Miraculously I’ve learned enough Japanese in the past year to survive in Japan and do adult things by myself, like get gas and buy train tickets .
In order to force myself to study, I found a private tutor who I meet with twice a week. Our one-hour lessons consist of grammar practice and explanations, and we also enjoy conversation in Japanese about our lives and other big ideas. He can’t really speak English, so in our lessons we primarily use Japanese.
Last week, he was teaching me the grammar for ‘have to’ and ‘don’t have to.’ For example, どよびにがっこうにいかなくてもいいです。 (doyobi o gakkou ni ikanakutemoiidesu, I dont have to go to school on Sunday.) After I struggled to complete the worksheet he gave me, he introduced a fascinating idea:
じんせいで たいせつな みっつの ことは なんですか?
Jinsei de taisetsu na mittsu no koto wa nandesuka?
What are the three most important things in your life?
Can you guess what he said next? I was so surprised by his answer:
- そうじ – souji – cleaning
- 笑う – warau – laughter
- ありがとう と 言う – arigatou – saying thank you
Actually, I wanted more explanation about these ideas, but I need to ask him again. He did tell me, though, that there is a Japanese proverb that says a clean room and toilet will bring you riches!
After the lesson, I couldn’t help but think about how I would answer the same question. It took me a few days to finalize my answer, and it might change again, but here’s my answer of the moment:
- helping others
- my health
Why? Here’s my explanation:
Since I was born in California to a supportive family with too many blessings to count, I feel like the purpose of my life is to give back to the world in a big, big, big way. I think the purpose of my life is to contribute something major to society.
For example, I met an inspirational American who is currently improving a small community in Tianyar, Bali. Aaron Fishman started East Bali Cashews, and has helped hundreds of Balinese who were previously suffering from malnutrition and poverty. With his dedicated team, he created over 200 jobs for people -mostly women- who were previously unemployed, and started a local preschool with the profits. They hope to replicate their project on other islands after their factory is permanently established.
I volunteered and lived with them for 2 weeks in 2013, which you can see pictures of and read about here. Meeting them and learning about their lives was fate. I’m not sure how or when, but someday I want to do something similar to what they’ve done.
If I don’t have my health, I can’t help others or enjoy my life. Currently, one of my biggest priorities is eating well and working out. I’m an adamant vegetarian (with the execption of fish) and try to be vegan as much as possible (for ethical and health reasons.) I want to exercise at least 3 or 4 times a week, and I’ve been successful with this goal because I’ve joined so many fun sports while I’ve been in Japan!
As I grow up, I am losing certain qualities. I am losing the ability to experience true freedom, as I now have to consider now what other people think of me.
But truly, I want to exist in a reality that I create. I don’t want to be controlled by society. I want my actions to be guided by my beliefs, not what society expects of me. I am inspired by small children and their fearlessness. By playing, and showing others that I can experience joy on a daily basis, I hope to inspire others to do the same.
This reminds me of my favorite Marianne Williamson quote:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves: who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, smart, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of the Earth. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I often think of her idea as I’m constantly second guessing myself – should I be doing this? Should I join this Japanese soccer team, even though none of the other players can speak English? Should I go and ask the PE teacher if I can join his class instead of sitting at my desk? Should I try to make friends with the person sitting next to me on the train? Then, I remind myself- my purpose here is not to shrivel up or hide, although sometimes I feel like it. I exist in this world to shine, and to share my positivity.
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Thanks for reading!
I’m curious to hear your answers. What are the three most important things to you?