I haven’t told anyone that I have failed my first N2 level of Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) just yet, except two or three close friends of mine. I know I don’t owe the world an explanation of why I failed, yet I felt that I wanted to talk to you about how I failed, how I perceived this experience, and where I would be moving forward with this. You might take it as a lesson, or a reference, I don’t know how you would interpret it. All I wanted to do, is to be a bit reflective of the journey that I had went through.

I decided to take an N2 test because I have never really taken any official Japanese test before. I have gradually taken test very not seriously, and I found myself sometimes be slack of, like this semester. Not investing my time at all in the preparation of the test, not even trying to do well in it, I went to take the test without learning anything, except practice listening when I was on a jog. More so, I did not found the Japanese classes that I took at university to be effectively helpful for passing the exam, so I was purely dependent on luck. I thought to myself that “Oh, I would either pass or fail any way, and that doesn’t bothered me as much as not taking the test”. Though I didn’t put enough effort into it, the goal was pretty clear, as I wanted to put myself through the experience of sitting for the exam, and use the potential as a way to learn for the next test. Though I knew that whatever the result might be I won’t be surprised, it still got my nerve the moment the test started, and I was dumbfounded with all the questions I didn’t know how to answer. Sitting through that exam, now thinking back, was not that unpleasant though. The testing center was located in a nice, modern building in the middle of Shibuya, Tokyo. The testing hall was extensive, filled with aisles of single chairs and double tables, with bright light and proper indoor insulation. It was in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, but there were nearly a thousand of people taking the test at the same time and in the same testing hall like me. We knew we would about to risk it anyway. I knew no one though. And prior to taking this test, I had no technical support. No one was helping me with my grammar fixed, my vocabulary used, nor my listening judgement and my reading speed. I was, quite isolated, and unprepared. I felt like I was going into a battle with a small baseball bat while everyone else would probably carry machine guns and semi-automatics.

So, this morning, I received a text from my dear sis (who is not my real sis, but she has been checking up on me now and then as we were both in Japan). She asked me whether I had checked the result of the test or not. With half of my brain still in sleeping mode, I bore myself enough to log into the site. Obviously, as you knew, I did not pass. So I just sat there for a little bit, observe the screen and scrolling up and down, sighing, and thinking how pump I should be to really work my ass off in the next couple of weeks.

I started to be reflective of all these years being in Japan, without properly investing my time into learning the language, and without studying for the test. Initially, I decide to take the test as a way to challenge myself, or more or less, challenge my luck. They say successful people felt they are lucky. I knew that I have been lucky for a long time, and honestly speaking I would not be where I were then if it was not because of luck. So yes, I signed up for the test without studying. My optimism in taking chance was ridiculous, I thought that I was feeling great being in this ballooning confidence.

Yet I could already imagine the worst. Which was what I got. The number was horrible. I have not dropped my performance to such a disappointing level for such a long time. I felt like it was a deep hole. However, this time, I felt that at least I wasn’t in that deep hole emotionally. I thought that by accepting the challenge initially and lowering my expectation to the worst, I was able to remove myself from being dragged into that spiral of regret, of “maybe you should have tried harder” train of guilt, and of “the world would look down on your effort” as a byproduct. Surprisingly, I thought I was pretty stood up, and felt ready for that fall. I failed, but thinking that I landed on soft bed instead.

I have not told this to the one person that I have been concerning about. I could not say whether he was a crush of mine or not, but he was, at the moment of me prior to the test. He was, and I could remember vividly, the person who I counted onto for emotional support, at least for the moment of panic. I thought he was there for me when I needed, and I was extremely thankful for his encouragement. I even told him that if I passed this examination, it would be because of his reassuring words. But sadly, I didn’t pass. I was just sitting there feeling a little down, but knowingly, his support has nothing to do with my failure. This, I knew, it was on my own: it was my responsibility to bear the consequence, and it was my responsibility to work my best to get to the place I want. Like a low battery car that needs a little bit of push to start running again, all the support is meaningless if I don’t put in the work myself. I knew I didn’t put in enough.

And so my believes, perhaps got redirected in a way. I think life would just throw at you several theories and practices that defied our common pre-existing believe. The lesson was, I should always put in hard work, because even if the luck and support was not available, I would have something to count on to and be able to say “I have tried my best”.

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