Nihongo Ji 日本語 時

I can’t pinpoint an exact time in my life when I fell in love with all things pertaining to Japan. I just know that, like falling in love, it hit me hard and strong. It’s been a long-lasting love (more so than with anything else I’ve ever cared about).

My original plan (high school self) was to go to university, learn about Japan and other Asian cultures, learn the language, and move there to do …anything really, someday. So, in my final year, when the time came to send out university and college applications, what did I do? I applied to psychology and musical theatre programs. Naturally.  *SMH* I don’t know!

And as it turned out, I withdrew even those applications and moved back in with my parents (who had left me to finish high school while living at a friend’s house for the last few months) and applied to the closest community college there to take Early Childhood Education – which I subsequently dropped out of after the first semester. This was in Winnipeg. The two universities there didn’t have East Asian Studies anyway (although I could have taken at least Japanese language courses at U of M). Yep. When I was young, I was a bit of an idiot.

So, I ended up working full time in retail and after two years, moved back to Ontario working for the same company. I’ve said this a million times – retail slowly sucks out your soul. Terrible job for me. And yet I kept doing it for eight years! But, somewhere around halfway through that purgatory, I decided I was going to take a few non-credit classes at U of T, just for fun and to at least dabble in my passion. Over the next few years, I took Level 1 & 2 Cantonese (the closest version of Chinese spoken by my husband’s family), attempted Mandarin (but dropped that one – hard!), and Level 1 Japanese. Loved it!

At one point, things came to a head at work. I needed to decide whether I would either go into managing or take a step back and go back to school to, once again, attempt pursuing this dream I had. (Although, at that point, it wasn’t in the hopes of moving to Japan. I was already married and it wasn’t an option. I figured, best case, I could work for a company in some sort of cultural relations position or whatever. I’d figure it out after graduating.) The decision wasn’t too hard. So, as a “mature student” (not right out of high school), I had to take a so-called bridging course (I went with English Lit.) before I could start. I almost failed that course (Homework and I were not well-acquainted at that time.), but afterwards, I registered to take the prerequisite first year EAS course.

University of Toronto makes you take a general first year before you declare a major, even if you know what you want to do. In order to do an EAS major, minor or specialist degree, you have to have taken the first year EAS culture & history class and first year of the language you plan to take all four years (Japanese, Mandarin or Korean). Japanese is an insanely popular course to take. It’s not just students who wish to do EAS. The requirements for any degree at U of T is 1 course in humanities, 1 in social science, and 1 in science. (I think there are more specifics, but I forget now.) Therefore, for instance, a lot of Science kids will take a random humanities class. There are kids from every single program trajectory in first year Japanese. Competition is steep and registering is based on luck. You need to get it before someone else takes your spot. Needless to say, I didn’t get in that time.

I tried again several months later to get into the summer school course, and I think I was only the waiting list or something. I went to the first few classes. At this point I can’t remember what happened with me personally but I just stopped going.  :/

Anyway, I killed it in that culture and history class. I got a really good mark. That bolstered my confidence to try again the next year for Japanese and maybe another first year class to cross off my list. I was working full time when I took the one course. It was hard. I’m not good at splitting my concentration between work and school, so for the next year, I quit working. I was one of the lucky ones and got in (after explaining myself for quitting during the summer and apologizing for that and proving I didn’t know too much already) and also decided to get my social science out of the way and picked Anthropology. (I couldn’t take any more EAS specific courses until second year.)


I did not do so well. At first, I was on top of things, understanding everything, even helping out fellow classmates who were having trouble. This was bound to happen since I had pretty much taken the beginning of the class twice already. Of course, it didn’t last. Also, the way it’s structured is that there is a lecture class on Mondays with the entire body of first year students taking the course and then you have tutorial section classes on Tuesday-Fridays. I do not live in Toronto. Most kids would live on campus (especially in first year) since it’s a big school people from all over Canada and the rest of the world go there. The few people I knew of who didn’t live downtown drove in. I also don’t drive. I had to take public transit everyday. An hour and a half each way. Bus, then commuter bus or train, then subway. It’s no excuse really because I knew what I was getting in to, but… my attendance dwindled more and more as the year went on. I missed a few classes. And the material obviously got exponentially harder. As it turned out, for my three-hour final exam, I spent 60% of it just sitting in my seat, crying. I failed the exam. I barely passed the class. I didn’t get a high enough mark to continue with second year Japanese.

Now, at that point, I COULD have studied my ass off through the summer, got a tutor, whatever, and then taken a placement test to prove I could move on… but instead, I dropped out. Again. I no longer had the “stupid in my youth” excuse anymore. I was already 28 then. I should have made better choices. I should have focused on the fact that this is what I had always wanted to do.  I… did not.

Fast forward several more years of ‘wasting time’. I went back to school – community college this time – and finished my ECE diploma I had dropped out of right out of high school. I actually put in some hard work. I went to every class (exception of some necessary vacations) and handed in every single assignment on time. I kicked ass. I graduated with high honours and went to Hong Kong for a special work placement experience. So, maybe now I was being an “adult”?

But maybe not. I proved to myself I could stick with something for at least 2 years, do my homework consistently, and finish with good marks, but I didn’t end up doing anything with it and went right back to doing nothing. I don’t have much passion for childcare. I knew that while I was in school for it, but I really did enjoy the child development aspect of it. Unfortunately, with just an ECE diploma, you are limited to careers in childcare. You can continue schooling to move on, as many of my classmates did, but I didn’t. Not really what I want to do. I’ve always known what I wanted to do and where my passion lies… But I felt defeated when I came back from Hong Kong. That was almost 3 years ago now and I have pretty much just sat on my butt since then. (Well, I’ve done stuff, but nothing of note, forward momentum wise.)

On to the actual point of this extremely long rambling post… (sorrynotsorry)

Last month, I was sitting around, being bored, like always and thought ‘I should take a Japanese class, just for something to do’. I went online and noticed that Level 2 of that original class I had taken way back in 2004 or whenever it was, was starting January 18th. The courses are offered through U of T Continuing Education (non-credit courses for adults looking to keep their skills up to date in a variety of things, mostly) and are held once a week for 10 weeks. I talked Hubby into footing the bill for me (unemployed for the last five years, remember?) and signed up.

What I had in the back of my mind was that maybe I could re-learn what I had failed to retain during first year Japanese and get back into university after completing a few of these levels. Or I could get a recommendation from the teacher of where I could find a good tutor. Or something. So I went to the first class with this notion. This is my goal.

The problem with this goal is that I am not working and have no money. Hubby pays for everything in our relationship. I don’t want him paying for my schooling – not to mention, neither does he. My parents used to pay for any education I wanted to take, as they did with my siblings, but after a lump sum I used to finish up ECE, I was cut off. I AM an adult, after all. Quite capable of working to make my own money for such things…  (I have decided the toss up of money for my sanity and mental health isn’t worth it. I am not going to do something I despise just to be able to afford something else. I’d still rather do nothing and be bored and soul-sick than exhausted, miserable and soulless.) For now, this problem is on the back burner. I’ll figure it out when I get there.

New goal: getting there.

I spent about 5 minutes in the Level 2 class while the teacher went around to the students she didn’t know and hadn’t come fresh from Level 1 in December and asked about their background. She handed out a short quiz to accompany this inquiry. She took a quick glance at my paper while I told her about taking first year several years ago and not doing well. She said, “you should probably go up to Level 3. This is going to be too easy for you.” A few more students were sent along with me down the hall to the Level 3 class (two of which were immediately sent on to Level 4. LOL.). I laughed when I realized this new teacher was the same lady I had so many years ago for Level 1.

We started right in. Again, most of the students had just come from Level 2. Some aspects were easy enough. Katakana comes back pretty quickly. I recognized most of the vocabulary. But the grammar point of the first lesson was て-form verb conjugation. I had forgotten everything! It was like new information. And out of the 50 or so verbs used on the various worksheets she handed out, only 1 was something I had never learned but only 15 of them I actually recognized. I have a LOT of studying to do to catch up. This was supposed to be a refresher to me! Not so hard right off the bat. But, since the courses are about $500 each, I couldn’t justify staying in Level 2 just to be comfortable. I guess if I’m going to reach this lifelong goal of mine, I have to start with the hard work right away.

I fully expect to lose sight of this dream again like I have so many times in my life already. But THIS is what I want to do. I want to learn Japanese. I want to go back to school and continue with EAS, learning about all the things that fascinate me. I have no idea exactly what I would ultimately do with that, but at this point, it doesn’t matter. I can figure that out. (And Hubby has hinted that the possibility of both of us moving to Japan together is not completely off the table.) The point is that THIS is what I’m passionate about. It doesn’t make sense for there to be an opportunity out there for me to immerse myself in it and NOT do it.

Hence~ this blog post. These long ones, as I’m sure anyone who actually takes time to read them (no one? LOL.) would realize, are not for my potential readers’ entertainment. (Not saying that you shouldn’t read this. Just that I don’t blame you if you find it boring and don’t bother.) This is for me. I may need to reread this multiple times along the way to remember. I’m back on track working towards something I want and something I love.

Stay on target.

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6 Responses to Nihongo Ji 日本語 時

  1. elle says:

    I almost never read blog posts all the way through, but somehow I read this entire thing ahaha 😀
    I totally relate, except I kind of worked through things in the opposite direction. I wanted to do something else, but ended up slugging my way through Japanese studies and classical Japanese literature through to a Master’s degree. But, I hated it all along the way and struggled to find the value in what I was studying. And now that I’ve finally graduated I’ve suddenly developed a mad passion for Japan and don’t want to do anything in my life that won’t help me to move to Japan and live there for ever and ever! Weird how things work out in the end haha…but they do!

    • kmah88 says:

      Wow! You read the whole thing?! Thank you.
      I’m curious as to why you would take it if you hadn’t been interested in it before. ?? But I’m glad things worked out for you and that you can retroactively enjoy what you’ve learned.
      I’m hoping I can stick to it this time around and put my passion to good use. 頑張ります!

      • elle says:

        I was majoring in psychology in undergrad, but then I ended up adding in Japanese as a double major. I’m half-Japanese and I thought it would be my last chance to ever learn to speak and read Japanese properly, and even though I didn’t have any interest in it at all, I didn’t want to regret it when I was fifty and only able to speak English haha. For my Master’s I wanted to continue with Psyc, but the Asian Studies Dept. was a lot smaller, and therefore more cozy and personal so I ended up applying there instead! In the end, I am so so so glad that I did. 😛

      • kmah88 says:

        That’s awesome. Good for you!

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