It’s a Long Ride

I guess it was about September of last year that I decided to apply to the JET Program. I had heard of it, of course, mostly from Gaijin Smash, back when he was Outpost Nine. It’s actually on my list of life goals, which I guess I should update a little.
Anyway, even though I had had applying in the back of my mind for almost five years, it was kind of a rushed decision. There had always been something that held me back, whether it be the silly hopes of a relationship doomed to end minutes later, the need to purchase and eventually pay off a car loan, the desire to get out to California before my soul was sucked through the grease trap of Eat ‘n’ Park. Or sometimes I simply remembered that I wanted to do it at the wrong time — months before the application due date, or much too close to it to get a decent recommendation.
Somehow, last year, everything lined up, and I was ready to apply. Two problems: selling the idea to Justin, and selling the idea to Melissa. I didn’t plan on Justin being a problem, and in fact it was almost insultingly *not* a problem. He agreed that I should apply to leave the country for a year with the same tone most people agree to have the beef burrito over the chicken burrito. Men…
I knew Melissa would be a different story. First, I knew exactly what her argument would be, and I didn’t know if I could accurately explain my actions. This was a dream of mine. I wasn’t running away from L.A. or trying to avoid doing the footwork involved starting a real career. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the city life and looking for an escape. This was something I honestly wanted to do.
I had “done” Europe. I can hold my own in a country where a sign says “La Restaurante” or “Das Doktor” and not worry about what’s beyond the threshold. I know all about European customs, and I can blend in well. Hell, a couple times, I’ve been mistaken for a native German speaker.
I wanted to go to a place where all the signs had squiggles on them, and I would have to flip furiously through my dictionary, trying to put all the puzzle pieces together like a game. And when I deciphered a character, I really felt like I accomplished something…like the chance to eat another meal.
But how do you tell your best friend that you would really like to live thousands of miles away from her for a year? How do you fight for something like that? And what would happen when I was inevitably lonely or I had a bad day and wanted to talk to a friend who always made me feel better? Would she shake her head and say, “I told you you shouldn’t have gone” or “I knew this was a rushed decision” or “Way to abandon our friendship for a year for something that didn’t turn out the way you’d planned”?
As I read this over, it sounds really narcissistic — worrying about depriving my friend of my charismatic presence. But as a true friend, Melissa knew exactly how I was feeling, and that my concerns were legitimate. She made sure I was going for the right reasons and gave me her blessing. In that between-friends scrunched-up-mouth way that made sure I understood that if I flipped out and decided to live the rest of my life in Japan and never came back, she would personally learn the ways of the samurai just to be able to fly over here and kick my ass back to the States.
Meanwhile, Justin munched on his burrito and told me to have a good time.
I guess that was all the support I needed. Now, it was off to fill out the application.

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