Japan is a story that almost never happened for me. My senior year of college was going by quickly. I had the credits I needed to graduate, and my attention was more focused on acquiring the one thing many young people go to Christian colleges to find: the perfect someone that one later says they knew it the first time they saw them. I had quite a few friends in this situation. I wanted to join their ranks, and quickly, for if college ended and I still didn’t have a wife, or at least a steady girlfriend, I was doomed. I would be one of the few young men who had failed the one college course everyone wanted to pass. Love 101.

My plan wasn’t working out. The girls my age already had their fiancées and were planning their marriages, or they weren’t quite girls I considered marriage material. The younger girls were cute and available, but it seemed we were heading in opposite directions. I was leaving soon and they were just beginning their college adventure. Perhaps I was a little picky. There certainly were good girls, pretty girls, they just didn’t seem to be my kind of girls. I never really let the thought enter my mind that I wasn’t ready for marriage, that I still needed to be shaped.

The months quickly passed and I realized I wouldn’t have the excitement of a wedding to plan or prepare for, and it was time for me to start thinking about the next step. Perhaps more education, or a job that would tide me over while I thought about what I wanted to do.

I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to write books, maybe even the next great American novel. I knew in my heart that was still some time off since I was currently writing stuff that could only be considered makings of bad comic books. I needed to do something with the next few years of my life while the seeds of the great American novel germinated, but what would it be?

I was a Christian. I knew I had chosen the side that was going to win the race, but I still had to run, and run honorably. If my book was still years off, what was I going to do in the meantime? Take an office job? Teach? How could I make my mark? What was my special place in it all?

Late fall came, the leaves were falling and the weather was unseasonably cool for Indiana. I spent the afternoon with my uncle, nursing a cup of hot chocolate. He was a professor at the university, and a good one. My uncle always had a way of pumping me up, of making me laugh, of making sure I walked away two inches taller. “Seth, you’re going to be a fantastic writer. Seth, God has this awesome girl planned for you.” These were just the words I wanted to hear, the words I wanted to believe. If someone else believed them, it was easier for me to believe too.

We sat in the commons outside the dining hall, watching people pass through. More often than not, the girls would stop and talk to my uncle and I would sit there and pretend to be just as cool and serious and awesome as I could. I was none of that. I was a little goofy and had these monster glasses that blew my eyes up twice the size they actually were. After a good looking girl walked by, my uncle would ask, “What’s wrong with her?” as if she had just asked to be my girlfriend and I had turned her down.

My uncle always had a girl picked out from one of his classes for me. He would rave about how smart she was, how pretty she was, and how good of an art student she was.

“Well, introduce me to her then!”

“I think she has a boyfriend.”

He would always finish those conversations by telling me, “Seth, God has an awesome girl planned for you. He really does.”

That afternoon, the subject turned to grad school and how I hadn’t even filled out an application yet. I didn’t really want to go to grad school right after college. I was waiting for something to fall into my lap. I was pondering the idea of teaching while I waited for my great American novel to be written. Hey, there was nothing to argue against having two months of the year off, unless it was four months off that I would have if I were a professor. That’s when my uncle told me about teaching in Japan. I didn’t know that a week earlier, someone from the embassy had come and spoken at our university about the JET program, a program the Japanese government runs to help internationalize their students and hopefully teach them English.

It sounded terribly exciting. I asked him what had to be done.

“It’s easy,” he said. “A paper, transcripts, and three written recommendations need to be mailed in.”

Fantastic. Those all sounded as easy as tying my shoes. “Ok. How long do I have?”

“Well, it’s due tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow? As in the day after today?”

“Take the chance. If God opens the door, then you know He wants you to walk through, but at least give Him the chance to open the door.”

I nodded. Sure, I’ll give God the chance to open the door.

That day I asked my professors to write me a recommendation as quick as possible. Like, by tomorrow. They graciously accepted. I spent that night writing an essay about how much I wanted to go to Japan. The following day I called up my old school and asked them if they could fax a transcript. I ignored the fine print that said no faxed transcripts. Remember, if God opened the door… I called my old school right up.

“Hello. I was a student there four years ago. Then I transferred.”

“What’s the matter, didn’t you like our school?”

“No, it wasn’t that. Anyway, I was hoping you would be able to fax me my transcript today, here to this university?”

Laughter that sounded like a snort. “No. It normally takes a week for us to send out transcripts. And we never fax them.”

“Is there any way you could make an exception. You see, I’m applying for this amazing job and, well, they need the transcript today.”

“No. That’s not possible. We can send it out in a week, after receiving your written request for a transcript. It costs ten dollars too. Make sure you send us a check.”

“There’s no way I can get it today?”

“No. Sorry. Maybe they will accept it a little late if they understand the circumstances.”

“Perhaps. Well, thank you. I’ll fax the written request right away.”

I was disappointed. My cool after college job was slipping away. God was going to have to have to work miracles if the door to Japan was going to open. I got the recommendations from my professors and put everything in an envelope. Five rolled around. Our registrar’s office closed for the day. Well, maybe they would accept a late transcript. I had only gone there one year. It couldn’t be that important. I sat in my room and decided that things weren’t going to work out. I gave up.

All my attempts at trying to find a wife and starting real life after college had failed. I was too late apply for graduate school. I had no plan.

Five-thirty rolled around and I got a call from our registrar’s office. They had received faxed transcripts from my previous college. Did I need them?

The door had opened. I was going halfway around the world on an exciting new adventure and I was going to get paid good money for it. I had always liked Japan. Samurai seemed fascinating creatures in their strange and colorful suits of armor and bizarre helmets, kind of like big frightening birds with swords. Japanese women were even more intriguing with their dark silken hair and wide, innocent eyes. It didn’t hurt that I had always heard that Japanese women loved American men. Maybe I would get a wife in the bargain. And I had always been a fan of Karate Kid and the traditional aspect of Japanese culture that it portrayed. These were all reasons I invented later, for the upcoming interviews and to explain to my parents how this desire to teach English halfway around the world really didn’t just come out of the blue. In a way they were true. But the reason I was intrigued that afternoon was far less noble. Teaching in Japan was something that sounded important. I could be proud telling others what I was going to do after college.

There would be no wedding bells for me after graduation, but I was hopeful that there would be other bells just as grand, and certainly more exotic. I was tickled at what I had accomplished, and more importantly, what the prestigious appointment said about me. It was a false belief, but I clung to it.

© Seth Crossman