(Friday) Thoughts from Places: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

(Written Friday night, on the train between Yuki and Koga).

Last year, the choice to re-contract was easy, and no one was surprised that I wanted to stay for a second year.

This time around, I agonized for a bit about the decision. Was two years in Japan long enough? Would a third year be worth it? Have I accomplished everything that I wanted to do here? Should I start applying for new jobs back home? What is my future? WHAT SHOULD I DO?!

Yeah, I got a little dramatic there for a week or two.

As is always the case, there were a lot of factors to consider before signing one way or the other. Future goals; 10-year-plans; my family; my friends back home; my learning curve here in Japan…

One of the biggest factors, though, was that my base school might change if I stay a 3rd year. You see, in my city, the three high schools all want to be the base school for the ALT, but they don’t have the budget or the real need for more than one ALT. Hence, they solved the problem by having the base school rotate: every two years, the ALT’s base school changes. My predecessor only stayed one year — her base school was my Tuesday visit school. Her predecessor also only stayed one year — with the Tuesday school as her base school as well. After my pred left, the base school switched to my Flex school, where I have happily been for the last year and a half. However, we all hit a snag: no ALT has ever stayed in Yuuki City for longer than two years. So… does the base school change?

The possible change in base school is actually a big deal to me. I currently teach 11 different classes  at my Flex school, because I am there twice a week. If my base school switches, I would only be able to teach 2 classes at my Flex school, so I would lose a lot of the students that I really love working with.

The uncertainty was killing me for a while, but I finally realized that… I’m not done with Japan. I keep challenging myself here — linguistically, creatively, physically, mentally. I love living here, I love working here. I love my students and my colleagues. I love being surprised, and I love surprising others. I don’t want to leave quite yet. No matter what happens with my base school, whether it changes or stays the same, I’ll accept it gracefully and optimistically (or I’ll try my best to do so!). Luckily my family was supportive, so no controversies there.

I re-contracted, but for the last time. Three years is enough. I won’t go through this debate again. So I will be coming home for good, sometime in August 2018.

I’m sitting on the train, a stranger in a strange place. It’s nighttime, so the windows are dark and I watch my reflection staring back at me. But I’ve taken this route a hundred times before. It feels natural. I belong, but I don’t. I don’t belong, but I do.

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