonetheless, that task done I went back to the beginning started the exam properly. I could have laughed when I went through the exam paper. I have never tackled Japanese in this manner ever. There were three sections – the first section I was given a huge chunk of text to interpret in various ways – the first question involved fairly open ended questions that I had to give true or false answers to. The other questions asked to answer questions about the text, and yet another wanted me to suggest an ending sentence to the text. hahaha. I did my best though – highlighting the text and translating it to the best of my abilities. It was so overwhelming and yet fascinating – I could feel my mind working through it, sinking into the task, becoming utterly focused on it and even enjoying trying to interpret it.

There was a little bit at the end of section A then asking me to give the readings for kanji and their meanings which was unexpected – my teacher had said it didn’t matter about kanji. That was nice. :|

The next section involved verbs and oh I struggled here – there was one whole question on conjugating verbs and I couldn’t for the life of me remember how. I then had to fill in the blanks for a bunch of other sentences which was a bit better but then I had to translate from english to Japanese for several sentences. I have never translated from English to Japanese. ever. that was…interesting. again: hahaha. I’d definitely given up on doing well and was just having fun with it. I guess because it is not part of my degree I could afford to have fun with it – I didn’t have my degree class hanging over my head. I could just sit there and do my best and to my surprise I could make a guess for everything. I am certain that a lot of it is wrong but I felt pretty pleased that I could at least have a go. At the end of the day I had never done anything like this before, and I had no idea about the exam even – was I supposed to write on the question sheet? in the answer booklet? How? I had no idea what I doing in any aspect. and yet, I tackled it without panicking and I even enjoyed it. I was reminded of – despite all my complaining – just how much I love Japanese and I love how it allows me to use different thought processes compared to my degree. This is what I thrive on: problem solving. Taking a task, breaking it down, finding the solution. This is one of the reasons why I chose engineering – but this is also why I love doing Japanese. It allows me to problem solve in different ways, to test myself and think in different directions. Its more open ended, not quite as methodical, or rather there are different patterns to it.

I found myself completely absorbed so at 8:30 when I finally surfaced I was surprised to look around and find the classroom empty apart from another guy. I wasn’t sure if the exam was even over – the moderator hadn’t announced anything. But I felt pretty embarrassed to be left there – the other guy was even packing up and about to leave. So I decided to accept that I had probably done all I could and I handed it in. Who knows what will become of it – I am hoping that my essay will be enough to get me through. Although that’s a point – the section C was all that essay, however the essay question was worded slightly differently from what my teacher gave me. But I’d like to think that when my teacher helped me to write it she did so geared towards the exam- she wouldn’t help me write a totally unrelated essay? She’s help me get maximum marks? I really hope so.

I left the exam and walked home – even though it was dark and I know technically I shouldn’t walk home so late. I was feeling pretty hyper – pumped up with nerves and adrenaline, my mind still working away. Despite my anxiety I felt pretty good – I hadn’t sat there panicking, confused, I’d approached the exam and tackled it and did my best. I was also so glad I’d chosen to get it over with today – I could have left the exam until later in the week and on Sunday I was wondering why I hadn’t – but it had been a good choice to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Now that the exams for this are over its back to my daily kanji practice – an hour curled up in front of the heater mindlessly writing out kanji is strangely meditative and is something I enjoy. I am also going to sign up for a Japanese level 2 refresher course over April I think, as that’s more focused on speaking. It would be good to have the opportunity to have some more speaking practice as that isn’t something I will have access to otherwise, and its my weakness after all.

I guess sometimes I doubt why I am learning this language – its not like I have enough else to do. But I love this language so much and even though I’m progressing so, so slowly at learning it I need to keep reminding myself that I am making some progress. If I just keep on trying eventually I’ll get there right? I just must avoid going down the path of how is this going to be useful for my future kind of thoughts. At the end of the day its hardly a good business language to have and although I still cling to my hopes of moving to Japan… at my age I’m well aware I’m delusional. and yet, and yet. I just love this language so much. I love that country so much. I was talking to my family the other weekend and we were discussing our favourite places and I didn’t even have to hesitate – Cape Town, followed by Japan. I’m still that 13 year old dreaming of this fantastic, unique place, testing out the sound of this new, foreign language on my tongue, getting lost in it, becoming totally enamoured with it. You’d think 8 years later somehow I would have gotten over it but I never have. It stresses me out, it makes me feel inadequate, but I’m still besotted. More determined than ever to make progress.

So I do hope that I did better than I thought.

This entry is weirdly upbeat compared to the last bunch isn’t it? It’s what I was talking about in a previous posts – these ups and downs in my mood. Today for some reason was a good day. I had a few shaky moments but ultimately I managed to cope and keep on top of my negative thoughts. I hope tomorrow can be a good day too. Its such a relief to feel positive and fairly relaxed for once.