For as long as I can remember I always wanted to visit Japan. The culture, the food, the people, they all seem so unique and mysterious to me, yet somehow familiar. Maybe this is because growing up I read a lot of Manga, watched a lot of anime and had an unhealthy love of sushi and ramen. One big thing that had always prevented me from visiting though, was the feeling of distance created by my inability to learn the language. At school I never fared well with learning any language, even the ones deemed easier for westerners such as French or Spanish. Over the years I have tried on and off to motivate myself and sit down to study and learn this beautiful and difficult language, but it was always to no avail.
Recently I learned of an app called HelloTalk. Before going further I have to add that I am in no way affiliated with this app. It has a very basic selling point, which is that it allows you to message and talk with people who are looking to learn languages. I decided to download and give it a try. It has a simple layout, and sentences and phrases come up in a twitter like feed that are submitted by users. You can then correct these sentences and aid people in their study of foreign languages. Now my original goal when downloading this was to improve my own Japanese skills by being able to converse with native speakers, and hopefully make some friends on there for when I eventually make the long trip over to visit. What better way to see the country than with local, native people who would be happy to show me around, because lets be honest, no guide book beats a local’s knowledge.
To my surprise, what I discovered while using the app, was that I was becoming less interested in utilising the wealth of knowledge to further my own means, but I was being drawn to helping those looking to improve their English. I would log on and rather than making an embarrassing attempt to write out some Japanese, I found myself navigating each time to the posts submitted for correction. I would correct a few sentences, maybe make a comment or two on their excellent attempts at English, and try my best to explain the reasons for said corrections. Over days of using the app, I would strike up conversations with some of the people who I was helping, so much that they would often send me direct messages asking if I would become their language partners. Joyfully I accepted these offers and noticed that not once since downloading had I actually posted something myself.
This may seem to most like a fairly trivial thing. Most people by nature are helpful and willing to offer some assistance to someone in need. However for myself this had never come easily. I was not a bad person, it was that my bouts of depression and anxiety had left me very guarded and closed off from people so I was never in a position where I felt I could offer someone help. For the same reasons I mentioned in a previous blog about trying to get out each week to walk and aid in my physical rehabilitation, this app was helping me to rehabilitate my mind and how I was interacting with people. I am starting to feel a sense of pride and happiness in logging on daily to help a stranger living thousands of miles away to pursue a goal that is so similar to my own. I am hoping that I can continue to help others in some way, and who knows, maybe improve my own mental well being in the process.
The main point of this post today is to try and promote a little bit of positivity in the world. When you begin to open yourself to the idea of helping others, you can find the opposite occurring also. Try and do one kind thing today for someone and I believe you too can feel a sense of satisfaction and pride in your day.