Some of you may recall that I participated in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) level N4 earlier this summer. The results were just announced yesterday, and I found out that I did not in fact pass. The passing overall score is 90/180, and my score was 87. I missed passing by three points! Now I realize that my goal shouldn’t be to barely scrape by, but come on, universe — throw me a bone! Three measly points?! This is such a bummer.
The other thing that I find totally confounding is how my score this year compares to my score on the same test in summer 2015. So again, this year I got 87/180. In 2015 I got 77. Are you telling me that in a year’s time I only managed to improve my score by ten points? What does this say about me? Did I seriously reach a plateau already? Am I incapable of improvement??
I know I am being a bit over-dramatic. It’s probably impossible to not improve at all in a year’s time living in the country where the language you’re trying to learn is natively spoken. And in fact, I really do feel like I have improved my listening and speaking a great deal. But I think therein lies the problem, the root of which I have nurtured with my own complacency.
You see, I never study. I guess I decided that I would live in Japan and just “pick up” the language. [insert snap of fingers here] Just like that. Word to the wise, it doesn’t work that way. Yes, my listening and conversational skills have improved from my daily interactions with Japanese speakers, but that doesn’t mean I’m actively learning Japanese. And it certainly doesn’t mean I’ve prepared myself to take a proficiency test, which has been made embarrassingly clear by my test scores. When I compare my scores it is actually kind of comical. The extra ten points I got this year compared to last year, all of them were gained in the listening section. My reading and grammar sections are exactly the same in both 2015 and 2016! それ，やばくない！？
The bottom line is [drum roll, please] I am lazy, my lack of discipline is ridiculous, and I should really be ashamed of myself. I wish I could tell you why I act as though I deserve to simply receive, without turning a page, picking up a flashcard, or showing any initiative whatsoever, what other people work so hard for. But really, I can’t. It is dawning on me now that this isn’t the first time I have exhibited such absurd behavior and expectations too. I think I act this same way, to varying degrees, about making art and being creative, being a good teacher, getting healthy, and generally becoming a successful person. I assume that’ll all just happen. Because I’ve done pretty well so far, right? And besides, I deserve it. Right? As someone who is quick to criticize entitlement in others, I sure am a hypocrite.
To those of you reading this now: I know the stuff I am saying is pretty damning. It is meant to be. But this isn’t a cry for your sympathy or a reaching-out for your approval. Probably, on some level, everyone needs and wants both of those things, but I didn’t write this post to garner either from you.
Maybe I am airing out my dirty laundry a bit too obviously, but I feel like this all has to be said in a public sphere because I need to take responsibility for it out in the open and not just brush it under the rug. Facing those dark parts of myself head on, that has always been hard for me. That is probably where a large part of my complacency comes from: my inability to see the truth about who I am and what I really need to do, regardless of how unsavory it may be.
This post is meant to be my wake-up call, pure and simple. A warning to myself that if I stay satisfied with my current level of achievement then I may as well just give up on passing the JLPT N4, or completing that 30 before 30 list I made, or any other goals I may make in the future, because it will all just be posturing.
What is it about all the people whom I admire? It really isn’t their talent or their success that I should be applauding so much as their drive and ambition, two characteristics I seriously lack. Reflecting now on the things that I have some innate skill in, like drawing, Japanese, or even teaching, I shudder to imagine how much better I could be at this very moment at any one of them if I had only mustered much earlier some small amount of that ambition and drive I seem to be missing. But rather than regretting and wallowing though, as I am wont to do, I must simply stop and make a change.
When I started this post I thought it would be a succinct paragraph -oh woe is me I didn’t pass a test blah blah- and done, but clearly it’s become much more than that. So really I am thankful for those three measly points for giving me a long-overdue mirror into which I could see my true reflection. And even if this post has become too pseudo-poetic and self-indulgent for you, especially that last line, I won’t apologize. Because sometimes a girl’s just got to fail a test and then bitch about it in an over-dramatic and poorly-written blog post before she can finally turn that corner.
PS – Congratulations to my studious husband for passing the N4! Hopefully I can join your ranks sooner rather than later!