3 year anniversary

G’day, mates!

Wow has it been a while, or what? I just realized I only published three posts since my last anniversary post. Oops?

To be fair (read: list of excuses), a lot happened, just not writing wise. As you know, I packed up and relocated again, somehow made it halfway through grad school with a minimal two breakdowns and one near all-nighter to receive decent grades (but then again, my standards being what they are, I could really call them “good grades”), while working part time.

The good news, as you can probably guess, is that I survived! Summer was long, and hot, and (mostly) pleasant. One of the most memorable experiences would be learning to dive. I did have to do the course twice, because of reasons (which led to my first panic attack and my first real moment of “omg, should I call an ambulance or get on my next bus to make it to the doctor’s?”). And, perhaps predictably, the second time was better than the first; I more than survived, I sucker punched it in the face!

Except you really don’t do that because marine life will punch you back. But you know what, fish are pretty cool, and so are manta rays, and sharks (it was a wobbegong, relax). Jelly fish though, not so much. Sadly, yet unsurprisingly, the ocean floor is literally littered with trash. Plastic goblets, remnants of plastic bags, gum wrappers. You name it, it’s down there. It’s gross, is what it is. Doesn’t surprise me one bit most divers are environmentally conscious.

One of the surprising outcomes of getting my certification as an open water diver, was my manager saying I’ve inspired her to go diving! I don’t really know how I did that, all I mentioned was self-deprecating about my first experience, but I guess the fact that I went back makes it motivating. So I hope she does learn and maybe one day we’ll go explore the ocean together.

So here we are, on year 3 of my blog, and I’m not talking much about writing. Apologies, I don’t think that’ll happen until mid-June or later. Unless you want me to talk about academic writing, which is much less fun. Good news in that respect would be that I am not doing a dissertation but a special project, like normal people. And while I had four months to think about a topic, I of course “decided” that in less than three days, because why not! (I feel strongly about the actual definition of student being “procrastinator.”)

I do feel the creativity and imagination coming back, slowly but surely, strangely as I grow more confident and at ease with myself. Baby steps. I’ll tackle the procrastination issue, hopefully before the end of the semester, before tackling the black clouds of uncertainty…

All in all, thank you all for sticking around, all 146 of you! I’d apologize for not updating more often, but look at it as less emails you need to read (or “read” if your inbox is overflowing). I’m sure when things get moving again you’ll hear more from me.

Happy anniversary, from me, to myself & you, dearest blog.

Ali J.

P.S: As always, let me take a moment for a more somber anniversary. It’s now been five years since the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and it’s truly fallen out of sight. Sparing thoughts for those lost and those still affected is always appreciated, and if you can give more than thoughts, the Japan Society is still accepting donations, as well as Global Giving, which lists over 28 projects. A fund that I personally contributed to and remains close to my heart is The Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund, in honor of a JET Program participant who lost her life. They are currently matching donations by 50%, so if you can spare even $2, you’d be contributing to a great cause. (And think of the extra 50% of good karma coming your way!)

Never forget.


AA (Ali Alive) Down Under! For now…

G’day, mates!

It’s been a bit over 3 months Down Under, and I’m slowly integrating Aussie slang (exhibit A: Will you be at uni this arvo?). No I don’t use arvo that much, maybe while texting and only if someone else uses it first, but who knows what’ll happen.

Let’s make bullet points for brevity’s sake. In the past three months I:

  • started grad school (yikes)
  • lived in 2 Airbnbs for 1 month until I found my dream apartment
  • finally moved in (and bought a bed)!
  • barely a month in and got a job?? (and related to my studies!)
  • procrastinated (duh)
  • wrote more fanfiction (slowly)
  • explored some of Sydney & its food (so much delicious Asian food, my withdrawal was horrendous)
  • and of course made new wonderful friends!

Which brings me to today, nearly the last week of my first semester, so close to a 4 month long summer break yet so far, mainly because I have 4 papers due next week and I want to cry. Yes I should be writing about organizational change (I need an extra 300 words), and yet, procrastination is like the force: irresistible! It might kill me (mentally, emotionally, academically)… but then again.

In the midst of this freak out phase, I’m contemplating next semester’s classes (my final semester, already!?). To avoid having 3 (or possibly 4) classes taught by the same professor, I’m debating a dissertation… I must be crazy, right? Although the word count for doing a special project and a normal class tallies around 10,000 to 12,000 words depending on the class, a dissertation counts as 2 classes and is around 12,000 words, on a topic of my choice, thus interesting (at least at the beginning). Bah. Decisions…

And as the semester will be officially done (for me) in a week (ish), I’m going to give NaNoWriMo another shot. For once, November will be warm, I won’t have other obligations (besides work, I need to earn rent, bills and ridiculously expensive everything) and I intend to actually finish the first draft of my novel, at last! Can I get a W00tw00t? (Whutwhut? No.)

Despite all the anguish, frustration, and occasional tears, I am still super lucky to have ah-MA-zing friends (whom I love very much I’m sorry I don’t say it often, or at all) and just… life goes on. I need to stop stopping and actually do things, like yoga, or salsa, or going shopping for the first time (flip-flops and new shoes prioritized), or finding a koala to pet. What am I waiting for? (I’m realizing this more and more.)

Oh right, my book… Well, I can handle multitasking, usually. Challenge accepted. Summer, see you very soon! (And the Northern hemisphere enjoy your fall colors and seeping cold.)

Life; on!
Ali J.

Status update & contest result!?

Bonsoir tout le monde!

You might’ve noticed I pulled the disappearing act, again. The semester was ending, I was traveling, I wasn’t writing, I had intense periods of ughs and args, blah di blah, excuses, same old same old.

What’s new:

  • um, I’m technically writing again (yes, it’s fanfiction, but it gets me writing, let’s me have fun; in short, it’s awesome),
  • I’m prepping for a move (to Australia!) while planning my last European travel for a bit, all the while handling France’s paperwork with a vengeance,
  • and oh, I apparently made Honorable Mention in a contest!! Yes it’s a new website (check it out: Fictuary), but I can still say I made the cut from 103 to the top 9! Self esteem boost: minimum 5 points (out of ??).

All in all, very productive days ahead. I also discovered a new method to organize your things (and life), presented in a #1 bestseller book (which you might’ve already heard about): The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo.

I went through my clothes today, and I like the way my shelves looked afterwards. While a bit time consuming, it’s quite cathartic and I highly recommend it. Though to be honest I’m afraid to move on to step 2: books, because they’re my one exception to my minimalist-ish lifestyle goal. Can you really have too many books?

In the meantime, I hope you all enjoy nicer weather than we’ve been having (it freakin’ hailed Tuesday, what the heck!), and catch you either before, during, or after my transition to Oceania.

Keep calm and tidy on,
Ali J.

Obstacle #18: Fear

TGIF, am I right? Although hey, it’s Friday the 13th! As expected, it’s been quite a lucky day!

It’s barely been a week since the semester started again (not like I’m counting the weeks of classes remaining, let’s not mention the exams or grading) and like my students, I wish we’d had a longer break. I told them on Monday “you’re complaining now your break was a mere week, but in May you’ll be complaining your summer break is too long!”

They laughed, but they know I’m right. Who has nearly 5 months of vacation!? France, that’s who.

Anyhoo! (Clever, I know.) This will be my first Obstacle Series post in more than a year!? Woah…

But basically, I think I finally put my finger on that feeling that’s been nagging and nagging at me for months. You know the one:

“I wanna write!” *opens document*
*stares at page for hours, rereads everything*
“… Nope. Nothing to say, too much to work on, ‘kbye!”

That first part is a lie. I have a ton of things to say! Just the week before I’d added a paragraph full of ideas and things to tweak, added details to previous genius ideas and and and–!

So what’s stopping me? Scratch that, why am I so actively stopping myself??

Fear, pretty much. In all its variety.

I’m afraid of writing more and seeing my ideas collapse, or finding out that my world building isn’t profound enough. I definitely don’t want to hear that my characters aren’t developed enough, that my plot is cliché or that my writing is overall barely above acceptable.

So instead of adding length to what I managed to write, I agonize over what I do have. “The timeline’s wrong, this detail doesn’t match my revised idea, is this really appropriate where it is, there’s so much to fiiiix!” And basically discourage myself from writing because my perfectionist side can’t deal with imperfections.

But who writes a perfect draft on their first try?

Yet I suppose my fear doesn’t stop just at the current dilemma that is finishing my draft (although it’s the most intense for now). I have a habit of projecting into the future (or not living in the present moment, if you will), and I’m fairly certain a part of me is already stressing about polishing the manuscript to send with query letters. Way, way ahead of the tide.

So what am I supposed to do to battle this never ending fear, which so rudely captured me in the eternal abyss? Cower forever by glimpsing and exiting my word processor, or tie myself solidly and climb my way out of this fear-filled abyss?

I view this post as my first step out. I vanquished the blank post, despite the urge to go back and erase everything or just save this draft and leave it to mold in the unpublished folder. Maybe I can’t climb perfectly or quickly, will end up scraping myself and falling a bit, but it doesn’t mean I can’t gradually climb my way out, inch by inch, hold by hold, away from the fear.

Shout out to all daring adventurers, however far out of the abyss you’ve come, or if you’re still struggling with your holds, or if you slipped, skinned your knees and have to start from the bottom again. Let’s take our next step together, reassured that we’re not alone despite facing similar yet unique chasms and that the surrounding fear will be vanquished by the shining light of perseverance and tenacity (or perhaps, a sea of sweat from our efforts will eventually fill the abyss and take us to the top…).

So for all you conquerors and challengers of abysses, how do or did you deal with your fear(s)?

2 Year Anniversary

I can hardly believe my blog is turning 2! (Don’t worry, I’m not a doting parent…)

A lot has happened since I started this back in Japan and a lot more is about to change. I’m happy to report I got admitted to grad school, and will be starting my new adventure in Australia in a few short months!!

In the mean time, same old same old: things to do, people to see, places to go… procrastination…

I haven’t written as much as I’d hoped in this past year, but the brief reflection seems to have inspired me, so be on the lookout for a new post shortly!

A profound and resonating thank you to all my dear followers and readers, you seriously have no idea how giddy I can get when I see my stats page. (What? Someone in [insert country] read my blog!?! Eeee!)

This seemed appropriate as I’m still a teacher.


I hope to grow some more as a writer (thus also hopefully a better blogger) and will encourage you to check your seat belt at this time, just in case of extreme and unpredictable weather storming in and taking us all by surprise. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway, wild writing phases.

Happy Wednesday, and write you later!
Ali J.

P.S: Today also marks a more somber anniversary, that of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. I can’t believe it’s already been four years. If you’re so inclined, please take a minute to send them warm, encouraging and loving thoughts. (Yahoo! Japan is donating 10 yen (~$0.10) for each user who searches for 3.11 on March 11th Japan time.)



New poem!

Or rather, my first poem?

Well, it’s not actually my first poem, but the first one I’ll be sharing with you here. Poetry is quite a strange land for me, and feedback would be most welcome.

I wrote this quite a while back, nearly four years in fact. I won’t spoil the topic too much, but leave you with a quote instead.

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Read on,
Ali J.

New short story!

Maybe it’s more of a flash fiction than short story, but technically, it’s still short, so… one and the same? Ish. Let’s go with ish.

I just found this again while browsing my writing folder, and lo and behold, it hadn’t made it to the blog yet!

I give you: Bite Me.

Possibly my first attempt at humor: expect the unexpected. (Or don’t, your loss.)

Happy February, may spring hurry up and get us warm and cozy.

Stay warm,
Ali J.