Voice of Defeat

“If you’re going to make a mistake, then make it LOUDLY because then we can correct it and move on.”

That’s what my Dad used to say at choir practice, and it’s what I would come to teach my students in their first lessons with me at school in order to pull them out of their shells and keep them talking. I think it worked too. “Are mistakes good or bad?” I would say as they looked at me dumbfounded, likely scared that whatever they said in reply would be the wrong answer. Eventually they pandered to my little game and a couple of the more confident ones would say “bad,” to which I would reply “nope.”

“Mistakes are GOOD!” I would say, and then I would explain why very simply in English, and the JTE in Japanese, before attempting to build a relationship of trust, and an environment where people would not be afraid to at least try without fear of humiliation from their teacher – something that all the teachers at my old school would practice with alarming regularity, presumably to make them feel better about their own crushing failures in life.

I too have failed, and it wouldn’t be right for me to pretend otherwise but rather, to write it on the Internet for all to see lest I forget my father’s words of wisdom. My mistake lay in the goals I’d set myself for this month. They were, I now admit, a little far-fetched. I was a little high on life at the time and thought that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. But 31 days is a long time. A very long time. No milk, sugar, alcohol, TV, computer games, films, relaxation, or basically, ANYTHING FUN. FOR 31 DAYS?! What the bloody hell was I thinking?! I was obviously MENTAL. However all is not lost. I haven’t just been sitting on my arse playing Mass Effect 2, stuffing my face with Burger King and binging all over London Town… Real changes have been made:

  1. I am eating much more healthily. Granted, I’ve had a couple of Dominos pizzas and a McDonalds but the rest of the time I have stuck to the diet. I have scrambled eggs for breakfast every day, nuts, seeds, dried fruits and beef jerkys for snacks, chicken salads for lunch and meat/fish and vegetables for dinner. I aim to keep this up for the foreseeable future, and I’ll occasionally throw in some junk food for fun.
  2. I am fitter and stronger. More like 3-times-a-week fitter rather than the 5 I promised but it’s a good start. I am running regularly for the first time since school and lifting more weight than I ever have before. I will continue at least 3 times a week (preferably every other day) for the foreseeable future. This is not a short-term thing – I am actually enjoying it.
  3. I’ve cut down on the booze. Only two nights of drinking in 15 days can’t be bad.
  4. I now know 384 kanji. Doesn’t sound a lot, yet consider this one on the right. It means “admonish” and takes 19 strokes to write. Imagine learning that and then doing the same for 383 equally complex kanji varying from “run” to “Decameron” (don’t ask). I’m not trying to impress… Only to try to help you understand the pain I am going through even without a whole 2 hours of study a day.

Oh yeah… That 2 hours thing? There is absolutely no way in hell that I could ever fit in two hours of study every single day. It is impossible. There are simply not enough hours in the day. I know I know, that’s the kind of thing our Dads say but seriously, when we would just go “yeah yeah” and assume they were making up excuses for not putting up that shelf or de-scaling the shower head, they would be running around like a blue-arsed fly, permanently worried that all the things on their to-do lists wouldn’t get done. I could do 2 hours a day if I had a butler but I don’t – partly because I can’t really afford one but mainly because I could never convince one to come and work in Wood Green – so I am forced to forgo the excessive amounts of study in favour of not dying of starvation or wearing the same dirty clothes every day.

My **revised** goals for January then, are very simple: Keep up the diet and the exercise, don’t go overboard on the booze and learn 1000 kanji by the end of the month. Should be doable.

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