During one of the briefing meetings before our year abroad began, Dr Weste, our year abroad director (known for his caustic sense of humour), warned us about Japanese dentistry. The warning was basically: steer clear of it. If you have any wisdom teeth that are coming through and giving you trouble with your existing teeth, have them taken out before you leave. At that time I could feel the slightest of bumps towards the back of one of my gums, so asked my dentist over the summer if anything needed to be done. He said it was fine. The bump became a set of bumps, and then two sets. I’ve always been a fidgety person, and at odd times I’d probe the emerging tooth with my tongue. It was a vaguely nagging feeling, like something that isn’t unpleasant, but you feel you ought to leave alone.
And that vague feeling is how I feel now, getting ready to head back to Japan. It’s not quite fear and it’s not quite excitement. It’s knowing how far I’ve come, and how long there is to go. It’s knowing the effort needed, and wondering if you’re capable of it. It’s the memory of your past mistakes, and the intention to avoid them from now. Feeling like that can prompt anything, from self-denial to outbreaks of pretentious metaphors, but knowing that the semester ahead is not going to be all beer and skittles is a refreshing sign of maturity. Being a second-year among people who were usually at least a year older than me (some were in their mid-twenties) made me think a lot about how mature I am. I’ve always been seen as older than I really am, but conversely think I should grow up more. Which is kind of an odd sentiment when you don’t even know what you want to grow into.
I went into this year abroad not really expecting anything to happen to me. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want it to. Maturity means different things to different people, and I don’t expect to instantly notice when I become more mature. But I hope if there’s one thing I put into action more from now on, it’s looking at the future with a clear eye, knowing what has to be done and not being afraid to do it. That I would call wisdom, of a sort.
(As a fidgety person, I also bite my nails, but that doesn’t make as good an image.)