It’s the first day of the new year, so I thought now’s the perfect time to write about how the past year has been for me. I think it’s definitely important to take a look back at the past year to reflect on things and use that for the brand new year that’s ahead of us.
2016, I would say, was probably one of the best years of my life, and it was definitely a year of many firsts for me. I spent more than half of the year (to be more specific, 9 months) away from home and living in a country that I’ve only been to once before, starting a new life and stepping into things that were completely unfamiliar to me.
Standing on my own two feet in Japan, where when I first came, my Japanese was so bad. I barely knew things like asking people’s names, where they’re from and where the toilet was, let alone knowing how to deal with getting a cellphone, things like health insurance and electricity and gas bills.
I definitely felt like a tiny lost fish suddenly plucked out of her small familiar stream and dropped into a big ocean filled with intimidating sea creatures and not knowing which direction to swim. It felt overwhelming lots of times, and sometimes I wondered if I could actually really do all of the things I had to do, but now that tiny fish is part of the ocean and swimming happily with the tide, which is to say, I survived and adapted in a situation that I’m sure anyone would find difficult.
Aside from that, 2016 was also a great year for me for the many first opportunities and experiences I had that I don’t think I would have had before.
I had the opportunity to go around different places in and around Tokyo, and explore parts of Japan and also Korea, and special places I’ve always wanted to go to like Disneyland. 2016 was a great year for all the traveling I got to do, much more than I’ve done before;
the opportunity to study Japanese in a formal class setting, since I haven’t had the chance to do that and have only been doing self-studying up until before I came to Japan;
the opportunity to experience the beauty of different seasons, I finally got to experience appreciating the beauty of cherry blossoms in spring, seeing the colors of trees change in autumn and my first snowfall ever in Tokyo this past November. All things I didn’t have the chance to do before that adds to a lot more reasons why 2016 was the year of so many wonderful firsts for me.
2016 was also a great year for me because of all the people I met. I made friends from countries all over the world (some of them from countries I’ve never even heard of before I met them lol), which was, before coming to Japan, something I haven’t had the chance to do before.
Admittedly, (although this is something people close to me already know about me) I’m a shy person and quite awkward. I’m not really the type to strike up conversations with people I didn’t know, or even if I did, I didn’t think I was very good at it and the conversation would just die out because I didn’t know what to say. Back before I left for Japan, I didn’t even like to talk to the shop assistants to ask for my size with clothes, or ordering food in restaurants, I would usually ask other people with me to do that for me (I know, it’s so silly).
But coming to Japan, although there were lots of people who helped out, I found that I really had to actually talk and say stuff, otherwise it would’ve actually been harder for me if I hadn’t. It was slow-going at first, and sometimes I found that I would be tempted to go back to my habit from before of avoiding things just so I wouldn’t have to talk to anybody. But like I said, if I’d done that it would have put me in a tougher situation, because I wouldn’t get things done and I would miss out on things.
So slowly, I learned to come out of my shell. I approached people and asked them things about them and where they were from; if there was something I didn’t know how to do, I would ask in my bad Japanese. The Jen from before I came to Japan and when I was starting are much different from the Jen that I am now, and I’ve come a long way from how I used to be.
I would still consider myself shy because if there are people I know with me, I would rather be with them than go out and make friends with everybody, but now I feel more confident with myself and don’t feel the need to escape away from situations and go back into my shell. Now when I’m with my friends I’m even the loud one, and I’ve even gotten people from back home who saw me after I’ve been in Japan saying that I talk a lot more and don’t seem so shy anymore, which I would consider a good thing, since for the longest time that was something I’ve been working on to overcome.
I’m really thankful for all the people I met in Japan this 2016, not just my friends but other special people who’ve really made an impact on who I am, who without them I don’t think I would be as confident and happy with myself as I am now. I wouldn’t trade the experiences I had with them for anything else in the world.
Like I said earlier, 2016 is definitely one of the best years for me. I’ve grown a lot as a person because of all the people I met and all the opportunities I’ve had in that year. While 2016 was a year of firsts for me, 2017 is going to be a year of challenges as I have to move out of my dorm and into a new place, graduate from my current school and enter my photography school where most of my classmates will be Japanese, so I’m going to be challenged with more things I’ll have to learn to do on my own.
I believe 2016 was a stepping stone for me to gain what I needed to face the challenges I’m going to have this 2017. And of course, although I don’t really know what’s coming up for me this new year, but thanks to all the people I’ve met this past year and all the experiences that really helped improve myself, even if there’s still that sense of nervousness with how things might be, I feel more than ready to take on the challenges of 2017. ⭐