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Love Always Leaves a Mark

So, it has been over a month since I last wrote anything. I have had so much going on in the last two months, that I just couldn't find time to collect my thoughts or emotions. But now, as I am ready to end one chapter of my life, I have found a little time to collect myself and reflect.

I had no idea when I chose to live in Japan how much I would change. I had no idea of all the things that would happen. I had no idea about how much love I would share and would be shared with me.

If you read my blog semi-regularly or regularly you know that yes, I fell in love with a guy while I was in Japan...but what I haven't shared is that love allowed me to love many many more people. Specifically, being in love allowed me to love my students soooo much more. And that is what this post is about, my love for my kids.

A couple weeks ago, I packed up my life and said my goodbyes to the place I have called home for the past two years. It wasn't easy, but it was and remains the right choice for me. Thanks to some family visits, I had no time to dwell on my impending departure or even have really enough time to say goodbye to all my friends. I really could only concentrate on the speech I was asked to deliver to my entire school on my last day.

I began to think about what I wanted to say. Did I want it to be about me and my time in Japan, did I want it to be a thank you, what did I want my final message to be? In order to chose I had to reflect not only on how far I had come, but also my kids...because they too had changed.

Japan is a closed society, there is no other way to say it. It is tough to break through cultural barriers and either wiggle your way into the hearts of people or find a way to open their hearts to more and different experiences. I was extremely lucky to have been placed in a school that is more open than most. However, I still remember my first months in Japan when I learned how many students really had no desire to leave Japan or even leave their prefecture. They had come to the conclusion Japan was the best and found the idea of traveling or studying abroad to be unnecessary. This opinion was not a result of the work the teachers at the school were doing, but of what the Japanese society was telling them on a daily basis. As well as their own direct experience with foreigners, and the limited contact they had actually had with anyone who wasn't Japanese.

Over the last two years, I have watched as more and more of them opened to the idea of leaving Japan. I watched as they took more interest in English and things that are foreign. I watched as they went from bowing to giving high fives or hugs. My goal never was to teach them perfect English, they had more qualified teachers to do that. My goal was to open their eyes to the world, to help give them an idea of how big the world is and that is doesn't have to be scary. In order to give them that, I had to share myself with them...and to do that I began to love them. I love each and every one of my kids, even the ones that made me want to pull my hair out on some days. My unique position as a foreigner in Japan gave me the freedom to show them love in ways that they were not used to and made it okay for them to show me love in ways that they also hadn't before.

So as I walked up on to the stage to give my final speech, it was that love I wanted to use. I gave them a little piece of advice...they can be WHOEVER they want to be. Dreams are worth chasing, there is no time limit on achieving your dreams. And most importantly, I told them that I still love them. That I did not leave Japan because of anything they did or didn't do...that their love left a deep mark on me, and I will NEVER forget them.

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