If you haven’t read, I’ve been doing my best to hack the YouTube algorithm. So far my solo vlogs are doing fantastically, clicking in at 2.5k and 2k views. I gained 30 subscribers from my second vlog.
I’m sad that it’s so much harder to get attention for my interviews with friends from other countries, but I’m not surprised because the whole world is obsessed with Japan. So I will try to use these solo vlogs about Japan and language study to find an audience who might be interested in the world at large, hopefully bringing some people to our awesome conversations.
In any case, I enjoy producing both. Here is the loose transcript for my next video
When I was young I had really dark thoughts. I never really felt I fit into society and couldn’t imagine a future for myself and my entire outlook would often spiral out of control.
It started as early as elementary school and even after coming out of it, I’d fall into states of hopelessness and lack of motivation for many years until I collected the tools to heal myself.
When I was 19 years old my girlfriend of 3 months dumped me. We hardly knew each other but I liked her a lot and so it brought up a bunch of old insecurities and I spiraled out of control once again.
Why couldn't I be one of those people who was really good at something? Why couldn't I be confident and funny and get good grades easily? Why should anyone love me? There was absolutely nothing special about me, at least that's how I felt at the time.
I rolled around in bed for a few days and skipped a few classes, feeling sorry for myself. At the time I really had no vision of what I wanted to do in the future. All the things I wanted seemed so far and unattainable.
I don’t care to share the worst of my thoughts now, but they didn’t just end with sadness or anger. They usually got much worse than that.
When I wasn’t a complete mess, I was in a pattern of just killing time. I had been killing time up until that point, through socializing more than I really needed to, but after getting dumped, I couldn't even leave the apartment.
This wasn't my first round of depression, but it was the first one after moving into a private dormitory. My thoughts got darker and darker and I became self-destructive, pushing my friends away from me.
At one point I realized that my thought pattern was stuck in a torturous cycle and that I had to disrupt it somehow. There was beer and drugs but those wouldn't lead me anywhere better, and so I decided to pick up the Japanese textbook that was sitting unopened on my shelf.
It wasn't as if my thoughts suddenly turned positive at that moment. At first it was self-hatred that motivated me. I felt like if I was going to be a useless shit, at least I could be a useless shit who could speak Japanese.
I never actually believe that I would become fluent but as a punishment for being so incapable, I forced myself to study.
For the first time in my life I spent an entire day absorbed in something that felt productive. I still wasn't in a healthy state of mind, so it wasn't enjoyable yet.
Learning a language became that boot camp instructor who shouts at the trainee. "BOO HOO, YOU THINK THIS IS HARD!? THAT'S WHY YOU ARE USELESS, THIS IS NOTHING! DON'T BE WEAK! STOP COMPLAINING!"
So it wasn't something I enjoyed at first, it was just a way for me to channel my energy into something other than my negative thought patterns.
After about 2 or 3 weeks though, I started to remember Hiragana, the most basic part of the writing system, and could read simple dialogues. It wasn't easy, but with this kind of focus, it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be.
That gave me hope and so I started to look forward to learning new words and phrases. After a few months without even realizing it, I found myself imagining a better future. I didn't know how, but I would leave the country and start over, and I wouldn't stop with Japanese, I'd learn Spanish and French and Hindi and countless other languages and go immerse myself in those cultures.
I would travel the world and settle down in the place that fit me best. I didn't know how but I knew that at least learning languages would open up paths for me.
I finally had something to look forward to, and my thoughts became less self-destructive. I started to smile and meet friends again. We went around the city to try out new food from countries we knew nothing about....Malaysia, Ethiopia, Turkey, Poland. We watched films from Germany, Italy, Japan and Korea.
Not everything went according to plan, and I've yet to learn Spanish or French or Hindi. But that curiosity for the world and a skill to focus on became a life raft for me. I still had a ton of issues I needed to work on, but at least I had a future to dream of, and I never really left sight of it.
4 years later, about a year into my life in Japan, I finished my first novel in Japanese. It was Nejimakidoori (Wind Up Bird Chronical) by Murakami Haruki. It took me 2 months and hours a day to get through the first volume with an electronic dictionary. I read the second volume without a dictionary, trying to understand through context.
When I finally finished, I felt a little triumphant, sure, but more than that, I realized that I was no longer the same person as back then. I could still fall into a spiral of self-destruction, but I had new tools to come out of those old patterns.
It was this realization that really filled me with confidence and joy. Yes, it felt great that I had finally finished reading a novel in a second language, but I had changed the way I approached life, and learned how to channel my negative energy and turn it into something positive.
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