Last August, I was giving a talk at Hachinohe Book Center in Japan, promoting my newly published book.
When it was time for Q&A, an elderly lady stood up from the audience seat.
That was Mrs Tsuda, my teacher at first grade of elementary school.
I recognised her face right away even though we hadn’t seen each other for over 30 years.
I was the slowest child in the class. It took me so long to do anything. I came to school late because I was dawdling. I couldn’t finish eating school lunch in time so I continued eating while everyone was tidying up the classroom. I was so slow doing work that I continued working after everyone finished and left the class.
But Mrs Tsuda was patient. Rather than looking at what I wasn’t good at, she focused on what I was good at. Although I was slow in writing, she found I was actually good at writing. So she allowed me to work outside the class time so I could finish what I was working on. That year I wrote an essay about a book and won an award, thanks to her patient and continuous support.
Mrs Tsuda said to me when I was seven:
“Noriko, there is shine in your eyes. Many people lose their shines as they grow up. Keep your shine and never lose it.”
Her words resonated with me and still stay with me after 35 years.
I often ask myself in the mirror, “Do I have shine in my eyes?”
Sometimes I answer “Yes.” This is usually the time when I’m doing what I’m passionate about.
When I answer “No,” I’m not enjoying what I’m doing.
I found this question a great indicator to know the state of my heart and helps me keep the right focus.
The impact of events in childhood are great. If I didn’t meet Mrs Tsuda when I was seven, I might never have become a children’s author and illustrator.
I’m very lucky to have met people who helped me to get where I am now. Life is so mysterious. It brings me right people at the right time, although I’m not aware of it at that time.
You can watch my talk at Hachinohe Book Center in Japan below (it’s in Japanese – sorry, no English subtitles!)