For the kiddies! Especially the mixed and third culture ones!
On Saturday (March 28) I was invited by to speak to an amazing class of returnees about my career as a journalist. (For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a returnee is Japanese/mixed kids that lived outside of Japan and has returned to their homeland, they cope with trying to assimilate back to Japanese everyday life).
I was super nervous and didn't know how I would fill a 40 minute lecture spot but turns out time flew by much faster than expected!
A lot of great questions during our Q&A but the one that stood out for me was a student asking how becoming a journalist affected my life.
I thought about it and told the class that when I first moved to Japan I couldn't speak any Japanese, I was very alienated and isolated at my 'regular' Japanese high school. When I entered Sophia University in Tokyo things did not get better, if anything they got worse. I was surround by 'perfect' bilinguals and developed a severe inferiority complex that really stunted my growth as a Japanese language speaker and as a Japanese citizen. It caused me to severely question my identity and tore apart any self-confidence I had remaining. 'Who am I?' 'Where do I belong?' - the usual late teens and early 20s angst compounding by acute feelings of abandonment and loneliness.
For me, it wasn't until I started writing and consequently filming - first as a freelancer for The Japan Times and then as a video journalist/producer for Reuters that I really began to find my own niche in the world.
By providing other people with a voice, I found my own.
For that reason alone I am so grateful to this calling we call journalism.
I often reflect on being mixed, biracial, a 3rd culture kid whatever you'd like to title it as. And it is very different than being a 'full' black or Asian or white kid for sure. When you're an African American male or an Asian female you have parents that can give you insight and provide you guidance on your cultural history and background. However, when you're mixed (or a returnee - 帰国子女) you usually don't have mixed parents that can directly relate to the identity issues you are going through. You miss out on the role models that will understand you and aren't exposed to the positive images of people that look like you on television or in other forms of mass media.
I get asked by parents of mixed kids a lot for advice or insight to helping their kids through the awkward stages. I used to give hyper specific advice on dealing with mixed kids specifically based on my own experiences. "Let them grow up bilingual, put them in international school, don't put them in international school, send them abroad, raise them in one country", and so on.
These days I just feel that whatever provides your kids or friends or colleagues with confidence, instills feelings of value or self-worth, just do more of that.
The world can be a tough and intimidating place, we could all use a little more support and empathy.
Thanks to Mel for inviting me and special thanks for Leonie and Tiffany for recommending me for the task! And big thanks to all the busy journos that took the time to provide their own definitions of journalist to me for presentation to the class.