• Behind the Mask

Pride — Japan

I always took pride in being independent.

Being an only child, I grew up usually alone. My family had frequent relocations, so I never had the chance to properly make friends and keep them; hence my so-called independence. Besides the occasional company of a neighbor’s dog, I simply did not have any friends my age around me that were constant, and I gradually became used to completing things on my own. Somehow, this had mutated itself into an ingrained belief that I did not need anyone— I could just “deal with it” on my own. My problems—workload, mental health, identity— were my own problems, and I was supposed to solve them; I didn’t need help, it was solely my responsibility. Subconsciously, I had trapped myself within this concrete idea, and with me, my problems as well.

March, with the emergency lockdown, was a sudden wake-up call. With all physical forms of human contact suddenly stripped from me, I was forced to question the truthfulness of my belief. Had I always been independent? Was I as independent as I thought I was? Was I independent at all?

The easy answer was no. I wasn’t. I relied on people more than I liked to think. One could never understand the importance of something until it was gone, and that was exactly what happened— I had never taken time to appreciate my relationships, and only realized my dependency on them after they were stripped away from me. Even through the habit of bottling things up, my need for human connection seeped through the cracks. With more time on my hands, there was a lot more room for improvement. It gave me time to sit back, relax, and observe my own conclusion to my confusion: We needed one another, but we took social connections for granted…

The pandemic continues the same, but my perspective has drastically been altered since the beginning of it. There were occasions when I could not get through alone— there will be occasions in the future when I cannot get through alone, and that was and is okay. I didn’t always have to be independent, but I needed to remember not to take people’s kindness for granted.

And perhaps, it’s time for me to start asking for help when I need it.

— Miu Nakajima, 17

Tokyo, Japan


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