Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn. This is one of those times.
A short while ago Emma told me she was going to Japan for a year to study Japanese. About four or five years earlier I took a short class in Japanese and ever since, I have wanted to go to Japan to study Japanese. As you may know I have been in Japan on two occasions and before both those occasions one alternative was to go there to study over the summer. That alternative was on both occasions dismissed because of various reasons, mostly economic ones.
After (the Swedish equivalent of) High School I took a year off from school. Something I had planned on doing pretty much since the start of High School, but taking two years off was never an alternative in my mind. Going to Japan a year to study was therefore never an alternative even though it was something I really wanted to do.
Since the very moment I decided to go to University it has been my mantra and the code by which I live to put school first, to keep my head down and power through when required and to finish everything as fast as possible. I have in my mind “always” said: “I will finish school in 5 years. Get done as soon as possible and then start my ‘real life’.”
Not once have I ever thought about the possibility to take time off school to pursue any other interests. A big reason for this is of course that I actually kind of like school. I find the majority of the things I study extremely interesting. I like the challenge that school brings and I love to learn new things every day.
Since taking a year off school was never really in my play-book, I always imagined I would go to Japan to study Japanese for a year (or more) after I was done with school. Things never really turn out the way we expect them to though, and this is a good thing. If everything in life was expected and could be planned for; it would be boring.
When Emma told me she was going to Japan, I immediately felt that this is an opportunity of a life-time, this was not going to happen again and was what I had always wanted. I asked Emma if I could join and she shared my opinion that a shared experience is a greater one. There was still the matter of taking a year off school though which was somehow wrong in my mind.
Since I don’t get a bachelor degree at my school we don’t really follow any strict programs or such, we just sign up for courses as they come along and if we wish to take time off we just don’t sign up for any courses at all. It is for everything practical a non-issue. There are no physical restraints on taking a year off school, no disadvantage at all.
The reason I wanted to power through school in one go was because I wanted to start my “real life” as soon as possible. I wanted to have Japan part of the “real life” and not of my school life. I have realized that this imagined sectioning of my life is really only rhetorical, it is not actually how I feel, but how I state the reason for not taking time off school. There is really no difference between doing 3 years science, 1 year Japanese and 2 years science instead of 5 years science and 1 year Japanese.
The only real disadvantage is that I might loose focus on school, might loose the edge-knowledge of how to solve partial differential equations and calculate the wave-functions of electrons in a solid-state crystal of Aluminum-Arsenic. This is actually a real issue, one that I can’t say is utterly meaningless in all senses. This will happen, and it is a sacrifice I have to make. Now I can lessen this disadvantage by bringing some books and reading a little in them once-in-a-while, but ultimately it is a sacrifice. The question here is if it is worth this sacrifice to spend a truly fantastic year with my best friend and gain experiences and moments in life that could not possibly be attained in any other way. The anwer is simple.
There is also the risk of me not returning to school, but becoming caught up in another life entirely and simply quit. I almost forgot to write about this because the risk doesn’t exist in my mind. As I said, I love learning, I love what I study. In my mind there is no way I can exist in my future life without having a masters degree. No, quitting school just isn’t an alternative. No force however strong could ever convince me that taking those two last years would be unnecessary or boring.
It has been hard to overcome my mental image of how life was supposed to be and to accept that taking a year off school will not be a bad thing. Having done it now however, having accepted that it really isn’t a bad thing; I feel like I’m about to live a dream and am on the cusp of something truly amazing, which actually scares me just a little bit.
I am going to live in Tokyo for a year. Can you believe that?