30 Day Writing Challenge: Day 21

Write about a time you were scared and chose to be brave.

There was a moment, a couple of days after I arrived in Tokyo, that I had a minor panic attack. There wasn’t much down-time during our first orientation and when there was, we JETs went together in groups. But on the second afternoon, I found myself alone. I had maybe an hour to myself to get a few errands accomplished. I needed stamps to mail letters to family and my husband (then boyfriend), since I had didn’t have a Japanese cellphone yet… or a computer… or access to internet… and wouldn’t for the foreseeable future. I also NEEDED money (BADLY). I had wanted to wait until I arrived in Japan to pull money from my US account (at the time, getting money from an ATM was a pretty decent exchange rate). I knew that post offices had ATMs that had an English menu… I just had to get to one. In Tokyo. By myself. Before google maps.

So, I asked the concierge where the closest post office was. And thankfully… it was straight out the hotel doors and down the sidewalk, only about 5-6 blocks. I wouldn’t have to cross any major streets AND I already knew what the post office sign looked like! This would be a piece of cake.

I had my purse, my letters, and my debit card all ready to go. I went down to the lobby and stood in front of 8 sets of glass doors… and at least one revolving door. (It was a pretty fancy hotel.) And I froze. I’d never been anywhere in Japan on my own. Throughout the mission trip the previous summer, I’d always had at least one friend or adult-in-charge with me. And the second the JET programme participants got to the airport (in our home countries) to depart for Japan, we were under a leader’s supervision. Not only that… I hate big cities. (Big cities are intimidating to me. I have never loved being downtown in ANY city…. and Tokyo is GINORMOUS. From my quick research, as of 2015, it is THE largest, most populated city, in the WORLD. )

I had to talk myself through it. I knew where to go. I knew what to do. It wasn’t that far away…. and I also knew I needed to be able to do this. I wasn’t going to be with any other JETs where I was going to be living and working, so I had to get used to being on my own. And I absolutely needed the money… I had no idea when I’d have the time or ability to get to an ATM before I had to start paying for things at my town. (Which was pretty soon after I’d arrived.) But I also needed money in order to pay for dinner that night.

I have no idea how long I stood there… having this internal pep talk with myself… completely freaking out, while also trying to be outwardly calm. But eventually logic won. And a glance at the clock told me it was now or never.

I took a deep breath and stepped out the door. I walked the 5-6 blocks. I passed so many people… but also felt completely safe. Seeing the red post office sign brought an instant wave of relief over my entire body. I stepped into the building, used the ATM like an old pro, and then got in line to mail my letters. I was in and out in less than 10 minutes.

The walk back went a lot faster… and was almost enjoyable! I was still aware of the crazy tall buildings and thousands of people. But I was able to look around and take things in and breathe. I made it back to my hotel in one piece. Triumphant.

This was my first experience like this in Japan… but definitely wasn’t my last. (Not a week later, I had run out of the groceries my supervisor had taken me to buy on my first night in town… and faced an equally panicked moment of knowing I had to brave the grocery store solo… or starve… I chose to get food.)

With each opportunity to be brave… I grew stronger and felt more capable. It’s probably one of the many reasons why I felt so changed (like, a core piece of who I am) after my time in Japan.