As I start off the new year, I recently looked back on the past one. 2015 was not nearly as great or eventful as my 2014 (the best year of my life), but it was still a year for the records. Here’s why.
The year kicked off with a bang as two of my long-time friends came to Calgary to go skiing. During our ski trip, the conditions on the mountain were not so great and there were many icy patches in addition to the normal holiday hazards (families, children, ski lessons). I managed to have a fairly spectacular fall after swerving to avoid a small child, which resulted in the separation of my collarbone. What I originally thought would be a pretty minor injury turned into 3 months unable to do any sort of physical activity and a massive loss of physical progress that I had made in my last semester of university.
Though that put a damper on my spirits for a while, it’s hard to fully write off that time of the year. A month later, I was finally able to say that I’m a university graduate. Shortly after that, I became a university graduate making minimum wage in retail ($10.50/hour).
Looking back on it, it was really a demoralizing experience. As someone who was regularly told that my degree in environmental sciences and ecology would be perfect for the oil companies of my province, I felt so unwanted. My job search quickly lead me from from applying to big corporate names and multinational conglomerates down to applying to the local pet shop and liquor stores. I once went into an interview for a part-time retail job at a store I used to work at and was straight up told that my resume was intimidating. I felt like the world was telling me I was either overqualified or underqualified for everything it had to offer. After over 35 (I counted) applications, I was only offered two interviews and one job. I began my part-time work at a local board game shop and during that time, I felt as though I had hit the lowest point in my life. Thankfully something soon managed to turn that around.
As many of you likely know, I was accepted into the JET Programme and now live in glorious Japan. In the second half of this year alone, I’ve managed to meet tons of new people, see three new countries, begin learning a new language, and become a claw game enthusiast. As of right now, I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time and the start of 2016 couldn’t have been better. I rang in the new year with great friends, delicious food, and a new outlook on my life.
Excuse the vertical video please.
As I write this from Sydney, I can’t help but think that this trip was really what I needed to figure out my life in Japan. I never really thought that so many insights about my new home would come from being away from it, but the world works in mysterious ways. It’s a little bit late for Turkey Day musings but either way, this holiday season has made me realize how thankful I should be for certain aspects of my life. Here’s a shout out to all the special people in my life.
This is my first Christmas away from family and although I’d like to think I’m generally a pretty competent adult, I still rely on them. This isn’t the first time I’ve been away from home for so long but it’s never easy for them to see me go. Although my parents and sister continue to amaze me with their general lame-ness and ability to make every picture look like it was taken on a flip phone, I miss them. They manage to message me nearly every day, but sometimes you just really want someone to bother when you get home, or a dog (or 3) to cuddle.
My Friends at Home
Though time zones are a bitch and there’s now an ocean between us, it really helps me to know that regardless of what country I’m in or how long it takes for me to return, everything will always be just as I left it when I go home. In the past few years, I’ve had friends come and go but I’d hazard a guess that there are a few of them stuck with me for the foreseeable future. If you’ve put up with me since high school, I’m likely not going anywhere, sorry. Even if we don’t talk as often as I’d like, thanks for being around, all you beautiful people.
My Friends in Japan
After living here for the past 5 months, I can safely say that I haven’t been alone the whole time. In fact, I’ve managed to make some pretty great friends. It’s awesome that the JET Programme brings all of us together from different backgrounds and places. I’ve somehow met people who live all over Japan, and even gone to visit a few of them already. Just by working the same job and having a shared interest in surviving in Japan, it’s pretty easy to find something to talk about with other JETs here. That being said, I’ve met a few people who can tolerate my humour, enjoy doing the same things as me, and will occasionally indulge me in my pursuit of beer. Unfortunately, some of my friends are camera-shy and are absent from the photo above. You guys will just have to deal.
My Friends around the World
I’m sure you’re all tired of seeing my exchange photos for the millionth time, but the reality is that I’m still extremely grateful for the friendships I made in Sweden. I now have friends all over the world thanks to that experience and it’s comforting knowing that I’ll have people to visit almost anywhere I go in the world. In 2015 I reunited with people in Sydney. Who’s to say what 2016 holds?
With all these great people in my life and my current state of (arguably) putting my career on hold, I feel like I should improve myself in other areas. I’ve never really found New Year’s resolutions to be a useful idea but this year I’ve decided to finally give them a try. Here are my 8 resolutions for the year.
- Save $200 a month.
I’ve more or less been living paycheque to paycheque because all my excess money has been going to travel. I think it’s time to finally start saving a bit.
- Go on a run at least once a week.
I’ve gone for a few runs in Japan so far, but if I make it a consistent commitment, it should help me with 3 and 4.
- Reach (or exceed) the level of physical satisfaction that I had on exchange.
Finding a gym in Japan has been a bit challenging for me for several reasons. The ones I have tried to sign up for so far will not accept my bank card for payment. I believe this to be a problem with my bank which I cannot control. That being said, I have recently been granted a Japanese credit card. This month I’ll see if I can use that for a gym membership.
- Blog at least once every month.
I realized that many of my friends and family who I don’t talk to often are in the dark about my daily life. I’d like to remedy that.
- Pass the JLPT N5.
The JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) has 5 levels with N5 being the lowest. I’m currently taking weekly lessons in Japanese and plan to attempt the N5 this summer.
- Be more positive.
This is a big one. I recently had a bit of a wake-up call from a dear friend and realized that I tend to put out a lot of pessimism and negativity. I need to stop comparing myself to others as doing that will only end poorly.
- Perfect at least 5 new recipes.
If I have ever cooked for you, it’s likely that I’ve made one of four things. I don’t consider myself to be a horrible cook but I often find my own meals disappointing. That needs to change. I use my small and ill-equipped Japanese kitchen as an excuse, but from now on, I’ll think of it more as a challenge.
This year looks very promising and I can’t wait to see what it holds. I’ve already got some big things planned so keep an eye open for more posts. Until then, がんばります！