Relief To Be Rejected 3 Times

A long, long time ago in a land far, far away, a young gal had a dream to interpret Japanese and English on a boat that circled the globe.

That girl was me, and that boat is the Peace Boat – a non-governmental humanitarian aid organization that promotes peace and sustainability around the world. I heard about the Peace Boat voyages for years when living in Japan. To me, it sounded beyond romantic to travel the world for a few months, meet people from various countries, and discuss together about topics such as sustainability, peace-building and humanitarianism. The voyage itself was a bit pricey to me at the time, so I just dreamily looked at the posters displayed all over train stations and city lights, and thought of it as a pipe dream for when I had a job and money.

Then I discovered that you could go on the Peace Boat for free (!) if you volunteered as an interpreter! I even met someone who had done it before, and she told me story upon story of the assignments she had on board. I was convinced: this was my next step, and I wasn’t going to stop until I got there!

Unfortunately, there were some barriers to entry for me. First of all, it would mostly be English to Japanese interpreting, and I was not a native Japanese speaker. (As an interpreter, you usually hear your second language, and speak in your native language… I’ll write a blog post about this one day!) Second of all, the topics were so difficult to me, that even though I had an interest in saving the world, I was not familiar with discussing in my own native tongue things like disarmament or world peace. Finally, I was still in graduate school, and even though the program was all in Japanese and I had reached a fairly high level, I was still short of being “fluent.”

But I don’t like to let things stop me, so I got some material and topic-specific dictionaries and got studying! I wasn’t sure if any non-Japanese person ever got the volunteer position in the past, but regardless, I was ready to become the first one.

I passed the initial application process and was invited to the interview. At this point, I wasn’t even nervous – I was just dead-set on becoming a volunteer interpreter. After what seemed like an eternity, the results came back… and I was rejected. 

Oh, how my heart broke. I don’t normally cry, but I did that day.

Then I picked myself back up, and decided to apply for the next application process. (The Peace Boat has multiple voyages per year.) This time, I really got studying. I’m pretty sure I went to one less karaoke session per week just to get that time in (… although to me, karaoke was a type of “studying” because I would practice my kanji while singing, lol.)

I was called back for another interview. I was ready for the test and spoken questions, and then waited another eternity for the results. Alas, they were negative again.

This time I didn’t get sad. I just got frustrated, and vowed to up the ante on my studying for the next voyage. Alas, as you can tell from the title of this blog post, I was rejected again.

This time I was thoroughly devastated. My dream was totally crushed. 

I gave up and closed the book on the Peace Boat, but I never forgot about it. 

I reopened that dream again a few years later when I lived in Italy. I checked out their website, and noticed that the Peace Boat was going to stop in Rome! I reached out to my Peace Boat contacts, and asked if I could be a greeter of some sort in Rome when the boat arrived. They apparently liked my idea, so I waited eagerly for their arrival. I only joined them for a day, but walking around the city and speaking with the participants was like a mini dream come true for me. 

That day in Italy piqued my interest in the Peace Boat again, but fate led me to Michigan, so I put that dream on hold again. It wouldn’t come to mind again until 2011 when I traveled to Ireland and Scotland with my boyfriend (now husband). We decided to take a ferry from Northern Ireland to Scotland. It was only about one hour long, but I was so seasick that the hour seemed like forever. The only thought in my head during the eternal hour was, “I’m so glad I didn’t get accepted to join the Peace Boat.”

I realize that boat sizes matter, and that even though I was sick on this ferry (that housed quite a few buses, trucks, semis, and people) it doesn’t necessarily mean I would get sick on the Peace Boat. In fact, tiny boats/yachts don’t affect me at all. I also know that I could drug the heck out of my body to not be affected, but that was not a choice I was willing to entertain. And to have to use my brain while working as an interpreter on a huge boat in the middle of the ocean, with no way off, all of a sudden did not seem appealing. Further, at this point in my life, I’ve had some interpreting experiences, and realize that it is not my calling. 

It was funny: at each of the 3 Peace Boat interviews, they had asked me if I was okay with seasickness. Since I had only been on small boats before, I truthfully answered that I did not get seasick. Until Scotland, I didn’t realize how big those boats can be.

Moral of the story:

  • Never give up on a dream.
  • Sometimes a rejection is a signal that we should try a different path.

I still think of the Peace Boat, but realize that I’m glad to be where I am at now 🙂

Photo by Heidi Sandstrom on Unsplash

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