The Podcast – Interview with My Sensei + Reflection

Welcome to Episode 3 of the Wise Not Withered Podcast. Starting this week, I will be posting partial transcripts, highlighting what I consider to be key points that each woman talked about in each episode. Feel free to share the audiograms that I post up on my Instagram page with one-minute-or-less quotes!

This week’s episode features my own Japanese teacher from high school. It was so interesting to learn about and profoundly deepen my understanding of this woman who had taught me during my teenaged years. I was so appreciative of how deep she dove with her answers—I honestly had not expected the level of openness and warmth that she showed me. It was a really pivotal experience for me, to say the least.

Note: We met and recorded at a public park, so there are various outdoor noises in the background, like birds chirping, people walking by, and trucks beeping…


I just turned 50. I’m actually getting married. I don’t know how to describe it. (laughs) I came halfway through my life, but I still feel I haven’t achieved many things. … I just finished my Masters program, which was my dream. After 22 years.

Being a housewife over 10 years in a foreign country is a challenge, as a woman. I didn’t grow up here, tradition is different, culture is different. You have to drive everywhere, take kids… It was too much for me. I dropped out of the [college] course. After three years again, I thought, I want to be a teacher still. What [will my life be] after my kids grow up?

I [tend to] stay in one place… But maybe there’s other perspectives. In a way, I’ve lived in Idaho, so I’ve seen a little bit of different American [cities]. Melting pot-wise, [California is] really good. All my kids friends are from different backgrounds, different countries.

I tend to date with someone who relies on me, in terms of decision-making… I talk a lot generally, and the guy tends to be quiet. But they are supporting me. Right now, my current husband is the same, too—he doesn’t talk much. But I know the beauty of how he supports me.

“You are supposed to take care of the kids, because you are a housewife. I have a job.” That gave some conflict in the long-term. Especially, you know, it took me a while to find what I like. I studied economics—I can teach math too. … I was more into economics, working. Working women! … My burden as a woman: taking care of three children, working full time: it’s a lot to take. [My husband] did not understand.

After I got divorced, my life got easier. Nobody was controlling me. … Right now, we are trying to keep a good relationship, because of the kids. He actually became a better person by divorcing me. Because he had to take care of the kids!

Going through divorce was a hard thing, in a foreign country especially. I had to go in front of a judge. A lot of [crying, and depression]. It was a good thing. It was scary. But I think I became stronger by experiencing that not many people know about. It also broadened [my eyes], understand others better by going through hardship.

When I think about my life, who influenced me. One of them is my professor from Japan. … He always said, “If you are good in one thing, that’s enough.” You just have to find one talent, he always said that in the big lecture rooms. That echoed [with] me—he was so different from other Japanese professors. He just talked about life, about his kids, in the lecture. And that’s the only thing I can remember, actually!

I think girls’ perspective… They should have careers. Girls and boys, it doesn’t really matter. They should have something they really like. … To make a living, you have to maybe what you may not want to do first, and settle—health insurance, things you need for your living. And then maybe you go to different directions, pick one you like. Just get involved in so many different things. Just be curious, and even if you think you might not be good at it, I think you should get involved.

If I hadn’t divorced, my current happy life wouldn’t be here, right? There’s up and down… My mom always tells me, up and down in life. Everyone has—it’s a good saying. People with money, husband, big house… They look happy, but who knows? Maybe superficially, but emotionally, they have struggles. That’s something we should keep in mind.

It was so intriguing to talk with my Japanese teacher again after many years. Learning about what she was going through—the divorce and subsequent lawsuits, and depression—puts a brand new perspective on my own perception of her while I was still in high school. I had no idea what she was going through at the time, and I respect her a lot for being so collected outwardly, while going through a really intense, emotionally turbulent time in her life. I love that she talked about how her life is easier and happier now after the divorce, and she is so much more independent.

I also found it interesting that she mentioned a professor she had in college in Japan, who inspired her with his idea that you only need to find one thing that you’re good at. I have heard this idea from a few people before, and I actually disagree! While I am passionate about my job, teaching music, I think it’s important to have other hobbies and interests, and if the career you choose isn’t your passion, I think that’s perfectly fine, as long as you are still spending time doing things that you love too. Maybe the way that I can relate to that concept is that I do think it’s important to find things that you love and are good at, but it doesn’t necessarily have to become your career.

Talking with her and acknowledging the necessary border between teachers and students made me think about the relationships I have now with my students. I stay professional in my lessons, though sometimes I do try to throw in personal anecdotes, to try to relate to them, especially my teenaged students who take private lessons with me. Having this conversation with my former teacher makes me wonder if I will ever form friendships with my own students when they grow older and we can relate to each other as adults.

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