Smile, love! <3

"Darkness cannot drive out Darkness; only LIGHT can do that. Hate cannot drive out Hate. Only LOVE can do that." ~Martin Luther King Jr.


Stream of Consciousness (9/1/19)

The world is spinning around

But here I am sitting here

On the ground, nobody to rely on but myself

Nothing to consider, except all that I’ve dealt with

A tiny cog in the machine that’s life

Doesn’t matter if I have a will just matters the type of

Person I am, whether I play the part

And knowing full well I don’t have the talent, nor the brains to

Make a mark on this world, a useless piece of fuck

A random existence that doesn’t have the capacity to even

Help the world, much less help himself

Stuck with the cards he was dealt

No joker to bail him out

He’s lost this bout



Beneath the Mask (8/30/19)


Beneath the Mask – The scrawls of an emerging adult in a foreign land masquerading as an instructor. A rebellious persona hoping to take your heart.

stop bugging me

Friday, August 30, 2019 –  Rain

Another day of rain. When will it fucking stop?

Seems like I’ve been afflicted by bugs of the worst variety these past days amidst the rain:

  1. Bug-bugs – Mosquitos and cockroaches, the former biting me throughout the night and the latter randomly showing up in my genkan.
  2. Stomach bug – Day five of the worst stomach flu I’ve had in recent memory, with nary a reprieve once nature calls.
  3. Love bug – Yup, the worst of the three. I’ll just leave it at that.

I know myself well enough that I can’t simply be idle. Sure, it’s good to get some rest and have breaks to reenergize the heart, mind, and soul–God knows I need it as an introvert–yet, that’s completely different than being idle with nothing to do.

This past week has been summer break. Many would relish in the opportunity to have the unadulterated time to do what they’d like, but not me apparently. To me, idleness leads to unnecessary thinking in copious amounts, which in turn serves as a catalyst, if not a means to stimulate inherently lurking depression.

People often ask me, “Jordan, why are you so busy?” or “You’ve done so much. How do you do it?” and I often relent, “I like to keep busy” or “I don’t really know haha.” In truth, one crucial reason is to stave of this mental illness I face.

So honestly, it was stressful knowing that upon arriving in Tokyo ready to start training and working right off the bat (I cut my own visit to the states short to do so), I was told that after just three days of training, there would be a summer break for a week. That’s all fine and dandy, but why the hell was I not told this in advance so I could’ve perhaps made plans to counteract against the idleness I would inevitably face and not get down like this. The simple act of not informing me negates all the hard work that went into self-help and energy utilized to keeping me afloat in Tokyo.

The excitement and adrenaline tangibly felt in coming here has faded and all I’m left with is this stupid depression.

Sure, I can go out and explore and get familiarized with the area, you may argue. But alas, Tokyo is goddamn expensive. And just to get situated with a new apartment, new furniture, a new bike, etc. took a ton of money that my savings barely survived the affront of upfront costs. This feeds into the perhaps self-fulfilling prophecy that by virtue of having no money and nothing to do, I have to stay in my house, which in turn saps all motivation, energy, and reason, until I’m left wallowing in self-pity.

Who knows? I’m ranting now and I need to stop.

Oh shit, nature’s calling for the fourth fucking time today in day five of the stomach bug.

I hope that you’re doing well regardless. Thanks for sticking with me until the end–I appreciate it.

Beneath the Mask (8/27/19)


Beneath the Mask – The scrawls of an emerging adult in a foreign land masquerading as an instructor. A rebellious persona hoping to take your heart.

and yet, rain falls

Tuesday, August 27, 2019 –  Rain

Just a little over a week in Tokyo and the depression has seemed to finally hit.

I knew it was coming–every major change in my life has been marked with a profound low after all–and I had hoped that by making ample preparations to combat said mental illness, it would be easier to cope with.

And yet, as it goes, it isn’t any easier.

This goddamn rain is endless.

Luckily, however, I’ve become accustomed to reaching out during these depressive episodes, and taking care of myself unlike in the past.

Tonight, this meant biking through the rain to McDonald’s to get a double Big Mac, fries, and a Coke.

I feel markedly better than before.

And yet, that constant, nagging feeling of worthlessness still eats away at me.

I know, without a shadow of a doubt, I’ve made a difference in peoples’ lives these last few years.

This week, one buddy described me as a legendary Pokémon of an ALT, who all ALTs aspire to be like.

A couple days ago, another friend mentioned I had made a profound impact on her life just by existing.

Even last night, my former students came to Tokyo and all of them took the time to see me, chat a bit, and take pictures with me, many mentioning how they were so glad to see me.

And yet, have I done enough? Will anything I have done be enough? Fuck.

Logic and evidence say one thing, while pathos and emotion say otherwise. What the hell is the truth and why the hell can’t they be reconciled?

Either way, I must not discount my own achievements and discredit my own existence. I realize that, but I can’t exactly say that I believe it… yet.

I hope that I too can reach the apex of my personal mountain one day and wallow in the knowledge that maybe, just maybe, I too am worth it.

For now though, I’ll just let the rain fall.

To you reading this entry, please know that it’s okay to feel down. Even in that dark period, people love you and validate you and really care for you.

We all have our own mountains to climb, some harder than others–but at the end of the day, no matter what you’re facing, you are worth it. It’s an uphill climb and sometimes we may fall.


being as an adult


Beneath the Mask (8/21/19)


Beneath the Mask – The scrawls of an emerging adult in a foreign land masquerading as an instructor. A rebellious persona hoping to take your heart.

flopped first impressions and yet nobody cares

Wednesday, August 21, 2019 –  Overcast

Today was my first day of training at my new workplace in Tokyo. Due to botched communication and a number of misunderstandings, as I was making the 45 minute commute to work, hoping to arrive an hour early to grab lunch and go over materials previously presented to me to be extra prepared, I get a call from the head teacher, asking if I was lost. Turns out, the school was undergoing summer hours and as such, had begun 1.5 hours prior. Appalled, I apologized and mentioned how I had thought my main contact for work had mentioned to come in at 1 P. Turns out after rereading our correspondence, I was wrong–he mentioned in a brief aside that it was summer hours and in the chaos of moving and settling into city life, I had mistakenly assumed all was as usual. I quickly grabbed a bite to eat, scarfed it down, changed out of my sweaty clothes, and ran to the office in professional garb.

Out of breath, I barely muttered in Japanese to the front desk staff that I was the new hire here for training. She laughed, and responded in English that they had been waiting for me. Behind her sat a handful of teachers, my new coworkers, and Dom, who had called me earlier.

“I apologize for the mishap.”

“No worries, we’re just glad you made it.”

I glanced around the small office–a computer was set to the infamous study lo-fi beats on YouTube; the other teachers were eating and happily chatting away; the office seemed a tad cluttered but in an organized chaotic fashion. Students laughs were audible as the lounge lay within earshot.

Well, here I am.

To keep a long post short, today was, for lack of a better word, wild. I had come in to observe five classes with five different teachers, one kindergarten, two 2nd-3rd grade, and two JHS. Here are a few of my observations from the day:

These students are on a whole different level than I’m used to.

Being the children of expats, and having the experience of speaking English abroad, their levels were astronomically high when compared to my prior students in Fukushima. The kindergartners engaged in lively discussion using grammar structures my junior high 3rd years had barely learned; the 2nd/3rd graders were speed reading passages that would make any Japanese high schooler learning English shy; the JHS students engaged in lively debate and constructed essays from notes they wrote in the Cornell method in regards to creating a barrier free world for the visually impaired. Speaking with some of the teachers, it turned out most of the JHS students had already passed Eiken (standardized English test for the Japanese) level 1, the highest level offered. Meanwhile, in Fukushima, one of my greatest achievements was having one of my “advanced” English high schoolers pass level 2, a rarity for most students throughout Hokkaido.

Diversity (culturally) abounds in the office.

Chatting away with some of the teachers, turns out they’re all a mixed bag from different countries: Australia, South Africa, the US, the UK, etc. This echoes the JET Program, which I was a member of as a teacher/ALT as of a few weeks ago. Speaking of which, I found out that of the 40+ teachers within the various offices, only three ex-JETs remain, including me. It was wonderfully enriching hearing the various accents and pronunciations all around me. Plus, everyone was so friendly. Conversely, I will say too that it was a tad curious being the only non-white person in the office.

The students are so beautifully expressive, even having just met me.

Having just met me, clearly not one of their nakama, it was obvious at first glance I was new. The students approached this with stride and curiousity. As I sat in and took notes while observing classes, the students would excitedly ask me questions and involve me in their discussions. Sure, this might change as I get ingrained into the “grind,” but it was refreshing seeing such motivated students learning English for two hours AFTER their normal school hours. This place is their escape and the rapid learning environment keeps them focused and driven to express themselves in English, with many, I heard, having only this place as their sole means to engage in an all natural English environment. I experienced first-hand that certain students were in places like Michigan for four years, Hong Kong for three years, Australia for five years, etc. So it may not be surprising that, due to being in these environments during their formative years, they had crystal-clear English pronunciation, with many having noticeable accents hailing from the region they had been raised abroad in.

We’re not in Kansas anymore.

KA is without a doubt, a curiously unique place. Emphasized since day one, the school is built on a culture of caring, and it was obvious how much the teachers and staff cared about the students, which the students whole-heartedly reciprocated in turn. In Fukushima, it took me years to tear down the face exhibited by students, get in their inner circles, and truly appreciate their unique personas. Yet, in KA, students jumped at the opportunity to be themselves without feeling a need to fake anything. It was comforting. It was refreshing. It was reassuring. Many times during the day, I had completely forgotten that I was in Japan, laughing along to the pop culture anecdotes and parallels drawn by the instructors in a way of speaking that was both friendly and professional. Other times, I had to remember that I wasn’t the student, and would soon play the role of the educator, facilitating lively discussions and fostering this native environment for these students to call their home. I have a lot of room to grow and a ton to continue learning; and, I’m excited and humbled at the prospect of playing a crucial role for these students.

And that’s all she wrote. See you next time.

Beneath the Mask (8/19/19)


Beneath the Mask – The scrawls of an emerging adult in a foreign land masquerading as an instructor. A rebellious persona hoping to take your heart.

here we go again

Monday, August 19, 2019 –  Rain

Today, I finally moved to Tokyo from a tiny town called Fukushima which I had called home for three years.

It’s wild. Things definitely aren’t the same. Or maybe they are?

Here I am again, in my world, just like three years prior, to record my musings, reflections, and ultimately vent whatever feelings, thoughts, and emotions that I’m generally unable to express w/o a proper audience.

No doubt, I’m already overwhelmed.

Three years ago, when I first moved to Fukushima, there were so many people who I had the pleasure to be under their care since day one, even if I didn’t know it at the time—the BOE, the teachers, the townspeople, prior ALTs, the JET Program, etc. This ensured a so-called smooth transition to what would be my first escapade into the land of Japan. Albeit rocky (I had to bike to the nearest museum for WiFi back then for two weeks), I had had a ton of support and resources at my disposal. Either way though, I struggled, I flopped, I cried. To prevent my successor from feeling the way I had my first month, I stayed a week past the end of my contract to help her build rapport with all those I had the pleasure to come to know in Fukushima. Though likely overwhelmed, I know without a doubt that she appreciates the act, and that those who I tasked with her care really will do (and are doing) the best job possible. She has so much support, even if she may not see it right now. 4,000 people (though depopulating) in a warm, homey town.

Meanwhile, in Tokyo, here I am. One within millions in a suburb called “Kitami” in Setagaya Ward, 40 minutes from the heart of Tokyo via JR railway, an area renown for its ideal living areas and with people constantly trickling by. The support and resources I had come to rely on in Fukushima to the point of taking for granted of are null. These are many things that kinda came with the package of moving to Japan under the JET Program: People who could empathize with your plight as hundreds flock to Japan at the same time with the same job, an already established living situation complete with rent, furniture (oh God, you don’t think of it until it doesn’t exist), utilities worked out, people expecting you (many with open arms), and many other luxuries. JET, although heralded as a first job for many, it lacks much of what is oft associated with the career world, namely, independence. From day one, you are shoe-into a spot that once was occupied from someone else. Work, life, and everything else is set into stone, an already established grind that existed decades prior. And people wholly rely on that structure.

I did too. So it came as a shock of sorts to me having to find my new job (through the bullshit that Japanese companies put you through), find my new apartment (after months of racism/discrimination), establish utilities, establish move-in dates, contact internet companies, purchase basic luxuries (e.g. groceries, toiletries, dishes, etc.), acquire furniture (everything from tables, chairs, fridge, washing machine, vacuum, even LIGHTBULBS), and everything one doesn’t typically think of when moving somewhere new. Luckily, most places are already furnished by the time a new tenant moves in in the states. Despite that, in Japan, when one moves into someplace new, you get literally the bare minimum. And perhaps that’s okay. I should be grateful to have a roof over my head, even if rent is literally five times of what I paid in Hokkaido and the places is ¼ the size of my previous place.

So here I am, in a nearby convenience store, Lawson, which I had the pleasure of living near back in Fukushima. And luckily, this Lawson is relatively close to where I live now. I couldn’t find a café open late to write this like I had preferred, but this Lawson, unlike the one in my previous town, has an “eat-in” corner. Honestly it feels a bit strange not seeing my students, their parents, and familiar faces running the counters like in Fukushima. But isn’t that obvious when moving to a new town?

Now, a quick pro-tip: Airlines can treat your luggage real shittily. I say that because in the three flights from Las Vegas to Tokyo, one of the airlines managed to lose one of two of my checked-in bags, and break my other bag. It’s no fun walking two kms (~1 mi) dragging a 22 kg (48 lb) suitcase through hilly areas in 100% humidity and 30 C (~90 F) weather. Heat stroke is a thing to be feared and had I not taken ample rest and drank sufficient amounts of water, I may not have made it to my new apartment today. But I made it, even if barely, complete with pounding migraine.

Through the frustration of today, I had much time to reflect. Unlike three years ago, I won’t give in to the influx of emotions and admit defeat. I’d like to end this entry with a few positive notes:

*People are kind. Whether they are supporting you from the shadows, or openly relaying how much you mean to them, many people are here for you. It has been a joy receiving messages from prior students, teachers, friends, and colleagues since this journey began. Getting a call from my favourite old man was a real treat last night.

*Cities shouldn’t be underestimated. I thought it strange that within the vicinity of my new place, there weren’t many restaurants, shops, etc. according to Google Maps. After some exploring, turns out there’s a wealth of places to be discovered. I found a McDonald’s literally a five-minute walk from my apartment!

*Always be grateful. Despite your circumstances, there are many things to be grateful for. Whether that be having money for a bite, or simply having the time to take a quick stroll around with a healthy heart, there are so many things to be thankful for. I’m simply grateful to be alive and on this new adventure.

Thanks for reading to the end, and hope to talk to you soon, dear reader. More posts to come!