Follow your passion. Without question.

Miyazono Kaori, Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso

What’s your biggest regret? I’ve tried my best to answer this question with optimism and perspective that I couldn’t regret anything, because everything I did before was meant to shape the person I am today.

But tonight, I found myself reminiscing my twenties. While my head is currently swimming in sake, one thing that stays clear is the one regret that I’ll keep hitting myself for.

I was working for two years when the opportunity to work under the JET programme surfaced. If you have been living under a rock, this is a one-year programme where you are assigned to a school in a prefecture to teach students (from elementary to high school) English, or participate in a research programme. Either way, the programme is an excellent boarding platform for anyone who wants a taste of working in Japan. While the interview process is pretty rigorous, competitive, and long-drawn (you apply up to a year in advance, so some serious planning is required) and the pay is not that great (only JPY 1 million), the experience is priceless for anyone who has the most remote interest.

My biggest regret is not even trying to apply.

I was young and naive then. I thought I should stick to honing my skills in what I was doing at the time, which was financial communications. I genuinely wanted to be good at it.

And then there were my parents. My wonderful, loving but overly conservative and safe parents. They didn’t like the idea of a pay cut and the prospects of me in a faraway land.

My morals taught me that the last thing I should do was to break their hearts and annoy the crap out of them by going against their advice. And that’s exactly what I did. I obeyed and complied.

Now I’m working in a Japanese firm with no prospects of traveling overseas for the company’s year-long language and job exchange programme, because my job requires me to remain in this country.

I’m literally stuck here. And that’s when the realization hit me that I may never, ever get the chance I could have taken 8 years ago.

It is my biggest regret. Today I am not only doing something completely unrelated to financial communications, but I am possibly too old for any long-term exchange programme of sorts. I should have followed my passion to take me where I could have thrived. I could have found a way to appease my folks that I would have been fine. And these days, people haven’t treasured loyalty as much as they prioritize skill sets.

I should have taken that opportunity to hone the right skills that could have fueled my passion about Japan. Why I took such a long time to acknowledge this is a mystery to me.

It is the one thing I wish I could turn back the clock for.

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