5 Things I Learned from the Uneasy Beginning of 2020

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“Give me a break, 2020!”

I’m pretty sure that it is not just me who has been keep saying this these days. It has only been a few month since it started, but it has already given us enough nightmares. Everything – even things you did not even have to think about much, or things you never doubt that is “right” or “normal” – is now posing problems and confusing us all.

Here are the 5 things I learned from this uneasy beginning of this year. Some of them are really embarrassing, but I thought I needed to be open about them since I feel they are quite eye-opening and important – and so might you.


1. I might be biased – even without noticing.

No matter how equal and fair you think you are, or at least you try to be, there might be some patterns or preferences that are affecting your thoughts and opinions. We tend to misinterpret the biases we have as “unique perspective” or “my own value”. It’s even possible that you believe that your “uniqueness” is “true”, “correct” or “right”.

When you’re experiencing something new, especially when it’s undesired, unpleasant, and difficult, you might try to create a new reality that feels comfortable, safe, and easy to understand – even before you know that you’re doing so. You might even be thinking what you “want to believe that’s true” is “true”.

Even before we know, we might be piling up our “gusses” and “assumptions” about what we don’t really understand. We might be writing a story – the ending will be what you “want it to be true” – by collecting only information that fits your storyline. Ignoring what does not support your “logic”, which is actually a fantasy.

To be honest I have never had a chance to start doubting if I’m biased. Not that I believed that I’m not, but the truth is I wasn’t aware how easy to be biased, and how much effort and careful attention it requires not to be too biased. I simply didn’t know that. And I’m sure it’s not just me – there may be a lot of people who were not aware that.

What made me realize this is how quickly things change, and how chaotic and uncertain information of nowadays is. These days, even after you thought you understood what’s right, it’s highly possible that the next day you hear some new information that makes you wonder if you were wrong, or find some news that drastically changes your opinion.

Living in such situation is very much confusing, but on the flip side, this might open your mind. You’ll realize how less you know, and even your past experiences aren’t as helpful as you thought they’d be. You may learn that the glasses you have been wearing to see the world were actually blur or bent, and even your instinct or insights are not precise or reliable enough.

But we all know that being biased and believing your own fantasy is not a right thing to do, don’t we? We will never even want to do that intentionally. But I think – this part scares me the most – in these uncertain and confusing days, it’s so easy for anyone to fall into this even subconsciously.

Why?

Because your mind – even your beautiful, kind and intelligent mind – can easily get beaten by worries.

When it’s hard to see what’s true and what’s not, when you don’t know what you should believe, it’s likely to lose your confidence – confidence in your judgment, confidence in your decision, confidence in your understanding skill. Then you’ll start worrying.

That is stressful. You have all reasons to want to run away. You’ll want to be free from that mental burden as soon as you can.

In order to feel relaxed and comfortable, your mind starts to write a story. A story with a conclusion that you want to believe, and once it’s done, you only have to stick to the story. That story will be your only truth. You’re now free from constant learning and constant decision-making, which is easily broken and you need to repeat that again.

We write our own story to rely on because it’s easy. That makes things simpler. Because that gives you a criteria to judge who you should listen, and who you should deny.

But that just blinds you. Nobody should fall for that.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” −The Dalai Lama XIV

In these blinding days, the only way to survive is not stop thinking. Listen, see, and look at a bigger picture, and try to see more broaden and various options and possibilities. It’s tiring. But once we give up, that’s when we let our enemy – enemy for all of us – win.

As long as I’m a writer – no matter how small and invisible my blog still is – I always need to make sure everything what I write is not only based on my own views and preferences. Of course my own point of view is also a very important part of this blog to make it special and unique, but that shouldn’t be everything.

The realization that I might be biased even before I know makes me be more careful and mindful about what I create. It is overwhelming, and scary, but this must be an essential process for me to grow. This will make me more self-aware, responsible, and hopefully more reliable as a writer, and as a person.

2. I am unforgivably ignorant about what has been making my life healthy, happy, and peaceful.

Medical care, economy, and laws.

These are the fundamental aspects of my life – what have been letting me live a happy, healthy, and peaceful life so far. Even so, I was not aware how ignorant about them until now – until emergencies occur and things used to be “normal” became no longer normal. I was so lucky that I did not even need to learn much about them. To be honest, I never tried to or  even felt that I needed to learn about them in detail. Now I know that is just an embarrassing excuse.

I thought I knew but I clearly didn’t know that, the system, rules, regulations and rights are the things that we all need to pay attention to. We all need to make sure they are something that make our lives better, safe, peaceful, which we deserve and that we choose. This is something we always need to keep working on, earn, and protect.

But I never even thought about it. I am assuming so many of young Japanese people are like me. Because many of us are really lucky that could live even without thinking and knowing about them much. We also do not get much opportunities to learn about these matters unless you are a very good student with an amazing memory, who will  never forget what you learn at school when you were still a little kid.

If you are like me, ignorant irresponsible naive adult, this might be your first time to get confused and realized how less you know about your life. “What is going on? What should I do? Wait – I don’t even know what is wrong and what needs to be fixed!” – This was my reaction, to be honest.

Of course it is impossible to learn everything about them unless you are an expert – these areas are changing day by day, so fast that even experts and professionals are required to learn every and each day. You will never be able to fully catch up with them just by Googling the whole day, or reading a few books. So again, it is very important to listen – listen to the experts. Listen to someone who really knows, with respect, and care.

3. Importance of acting for everyone never gives you a permission to hurt someone – but less people seems to know that.

Stay-home notices, travel restrictions, quarantines, lockdowns – we are facing unprecedented limits on our behaviors and decisions all over the world. Comparing to some oversea cities where people are ordered to stay home, in Japan, it seems like the government is relatively leaving the choice on our behavior to our judgement. Seeing that makes me think about priorities and decisions.

Now we – I mean everyone, not just people in Japan – are more focused on “everyone” than on individuals. People are thinking not just about yourself, but also, or more about everyone around you. We’re trying to put ourselves aside and work as much as we can to hopefully make the situation any better, and to reduce the chances to make things worse. I am not an expert, but this seems very important movement to avoid the worst scenario.

However this never gives you a permission to hurt someone else to make them do the exactly the same thing you’re doing. Even when making decisions for everyone is important, that never means it’s okay to attack other people to make them obey what you think what’s right.

But it seems there are people who misunderstand that. Recently, we often find people who are hurting other people because of the differences of their opinion. Sometimes we see it on the news, sometimes we see it on social media, and sometimes we even actually witness someone is attacking someone, face to face.

And the saddest part is people who are misunderstanding that are mostly drowning into their delusion that they’re doing the right thing.

No. It’s not the right thing. You’re using this situation and your “opinion” as an excuse to treat someone in a wrong way. You are just being lazy, using those excuses and giving up to be creative enough to think about better and constructive solution that can work for both you and them, or that can change their opinion without hurting.

I’m shocked how it seems difficult to see the obvious gap between “acting for everyone” and “harassing someone who is different.

Thinking about other people and act for them – I thought this is something unique and special (not saying better or worse) about Asian cultures. But now people all over the world are trying to work with this in mind, trying to prioritize everyone’s safety, more than your own interests.

No matter how important and reasonable in this situation that may be, it is never right to blame, attack, hurt, track down, and force anyone to follow what you believe they should too.

Somewhere in the history, people might have fallen for that – but we all, now, can do better. We can be smarter than that, can’t we? We’re all in this together. Other people are not your enemy, even if they are different from you.

4. I’m lucky to have a job today, tomorrow, and even next week.

“No Sunday, please don’t leave me..!” “Ugh, Monday is coming…”

I can’t help feeling like this from time to time. And I’m sure I will feel the same in the future, too.

However, I felt – probably for the first time in this serious way – very grateful that I have a job that I enjoy, and that I still get to do that job today, tomorrow, and even next week. And also very importantly, I will get paid for that.

I thought job is always a part of my life. Job is something that will always be there beside me, even if I don’t want it to be, because that’s what I have to do. However, that is not necessarily true. Any job – even those jobs everyone believes that are perfect – can be possibly gone any time.

Even though job will always be something you have to do to make living, there is no guarantee that you will always have a job – especially if you want a job that you truly enjoy.

Also, I was not paying attention to other people’s jobs unless I am curious or that is related to what I do. But the whole world, our daily lives, are possible because of so many different kinds of jobs that so many other people are doing each and every day. I know this sounds so no-brainer. But I wasn’t honestly really aware.

If you take train every morning, you might see familiar faces every morning, but you never talk to them, and you don’t even know who they are. Probably you never cared. But once I realized that everyone is contributing to the society in their own way through their jobs, I started saying “thank you” (just in my mind because I don’t want to look creepy) when I see someone who seems exhausted from work. That person is probably a part of what is enabling our “daily lives” possible, as convenient, comfortable, peaceful, safe as they have been so far. (So, thank you!)

5. The experience of meeting people face to face is irreplaceable.

Personally, I love meeting people – but that is not very safe or encouraged thing to do at the moment. It is said that we all should refrain from meetings and social events as much as possible. I know that frustrates so many people. As much as I understand the importance of avoiding the possible dangers of being surrounded by many people right now, I will say this on behalf of you – this sucks.

But the silverlining is that now we learned or relearned the irreplaceable value of actually seeing people. Meeting someone face to face, spending some time together and sharing the experience and memories – this is something we cannot fully experience via phone call, through screen, and on the Internet.

On the contrary, so many Japanese companies that have been hesitant to let their employees do work-from-home or letting them have flexible work schedule, are now finally changing their mind – and starting to realize how meaningless our notorious crazy rush hour train, and visiting customers “just in case”, and having meetings without specific purpose or agenda. Now finally Japanese people started saying “Oh this could be done just by a few emails!”

Once you learned what was actually meaning”less”, you might probably learned that what was actually meaning”full” to you.

Hanging out with your friends, going to visit someone you love, exploring the world and meet new people, shaking hands, hugging, and all the other greetings you miss – once it becomes safe again, here’s what I’m going to do.

I’m going to feel the contagious happy vibe.

When you see something beautiful, you will feel touched. And if you can share the feeling together with someone at that moment, the experience will be unforgettable.

When people are feeling so much joy, happiness, and excitement, it feels like as if the temperature there increases together with their heartbeats.

Happiness is contagious. Good vibe is contagious. And they only become better when shared with someone.

When I get a chance again to create an opportunity where people can experience the contagious happy vibe -without worrying about some other things contagious – I am going to be as creative and hard-working as I can be, and make it something people cannot forget.

When worried and stressed, sometimes people can’t help being thoughtless and mean to other people – that might be the case now. But what I am feeling these days is that people are missing people. I feel like more and more people are now noticing how much we seek kindness, comfort, and healing from other people, how much we can also give to other people, and how big and positive the impact can be.

Many of us were excited about the beginning of this year, and probably none of us were  expecting it begins this way. It is hard, but now we can use this to grow – we can have broaden, unbiased perspectives, we can learn or relearn what we tended to dismiss, we can be grateful for our daily lives and everything that enables them, – and most importantly, we can chose to be kind to other people (even virtually).


Always wishing you peace, happiness and love.

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