I’ve never enjoyed being the center of attention, but I often find myself in that very place. I never want to be there, but once I’m there, I can uncomfortably roll with it. I have always been taught to do the BEST job at everything but be humble about it.
- Be faster than him, but be humble about it.
- Lift more than her, but be humble about it.
- Be the smartest in your class, but be humble about it.
- Work harder than everyone, but be humble about it.
- Sing the best, but be humble about it.
- WIN, but be humble about it.
I think this has aided in my ability to honest to God try to be better than those who are in direct competition with me, while simultaneously feeling like they could always be and more than likely were better than me. This also caused me to gawk longingly at those people who wanted to be, were comfortable doing, and would always jump at the first spot on stage or in the front of the class. While they were comfortable and wanted to be up there, I was called on and my brain kicked into “You need to be better than them, but be humble about it” mode. So, I was able to master appearing comfortable in front of very large groups of people, being placed in very awkward situations, or diverting the attention from myself . Have a plan A, B, and C, (Also C.1, C.2, C.3, etc) and you’ll rarely be caught off guard. Always be flexible and roll with other peoples’ comments, learn to be witty.
Moving to Japan, where everyone looks VERY similar to me (let’s be real, they do) I’ve still had to use my skills. I have also been accused of directly trying to ‘get’ attention by the things I do. What I am most specifically referring to, is my ink.
You see, some of my teachers have never seen me outside of school. Hirosaki is a city of 181,000 people. It’s big enough that I won’t run into my colleagues outside of school. JUST the other day a teacher approached me about cultural differences and tattoos. His opinion is that they were for young somewhat stupid people who want the attention of people around them. That they must not care about their future in any way because no one would hire them, and that they care more about being noticed. HERE OR IN THE STATES (he specifically said that). He assumed we were stupid, ignorant, compulsive, rebellious, uncaring of our body and health, and generally close-minded people who were only worried about themselves. He looked at me, then asked, “What do YOU think?”
There I was… in the center…
I wish I could tell you how many times a person that WASN’T Japanese has had very similar views as these, even back in the States. Almost always, it’s a person that doesn’t have tattoos or is not open to the idea at all, assumes first that it is because a person wants attention. I wish they could understand how wrong they are.
While I enjoy the act of thinking, designing, and getting a tattoo, I do not necessarily enjoy the stares and questions. I know, it sounds dumb. Obviously when I got them, I knew that the questions would come from curious people, and that the whole reason I got them was to share my story with my loved ones. They are the marks and scars that my life experiences have left upon my body. While one person is proud of the surgery scars left from the years and years of soccer they’ve played, I am proud of the ink scars of the years and years of life I’ve lived. The lessons I’ve learned, the people I’ve met, the promises I’ve made.
I used to lead youth ministry and the subject and argument of tattoos always came up within the church. Before getting any at all, I gave it a long hard thinking. Personal theology, what I wanted, when I wanted them, how much they would cost. I often think back to a time when I was really young, and my mom had these huge tattoo books and magazines of people from all over the world. Most were of different Native American Tribes or other indigenous people from other continents. But I remember her telling me that everyone had their own reasons, that even the rock stars had stories to tell of why they got what they did. My mom has a tattoo of a Ojibwa medicine wheel on her shoulder, and she is very very proud of where she comes from.
So…. I looked at that teacher, and told him what I just told you. I told him about my mom, and about how I became fascinated with the idea of wearing it all on the outside. I spent so much of my life keeping the walls thick and high, and often still do. But, my tattoos are a simple way to share my life with people, to remember those most important to me, a reminder to myself of where I come from, where I have been, and where I want to be. They are colorful conversation starters, art, and reminders. Not simply to get attention or disregard those around me.
His reply had surprised me. “Oh, I didn’t know. Thank you for sharing your culture with me. Do you have a favorite one?”
When people ask about my tattoos, I love to share, but I am also pretty shy about it. TELL THEM, but be humble about it. (Act like you aren’t really excited he asked, even though you are) In all the times I have been asked about my tattoos… I don’t think anyone has ever asked me what my favorite tattoo was… And to think, it followed a conversation that could have ended very very badly. I don’t think I have one, I think it changes from time to time. But for now, I will share which one my favorite is at the moment. My favorite tattoo at the moment is the first tattoo I got when I came to Japan, and only the second tattoo I had received (before that, it was my sister tattoo on my wrist).
I have recently received my paperwork officially confirming that I will remain in Japan for one more JET year. It will be my 5th and final year on the JET Programme, and in Japan. I am getting ready to hand-off a lot of my responsibilities so that I can focus on the kids and just sit back and enjoy my last 1.5 years in Japan. I would not have come here if Kyle didn’t insist, but I am so glad I did. I have learned more about us as best friends and as a working unit than I could have ever hoped to learn, had I been living around the comforts of home and family. I have had to look at this tattoo, rub my hand across the scars, and remember many times throughout the 3.5 years we’ve been here of the promises we made to each other.
Show them your tattoos, but be humble about it…
I showed him a picture. I told him my story. He wants to know more. He no longer thinks I just want attention.