Shijo-Tsushin #13 November, 1997


by Sayaka OGATA

In the history class I had yesterday, I felt like people are thinking that I am stupid. Yesterday, when we were separated into groups to review the materials we did in history, I was half ignored and could not catch up. It is true that I do not know some stuff in history; I'd never heard the word "Parthenon" until I learned just 2 months ago. So maybe it was reasonable for them to half ignore me without even realizing. But still, it was not easy to see someone "skipping" me when he talks to all the others, looking into their eyes. I once read in a book that in America, not talking is not existing. Also I know that I can be equal or above other people in a discussion by being serious and paying effort when the others are not. So I tried to talk and participate in the discussion. But still they rarely ever looked at me. My voice was a wind that blew among them. Probably this was because of my pronounciation, because my voice was rather small since I was not so confident of what I was saying, and because in their depth of their hearts, or in their uncontiousness, they don't fully trust what I say. Even though I knew that, that made me sad. I wanted to be a full, one person, not a half, transparent person.

I know I am closer to a "full person" when people are discussing about biology. They look at me, and they listen to me. Sometimes I'm wrong, sometimes I'm right, and so are they.

So I thought that I want to go to a college without a core curriculum (like Brown, for instance) because then I probably won't feel so miserable like I did in the history class. But do you think this is running away? I do not want to run away. Is this like taking a regular Precalculus although one is good enough to be in Honors Precalculus?

Since I was little, I often challeged myself. Sometimes I put myself in a difficult situation, or a challenge came by itself. I became the president of the class when I was in the 9th grade because we needed one and nobody wanted to do it. Although I soon regreted it, I now think that that was good because at least I learned that I don't have leadership. Anyway, I would take very difficult classes if they are biology, but I do not want to take any classes like history. Does this show that I am weak and not challenging myself? But am I not challenging myself already by coming to America?

I am also not sure if I can live as a "full person" if I go to a Japanese college. And what is "a full person," anyway? I think I'll probably be able to become a "full person" if I go to a Japanese college and find people in which I can fit. This goes back to the issue of challenging myself. If I go to a Japanese college and fit in to a group of people, it might be like losing sense of cold or hot by living in a mild weather for a long time. I mean, I am not challenging myself. Something begins when different people interact, and I think this is a very important thing. It might be better for me to go to an American college, especially one with diversity, because then I will be able to meet all sorts of people and grow. I will get to know new things not only in classes but also in my whole college life that broadens my view.

I, however, have felt the loneliness and am tired of it. One can have many friends and still feel lonely, I think. Here in America I have some friends but I can not get away from the loneliness. But believe me, I am truly enjoying my life here. Yes, I've thought that I have positive attitude since I was little and I still believe so.

I have had several true friends in my life. In a magazine, it once said that "true friends" call each other every night and hang around together every day, but I do not think that is true. I think depth is what matters, not frequency of seeing each other or even the distance between them. I haven't found true friends in America yet, although I made some close friends. And all the true friends I found in Japan were returnees, or the people who used to live in a foreign country. I do not know if I will be able to find true friends in America. I feel like I probably won't.

But again, I ask myself: isn't it "running away" to go back to Japan and live among people that are like me? But do I need to challenge myself in every aspect of life? I mean, I will be tired. And also, challenging myself could even be a bad thing. Through the hard times I've had, I became so much stronger than before, but that meant that I lost some of my sensitiveness. But one can argue that it is natural to lose things when you grow. I do not know who is right.

Maybe I'm tired because I have tried to be stronger and happier than I really am. Or, if you think of it in another way, I did grow into a stronger and happier person than before, but I am just not used to it yet. One of my friends in Japan once wrote me that it was "unnatural" that I was paying so much effort to make friends here. But isn't a pursuit for happiness a natural thing? But she is right; I don't think I am being a natural "me" here. Or, you might say that a character of a person is not that simple, and both are real "me." That is true, too.

And I should not forget that the college will be much different from this school I am going right now. Maybe I will be able to find true friends there. I do not know.

In terms of academics, I believe it will be better in America than in Japan. I've heard thousands of rumours about Japanese colleges that you don't have to do any work in order to graduate. But I also hear that people have just so much fun. I want to study in college. I do not want to waste my time. I want to do something. Like that popular song, "I believe I can fly." I want to accomplish something in my life.

And on the other hand, I sometimes feel suspicious to the American colleges that make students study very hard. People do need time to be themselves and do something for themselves, and I am not talking about having parties. In my extra time, I do whatever I want, and I sometimes read books, write poems, draw, or go for a walk. And these little tiny things are the things that make one's life more worthwhile, I think. I also feel skeptical about being busy and "switched-on" all the time. The poems and drawings that are born from truly free time are the real poems and drawings for oneself, I think. Poems that are written for myself are healing. I could save myself with them. And I think this is important. It is important to have my own free time.

And the thinking continues...

(This essay is part of what was originally written as a personal letter.)

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