For a year, my calligraphy has floundered along with my Japanese studies. Realization is constant and nagging. I need to find the energy and focus my heart again. Having said that, it is interesting to note that sometimes things have a way of working out.
My girlfriend and a few others have commented on how my Japanese has improved sharply over the last year. A significant part of this is that my speech sounds more natural. My firm belief is that this isn’t learned in a class, and certainly not from independent study, but through practice speaking with natives. Living in Japan means that I have unlimited access to language practice. I can walk into any business, public facility, etc., and start a conversation about anything with a native speaker; whereas, if I were living in America, I would have to hire a teacher and talk about a more limited range of topics.
I find that my girlfriend communicates in an elegant fashion (which she considers normal) and this has elevated my speech as well. My hope is to be able to express myself freely in Japanese. Let’s be clear that this is a long-term goal.
Saturday, I made late brunch for my girlfriend and we discussed a lot of important issues. As a result, I once again skipped shuji (習字) class. I sent a note by cell phone, apologizing to my teacher and asking her not to forget my face. She sent a message back telling me to pick up my work from January when I show my face, because I have been elevated to pre-second level (準二段・jun nidan). I was a bit surprised because I only practiced once in January and I don’t remember my final copy being that impressive. Although, I do recall being a bit relaxed, which always makes for better cooperation with my brush.
For a moment I wondered if they advance people out of pity ocassionally, but I don’t think they would risk their reputation by licensing someone who wasn’t ready. I had another experience last week which might help give me the energy to study. More on that later this week.