Being a student of the past has had a funny way of defining my present and future.
My name is Dylan Emahiser, a recent graduate of BGSU. As you might imagine, I spent my time there focused on history. I still focus on history but am now nearly as far away from BGSU as one can geographically get.
While I was an undergraduate, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go to Japan not once, but twice. The first time was more of a whiplash tour. The second was a full-fledged year-long stay through an exchange program. Just before I left on that trip, I jumped ship from my previous major and took up history as it’s replacement (I had most of my credits already, anyway). While abroad, I realized what I was already pretty sure of even before I got on the plane; I loved Japanese history.
I loved it so much that it brought me to Japan a third time. Currently, I am a graduate student studying premodern Japanese history at Saitama University; about an hourlong train ride from Tokyo. Daily life consists of a lot of reading, a handful of classes, some martial arts, and frequently more of the unknown than I am equipped to handle. The Japanese language, especially, has never come naturally to me. I am entering my fourth year as a student of Japanese and can proudly report that I make excellent, unparalleled middle school level conversation. It’s enough to get by, though. My current goal is to get my reading up to an academic level so I can really put Japanese literature to work for myself.
Aside from that, I am hard at work constructing my thesis. It is still in a broad-strokes form right now, but my focus has fallen on premodern outlaws. I would dive into all the finer details, though I sense that I might lose your attention. Regardless, my location allows me access to a lot of sources ranging from the National Diet Library to a variety of traditional theaters, shrines, and temples. When I am not studying, I am traveling or hiking or training. I have been to the summit of Mount Fuji and thrown some fellow martial artists into the ice-cold winter waters of the ocean on the Chiba coastline. That is to say, even when I am not studying, I am studying. The accumulation of experiences, whether they be active or passive, is the essence of living here — the essence of the adventure.
History can take you wherever you want to go. However, you must be passionate about it. Do not be satisfied with infatuation, you need to Love it with a capital “L”. This might seem like an extreme sell to you, but I must confess living here in Japan is not always comfortable. I am an introvert trying to be an extrovert in a language I understand only in approximation. I can only read about a third of my mail on a good day. I am embarrassed to admit it, but as I write, my bathroom light has been burnt out for a number of days I’d prefer not to publicly reveal.
History can take you anywhere you want to go, but to get there you often have to push yourself and persevere. Do not let “good enough” be good enough. You will do things you are afraid of, you will sacrifice, and you will struggle, but, ultimately, you will succeed. You will thrive as long as you always pick yourself back up. I believe this to be true in the pursuit of history as much as it is true in the pursuit of anything. So be truly passionate. I know that is some high-and-mighty advice for a guy that has been showering in the dark for a week and a half, but just give me the benefit of the doubt.
I cannot stress enough the value of finding good mentors and good friends with equivalent drive to your own. I would not be here at all without the guidance and support of Professors Challu and Grunden. Nor would I be as perpetually motivated as I am without the kindness and cheer of my friends, family, and peers. Sometimes it’s all about the people you know. When you find yourself in a position to pay it back or pay it forward, remember those people.
History has given me a once in a lifetime opportunity and has taken me literally to the horizon and back. If you want it — if you really want it — it can do the same thing for you. These memories have been irreplaceable, and I hope to continue to build my career on them as I set my eyes on a PhD in the coming years. It’s been a wild ride and it’s going to keep on being a wild ride. I sincerely look forward to all the challenges, all the successes, and all the happy mistakes to come.
I hope you let history take you where you want to go. Once I did, I realized there is no other place I would rather be.