Lying in bed. Unable to sleep.
My heart’s beating, my mind’s racing.
It's pitch dark. It's 2am. I'm awake. Again.
Anxiety is a painful beast, no matter how we try to approach it
I was 26 years old at the time, moving up the professional ladder, getting a masters degree in education. On paper, I looked like I had it made... But in my heart - I was dying.
I Had No Idea What I Wanted
To this day, I still can't pin down why I felt that anxiety.
It was about 3 and half years ago. I was teaching in the inner city of Los Angeles, California.
I didn't like my job - okay, that's an understatement. I hated my job. I loved the kids, but the politics, the paperwork, the... Actually you know what - the "reason" for my anxiety is irrelevant. All that matters is what I felt.
Sometimes we try to ignore our feelings under the guise of "being rational"...
You have a good job.
You're moving up the ladder.
This is what you are supposed to do.
logic is irrelevant when you can't sleep, are anxious, and depressed.
Where Do I Even Start?
So there I was, appearing to the outside world like I had all my ducks in order and color coded!
But the appearance was a lie.
At night, I would go home and cry.
Cry because I was lost.
Cry because I didn't know what to do.
Cry because I was unhappy.
Cry because I didn't know how to stop the pain.
I wanted to change my life, but I had no idea how to change it.
Step By Step, Day by Day The Dream is Revealed
This post discusses my life, the pursuit of a dream - but it's not about me. It's about you.
I want you to see the process, the evolution, the step by step discovery of a dream.
I didn't come out of the womb screaming with passion. 3 years ago I had no idea what do with my life, where to start, what to do. I was lost.
It's different now. I know exactly what I want to do with my life and more importantly I'm living it.
Below is the timeline of discovering and living my dream. - I hope it inspires the (choose your own mild cuss word) out of you.
How I Discovered My Dream: October 2009 to Present Day
I was honest with myself.
Initially I wanted to pretend that I was happy. I would lie to myself: "You are good" "Everything is great." But at some point the pain was just too much.
I had to admit to myself "Izzy, you aren't happy. What you are currently doing in your life isn't working."
Before we can make any changes we have to be honest with ourselves.
I was honest with those I love.
After some heavy conversations with myself, I called up my parents. With tears in my eyes and a quivering voice I told them I was struggling. I admitted that I was unhappy and that I couldn't sleep.
It was hard to do this, really hard. It's hard to admit when we can't do things on our own. I wanted to keep "the lie" going. The lie that "my life was great". But it was just too much.
My parents helped me immensely. I would talk with them everyday. I was still hurting but it was incredible to have some support in my life. I no longer felt alone.
Don't be afraid to reach out to those you love.
I committed to changing.
After admitting to myself and my parents I was depressed, I realized that if my life was going to improve I had to be the one to improve it. I committed with all my heart to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
At the time, I had no idea I would move to Japan to try and become a ninja. I thought I would just switch careers or go back to school... little did I know :).
Started Saving money.
Money's important - trying to deny that is stupid. As soon, as I realized I was going to be making a change, I decided to save money every paycheck.
This gave me the psychological freedom to know at some point I would be able to leave my job. By saving money, I no longer felt "locked in".
Money's important. It gives you the freedom to pursue a dream.
Pursued new Knowledge.
Since I had committed to figuring out my life, I started to listen to inspiring podcasts, and read self help books.
I started to feel empowered- like I might be able to change my life.
Asked myself "What do I want to do?"
Around this time I started to ask myself "What do I want to do?"
I remember sitting at my house and smiling "If I really had my choice I would just move to a foreign country and train in martial arts all the time - I want to be a ninja... but thats not realistic.”
I had no idea how much this simple thought would forever change my life...
Asked myself "How can I do it?"
All those self help books started to infiltrate my brain. My sense of possibility increased. I started to focus on "How?"
I figured I had nothing to lose. I asked myself "How can I become a ninja?"
And soon thereafter it clicked...
What if I moved to a foreign country, taught english, and trained in martial arts?
I quit the teaching profession and got my Masters Degree in Education in the same month.
As I write this I smile.
At the same time I left the teaching profession, I also received my masters degree in Education. It's an odd thing to receive a degree that opens a bunch of doors in which I have zero interest in entering.
I take a 1 month trip to Japan.
I packed my bags, moved out of Los Angeles and set on a 1 month trip to Japan. I went to 14 different cities and trained in Aikido.
It clicked - This is where I want to live, this is where I want to train! I want to move to Japan!
Moved in with my parents.
Here's the comical part - after I decide to move to Japan to follow my dream... I come back to America and move in with my parents.
27 years old, unemployed, and living with my parents... Not necessarily "marriage material"
I gotta come clean though - my parents are amazing, wonderful, and loving people. I sat down with them and told them my plan to move to Japan. They were completely comfortable with me moving in until I was able to get to Japan.
Worked with foster kids.
I picked up a job in my community. They asked me to give a 1 year commitment. This made me nervous as I was fearful of "getting stuck".
I talked with my parents about it. I decided to take the job and live with my parents for a year. I would use this year to save money and get everything prepared to live and work in Japan.
Found work in Japan.
I had started applying for work in Japan a few months prior to this. Finally something worked out. I notified my current employer and started putting everything in order to pursue my dream.
Moved to Japan.
I entered the land of the Rising Sun. I couldn't speak a word of Japanese and had no idea what I was getting myself into.
Lived in the countryside of Japan.
Before coming to Japan - I was naive, or maybe stupid is a more appropriate word.
I assumed that if I moved to Japan there would be master martial arts sensei's just waiting to teach me at every corner... Turns out I was wrong.
I was placed in the countryside where there was a lot of rice fields, and zero martial arts studios.
I realized my job in Japan sucked balls.
Around December the novelty of Japan starts to wear off.
I have zero responsibility at my work. I feel useless. I try to get more responsibility but this is often pushed away by saying "Now is your free time Izzy sensei". It's absurd! They are paying me to sit there and do nothing.
When I'm given work it often consists of correcting spelling errors. I'm 27 years old with a masters degree in Education. I'm qualified to run my own school in America - and I'm stuck in an office correcting misspelled words... Does this sound like "living the dream"?
If you step forward with your dream you will face challenges and barriers you never imagined. It's our response to those situations that matter.
I go all In
Initially I thought - I can move back to America or stick with this job.
But then I realized a 3rd option:
I could quit my current job and pursue what I truly came to do... martial arts.
I notify my current employer that I will be leaving in August. I decide to pursue my dream - to work part time (just enough to cover my expenses) and train full time in martial arts.
I'm all in.
I start a blog about my journey
I decide to start a blog about my journey. I figured "maybe it could help a couple people."
At the time I had no idea how to even start a blog :).
For the first month of blogging I didn't tell anyone about it. I published 5 days a week and didn't even tell my parents.
About a month after starting my blog I started to tell a few people about it.
Someone actually read my blog (that wasn't my mom)
A few months after starting my blog a few people that I had never met started to read it. I was shocked.
Over the next many months I would fully commit to my dream and document the entire experience.
Moved to Kyoto
In August I made the major plunge. I quit my job in the countryside and moved to Kyoto. I found a martial arts dojo, part time work, and dealt with visa issues.
It wasn't easy but I got it all situated.
I Never Could Have Expected This.
This leads us to this very moment.
3 years ago I never could have imagined any of this was possible. It all started with anxiety and tears. And now... I live in Japan and I'm trying to become a ninja.
- I live in Kyoto, the historical capital of Japan.
- I train in martial arts multiple hours a day at an incredible dojo.
- I can speak some Japanese :)
- I’ve been featured on some pretty big name sites.
- I was invited to give a TEDx speech in India.
- The 30 Year Old Ninja was voted the 3rd best personal development blog of 2012.
- This site has been visited from people in over 100 countries.
- It has over 60,000 page views.
- There are thousands of visitors every month.
I don't write those things to brag - I write them to show you the doors a dream can open.