Since my birthday was a few weeks ago, I have decided to make a list of 23 things that I learned at 23. 23 was kind of a big year for me, but not as big as 22. At 22, I graduated college, moved to a foreign country, and started a new job. There were a lot of changes. At 23, I've been living in Japan with the same job, all year. But, I still feel like I've grown a lot as a person—my priorities have definitely changed, my interests have changed, and I think I've become a much kinder and more understanding person (I hope so, anyway).
Mom always knows best. Whether it's regarding life, people, how to cook something, or just for support, I feel like I've gone to my mom for more advice in the last year than I ever have before. I thought I'd be really competent living alone, since I haven't lived at home since I started college. But, living completely alone is totally different from living in a dorm in college, and I'm a complete newbie at being an adult, so Mama always comes to the rescue.
Nothing can compare to being taken cared of by Mama. I'm sure everyone goes through that phase in life when they think they don't want to be taken cared of, or they think that their parents treat them like a child and wishes they'd treat them like an adult. Well, when you totally become an adult, you'll miss being treated like a child, especially when you're sick. It's a pretty sad feeling being at home alone, feeling miserably sick, and you have no one to call for help. It's amazing how much my mom has done to take care of me throughout my life, that I have taken for granted until now. Even with just small things like feeding myself and doing laundry, I can barely take care of myself right now, how did she manage to take care of more than one person?!
Family really is so important. With living in a different country and not being sure of where my life will take me next, time with my family is very limited. And for most people around my age, as we get more caught up in our own lives, pursuing our careers, and as our parents get older, the sad reality is that time spent with our families will just keep decreasing as the years go on. I've realized how important it is not to sweat the small stuff. Let's be honest, everyone gets irritated with their parents sometimes, and they get irritated with us, no doubt. But, at the end of the day, the small irritating things really don't matter and I still love them anyway, so why bother? They raised me and provided me with everything I could ever need, I'll forever be in debt to them! I've never felt more appreciative of my parents as I do now, and I want to make sure they know that.
Work requires so much more responsibility than school ever did. It's a pretty weird feeling standing in front of 40 kids that are staring at me, waiting for me to do something. And now that other people rely on me, I can't just not show up without notice, like how I used to just not go to class. I've never been responsible for other people before and I miss the time when my biggest worries were finishing an assignment or studying for a test. Now, every day is a test for me. A test of how patient I can be until I throw a chair at a kid. Just kidding, I would never do that.
Helping other people feels great. Teaching has actually made me so much more of a compassionate person. I'll admit that I used to be a pretty closed and stand-offish person, but teaching has forced me to be the complete opposite of that. And seeing kids understand and use something I've taught them is a pretty great feeling.
There are more important things than going out and getting drunk every weekend. Like saving money. But, even without taking money into consideration, I've realized how much of a waste of time it is. It's amazing how much I can actually do on weekends, when I don't sleep the entire day away. I've recently been waking up early on the weekends and let me tell you, being productive feels a whole lot better than being hung over.
Going out frequently is too much of an unnecessary expense for me. Of course, I still go out occasionally, but does it make me sound old if I say that I actually would rather relax at home than turn up? And the money that I would spend going out is money that I could put towards traveling or new shoes.
Save money for meaningful experiences. As much as I want that Saint Laurent purse that I've had my eye on for years, I absolutely do not need a $3,000 purse, nor do I have any business even thinking about that. Traveling and making memories are much more worthy ways to spend money. I've never felt bad about spending money on a trip, but I have definitely felt bad about buying things I don't need. Except for shoes. A girl needs her shoes.
Watching useless shit until late at night isn't worth being dead the entire next day. I used to stay up very late, sometimes until 2 am, to watch Korean dramas. I have to wake up before 6 am every day, and with that little sleep, I would be absolutely dead the next day. Not worth it. Not healthy. Now that I almost always go to sleep before 11 pm and sometimes even before 10 pm, I feel sooo much better when I wake up and throughout the next day.
Cooking most of my meals saves a lot of money and makes me feel like a damn adult. Cooking for myself is normally much healthier and much cheaper than anything I'd buy. But, I will admit that I still frequent Japan's super convenient convenience stores and order pizza. I cannot live without pizza.
Living in Japan is not for me. Just the language barrier makes it hard enough, but with the addition of societal and cultural differences, every day is a learning experience. Too much learning. I can't go anywhere without thinking about how I'm going to get there, how I'm going to do whatever I have to do, how I'm going to communicate, and how I'm going to behave, or rather, how I'm supposed to behave. It's never a comfortable experience, even though I am glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone with this move. I would have thought that after over a year of living here, I'd be pretty comfortable, but Japan is nowhere near being my comfort zone, and I don't think it ever will be.
It's okay to ask for help. I am definitely someone who doesn't like to ask for help and tries to figure things out on my own. But, being in Japan, where I know almost nothing about anything, I'm constantly forced to ask others for help. And I realized that it's not a bad thing at all. I have no reason to not ask for help. No one is judging me or thinks I'm stupid (most of the time, anyway). It's totally okay.
Even when things are difficult, don't give up. If I gave up on this job/experience at the first sign of difficulty, I would have left almost as soon as I got here. The first sign of difficulty being arriving during the most fucking blazing time of the summer, having to walk to the damn training location from the hotel in full business attire with heels on and my makeup literally melting off of my face. But, I made it. :) This move has been probably been the biggest challenge I've experienced, but I'm glad I did it. I've always wanted to live in Japan and if I didn't take this opportunity, I'd always regret it.
Living in Japan has definitely been a meaningful experience for me. Even if I don't like living in Japan as much as I thought I would, at the very least, I've made some good friends and ate some awesome food. And living in Japan has allowed me to learn so much about myself and what I want (and don't want) in the future.
Not enjoying work really makes me miserable. I've always thought that I'm someone who could do almost anything for work and I wouldn't have to enjoy it, as long as I'm getting paid. Nope. I want to stay at home and not get paid way more often than I want to go to work and get paid. I just really dislike being a teacher, to be honest. And the shitty pay doesn't help my motivation, either.
It's okay to not know what I want to do in life. After having this job, I now know what I definitely don't want to do. And I would have never known that if I didn't try. I have absolutely no idea what I'm going to do after Japan, but rather than getting a job just for the money, I want to explore my interests and find something that I really enjoy. I'm only 24. I still have time to try things and to fail. I have more time now than I ever will again.
Living alone is so lonely! Sometimes, I just wish there was someone to welcome me home when I get home from work, or someone to eat dinner and watch TV with. I thought I'd love living alone, and even prided myself on being independent, but I'll admit that I could use some companionship sometimes.
Time and distance are irrelevant with real friends. Moving to a foreign country alone made me realize that regardless of how long it's been since we've last seen each other or how far apart we live from each other, I know I have a few real friends that I'll have for my lifetime. You know who you are. :)
Most people are nice. Being nice doesn't mean I have to be their friend. I now know that I don't have to be friends with everyone that is nice to me and I don't have to feel bad about it, either. I just don't click with some people and sometimes, it's for no real reason at all, and that's okay.
Love will happen when you least expect it. Just get lucky and find a winner on Tinder while out drinking like I did. :)
The right person will support me and help me in everything I do. With big decisions like moving or changing jobs or small decisions like what to eat for dinner, the right one will be willing to be there to talk me through anything and everything.
The right person will make me feel completely comfortable in my own skin. Even when I just wake up, with no makeup on, crazy hair, the right person will never make me feel self-conscious about anything around him.
The right person will motivate me in every way and make me want to be the best person I can be. It feels like everything has a purpose now. I no longer feel like I'm just floating through life because now, I want to be someone who can support him, someone who he can lean on, and someone who can contribute to our future together. And the right person will believe in me and encourage me to follow my dreams, regardless of how crazy they may be.
Thank you to everyone that I came into contact with this year for helping me learn and grow as a person. :)
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