The Nail That Sticks Out

Kanako Tsuchida
Sakegawa Middle School

"If only you were more like your brother!" my grandmother often says to me. My younger brother is short, quiet and shy. I, onthe other hand, am tall, loud, and definitely not shy. This is the opposite of how it is supposed to work in Japan. Boys are supposed to be loud and forceful; girls are supposed to be modest and quiet. We're supposed to be seen and not heard. Because of this, my younger brother is often mistaken for a girl and my report cards at the end of each term often say, "Kanako is too aggressive!"

Ever since I can rememver, I have stood out. When I was five years old, I jumped at the chance to give an encourageing speech to sme athletes in my town. Standing in front of a learge audience didn't frighten me even when i was five years school plays. When I entered the sixth grade, I became the class's president. By the time I was a third grander in Junior High dchool, I was the vice president of my school's student government.

I am proud of all that I have done, but not everyone sees it the same way. In Japan, there is a saying: "the nail that sticks out gets hammered down." I am more forcefuland ambitious thatn a lot of Japanese people my age and sometimes I feel that everybody is trying to nail me down.

When I decided that I was going to participate in this contest, some of my friends encouraged me. However, most of my classmates just said, "Again? You've already done two! Stop trying to show off!" I don't understand why some of my classmates became so resentful. I really like English and I thought that competing in contests would be good practice What's wrong with trying to improve mysely? What's wrong with trying something that makes me happy? Would they like me better if I were quieter; if I were more shy; if I didn't make waves; if I didn't take any resks and took the same road that everyone else travels? Should I just let myself be hammered down? Maybe my life would be easier if I were more like my brother.

I have an American pen pal and my current ALT is also American. I am very surprised when I hear stories about their American lives. They tell me that in the United States, it is natural for students to quiestion what they don't understand. Japanese students rarely ask questions because they worry what their classmates will think Individualit is important in the US and people seem to be less afraid to stand out. Talking to them made me realize that my personality is not bd. It made me think that maybe a nail that sticks out doesn't have to be hammered down, but can be allowed to grow longer and longer.

I am not ashamed of who I am. I know I stand out, but that no longer bothers me. I have learened that as long as I have pleased myself, I shouldn't worry what other people think. I am happy with who I am and I want to continue to be a nail that sticks out.

Thank you.

(4-16 Speech in 56th Contest, 2004)

(C)JNSA FUND/the Yomiuri Shimbun

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