I've probably written about this before, but it can be really alienating being the only foreigner at a Japanese work place. I go through highs and lows, and recently have been on a bit of a low. Generally just feeling very lonely and out of place, especially at work. As the end of the school year is approaching, English classes are few and far between as they get cancelled in place of exams, school ceremonies, events and holidays. This means I have a considerably large amount of downtime.
Some people crave downtime, as they become so busy in their daily lives, it feels as though there is hardly time to breath. I do experience this occasionally, depending on the school season and whatever is happening in general, so I know how stressful being busy can be. But trust me, there is nothing worse than feeling bored in life. My worst days at work are when I have nothing planned all day, no classes, nothing to actually be getting on with. I am not allowed to spend these days at home, I have to sit in the office and distract myself with Reddit for 8 hours.
So yes, I've been down. When I came into work this morning, a copy of the new 2015 leavers yearbook was on my desk. Like last year, it has a face-shot of every 3年生 student and every member of staff. When I picked it up, I suddenly realised that no one had taken my photograph in a very long time. I gasped to myself, perhaps they left me out this year. I flicked through it, I couldn't see myself. Again, I flicked through a little slower, scanning all the faces of the staff members, but alas, my picture was not to be found. I wasn't in it.
After the morning staff meeting, I immediately took myself into the staff toilets, locked myself in a cubicle and cried for a very long time. Of course it wasn't just the yearbook I was upset about, it was the loneliness and lack of self esteem that has been building up for quite some time. I had come to a breaking point. No one here likes me, they don't want me here, I'm bad at my job, I'm not good at anything, I'm a massive loser....and so on. These are the thoughts I was having.
Eventually I managed to calm myself down. I told myself I would go back to my desk, make myself a cup of tea and listen to the most uplifting song I could think of at that moment by Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons, Big Girls Don't Cry. With this fail safe plan in mind, I re-entered the staff room.
However, not even halfway through the song, due to a timetable re-arrangement which I was unaware of, one of my JTE's came up to me and asked "are you ready to teach the 2-3 class now", huh? what? its not until 5th period... "oh, didn't you know the timetable has been changed", no, clearly not. Entering the classroom with my eyes still red from crying, I then proceeded to have one the best classes I've had in a long time. Those adorable 二年生 students give me so much joy, that I actually can't control how excited I get when I'm in their lesson.
After that, the rest of the day seemed to go quite well, there was a rehearsal for the school graduation ceremony in the gym, in which I sat studying from some Japanese vocab flip cards. I bought a nice lunch and got to float around school for a little which is always a nice change to the office. Somehow the catharsis from my big cry had left me feeling relieved and more positive.
A few hours later, I sat back down at my desk and decided to flip through the graduation yearbook one last time. I don't know how I had missed it in the morning, but my picture was there, in with the other teachers from the school's English department. It had been taken such a long time ago that I had completely forgotten about it. I hadn't noticed myself because I was looking for the big curly hair, and the picture had been taken at a time when my hair was tied back and I had a fringe, which I've slowly grown out over the last few months.
What a butthole.