Imagine having a dream. More like a vision of yourself somewhere different from what you’ve known your entire life. A place that’s far, much different than what you’re used to and uneasily attainable.
Ai Matsui, from Japan, had dreams of meeting River Phoenix and speaking English fluently. Sometimes dreams take a while to come true and for Ai, it wasn’t until she made a choice between the unknown and the place she called home that her dreams would become a reality.
30-year-old Ai was running her own English school in Japan (she had learned to speak fluently by then), enjoying the pleasures of a long-time relationship and of being surrounded by friends and family. It was comfortable, it was simple, but it was not her dream.
A trip out of the cubicle, which was her life, was what would bring her joy, she knew. Just a vacation to explore something new was all it was supposed to be. When she landed in New York City for the first time, she felt excited, curious, fearless, but most of all she felt free.
Over sushi one afternoon, while reading a newspaper as New Yorkers often do to avoid unwanted conversation from other diners, Ai scanned an advertisement for a job opening at a Japanese elementary school in New Jersey. There are singular moments in life that alter everything else that is supposed to happen in your life. Coming across that job posting might have been Ai’s moment.
She was set to head back to Japan in three days but she felt the need to apply for that job before she returned, so she did. With the same Newspaper in tow, she boarded the plane three days later and made the long journey home.
Though back in Japan, a piece of New York followed her. It came in the form of a call just two days after returning. The school that she had applied to wanted to meet her, interview her and possibly offer her a job within the next few days. Ai was shocked, excited and also halfway across the world. For fear that they might change their minds and choose a nearer prospect, she accepted the interview.
A difficult decision made, a quick check of roundtrip flights and a couple thousands of borrowed money later and Ai was right back on a plane heading to an interview for which she was unsure of the outcome. Uncertainty clouded her mind as she passed over lands and waters that drew her farther from all that was certain in her life. With just enough money for the flight and a roundtrip cab ride from the airport, Ai held onto her only baggage for her trip, a purse, and headed for New York City.
The interviewers thought she was insane. They were perplexed and in awe of her determination, that it could lead her to travel across the world not knowing if her journey would be successful. Luckily for Ai, it was. She was offered the job at the school as well as a sponsorship that would allow her to stay in New York for at least three years. This, in Ai’s eyes, was exactly what she considered success.
“Back and Forth” would have been the title of Ai’s life at that point in her journey. She arrived back in Japan thrilled for the chance to live out her dream of finally experiencing somewhere new and different. For this would be the first time in her 30 years of life. She was also filled with an unshakable dread. She was offered an opportunity that would change her life but with it came the burden of also changing, in a major way, the lives of those she would be leaving behind: her students, her staff, her boyfriend, her friends and her family. She would be leaving behind all the things that made up who she was and she only had one month to make it happen.
But, one month later, it was done and she was in New York working, making money and experiencing all the good and bad that comes with New York City living, especially for a first-timer: loneliness, culture shock, fun, and danger. She was in the midst of it all and again, she felt free.
Three years can sure speed by, especially when at the end of those three years there’s a chance that life as you’ve lived it must again change. Desperate to find a way to remain in New York though her Visa was soon to expire at the school, Ai’s radar was tuned up. She met the owner of a Manhattan English school who was looking to hire so she made sure it would be her.
She worked at the front office at Bluedata International Institute, moved up from front desk assistant to counselor then to the school’s Director in just two years’ time. She negotiated her terms and because of her strong work ethic and loyalty, was then granted a sponsorship for her green card.
True freedom was the goal. To travel and work where she pleased. She stuck through all of the turmoil, uncertainty and naysayers. She was able to see through the fog because her passion was just that bright and summoned her to keep trudging. Her story is one that boasts hard work even when it doesn’t seem like anything will come of it. Her story is of success and as Ai continues to live and learn with passion and hard work a her guide, she will no doubt reap their positive rewards.