Opinions.

So I didn’t write much today. I am exhausted and don’t have the energy necessary to propel my story into the climax and out into the ending … I am going to have an ALL DAY writing day on Saturday hopefully, so I can do most of my writing then.

I am going to be judging a debate for HOURS tomorrow, so I doubt I will feel like writing tomorrow either. But I know that I am writing not to get to 50k but to finish my draft, and I don’t think two nights of barely writing will do me any harm. In fact, the break is nice for my brain. I did write a few good paragraphs tonight, so if nothing else, there’s that.

Today at my junior high we had class elections. Not really class elections as much as school elections. There are only going to be about 4 or 5 people chosen to have “jobs”….

So right before the speeches started, one of my students was telling me how, “The students get up there and speak and talk about all the things they will change! … And then nothing ever does.”

And then, while watching the, well meaning but severely lacking, speeches by these 12-14 year olds, I just started thinking about how a lot of people expect to be able to change things, and then others expect they will change, and then everyone gets made when nothing does.

I can’t be bothered to be too insightful. I should be asleep right now. But I do want to talk about opinions. Everyone has great opinions on how to change things, and I used to hate that. I used to think, “Ugh why do Americans have to feel so entitled when we talk about our opinions… as if they are the only ones that matter?”

But the longer I live here in Japan, the more I see the good in America and our culture. I can freely discuss radical or controversial topics and no one will shy away from them. In fact, many people with formed opinions will speak strongly about how they feel about a topic.

In Japan, however, no one does that. If you give someone your opinion, you have to tell them that “Mayyyybe” or “Probably it might just be that…” and you have to really beat around the bush. I find myself communicating this way a lot, and I always have. But there is a limit to how much you can do that before you start to understand that NOTHING gets done that way. Especially when the person you are talking to just says, “Oh… Hmm… I see… I will have to think about that….”

Because humans are built on improvements. We build things, we learn things, we fix and change and we improve. We didn’t get this far by agreeing with people we don’t necessarily agree with just to keep the peace. We got this far because we thought about critical issues and talked openly about it.

A few of those students stood proudly and stood behind their beliefs, and I really admire them for that. They are only in middle school, and yet they already feel the need to stand in front of others and try to speak up about issues.

But there are some serious issues I face in Japan as a foreigner, and I know I’m not alone in this. Japanese people think “only Japan has four seasons” and “only Japanese people eat rice” and “foreigners all speak English and have blonde hair” and I just get so fed up with dealing with this.

Japanese people sometimes like to “tell” me instead of ask me things. For example, a lady told me I probably never eat rice, only bread, right? I just looked at her in awe that she seriously thought that, and told her no, I mainly eat rice because I live in Japan and it is abundant and easier to cook with. Then my students write essays about how only Japan has four seasons and I just laugh that they actually think this.

I am from the South, and even my own family members still think I live in China. People always try to justify themselves, saying, “Well I’m just ignorant and Southern.” Well, how does that make me feel when I am ashamed to tell someone I am from Tennessee? I loved my school. I went to an amazing, inspiring, passionate university and met professors and students alike who are talented, hard working, forward-thinking, and intelligent. But when I tell people I went to the University of Alabama, they shut off. They think we are hicks who don’t wear shoes or have electricity.

I just really want people to know how they are being perceived. Not all Americans live in New York, and if you are going to have me come to you school as a teacher, the least you can do is look up Tennessee on a map so I don’t have to explain it to you a million times. And Japanese people are not communists who speak Chinese and never smile. They are warm, inviting, loving, passionate people who make seriously delicious food and aren’t afraid to love them some video games.

Being a writer, I am judged as a loner, a weirdo. Being a video gamer, I am judged as anti-social and lazy. Being a woman, I am judged as someone who can’t possibly know the difference between Link and Zelda, but I assure you, I can. I know how to knit, but I also know how to beat you up using Taekwondo. Being American, I am judged as rude and loud. Being white, most people think I have no idea about issues regarding race, but again, I assure you that I do.

Let’s discuss our opinions but not shout them. Let’s change things but not break them. Let’s educate ourselves and others, and lead by example that stereotypes are painful and disastrous. A person can only take so much before they shut out other people. I don’t want that to happen to anyone. I used to be closed and wary of others, but getting to know other people is the greatest joy in life.

Today I had a student come up to me to tell me she likes Big Bang, and asked me who my favorite member was (Taeyang). I made a connection with her because she took the time to reach out to me because I first reached out to her in class when she told me she likes them, and I told her I do, too.

Little things like that stick in my memory, and I love thinking back on these little encounters. I want more of them, but that will only happen when people remember that, above all else, we are human.

8 thoughts to “Opinions.”

  1. Great post. I think you’ve made a brilliant point here. Stereotypes only serve certain purposes and don’t always overlap with the truth, or the whole truth. It seems like no matter how much we study the differences between Western and Eastern culture, we never fail to be amazed by them, and – until we get a chance to experience the other for ourselves – trapped by them. It’s wonderful that by being in Japan, it’s opened your eyes in a way that not everyone can experience. Instead of being scared by each other’s differences we should be intrigued by them, and want to know more about them. In your position, I suppose you have a small chance to inform your students while they are young? 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! I think there are good days and bad days. Lately I’ve been in Stage 2 of Culture shock, so a lot of things bother me. This definitely isn’t the first time I’ve lived in Japan or encountered these things. But pile it up with a new job, no family nearby, and it gets overwhelming when I can’t tell anyone how I feel. Thanks for reading!

  2. Great post. I think you’ve made a brilliant point here. Stereotypes only serve certain purposes and don’t always overlap with the truth, or the whole truth. It seems like no matter how much we study the differences between Western and Eastern culture, we never fail to be amazed by them, and – until we get a chance to experience the other for ourselves – trapped by them. It’s wonderful that by being in Japan, it’s opened your eyes in a way that not everyone can experience. Instead of being scared by each other’s differences we should be intrigued by them, and want to know more about them. In your position, I suppose you have a small chance to inform your students while they are young? 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for your comment! I think there are good days and bad days. Lately I’ve been in Stage 2 of Culture shock, so a lot of things bother me. This definitely isn’t the first time I’ve lived in Japan or encountered these things. But pile it up with a new job, no family nearby, and it gets overwhelming when I can’t tell anyone how I feel. Thanks for reading!

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