It’s been more than four years since our last dinner party and it struck me how many things can remain the same and at the same time how much can change.
This dinner party that has become tradition was started by our then Principal at Tamaru Elementary School. I saw it as his way to reach out to the people he works with and encourage bonding among teachers and staff both Japanese and foreign ones.
It was nice being invited and I felt excited about the possibility of gaining friends or at the very least, enjoying the food and chitchat. I remember how difficult it was to make friends in Ise on my first year. I suspect it might be the same for most areas in the Japanese countryside.
There seems to be a general rule in Japan to not talk to strangers. It seemed impossible to find a friend without first being introduced by another Japanese to one of his.
Our recent gathering in late January reminded me of how much my life has changed in Japan and how much my feelings about Ise and living in it has. From struggling to find an apartment to suffering during winters not knowing how to properly dress for it and to heat the apartment, I now think of this place as home and recognize that when I go back to my hometown in the Philippines, it would only be for a short time and pretty soon, I would be back to my daily work routine here in Ise.
Don’t get me wrong. I still feel cold and I still long for the warmth and friendliness and people and co-workers back home. I have just come to accept the way of life here and the general attitude of the Japanese people I interact with daily. They have a lot of good things going for them too, something that I have mentioned in previous posts and in other SNS outlets.
This dinner party brought back a lot of memories and it was like looking through your photo album over the years and updating it with the freshest one. Along with it came a lot of realizations about life, people, and work.
Here are some of them:
1. No matter how difficult or unfair your current situation is, focus on giving it your best and putting your best foot forward. You can never go wrong when you do good even if only bad things seem to be happening to you. You never know who’s watching. When you slack off work and try to get even when you seem to be taken advantage of, people will see that and what do you think they’ll think of you? You can never choose your situation but you can always choose how you respond to it.
2. In difficult times, we’re tempted to take drastic measures but there is a special blessing for people who can endure and wait for God’s timing. I’m reminded of this verse:
“For there is a right time and procedure for every purpose, though a man’s misery weighs heavily upon him.” – Ecclesiastes 8:6
Some people take desperate measures to end their misery. Unfortunately, some wouldn’t have a chance to know what they’ve missed out on. Some people think that they don’t deserve to be in such a bad situation or they don’t deserve to be treated like that by someone.
My closest friends would know how much trouble and difficulty I’ve endured in my life here and even during my teenage years. It was normal to be tempted to take the easy way out and accept solutions that might cast a doubt on your integrity but when you know that nothing is secret to your Creator and He will repay each person according to what he has done, good or bad, you’ll be reminded to choose accordingly.
3. Circumstances change. Sometimes, it may seem like forever, esp. when you’re going through adversity. Sometimes, it could happen in an instant.
Many of the attendees of the gathering have been reassigned to new schools. Some of them now belong to a Board of Education (BOE) in a different town or city. Our then Principal, the mastermind of the gatherings is now the head of the BOE in the town where I used to work for. It was only upon asking him why he said he’s so busy nowadays (which was weird to me since he retired on my last year) that I found out.
Before coming to Japan, I also taught Business English, training Amazon and Microsoft customer service agents. I remember some fellow trainers and the supervisor saying they’ve had their share of crazy bosses but they outlasted each one. Again I’m reminded of the story of Mom’s acquaintance. She had an impossible boss but instead of wishing him evil, she prayed that he would be promoted and so he was. Gone was the crazy boss!
My point is, it’s human nature to dislike pain and avoid suffering. But when you recognize that while it may not be pleasant, it can lead to developing a stronger, more God-like character, you learn to wait until it has done its work on you.
4. One of life’s joys is enjoying the present and building good memories. Many of us have been trained by our parents and authorities to always strive for the next goal. While it’s important to keep on improving, as Michelle Obama writes on her autobiography, it’s also just as important to recognize that today is a gift and we can never get it back so we might as well enjoy it.
I must admit there were a lot of times in my teenage years and up until recently that I was too focused on paying off debts and all of those problems that I think need to be solved. If I could go back in time and talk to the younger me, I would advise her to lighten up and smell the flowers.
5. It’s a small world and don’t make it smaller. Sometimes we think that there’s not a chance we would see or meet a co-worker again so we don’t care much about the impression we leave. But the truth is, it’s hard to tell. Most industries are small enough so that people keep on getting reshuffled and moving somewhere else. It always helps to be seen as a person of integrity and not be left out of a job or a project because you’ve proven yourself unworthy before.
6. “Leave people better than you’ve found them.” Marvin J. Ashton said this. We don’t know what other people are going through. We only see how they treat us and unfortunately, when someone offends us or does something bad, it’s hard not to react negatively. But I think you’ll agree that everyone has his own pain and disappointments. Instead of adding to it, why not be the one to build them up?
It was humbling to come up with these realizations as I enjoyed good food with my former colleagues. I can only hope that God will give me the wisdom and fortitude to apply these lessons in my life.