You know, I sometimes feel like I’ve never grown out of my toddler years. Those were the years where the world obviously centered around me because there could be nothing out there better or more important than I was. Of course, I’m a bit more humbled now – I do realize there are billions of people on this planet, with far more billions of planets out there in that dark space called the universe. Regardless, when it comes to ideas, actions, and opinions, I can concentrate on my own because to me, I know they’re true. I can’t be held accountable for another person’s opinion, nor can I even remotely guess what he or she is thinking about any particular subject. So, unfortunately, this puts me in a position where I start believing my opinion (note definition: a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty; a personal view, attitude, or appraisal) to hold true for everyone. I mean this in the best way possible: just because I sincerely dislike someone, I know that does not necessarily mean others feel the same. I just automatically think that others also have noticed whatever bad peculiarities that one person may possess, e.g., talks too much, doesn’t work hard enough, is inconsistent with work, and whatever other nonsense. Then again, this holds true for self-observed good qualities as well.
So, on Wednesday, I went to a coworker’s place for some socializing and eating. Much eating of delicious food was done. Yes, very exciting. Alongside of the eating, we got onto the topic of various coworkers or bosses who we held some kind of opinion about. Being that I am never at any one school for very long, save the high school, I can’t see the “true” face of the coworkers I work alongside unless I get to know them outside of work as well. Being told that some of your favorite teachers are viewed in varying bad lights to others came as somewhat of a shock to me. For example, I don’t really have any teachers I genuinely dislike – their peculiarities annoy me, but that’s about it. Being told that they’re dislike by their students or that the staff doesn’t particularly like them as a whole kind of popped whatever bubble I’d been floating in. I don’t see this as a bad thing, but I feel like I get so wrapped up in whatever containment field I wrap around myself that I can’t see the obvious ugly or beautiful parts of different people. It’s nothing short of obvious, but I suppose if I never really socialized with the people around me, I’d never know jack about any of my coworkers.
This also makes me wonder about the socializing process in Japanese versus in English. The people I’ve met here in Japan and become friendly with, I wonder if I would have ever considered becoming friends with them if they spoke my native language back in the States. Would I have shoved them in a theoretical box and thus declared them to be a certain kind of person without actually getting to know them? When I have a conversation with people in the States in English, I know that if they don’t speak well, or if their words aren’t clear enough, or they show little to no respect whatsoever towards me with their speech, I’ll put them in the category of: “I never want to deal/become friends with this person.” When I speak the language well, I don’t focus so much on appearance but how they act/react when speaking or interacting with me. Background and lifestyle don’t matter as much initially – that comes after I’ve put them in the “I like this person” category.
In Japanese though, I feel like since I don’t know the language all that well, I have to judge based on appearance, actions, and the words I understand. However, I can’t hear a person speak and automatically register that, “Ah, this person wasn’t raised all that well,” or, “this person doesn’t have much of an education” or whatnot. I can’t automatically objectify them and say they fit into whatever category. Judging off of whatever I observe from my conversations or time with them, I can they kind of say, “Hey, this person’s nice. I like them.” or, “Hey, this person’s a dick. I don’t like them.” In a way, I’d like to say this is probably a better way to consider a person because this first impression takes days, months, or years to really fully form. I can’t snap my fingers with my two-second first impression and know precisely what I think of someone.
I love living overseas, but more than that, I love rediscovering how to be a [good] human being. I can’t rely on the skills I’ve developed in my own country to position people categorically – I have to go back to my roots of when I was a child and no one was inherently good or bad. They’re just who they are, no better, no worse.