1) Yesterday, I taught Hiro K. Correction, I had a student named Hiro yesterday who taught me. At my language school, we’re told to follow “the method” closely, and to use the book which lays out the way a lesson should progress (in detail). It’s easy, and sometimes quite boring, so it’s the student that makes each forty minute session different. I’ve said it before, but for me it’s more about the overall experience than them simply learning to say some English expressions. I want them to have fun (and clearly, I want to enjoy myself too). We’re sometimes monitored (the rooms are rigged!), and I have been asked to rein in the “free conversation” a bit. However, it seems unnatural to me to open the text and just begin.

I’ve met some great people, exchanged email addresses with a few, Facebooked one or two (when I was on FB), and one (childless) older woman has been baking cakes and cookies for me. When I sent her an email that she really doesn’t need to give me treats, my friend B asked me if I thought about his needs when I sent that email. Truthfully, I never should’ve sent that message, to which she never responded. Two days ago, I sent an email to ask her about her welfare, and she promptly replied that she’s baking next week and will bring a cake to the school on May 24.

My last class of the evening, I met Hiro. He’s inspirational; started his own company in his twenties, retired in his thirties, got recruited to a large company in his forties, and now in his late fifties is the president of that company, which has a number of subsidiaries, to which he travels every month. One instructor passed by and said, “Oh, you have my favorite student.” Another came into the room, shook his hand, and told me that Hiro is the reason he’s pursuing his art. He makes you feel like you should be taking action… doing something.

Hiro told me to formulate a 3-month plan, a month plan, a ten-day plan, the essence of Kaizen. Plan, act, check progress, do it again. I’d never heard of kaizen before, and he looked at me as if I had three heads, and then started mapping it out for me. The basis of kaizen is constant improvement, both long and short-term. The goal is the mission, but each task, each day is also the mission. Every detail is important (i.e, in the mission of getting in shape, drinking a glass of water is as important as running a mile). In a role reversal, I started taking notes. Kaizen: Write what you want to accomplish, the things you need to do in the immediate future, then chart the progress. If things were realized toward accomplishing the goal, check them off. The unrealized tasks go back on the list and are worked on again. For more kaizen info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaizen

2) The universe works in conjunction. With Hiro’s lesson firmly implanted in my mind, my mother came along on Skype with the reinforcement of getting a plan, working towards something and reaping the reward of that action. We started talking about Jamaica and how I’d like to visit in October or November when fares are best. My mother told me that as much as she’d love to see me that I need to “tie up the money.” She told me not to come home, not to buy such an expensive ticket for a few days. Her words really hit home, because let’s face it I’m not financially secure. I make money, I spend money (not to mention that Tokyo’s as expensive as heck). God forbid an emergency arises. My philosophy has always been to enjoy life, life’s short. I’d espouse that I shouldn’t sit on a wad of cash when nothing’s promised. In four months, I spent the retirement plan I’d cashed out from my last job– one long vacation. Life’s for living, right? However, I see now that the future always arrives. It comes when you least expect it. So, I’m going to anticipate and plan for the future. While the yen is strong, the plan is to save for a few years and actually invest in my future. As my mother would and always does say, “Build a foundation.”

3) A part of investing in oneself is treasuring one’s time. Deciphering what’s valuable, what’s worth it. (It’s no accident that we use the same terminology for time and money, is it?). Let me tell you what happened last night, and how I know that I’ve turned over a leaf in my mind where I only do the things that will bring me some fulfillment. Last night, a friend and I rode from Kayabacho to Roppongi, which took us about an hour, because we got a little lost. No matter, it was a warm, slightly breezy night and the ride was enjoyable. We met up with another friend, and a friend of hers who was celebrating a birthday. It was Ladies Night in Roppongi, which means that in almost every bar we passed ladies drink free champagne and cocktails.

Twelve minutes in (after entering Vibrations– a basement spot), I assessed the situation and left. Maybe, five years ago, or even five months ago, it would’ve been a blast, but last night the scene was just so tired. What was the point? While everyone was drinking shots, I was drinking club soda, being cloaked in cigarette smoke from everyone around me, and not finding any redeeming feature about the situation.

On my way home, I texted my friend D, who I’d invited and didn’t make it. Here’s an excerpt of the exchange:

V: Haven’t been to Roppongi in a minute, and have quickly decided that I don’t care for it at all. Yikes.

D: I’m not gonna make it. Roppongi might finish me.

V: I left. On my bike trying to get home.

D: Yep. Happened to me recently. Walked home two hours.

V: Just not my scene anymore. What’s happened to us then?

D: Honest answer or feel good?

V: Aging?

D: Yes. Maturing. Becoming cynical.

V: So, why didn’t you tell me “Val, Roppongi’s a bad idea. Save yourself two hours?” I would’ve listened.

D: It’s much more effective if I let you touch the stove.

He’s right. I’m glad that I touched and left, didn’t linger in misery or annoyance as I would’ve done years ago. (Now, hours later, I’m curious about the feel good answer).

4) What happens when a star dies?

Throughout the life of a star, it burns up its fuel of hydrogen. As it hits rock bottom of hydrogen, sometimes, if it is large enough, it can fuse together other elements into heavier elements until finally, it cannot fuse together the final heaviest element anymore and the star dies.

Huge stars die out with a bang called a supernova.

We lose our stars, but we don’t forget them. We shouldn’t. That light, that shine, that specialness stays with us.