When we lived in the tiny town of Mui Wo, there was a dog that I smiled at every time it passed by. Not because I like dogs – on the contrary, I can’t stand them. But this mutt was special. This was a Doggy on Duty.
The dog lived with a local contractor who wore incredibly thick glasses and drove a tiny three-wheeled truck-like thing through the footpaths of the village, delivering bricks, concrete, wood, whatever construction materials were needed.
And wherever the contractor went, the dog went too, at a speed. While the other village dogs did nothing all day but lay about in the path, obstructing bicycles, the Dog on Duty ran, jumped and leaped up the path, following the contractor. You could see that this dog had a mission, this dog had something to do, a purpose. A job. A genuine enthusiasm for life.
I joked to my husband about a year ago that I wanted to be like that dog again. To have a clear mission. To have purpose. See, I have been a stay-at-home-mom since the day my kid entered the world. Three years of no work! Yes, yes, it is a full time job raising a kid. And a harder job than any I’ve had before. Although full time motherhood is fulfilling in certain ways, it is absolutely mind-numbing in other ways. I went from being a working girl in a nice fancy office with an interesting job to ‘just’ being mom, and it was quite an adjustment. With the endless routines of child rearing, story telling, potty training, cooking and cleaning, the days can feel so long, and boring, and I often found myself pondering deep questions, like ‘What is my purpose?’, ‘What do I want to do with my life?’ and ‘What am I going to do next?’
And now, the time has finally come to start getting some answers. A new phase in life begins. Because tomorrow, The Kid starts going to pre-K at a nearby international school, and is out of my hair for half the day. And I, too, start something new, for myself.
I have a new duty – to learn. I’m starting a full time Japanese course, with three hours a day of mental gymnastics as I try to learn and understand the mother tongue of my new home. Because there is no way you can survive in Japan without being able to communicate. It’s going to be hard, for sure, especially as the other students will be almost 10 years younger than me and infinitely faster at retaining new information. But it’s going to be good to work out the brain after three years of full time baby-care.
My kid is no longer a baby, she is growing up and moving into the phase of her life that revolves around school. And I need to figure out what kind of dog on duty I’m going to be, and what kind of work or job I will do next. But I have no doubt that learning Japanese is an important first step in figuring out what will be the next chapter in my own life.