Archives for posts with tag: frist impressions
A shamed samurai actor posing for photos in a Kyoto film studio

A shamed samurai actor posing for photos in a Kyoto film studio

My good friend Vicky and I often suffered from, ‘Booze Guilt’. We would wake drenched in shame the morning after a night out on the drink. After a few hours of throwing dirty doubles down our necks, ranting about work and men, cackling with laughter at ridiculous jokes, we would fall home to troubled sleep. Texting each other in the morning filled with fear of broken friendships or foolish behavior; “Sorry if I was a twat last night”, “No I was a twat I was so annoying”. Self-loathing messages zooming back and forth between our mobile phones. The demon drink getting in to our brains and distorting the night’s events. Unnecessary fear and shame making us doubt ourselves.

Shame and fear. Empty emotions.

But fear and shame allowed me to make that final journey to leave the UK. Shame allowed me to leave. Not bravery, not courage, simply shame.

I sat on the shuttle bus at Charles de Gaulle airport waiting for my connection to Sao Paulo and it finally hit me, The Fear. What was I doing? Why was I leaving? I couldn’t do this. I needed to go home. I didn’t want to live in Brazil. The only thing that stopped me from getting a flight directly back to Brighton was shame. I would be ashamed to have not even made it to Brazil, this great adventure I had boasted about for months. I couldn’t scuttle back home, tail between my legs, failed, the adventure a failure. So rather than face the shame I got on the plane.

Absolutely the right decision. The two years in Brazil were life changing.

And now I am here in the land of incomprehensible shame, Japan. This place with shame ingrained in the culture. Haji (shame) is said to form the core of Japanese culture. Japanese culture is described as “shame culture ” in contrast to Western “guilt culture”. A place where shame can lead to suicide, where you must not stand out, must not make mistakes and must be ashamed if you do. They trace this back to the samurai era, and the concept of seppuku or hara-kiri, to cut one’s own belly with a sword, to suffer for shame. In this era, it was better to die than bring shame on oneself. Killing yourself for shame was an honorable act.

Even now the Japanese students I have taught struggle with being wrong, preferring to be silent than make an error in their spoken English. I am told that Japanese people won’t speak their mind that “… no doesn’t always mean no and yes doesn’t always mean yes”. There is a shame in being definite and a fear in being wrong.

I have had my own struggles with shame recently. I am planning a trip to The Great Wall of China and determined to stride powerfully up the steps and along the wall I am trying to exercise. I am overweight and unfit but the biggest hurdle I had to cross to start the journey to getting stronger was my own shame. The real pain didn’t come from the lunges or squats I was doing but the burning, searing pain of feeling so inadequate and judged and useless and embarrassed. It took extreme willpower to stay in the gym and continue for the first few days.

I am lucky there is a space at work where I can exercise easily and I have supportive new friends who eased me in to exercise, gently encouraged and motivated me. I feel humbled that once again I have travelled across the globe to find strength and care in a new group of people. So, once again my shame has given me the most amazing gifts.

And as I struggle home on the train, limbs aching, barely able to place one foot in front of the other, so tired I have forgotten my own name, I hear a beep and the messages came in on my phone from these new friends, encouraging and kind. Being the DQ (Drama Queen) that I am, I start to well up, crying in public, shaming the Japanese commuters with my overflow of foreign emotions.

Shame keeps pushing me to new experiences and in each one I find a wealth of new connections which continue to fill me with joy. The further I travel the more I realize that the world is filled with good people and I am so grateful to be able to fill my life with such wonderful people. So to my beloved Brightonion, Brazilian and now Japanese connections, thank you from the bottom of my heart, you help more than you know.


A carefully constructed first impression

I like to imagine I come sweeping in to a room sophisticated yet humble, an enigmatic smile followed by a warm greeting. The reality of my first impression is probably the sound of my overly loud voice followed by a large body stumbling drunkenly in to the room and making an inappropriate joke before apologising. Or, the horror, people meet me and the only adjective they can find is ‘Oh she’s nice.

Now I am an ex pat, an international teacher, in a transient world the possibilities for reinvention are limitless. First you have the opportunity, on arrival in your new job, school, country, to present an improved version of yourself to the world. Then each year people leave and new people arrive, you can readjust that version, cut off the corners, smooth down the edges. Not only that but my online worlds like Twitter and Facebook also allowed me to create the better version of myself, funnier, kinder, wittier. So underneath all this possibility for presentation can you hide the real you? Will those true traits come seeping out anyway? Oozing through the carefully crafted persona? Infiltrating the well-designed Luci 2.0?

I don’t consciously want to deceive people as to my true nature but like to make a good first impression. As I went to meet a group of new teachers, I thought carefully about what to wear. What image did I want to present of myself in those first few seconds? Serious? Sexy? Cool, sophisticated woman of the world. Would it matter? Would Luci still peep out from behind the layers, saying, “I don’t know what I’m doing, I’m an idiot”? I strive to be true to myself, I am not looking to significantly change. I believe that in essence I am a good being, and the people I want in my life will find me as I find them.

In teaching we have to consider first impressions. In that first meeting with a new class you can set down the boundaries, which last for the whole year. But a mistake at the start can take the whole year to undo. I struggled at the beginning of my teaching career, to find Ms Willis and balance her with Luci. Who was the teacher version of me? I knew Miss had to still be me but that I couldn’t be exactly the same as I was in RL, the swearing and drinking had to stop for a start…

I am comfortable now, after 15 years, can easily swap between the personas. Know who I am in the classroom better than I know how to be outside it. I am comfortable with the presentation of Miss; I’m just not always sure who Luci is.

So as I meet another group of new people, armed with my list of goals for the year, still using my Brazilian adventure to try and wipe off some of the stains on my character, can I succeed? Do I even want to? The endless battle between wanting to change and then the comfort of slipping in to easy interactions with people who have known you for years. I struggled with being back in UK as I could feel the ease in which my old life would return. Would all the Brazilian polish be lost as the safety of the familiar wrapped around me?

I want to take this opportunity to make a good first impression but I also want to find away to clean up. I don’t need dramatic change but I want to be different. The life I have now allows for reinvention but maybe I can use it for a quick tidy up. Chuck out a few of those bad thoughts, bad habits, laziness and doom that have haunted the recesses of my personality. This is an opportunity to change habits and expectations. If people have no preconceptions of you then it is easier to polish up and be a slightly improved version.  I will run an update, some of the bugs will be fixed, until the next update is needed.

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