Q&A with Sandie Heron
Sandie Heron moved to Japan from Jamaica almost four years ago, and within the past two years alone, the assistant language teacher at a public high school in Tokyo City has already penned and published two books. Her first book, Journey into the Unknown: Finding the courage to move from where you are to where God wants you to be, was published last year August. Heron’s most recent book, The Traveller’s Note: Stories of a Jamaican’s Journey in Japan, was officially launched online last Saturday in an intimate ceremony hosted by another Jamaican living in Japan, Lij Tafari Smith.
The two-time author – who attended the Wolmer’s Girls School and The University of the West Indies – did the honours of reading an excerpt from her book, sharing the story of how she had to try multiple times to pass her driving test in Japan. It was a tale of trial and triumph, learning how to adapt to new circumstances and adjusting your mindset to achieve your goals. She shares more with us about her journey and new book in a Q&A session.
You recently launched your second book, all while teaching in Japan, away from the comfort of your home country, Jamaica. How would you describe the feeling of accomplishment, having authored and published two books in two years?
When I left Jamaica, I did not foresee authoring two books and all the doors that would open. Though I am in the midst of everything, I still have those moments when I am in awe. It is both empowering and humbling. It has increased my belief in endless possibilities and the importance of not being afraid to pursue what we feel most led to do.
What is your favourite chapter in the book, and why?
All the chapters have their own merits and life lessons, but the one that is dearest to my heart is chapter 11. While writing this chapter, I gained clarity about many of the issues and concerns that I had within my first year in Japan: loneliness, being different and feeling stagnant and confused about my purpose. Chapter 11 forced me to do a lot of introspection, and it is through this process I found peace and fully accepted a lot of the changes I had experienced after moving from home.
After going through rounds of editing, I rewrote the entire chapter because I felt like a different person and wanted to capture the internal growth I had experienced.
What is your advice to persons struggling with being a foreigner, living away from their home country and feeling unsure about their purpose?
Adjusting to a new country and culture takes time. It is no easy feat. Be patient with yourself, and don’t be too rigid in your expectations. There is value where you are, even in some of the seemingly small things that you might overlook. Immerse yourself in the country’s culture, and use it to broaden your perspective and navigate any challenges you may encounter.
Many people get to a stage where they feel unsure about their purpose, be kind to yourself. Purpose can manifest itself in different ways in different seasons. There is no set script. However, if you feel led to do something, get started. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and ask for guidance and support.
Did you have a breakthrough moment writing this second book? And how did the process differ the second time around?
My ‘aha’ moment came after someone had read what I thought was a near-completed manuscript and pointed out that though I had written about Japanese culture and its uniqueness, I did not adequately share how these things impacted my life.
I had to revisit what I had written and do more in-depth research on the culture, such as religion. For example, I noted the emphasis on social harmony in Buddhism and the importance of stillness and going inward for clarity.
I was able to connect with how these religious beliefs manifested in the actions and behaviours of the Japanese people. Additionally, how they resolved conflict and how careful and deliberate they were with what they said.
My actions, too, began to mirror these behaviours, in how comfortable I became with silence, how deliberate I was with who I spent my time with, and the things I chose to share.
It dawned on me that being in Japan influenced by these cultural nuances really helped me grow.
The first book was centred around my experience of moving from Jamaica to Japan. In this second book, along with chronicling my experience of living in Japan, I have also dedicated space to providing information about Japan and its culture, which required extensive research.
Should we expect a third book any time soon? And what’s next for Sandie Heron?
Someone once told me that once you get an idea for one book, another will come, and in my case, it has proven to be true. For now, I am allowing myself to be present and enjoy the good things in my life without projecting too much into the future. As long as I am inspired to write and share, I will definitely do so. I am also very excited about the launch of my publishing company, Our Evidence International Publishers Limited. I have learnt a lot about the publishing process and look forward to helping other aspiring authors to write and publish their stories.