For many people, when things get tough, they turn to God or to the church for answers. Had it been ten years earlier, I would have done the same thing. But I’d be lying if I told you prayer is what kept me sane. Others rely on friends to vent and to get back to some state of normalcy. I have always been one to withdraw and do some self-reflection during the bad times and this time was no different. There wasn’t much my friends could do about this one.
For me, Karate and martial arts became my solace. During the hardest times in my life, karate and martial arts have been a constant that I can return to no matter where I live, no matter where I am. It allots me an opportunity to get re-focused again. Having amazing martial arts teachers like Jim Fuller, like Tony Young, Jess Dillard, Rickey Murray and that whole Georgia Martial Arts Crew provides me with the wonderful mentors and role models even now.
Another great reason I didn’t lose it was because I had some applications in the works for teaching jobs in Japan before everything really got bad. I had applied with Nova and AEON. Nova never did come to do interviews because they went bankrupt before they could make it over. I interviewed with AEON and was impressed by how professional they were. I did teaching demonstration for AEON passed the first round of interviews and was invited for the second round…in Georgia. I found out I got the job and happily accepted. Getting that job was kind of like a beacon in the storm for me. Life was raging out of control on all fronts, but I had something to look forward to. I would be moving to Japan in January of 2011.
When my last check came from Dekalb County School. I was in a bit of a bind, because I needed to raise enough money to get to Japan and have money to survive for two months. I found a small-business, data-entry job, that didn’t pay much, but the couple was SO understanding. They allowed me to work as many hours as I could stomach, and they even let me decide when I wanted to get paid. I would work in their home office, sometimes for 12 hours a day. I almost felt like another family member. They would feed me, we would laugh and joke together, and I just really appreciated them giving me a chance knowing that my employment would only be short term. Jennifer and Chuck…thank you.
As time neared, the pieces of the Japan puzzle started to fit to get together. I wasn’t going to have as much as AEON recommended to survive during the non-salaried period but I was in the ballpark. My sister Erica took care of the plane ticket (whew). Time was approaching and I was having the full gamut of emotions from fear to sadness to happiness to introspection.
In a way I think going to Japan was a good idea because I was making poor choices. I felt like I couldn’t get anything right in America. Bad thing after bad thing kept happening. The same friend that introduced me to that guys that destroyed my credit ended up doing something really shady about a month-and-a-half before I left for Japan. This caused us to have a big falling out (that wp; we don’t talk this very day. My girlfriend at the time had started seeing someone else just prior to leaving, but didn’t tell me about it. I felt like I was about to explode. I just wanted to take some time to reset. I hadn’t been to church many years prior but I remember saying “God if you just land the plane safely, I’ll do whatever I can to fix everything I’ve screwed up.”
For the last three plus years, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. The bankruptcy was filed successfully and I have since restored my credit rating to a higher level than it was prior to the bankruptcy. I didn’t hire some fluke guy to try to do a credit restoration. I did it the right way. I created a strict budget and stuck to it. I have grown to love my life here in Japan. I have had to do a lot of growing up during my three years here.
Living in Japan has forced me to be more responsible about my choices. During my first year in Japan, whenever I would think back on my difficulties in America, I would get so upset just thinking about them…or about people who I But now, over three years later, I realize that there’s nothing to be angry about; the school of hard knocks can be an extremely effective teacher. I don’t need to hold grudges because all it does is absorb my energy and my peace.
I am no longer the slightly cocky kid that I was at the end of high school nor am I the dejected, depressed, exasperated young man that I was at Morehouse. I am a 30-year-old, expat living in Japan, a man full of realistic dreams and realistic methods to achieve them. I am a man that’s been fortunate enough to have a second chance, a new life, here in Japan. I am a product of an array of great lessons and experiences, some tougher than others but all of them valuable. I am a man who is grateful to be sitting here typing to a group of wonderful readers at this very moment, I am man who has learned from some wonderful teachers, students mentors and friends. I am a man who for the first time in a long time, is happy to be where I am.
The future is brighter than ever…
Donald Ash is an Atlanta, Georgia-born, American expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last eleven years. While in that time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator of thejapanguy.com blog. Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.