When I worked at summer camp, they told us about FOMO, or “fear of missing out”. Allegedly, it was to keep us from burning out by trying to do everything - for fear that something epic might happen if we chose to take a night off - but we all knew it was their way of keeping us from flipping our shit every time our friends got different nights off from us. That being said, there is something to not feeling compelled to do everything and just taking a night off sometimes.
Unfortunately, that seems to be a little harder here in Japan. You see, one of the oft repeated warnings from both orientations was that we should not feel obligated to go to everything we are invited to by our Japanese colleagues, but that if we refuse too often (especially early on) that the invitations may stop coming as they come to assume you’re just not interested in chillaxin with the work crew. Now this is certainly not unique to Japan, but it seems to be more prominent here, especially for marginal groups (i.e. the 3 foreigners for 50 miles).
So today, when one of the guys at work came up to ask me if I wanted to come play soccer with them tonight I was torn. Everyone at the office is super nice and I really want to get to know them, but after developing a heavy limp from the pain in my foot (acquired during my long night wandering Nagoya) I wasn’t thrilled by the idea of both running on and kicking with it with so little time to recover.
However, I’m happy to say that today I took the long view, sucked it up, and went.
Do my feet hurt like fucking hell? Yeah, they do. But at least now they both hurt fairly evenly, so you could argue that’s an improvement?
Was it fun? It was fucking great, despite how badly I suck. We’ll have to work on that latter part….
Did I get in some good male bonding with the guys from work and their cohorts? Duh! Just bros bein’ bros in knee socks.
Did we stop for ice cream at the convenience store on the way back? Oh yes we did.
Was it cute? Obviously
Will they invite me again? Hopefully.
I love hanging out with other JETs, but I do feel like some of them don’t really form bonds with the Japanese people around them and I don’t want to be like that. In their defense, many of them are new to the language and it’s hard to make friends when you can barely communicate. But I regret not reaching out to the Japanese students and dorm residents I became acquainted with during my time in Tokyo more than I did. I was scared and I had the safety net of the other foreigners to fall back on, and despite the Japanese students’ consistent openness and kindness, I let mostly myself be more of a tourist than a part of their world and I think that is my deepest regret from my time studying abroad. I’m super happy to have my JET friends to fall back on now and they are hoenstly some of the coolest people I’ve ever me, but even if my ability in Japanese hasn’t gone up too much, my willingness to try has, for no better reason than that’s how I live and work for 80% of my time now. I’m finally getting over the apprehension of a Japanese student too afraid of mistakes to just blurt out what’s on his mind and I’m hoping that will help me learn from my mistakes and really get to know the people here as much as possible. And if it comes at the cost of my feet for now, so be it.