Welcome, 2018!

Hello, everyone! Happy New Year!

In the last months of 2017, I was reflecting a lot on the things I wanted to do but still wasn’t able to accomplish during the year.

I wanted to make and upload videos regularly. That didn’t happen.

I wanted to start an art shop where I would sell pins, charms, stickers and shirts that I had designed. That didn’t happen.

I wanted to study for and take the JLPT N1. That didn’t happen.

I wanted to apply for Osaka Communication Arts technical school so I could begin their illustration program in 2018. That didn’t happen, either.

来年の事を言うと鬼が笑う (rainen no koto wo iu to oni ga warau)― Speak of next year, and the oni will laugh. In some ways, you could say it’s similar to “don’t count your chickens before they hatch”.

I heard this for the first time during a heated game of karuta, and it hit me so hard that it became one of my favorite kotowaza. “Speaking of next year” has been a consistent habit of mine for ages. I can’t count the number of times I declared that I was “going to draw a lot during summer vacation” as a teen. As you can probably guess, I fell short of my expectations every time. And I still do it as an adult! This realization haunted me consistently for days, and it still comes back and torments me on occasion. “Am I really that unreliable? Or maybe I’m just too ambitious?” I wonder. “Either way, something is definitely wrong with the way I’m doing things”.

Part of me wants to say that this kind of thinking is unhealthy, while the other part is still deeply rooted in a constant need for self-improvement. After all, it is not necessarily an un-productive thought; if there is a problem with reliability, perhaps it should be identified and corrected. However, I’ve also realized that it would be even more productive to focus on the correction process itself, rather than the negativity and self-blame. Additionally, it’s not as if I didn’t make any progress this year.

I may not have made videos, but I did stream art fairly actively on Twitch for a time, gained nearly 100 followers in two weeks, and became an affiliate.

I didn’t start an art shop, but I started an art community on Discord with my good friend Melody, which we hope to add a shop to in the future.

I didn’t take the N1, but I did take the N2, and studied many useful vocabulary and grammar patterns that will be more useful than those found in the N1.

I didn’t apply for OCA, but I’m applying for a language school instead, which will allow me to refresh and solidify my language skills before I’m thrown into art classes.

In other words, 2017 may not have gone exactly how I wanted it to, but I still accomplished a lot, and I should be proud of that. I think that to interpret the kotowaza as a warning against planning for success doesn’t exactly grasp the message. In fact, I believe it is more likely a warning against talking about your high goals before actually achieving them; perhaps a warning against setting yourself and others up for disappointment. However, realistically, publicizing your goals has no influence on your success. If anything, setting up such expectations will push you further than not having any at all. I believe that how one responds to falling short of expectations is much more important than the expectations themselves.

I have no shortage of goals and things that I want to try in 2018. Initially I was a little apprehensive, thinking it may be better to simply focus on the task at hand and ignore any extra ambitions. I’ve realized that I felt that way not because of practicality, but rather a fear of failure as a result of coming up short on my past goals. This year, my main goal will be to focus less on what I am or was unable to do, and more on appreciating what I’ve already achieved, as well as how to keep building on those achievements. I hope everyone is able to continue moving forward in their own way.

Let’s all make 2018 a good year!

P.S. In regards to the image, one of our mascots at Café Minou is a sassy white shiba named Mochi. So I put her in some kagami mochi, a typical New Years decoration. It is the year of the dog, after all!