When your dream is not on the list

Hello, my name is Madu(@Madudancer1) and I had to make own my dream.



My dreams were denied

Since I was a teen, I had a dream to be a dancer. At the time, I received an occupation list at school to decide our future.

Of course I looked for a dancer.

But I couldn’t find it.

Some said to me,

You can’t be a dancer. Think more about your future.

The courage not to go to school

In fact, I didn’t go to school when I was in the fifth grade of elementary school.
At that time, my mother said to me,

There are plenty of places to learn other than school.

In Japan, to go to school is mandatory because we don’t have “home school”. If you don’t go to school, it basically means you’ll never get a career in your entire life.

However, there are now 130 thousand kids who can’t go to school in Japan for various reasons.

People who didn’t go to school are called “Futokou (不登校)” and are labeled “bad kids.”

I thank my mother that I was not a poor child who could not go to school; I was a courageous child who made a choice not to go to school.

Questioning education

Junior High School was the same. Although I know that there are school uniforms at private schools in Canada and other countries, the level of expected sameness is perhaps strongest in Japan. We are expected to all have the same everything:

  • Hair style and colour
  • Clothing
  • Belongings
  • Bag
  • Shoes etc
In addition, even the length of socks and the colour of underwear were specified..

It was hard to stand the extent to which “everything was the same”. It is hard to describe, but let me say it was like a prison.

If our behavior did not match the expected group behavior, we got corporal punishment and collective punishment. The students reacted to the stress put on them from teachers by bullying other students.

If you can’t eat all of school lunch, teachers force us to eat and said “EAT!” in a loud voice.

If even one person in the class forgot their textbook, we all had to run ten laps of the school yard. We weren’t allowed to solve the problem by borrowing textbooks from the next class. (Why?)

Instead of learning about problem-solving or learning to be responsible for the sake of being responsible, we learned to fear the anger of our teachers. In doing so, we completely stopped thinking for ourselves.

We never talked about how we felt because the most important thing was “to faithfully observe the rules”.

When asked why we had to do something, the answer was always the same:

“Because this is a rule”

When my dream job wasn’t on the list

So there I was, 17 years old and now giving high school a try, staring down at a list I had received from career counseling.

“Choose a career from here”

There were occupations lined up on the paper:

  • teacher
  • doctor
  • child-minder
  • nurse
  • welfare relations
  • civil servant
  • office worker

I eagerly searched for my dream job:


Dancer: Madoka Suzuki, Photographer: Tanabe + Photography

It wasn’t there.

Ok, if there is no “dancer,” there must be stage director or choreographer.

Many occupations were on the list, but creative fields did not exist. Not only “dancer” but also “singer”, “comic writer”, “comedian”, and “artist” were not written.

I felt like I was denied my way of life.

Unfortunately I could see that even the high level high school I was attending wouldn’t teach me how to make my dream come true; so I left.

And everyone exclaimed “mottainai”.

What is “Mottainai”?

Japanese term conveying a sense of regret concerning waste.

Changing the list

They believed it was a waste for me to leave school; but actually it was only by leaving school that I could learn how to make my dream come true.

I still completed my education, but at a school that allowed me more freedom to be who I wanted to be and to explore my creativity.

It was difficult to imagine a future beyond the list given to me, but as I explored my passions and traveled outside Japan, my path became realized.

Now, I have my own dance studio in Canada. It is truly my dream job. I am in the position to support young dancers in finding their own dreams and expanding their possibilities.

Photo by Tanabe+Photography with student permission

When your dream isn’t on the list, don’t change your dream: change the list.

Thank you for reading! This was Madu (@Madudancer1).