The pressure to be happy

It’s an interesting thing living abroad. Many people tell you they would never do it, not be able to cope with it, while at the same time expect you to be having a whale of a time.

So I’ll get to the point. I’m not having a whale of a time. I’m really struggling out here. It’s tough. It’s really really, really really tough. Culture shock/isolation/homesickness has slowly sunk in deep. My anxiety has been rising to almost panic attack levels at some points. And I feel disappointed that it’s not working out for me. It’s disappointing and frustrating.

So my actual job, when I teach, and the kids are enjoying it, its fun. I can be pretending to play a broken recorder one minute, playing musical chairs another, and acting as a conductor to a 30 strong chorus of kids learning how to tell the difference between “I can/I can’t” the next.

However I am only teaching an average of 4 lessons a day. That’s 45mins x 4 = 3hrs. The rest of the time is the problem in my 8hr shift. I sit in the staff room, isolated due to language barriers, listening to other staff chatting, which after an hour or so gets really overwhelming, so I’ll take a walk round and have a breather for 5/10 mins. Then back to my desk (no internet btw, so limited lesson planning). At breaks I try get out with the kids and have fun, that I enjoy, but despite having say, a 30 min break, it’s so regimented that only like 10 mins will be “free play time” where the rest will be stuff like cleaning, productive skills etc.

At the end of the day, the silence begins.  I drive half an hour home, get some food on, eat, shower, and sit lesson planning till about 7.30pm. Then once I feel ready for tomorrow, I’ll maybe walk to the shops and get some essentials or watch TV. Then read and sleep. Repeat x 5.

For some reason I’ve started to get really bad anxiety in the mornings before heading off to work. I’ll feel like I can’t do the lessons, that something awful is going to happen, and it takes a huge effort to step out the door. Once I get to work and settle in it tends to fade. Same goes for heading out to the shops. I get stared out (it’s rural and I am a rare sight), so often I try go at night, as when I’m anxious the stares can make me feel paranoid and claustrophobic.

Joining clubs, or doing stuff locally is impeded my my lack of Japanese language skills. People can welcome trying to chat to a foreigner at first, like the novelty you are, but after a while it grows old, and is too awkward and hard. I’m also more an introvert in personality type, so pushing myself out into peoples space and forcing them to be friends with me is really not my style.

There are very few people here doing the same job, and half are on different schedules making it very hard to meet up with them. I try to get out at the weekends, see stuff around me. Some of it is awesome, there is a great beach nearby, hill tops with great views. But I don’t feel part of it. I feel outside of it all, living here, yet not being home.

OK,  I sound moany and shit, but this blog is a release. I have not written on this blog much since I’ve been here. I think of things I wanna talk about, then my emotions change so quick I decide maybe its best not too. It’s hard to admit when you make a major decision that it’s not working out. You feel people will see you as naive in your original decision, not understanding what it was going to be like. I knew it was going to be tough, I suppose though I underestimated just how tough the long term effects of lack of meaningful conversation/relationships would be. You know people want to think of you as happy and enjoying it, and GDI! you want that too! But at least letting people know  means shit does not get bottled up, making you like a pressure cooker.

I’m 100% glad I came here. I have been able to find out so much about what i’m capable of. But I feel long term living here is not for me. This is not my calling, it’s a stepping stone, an important one.

That’s it for now, I kinda wanna write a bit more regularly, cause writing this Ive realized how nice it is to just spill the words from my brain! Hope you are well 🙂



One thought on “The pressure to be happy

  1. It doesn´t sound moany and shit, trust me.

    I had a similar problem long, long ago when I was a kid, we moved to Spain and I spoke zero Spanish, plus I looked like an outsider. It took me 2-3 years to start feeling at home (that´s not indicative of how it will go for you).

    Being abroad is hard, you really took a plunge, and you got cojones for doing so, pardon my Spanish 😉 Don´t be too hard on yourself for not having some type of blast. I think it´s good you´re out there doing things that you enjoy too.

    Maybe you can find some fellow foreigners, they are probably easier to connect with.


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