Looking back 振り返ってみた (Part 3 High School Graduation and University of Hawaii 高校卒業とハワイ大学)

Graduating high school and going to University of Hawaii was the start of life on my own, as an adult. I changed in a lot of ways in just 2 years.

First, summer of 2003. I was a highschool graduate and preparing my cross-country move to live in Hawaii and go to college at the age of 16. Graduation was a very emotional time, as I said before, high school was one of the most important times in my life to me, and reaching all of these milestones was something bittersweet. I was proud of myself, but sad to have to say goodbye and move on.

On the other hand, I couldn't wait to get out of that small town and that house. Saying that my parents and I didn't get along is an understatement. I was always insulted both to my face and behind my back when I was at home. My parents tried to force their interests on me by taking me out to concerts that I had no interest in, and when I started to refuse to go with them, they would forbid me from going out with my friends or volunteering at the Playhouse that weekend. My mother is obsessed with fashion and beauty products, and when I started to refuse to be her doll to have my hair dyed, makeup done, and be dressed in whatever clothes she thought were "fashionable," she said I was a "scumbag" and not a "normal girl." I did my own hair and makeup for the Prom, she wasn't even around to see me in my dress. When it got closer to graduation, things got worse, not better. I was mocked and teased for crying over having to say goodbye to my best friends, and told that I would never survive in the "real world" because I was so "socially awkward" and had "no personality."

There were times when they supported me, and trusted me to make my own decisions, and offered advice. However, when it came to going to college, most of their advice was largely uninformed as neither them or my older brother had gone to college, and none of them had ever studied Japanese as well. I was constantly told that watching Japanese anime and listening to Japanese music wouldn't help me learn the language, despite the fact that when I set foot in Hawaii I was already having small, awkward conversations with tourists, ordering in restaurants, and I tested into an accelerated beginner course for students who have studied Japanese before. My Japanese teachers continued to be impressed with my grasp of the language and how fast I seemed to pick it up.

Yes, going to college opened a lot of new doors for me. I learned to live independently, and while I had lots of great friends I also was never afraid to explore on my own either. I could get around all the major points in Honolulu by walking or taking the bus, something unheard of in my small town where people think an "outing" is driving 5 minutes to the local ice-cream shop!

My first 2 semesters in college were a whirlwind. New classes, some of them with 10 people, some of them with 100 people, some of them requiring assignments and papers handed into a professor and tests in class, some of them conducted almost entirely through a computer with the final exam in class. Instead of having classes down the hall from each other, classes were anywhere from 2-10 minutes of walking in the warm Hawaii weather. Every day was packed with activities, and I loved every minute of it. Classes and club activities from morning until evening, and then of course, on weekends I would party like everyone else. Yes, that was new to me too and I tested my limits, did some things I didn't remember the next day, but most of the stuff was recorded in my journal, with varying coherency.

And then in May 2004, my mother and brother arrived to help me move out of the dorms and take me home for the summer. Except now, that house was less of a home than ever. I was far away from my studies, friends and livelihood. The fire that powered me every day to join 3 clubs, study for hours, and make so many great friends started to die out, I started to become disenchanted with sitting in my room cut off from the rest of my world, writing kanji in a notebook in an effort not to forget them.

I went back to Hawaii in August 2004, hoping that somehow I would never need to return to Pennsylvania again. In 3 months in Pennsylvania, I sat around, visited friends occasionally, and studied Japanese but stagnated and actually forgot some of the things I had learned. The first month back in Hawaii, I saw Morning Musume, celebrated my 18th birthday by going to a nightclub with my friends, became an officer of 2 campus clubs and participated in first meetings, and learned new Japanese words and phrases every day and used them.

I changed a lot again in my second year of college. I started working, for one thing. My first part-time job at was a temporary holiday cashier at Shirokiya. I liked doing work and getting paid for it, so when the Christmas season was over I searched for another job, this time taking up a cashier position at Yokozuna, a Japanese fast-food and sushi place in Ala Moana Center. My Japanese improved exponentially as I was now using Japanese more than I was using English.

There was one more thing that changed me a lot in 2004 and 2005. I met my husband, Yasushi. We started to talk via MSN Messenger, using chat and webcam in summer of 2004. We decided to start a relationship in September, and in February of 2005, he came to Hawaii. We went to New York together in August 2005. The first year we saw each other for only 3 days in 6 months.  The long-distance relationship was very hard, and we talked and emailed every day. When I was in Hawaii it was especially hard on me because I had to wake up at 5 am for our daily webcam chat due to the time difference. Even so, falling in love with Yasushi was the best thing that happened to me at this point in my life. Yasushi always showed me that he loved me and cared for me. If I did something foolish or dangerous he was genuinely disappointed in me and scolded me. I started to work because I admired how hard he worked at his job. I also worked in food service and would do 12-hour shifts and not complain or ask for breaks. I used the money from my jobs to pay for the long-distance phone bills, and saved the rest for hotels, restaurants and such when Yasushi came to see me. When it came time for us to part, I always cried, but he reassured me we would see each other again soon. I still feel very lucky to have found such a great husband.

But unfortunately, in May 2005 I also lost someone very dear to me. My grandfather, Max Kaplan, or "Poppy" as I called him. He started showing symptoms of Alzheimer's when I was in middle school, and when I was in high school he moved into an assisted living facility, which I wrote about in my journal from time to time. I couldn't attend his funeral because of my final exams, and my parents never even took me to his grave. But at that time I had Yasushi to help me through and stay with me on the phone until the tears stopped, so I was OK. I hope Poppy's soul is at peace and I can meet him again someday. His name will live on in my little girl, Chinami Kaplan.

Anyway, near the end of my sophomore year I applied to study abroad for my junior year and got accepted to a program in Kobe. I went home for the summer again, and even though I had changed, things there unfortunately hadn't. I still had to deal with being insulted daily and having my peace and privacy invaded, but talking to Yasushi every day and getting a job at Boston Market helped the days go by a lot faster. And I had the reassurance that this would be the last summer I stayed there, because I would be spending my summers in Japan from then on.













1 件のコメント:

  1. I can't believe that your parents have been like that to you! And it's so amazing that you still walked your path and did what you wanted to do! It's motivating! I hope you know how much I appreciate you sharing your experiences! I wish I'd have known of your other blog earlier!