This is something I think about a lot but don’t usually like talking about because it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me. Then I remembered that everyone is crazy, so whatever. Here it is:
There is a strong possibility that I worry too much, but almost everyday (and especially when I’m at my junior high), I feel so out of touch and awkward. I’m sure tons of people living in foreign countries feel this way; I mean, having to speak a foreign language everyday and living within a culture you don’t understand is hard. BUT, I constantly feel like my own personality flaws make living here so much more difficult at times.
I’m generally a shy, awkward, anxious, and awkward person. A professor once described me as a Chihuahua, and I really can’t think of a better analogy. I think she was trying to say that I seem small and meek, but I’ve got these big aspirations and big “bite” so to speak, but I really think the high-strung, somewhat anti-social aspect is more befitting. I freakin’ hate Chihuahuas though.
I’ve gotten over a lot of these issues in the past by faking outgoing traits, but when a language and cultural barrier are involved, pretending becomes hard. Take the time I spend with kids at lunch for example. At first, I tried really hard to talk to the junior high kids in English and sometimes basic Japanese, because I wanted them to think I was friendly and cool. But a few lunches with kids equally as shy as me has made eating lunch with kids who don’t talk to me first really difficult. With the staff, I was kind of the opposite. I’m so so nervous when I speak Japanese without the help of alcohol, that I often just don’t talk to anyone. If I need to ask something, I’d wait until the English teacher was present. Or I just don’t ask. Slowly, I’ve begun to talk to the other teachers at the junior high, but only because they are super nice and still talk to me when I’m awkward and abruptly end conversations for no reason.
I’m honestly surprised the adorable turtle-glasses wearing, mini Cooper driving social studies teacher still talks to me. Once we spent an entire lunch talking about Southeast Asia, IN ENGLISH. I think a normal person would take that as the start of an office friendship, but I kinda acted like nothing happened because I’m a Chihuahua and I prefer hiding. Thankfully for me, turtle glasses loves practicing his English, so he talks to me quite a bit when he isn’t busy. We talk about mountains, how cold it is, how weird the kids are…he even gave me a flyer to the Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil tour in Japan. This guy is awesome. But I never ever talk to him unless he talks to me first. (Since I started this post, turtle-glasses has moved on to quite an awesome job actually. I’m going to miss him… man, he was so cool!)
I had this problem in high school, too. I am convinced everyone thought I was a huge beotch, because I’m sure I always looked uninterested when people talked to me. The truth is/was that I’m too nervous to function. When I worked at a school in America, I pretty much only talked/enjoyed the company of two teachers because one of them was my teacher when I was in junior high and the other was really nice and just a real person. And my mom. My mom worked there, so I hung out with her and her friends, because I knew them. I could have made real friends with some of those teachers, maybe, if I wasn’t so weird and awkward. Did I mention I’m awkward already?
And now I live in Japan. And I’m afraid most of the time to speak Japanese. I think I’m afraid of being judged or unwanted, but by not communicating with people, won’t that happen anyway? What is the solution to this problem? It’s seriously getting to be too much. I try to combat my fear of sober Japanese by smiling a lot, but I feel like that just makes me look insane. Ya know, like one of those quiet but deadly future serial killer types. EW. I think I’m getting better. With all the new teachers and staff members introducing themselves and talking to me, some of my previous tensions have been removed. Also, I am so in love with some of my kids; I can’t not talk to them. Sometimes I can use them as a medium…or at least a topic of discussion. I can see, “man, that kid is super annoying” being a really good ice breaker…In terms of making real human connections, though, everyday is a struggle.