Cake and Courage


I’d always felt that I lacked a sense of courage. In my high school art class, we had to choose a trait that we aspire to most. I chose “courage” from an assortment of other adjectives. My inability to muster a conversation, the acceleration of my heartbeat as I entered a crowded room, the way the blood in my fingertips shot upwards into my body leaving my limbs numb and ineffective…I was desperate for a change.

Being in Japan, I felt this struggle rearing its head for a rematch. Things can only go well for so long, right? The excitement of traveling is there, but it isn’t the only thing you’ll feel. The first week here I felt overwhelmed and upset with myself. It’s a strange feeling, after all you’ve worked so hard to get here, so you’re supposed to feel euphoric, right? You should want to jump at every opportunity around you, but the human body and mind have pesky limits. In my case, the social anxiety started to set-in after the jetlag made its way out.

It felt like being a kid all over again, not knowing how to talk to store clerks and rehearsing the sentences in Japanese over and again in my mind. I pity the cashier at the local 7-eleven who has witnessed my various live-translation episodes. How is it that the word “fork” or 「フォーク」, a foreign loan word, is the only word I can’t understand in a sentence full of Japanese?

Needless to say, the stuntedness you might feel when studying abroad is frustrating and a bit humiliating at times. However, I will say that since I’ve managed to blunder so splendidly in every conversation, I’ve gotten to know what works for me socially and what doesn’t here. When you make a mistake, be easy on yourself. So, when the cashier asked if I needed three forks for the three cakes I was buying and then promptly switched into English as I titled my head, I realized in this social situation I have two options: one, say I only need the one fork and admit I eat enough cake for three people, or two, lie and say and save the extra forks because who knows when you’ll need them in the future.

Can you guess which one I opted for? Well, reader, if you said the second option in which I conceal my cake-disappearing capabilities, then you are correct! Sometimes, you have the courage to state what you need honestly, and sometimes you decide this social interaction needs to be over asap and you opt for what is easier by just nodding your head instead.

Did I learn anything from this series of interactions, yes. I learned that no matter what country I’m in I will continue to make a fool of myself, but at least this time I got cake and that makes it all worth it in my book.

PS: The photo for the entry is not, in fact, of the 7-eleven cake. It was gone long before I realized I’d forgotten to take a photo, so we’ll have to settle for a photo from another bakery and day!