Side (Passion) Project

You know when someone else says, “Hey! I have this thing I’d love your help on!” And you have projects of your own you’re working on, but you’re really excited to have the chance to work with someone else on something they care about, so you agree to it. It’s often difficult to get everything done on a deadline for someone else, but it can be so, so rewarding.

This past summer, one of my friends who still teaches in Japan asked for my help in making animal-themed posters for an English summer seminar. At the time, I was worried I wouldn’t have the time because I knew I’d be starting a new job, going on a family vacation, and working on other freelance projects. Still, I was so excited about contributing, in some small way, to the education of some of my former students. I’ve always felt guilty I didn’t stay longer in Japan to teach my students, and this was a way for me to reach out to them, across an ocean.


My friend’s idea for the seminar was that each student would join a group represented by an animal and would participate in small activities and games throughout the day, culminating in a story involving their animal at the end of the day. She had the idea of making circus-themed flyers and gave me different names of animals (with descriptive adjectives) to draw for the posters.


After I sent her the final files with all the animals, I was anxious to see the posters in action. A month or so later, she sent me a package with a scrapbook of the posters and pictures of them in use at the camp. I couldn’t have asked for better payment.

Scrapbook 1

Looking through the scrapbook, it really felt like I was there. In the middle of a hot, humid summer, back in Fukui.

Giant Dinosaur



Looking over the groups of students, as they representatives made their decisions and carried one of the animals back to their waiting peers.

Scrapbook 8

Peering over their hunched shoulders, looking at their ideas forming on paper.



Watching them playing games at the chalkboard, games I remembered playing with my students in the last fifteen minutes of class time on so many occasions.

Big Happy Panda


Seeing their own posters come to life, my characters becoming their characters.

Cute Brown Bear

Scrapbook 6


That’s the beauty of small side passion projects. You kind of hope at what they can become, but you never really know what they will be like until they’re finished. With your own projects, you can expect more of the scope, you can be more flexible with deadlines, you can start and stop again. When someone else is involved, you feel you really have to come through. It is such a beautiful thing when you can collaborate with someone and make something happen that neither of you could have done separately. It’s good to be reminded of the awesome things that can happen when you say yes to a joint passion project like this.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *