life update!

I’m going to just write a brief update. I’m one month into my new job, and it’s going quite well. I’ve had so many bad experiences with work that I’m still on my guard, but it seems like things are probably not going to suddenly get worse. (I’m nervous because every other time I really liked a job when I started, something would happen to change it. Like an awful manager would suddenly come back from maternity leave and start making my life miserable, or someone who had previously seemed normal would reveal her true colors and I would realize that we were never going to get along.) I think in this case I can take everyone here at face value and it’s probably going to be okay.

My one concern is that I don’t… really enjoy most of my tasks. I can do them and sometimes it’s fun, but I don’t know if this is a field I’m passionate about (PR). I find myself wishing I could do my old job again, just get paid much better for it, not be under anyone I don’t respect, and have the status of a permanent employee of the company. I really liked the tasks I had at my old job and how I was never bored, always had something to do, and I didn’t always have to get what I wanted to do approved. Here, everything has to be approved, and sometimes you have to make a Japanese translation of it so everyone can understand which is… so… tedious and annoying. But the people at this job are good and everything about the job is great. I like that I’m doing something fairly important in the company, and my boss is great (I love having a male boss again, I’m sorry this isn’t a very feminist thing to say and I feel bad about it, but… female managers have just treated me so badly in the past, I can’t help it). Maybe I’ll come to like the tasks better over time…

Thanks to work I’m also playing like four more games because I have to understand how to play all of our games in order to write about them. That’s on top of the 3-5 games I was already playing in my own spare time. It’s intense… I’m logging in to like 10 games every day, and I never have enough time to read the stories.

My freelance project is coming to a close and I have nothing new lined up, which is both good and bad. This project brought in a LOT of money and I can finally afford some stuff like a new bed, a new washer/dryer, maybe even a pull-out couch–as well as a Disney World trip this winter with my family–but it also sucked away so much of my free time. I feel like I haven’t had time to do anything more than just basically take care of myself in months. I was supposed to finish everything this past weekend but I SLACKED OFF and now I’m just trying to finish by Friday.

My trip home in August between jobs was really nice! I spent about a week at my parents’ place and got to go watch the full solar eclipse with my dad and other relatives, which was super cool, and then a week in Dallas with Aro, my best friend. I also had a party and got to see just about all of my other friends too, which was great. I had to spend a lot of the trip working on the freelance project, so it wasn’t as relaxing as it could have been, but it was a good trip!

I also… got a boyfriend? I honestly don’t know how I found the time, I’m not sure what I was thinking except I decided very early on that I really wanted this guy. I met him the same way I met the past few guys I’ve dated or “dated” (there have been two guys in the past year where we went on four dates, chatting on LINE every single day for 1-2 months, and then one of us decided we weren’t ever going to become boyfriend and girlfriend), on the Japanese dating app Pairs. It’s basically the best way to meet people in Japan nowadays, especially since guys have to pay to use it so it weeds out a lot of the people who aren’t serious about finding an actual relationship (there’s so much trash on OkCupid in comparison…).

Usually on Pairs I would wait for a guy to “like” me (it’s like Tinder in that you can’t start talking to each other unless both of you “like” the other), decide if I liked him back, then wait for him to message me once the match was made. I wanted to see proof that he liked me and could be assertive. In this case, I broke all of my rules. I found him on the app, I don’t remember exactly how–maybe during a keyword search–and I sent him a “like.” I instantly felt like I really wanted him because he was cute but clearly a serious otaku (one of his pictures was him in cosplay), but he also liked doing active things (his other pictures were him on his road bike cycling around with his friends), which is fairly similar to me. He also said he could speak English too which I also like to see. I screencapped his profile and showed it to all my friends like “CHECK OUT MY SOULMATE” basically. He liked me too (yay!) so we matched and I sent him a message. It was me who first suggested we move our conversation to LINE (usually I wait for the guy to suggest that) and me who suggested we meet in person. However, every time I made those suggestions, he agreed enthusiastically, so I took it as a good sign.

Days before our first date, we discovered we were both at summer Comiket buying doujinshi. I went for two days and he went for all three. He actually spent 100,000 yen on doujinshi at Comiket! We didn’t meet there because we hadn’t even met in person yet (plus it’s huge and we were buying in different sections), but it was crazy to discover that we already had that in common. I had sort of assumed that as a male otaku, he’d be buying moe bullshit with cute (scantily clad) girls, but he told me that he buys all types of doujinshi, including BL/yaoi and GL/yuri, as well as male/female pairings too. I love BL, as basically anyone who knows me knows very well, but understandably it’s pretty rare to find guys who like it too, so this was… amazing to hear. Fudanshi (men who like BL) are pretty rare, and I’ve always wanted to find someone who at least understood my hobbies, so once again I felt pretty convinced that I wanted to date this guy.

Our first date went so well. We already had all the Comiket stuff to discuss, and then I found out that he’s just as addicted to a game as I am. He actually has two phones, and one phone is dedicated solely to his game (Kantai Collection AKA KanColle). Like… respect. I want a whole phone for my game too, haha. So he’s not ever going to judge me for playing EnStars every day. And actually, a limited gacha/grab bag in EnStars with my #2 favorite character as the rarest card to get had just started that day, and Touma (let’s call him that) had just told me how he had pulled in a gacha for a friend of his at Comiket and gotten the card his friend wanted, so he was pretty confident in his luck. I was super nervous about whether I would get this card (especially since I’d spent real money so I would have enough in-game currency to do the pull, and was prepared to do three 10-pulls trying for it), but I decided to go ahead and have him pull for me. I gave him my phone, he pulled… and he got every single card in the gacha. All four cards, including the rarest one (with a 1.5% chance of coming), the one I wanted. It is incredibly rare and lucky for one pull (of 10 cards) to contain every single card in the gacha. (In fact, I just had to do 14 pulls of 10 cards in order to get the rarest card of my #1 boy in another gacha in this damn game. Yes, it was expensive and honestly stressful, and yes these gacha are very dangerous, but I did get him in the end–two copies, even.) It’s possible to pull and not get any cards from the limited gacha at all (just fillers), and an average fairly lucky pull will have either the rarest card or the second-rarest, but not both. To get every single card, including the one I wanted which was the most difficult to get… well, it’s just some insane luck.

So that seemed like a sign…

And then the other thing was at the end of the date, we left the restaurant and it was raining. I pulled out my foldable umbrella, which is lavender with polka dots because I love purple. Everyone who knows me knows that I love purple. Most of the things in my apartment are purple. My bike is purple. My yoga mat is purple. My cat’s carrier is even purple. I looked over to see him pulling out his own foldable umbrella…

It was a deep purple color.

I was just like “Oh, your umbrella is purple!” and he said “Yeah, I love purple.”

……………….Guys.

So yeah. We are dating now. He hasn’t had a girlfriend in three years! I’m really, really nervous about this relationship because every time I’ve tried to date a Japanese guy, it has basically crashed and burned. My last real relationship didn’t even last a month before he was telling me I scared him. I actually held off on telling a lot of my friends for several days because I was so nervous. How many times have I written a blog entry here gushing about a new guy, only for the relationship to go sour very soon after? I don’t feel confident at all that I can be normal in a relationship and not scare a guy away! But I really like him and want to keep seeing him, and miraculously he likes me back and has told me so many times already (very cute). I’m just trying to focus on that.

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“Let me die still loving and so, never die.”

(The title of this post probably sounds a bit morbid, but it’s more trying to describe how I feel lately. It probably sounds so silly, but every day I feel all this love towards my favorite characters in the games I’m playing, and towards my friends that I talk to every day about fan stuff and other things, and towards my family I get to see next month, and I’m just really enjoying having a mindset of “I love this” instead of “I hate/don’t like this.” The quote in the title is from the play Metamorphoses by Mary Zimmerman–an amazing, amazing play I was lucky enough to see live once–and it really resonates with what I’m feeling lately. I want this love to go on and on.)

Oh man, was my last post really in February? Yikes.

I think I still feel the same way as I did in that post. I haven’t been seized with a burning urge to move back to the US again. I still feel like I’ve gotten too deep into the fangirl life to want to leave–everything is here, after all! And the next Ensemble Stars play is happening, and it’s centered around an event for my favorite group, so my BOY is there, he’s been cast and he’s adorable… and I’m trying so hard to get tickets but I might not be able to because it’s insanely competitive and it’s killing me. Please please please let a miracle happen and I can go see it live. PLEASE.

So I’ve mentioned many times before that there is a very narcissistic, self-important, hypocritical American girl as a manager on my team at work, known here as Sena. She apparently never approved of me from the start, thought I’d quit within 3-6 months, doubted my ability to do the job, deliberately didn’t consider me for promotion, has treated me with condescension, and refuses to believe that my previous experience at our biggest competitor is worth anything at this company. Basically, this means that no matter how hard I try on this team, I’m limited because of her. She’s also a huge stickler for the most inane of rules and will butter up HR to get them on her side before informing me that I must do something or other, without understanding my circumstances. It just makes me want to run screaming away, not to “try to do better” and comply with her wishes.

What I never understand, by the way, is why managers don’t think more about trying to retain good people. I feel like we’ve been searching for new people for this team for months and months now, and we’ve only hired two, and one had to quit after the first day because of unexpected personal circumstances, so we were already short-staffed even before I quit (spoiler alert, this post is about me quitting my job). Why? Because finding someone with the skills required to do this job (native English level + business level Japanese), who is willing to work for fairly low salary comparatively speaking, is actually pretty difficult. And I can not only translate (saving the company TONS of money) but do actual game planning work too. So you’d think they’d want to keep the people they have instead of forcing them out and/or judging them too harshly from the start (she has complaints about almost all of the applicants, including “no game industry experience”–which she also didn’t have before starting here, but I did, and she considers it worthless). But no, she’s forced out about four people already. Four! And I’ll be the fifth.

The irony is that I was going to get promoted. Finally! But it happened in a really demoralizing way. I was calling into a meeting with the two managers, including her, and the director of my game (you know, the one who has much less experience and ability to pay attention to details and was promoted over me basically because Sena wanted someone who would obey her). I was told that the director of my game would be moving to a new game in several months and when that happened, I would be made the director of my current game and a new person would come in to work under me. But I also received about four warnings for things I needed to be conscious of or fix about myself (be calmer at work, etc).

It felt like they weren’t choosing me as the best person for the role (in fact, they already chose someone else over me once!), they just had no choice so they were going to promote me, but they had a lot of doubts about me, and I was going to have to work really hard to overcome them. They were going to work with me and support me, but I’d have to work hard. Great, I feel awesome knowing you guys have so much confidence in me that you’re promoting me just because you don’t have a better option but you’d really rather not, clearly. I also really think a lot of the “concerns” about me have been blown out of proportion by Sena, but that wasn’t the time to argue them, so I didn’t say anything. But I hate how she’s poisoned people against me when she doesn’t even have all the facts and a lot of her conclusions are based on mistaken assumptions.

Then another person quit–my friend, someone who had been bullied and demoralized on a daily basis by this terrible manager girl for months. She finally moved to another department and had a different boss, though was still sitting with us and working with us, but it didn’t end. Sena still found ways to call my friend’s skills and abilities into question in the most condescending and humiliating of ways. The thing is, she doesn’t see that as what she’s doing. She thinks she’s just pursuing quality and correctness. She doesn’t understand that she’s trampling on people and demoralizing them in the process.

When the other manager, a Japanese guy who went to high school in the US and is fairly Americanized (ish), heard that Sena was the reason my friend was quitting, he finally took us seriously about this issue. He alerted his manager, a Japanese man, and both of them held separate one-on-one meetings with each of us about Sena. The Japanese higher manager laid out a new team hierarchy, where she would be demoted from manager, no longer in charge of our time sheets or checking in on our progress or anything like that, and she would instead do a purely translation/proofreading type role. Honestly, she’s been responsible for so many people quitting and other serious issues that if this were the US, she would have been let go, but because of the category of employee she is (and we’re not, by the way), she can’t be fired, so another place had to be found.

Well, that all sounded great, and what with the promotion, I thought I could hold on a while longer. But… in the end, I couldn’t. While Sena was definitely demoted in terms of she doesn’t manage our timesheets or meet with us one-on-one to discuss our work anymore, she managed to finagle herself an equally fancy new role on the team, a “Project Manager” who works with our engineers on rolling out new features. She’s definitely not the in-house translator the Japanese manager first envisioned she would be. Honestly, I don’t know what she really does all day, but it pisses me off that she gets away with this. It seems like she has so much free time she’s able to notice small mistakes very easily, and then she treats them like huge problems and calls all of us into meetings so we know how very wrong we were to do what we did and how we should have consulted with her or someone else first before deciding. (Of course, she makes decisions herself all the time that could and have backfired in the same way, but handwaves any concerns away and refuses to take responsibility if something blows up in her face.)

So our other manager is now the one who deals with us personally and has one-on-one meetings, but the last one I had with him is the one where I decided I had to quit because I didn’t feel supported by him. While he’d been sympathetic and concerned about the Sena situation when my friend first quit, it was obvious that Sena had gotten him back on her side again (the meeting occurred, coincidentally, right after they had lunch together) and when I tried to bring up concerns with her, all he said was “We all have to do things we don’t like as part of our jobs.” Excuse me?! No, in fact, we don’t. We can quit. And if you don’t care about me quitting, which apparently you don’t, then I’m going to. I don’t get paid enough and this company will never make me a permanent employee anyway.

There was also the fact that since April, I’d been experiencing physical symptoms of stress. It took me a while to figure out that’s what it was, because I didn’t think I felt stressed, but over time the symptoms got so bad I couldn’t ignore them. Basically, I woke up every morning with my neck feeling stiff and in pain. I switched pillows, saw a physiotherapist, had a deep tissue massage (which helped for one day), but none of it helped. It’s gotten a little better lately, but it took a while. The other thing is that I lost my appetite. I’d be sitting at lunch with my friend/coworker and I’d eat about a third of my food and then I wouldn’t be able to eat the rest. Or I wouldn’t feel hungry at all so I would go nap during lunch and not eat anything. Around 4 or 5pm I’d get hungry and eat something random. Naturally, I lost weight despite not really exercising or anything. It’s both a good and a bad thing because I like being skinny and I fit into my clothes better, but I know it’s not healthy. My appetite has come back somewhat, though I’ve realized that just being in the office–and sitting only two desks away from Sena and she’s always in my peripheral vision–stresses me out, and my appetite goes down again.

I finally realized that unless I quit this job, it was all going to continue. And it wouldn’t get better once I was promoted, it would get worse. I’d probably have to work even closer with Sena because she insists on still being very involved in the game I work on, I know she considers it her baby. She’d probably be the one to train me in the role, and I knew I just couldn’t handle that. Plus, the added responsibility and tasks of taking on that role sounded stressful too and also, just frankly not what I wanted to do with my career. Numbers… bleh.

So, even though I thought I’d never job hunt in Japan again and had even moved my interview suit to my parents’ house so I didn’t even have a blazer here with me, I started job hunting. I got a lot of interest almost immediately, because I have the skills that make you extremely marketable in Tokyo (native English speaker + high Japanese ability). I actually had to cancel several initial phone interviews with recruiters because things started moving so fast on other fronts. Within a week or so I had three interviews scheduled at three different game companies (including one very famous one). One of them turned out to be at the company where my friend who quit (and caused Sena’s “demotion”) had gone to, for a position in a sister department to the one she was in. She put in a good word for me with the hiring manager and I had an interview with him and really liked the sound of the job. It was definitely my top choice. The type of job also wasn’t localization, but PR type work, so I was going to get to try out a new type of job that maybe utilized a lot more of my skills and experience, plus get to be involved in cool stuff like events (and… maybe meet voice actors…). The other two interviews I wasn’t as excited about, even the one at Famous Game Company, and while they went well enough, one didn’t think I was a good “culture fit” and the whole atmosphere at Famous Game Company freaked me out (it was reminiscent of that one episode of Black Mirror), plus they didn’t even let me ask any questions! They just quizzed me for 20 minutes and then everyone left the room! In the end, I got a second interview but was super shocked that I’d advanced.

Then it was time to go with my company–everyone on my team EXCEPT Sena, thank the lord–to a big anime convention in LA. I’d been wanting to go with either this company or my previous one for about three years at this point, so it was like a dream come true, although in the end it was so much hard work. We were there for about a week, and on one night before it began I was able to have dinner with my relatives, but the rest of the time was work work work. We were worried beforehand that our booth wouldn’t be popular, but we shouldn’t have worried because it was actually crazy popular and full of people all day long, especially when we did our special event with our cosplayer (also my manager). He got so many new fans… it was ridiculous. But we also got to talk to a lot of fans and I became friends with some of them on social media. And during lunch break, my friend/coworker and I started talking to cosplayers for Ensemble Stars and we had so much fun talking to them and became friends on twitter with them too. It was great! Plus, Aro (my best friend since middle school who stayed with me for a few weeks last year, and then for 2.5 months this spring) was there as well as an artist, so we spent some time visiting his table as well and I got to hang out with him after the con and stuff. Which was great!

An old coworker from my last company also stopped by the booth (he was totally scoping it out and spying on it to report back to other people), scaring the shit out of me because I didn’t recognize him at first (his hair and clothes were totally different), and then on the last day while walking around artist’s alley with my friend/coworker during our lunch break, we spotted the one person we both happen to know, though she knows both of us separately! For me, she was an editor I worked with when I was an intern at TOKYOPOP, and for my friend, she was her upperclassman at their college and they also have an editor-and-mangaka-contest-winner TOKYOPOP connection as well. Both of us knew that we both knew her, but she didn’t know we knew each other, so she was probably really surprised to see us! We were rushing back to our booth, but we told her to stop by, and towards the end of the day she showed up and chatted with us for about an hour! It was amazing! We all got caught up on so much and she seemed super impressed with both of us and our careers. Yay!

But it was just so exhausting every day, hahaha. A lot of nights I’d come back to my hotel room and just crawl into bed–the first day was the worst because I wasn’t used to it. It had been 10 years since I’d worked a booth with a company (and also, incidentally, 10 years since the last time I attended this convention, though that time was as a fan), and that time I would also get drunk every night afterwards! Oh man, I must have been so young then, hahaha. Overall it was a lot of fun and a great experience, and we got to eat some delicious food (paid for with our company per diem!), and I think a good bonding experience for our team, but also so much work!

But yeah, then I came back and had a second interview with my top choice, which went really well (it quickly became apparent that they were super into the idea of hiring me), and later that day I heard back from my recruiter that they wanted to make me an offer! (I heard later from my friend who works there that I beat out 20 applicants they were considering, including a former coworker who quit my current place a bit too hastily. I’m so happy that for the first time in maybe forever, I wasn’t hired as one of a batch of people, I was chosen over everyone else as the sole person for the job and no one else will be starting with me. It feels really good!) So I went in and signed the paperwork and then I was able to quit with my current place. My last day is Friday! My new company is actually pretty well-known for the games it makes, more than my current one, so I’m excited to work at a place that’s a bit more high-profile! I don’t start my new job until September 1 so I have almost all of August off and will be spending two weeks of it in the US. I have a huge translation project to work on, so it’s perfect timing–well, I was hoping it would work out this way so I could do this, and I’m so glad it did. There’s more to tell but it will have to wait for another post…

Overall, I’m feeling very happy lately. I’m not on any meds but I can still feel lots of serotonin coursing through me (you can tell when that is when you go on meds–you start to be able to recognize the sensation), which is probably because I’m having a ton of fun playing these dumb games on my phone every day with dumb boys I love and freaking out over them with my friends. Every single day, that is my life lately. And it’s ridiculous, I know, but it’s making me really happy! I’m having absolutely zero success with my love life (well–not zero, but I’m not getting a boyfriend anytime soon) but I’m trying not to let it bother me and just enjoy this silly, fun life I have right now.

Staying in Tokyo???

This is going to sound insane after my last entry where I confidently declared I’d be moving back to the US within the year (or, well, I think I sounded and felt pretty conflicted but I was leaning very very heavily towards US).

But I think I have to stay in Japan.

Because of Trump insanity…

It’s weird, and I actually feel guilty. When he was elected, I felt fired up to get back home and start helping. I wanted to attend marches and get involved and fight him and his whole crazy team. But now, after the first week of terrible news has rolled out, I’m starting to feel more worried for my own livelihood. I wanted to move back and live with my parents and do freelance stuff for a couple months – just chill out from Japan and the work culture here. But if I do that, I won’t have insurance (well, I could get Cobra or something, but if I ever needed to go to the doctor it would probably cost less than insurance out of pocket for a few months). Here, I have insurance, and I have a job. The job comes with one very terrible inept girl child of a manager, but it’s at a game company and overall it’s fun.

But honestly, my feelings started changing before Trump’s inauguration. At first, I didn’t want to be back in Japan, but soon I plunged right back into that Fangirl Life. We attended the second stage play/musical of the game we play every day, Ensemble Stars, and it was an incredible experience. We were in the fourth row and all of the guys were shining. The girls in the row behind us kept muttering “muri, muri, muri, muri, muri” very fast every time anything remotely exciting would happen (hard to translate, as literally they were saying “impossible” but in a slang sense it’s more like “oh no, oh shit, this is amazing, wow, I can’t handle this oh my god!”) and it was just like…. #same. SAME, ladies. I am overwhelmed by every single moment of what I am witnessing. I can’t even describe it unless you play the game too and know all the characters. The play was left open-ended – as in, there HAS to be a third one – and that third one HAS to feature my favorite group and thus my favorite #1 BOY. I thought, at that moment, “I am staying in Japan until that play comes out. I am 100% serious about this, it’s that important.”

And then I did more fangirl things every weekend after that, and I just kept thinking – life here is pretty great, and really fun, and I have access to all of it whenever I want. And all those things that annoy me about life here (everyone assuming I don’t speak Japanese and needing to know my life story once they find out I do, stupid old men on trains trying to boss me and everyone else they see as inferior around [literally, the other day some old guy invaded my personal space and freaking kabe-don’d me–placed his hand against the door right by my head, boxing me in–when I was standing in a corner by the door because he wanted to stand where I was standing. Of course I felt disgusted and moved away so he got the spot], etc etc etc) began to seem more like… the price I pay to live here among all of these amazing things.

Just like that, my entire worldview shifted. Yeah, this one experience might suck – but it’s the price I pay to get so many other great things. Just like that, I began to feel optimistic as opposed to pessimistic about life here, and a lot of things I’d been bitterly resenting seemed not worth the anger anymore. I can’t change them, so I might as well work towards changing what I can, when I can. I’ve been in a negative mindset for such a long, long, long time now that I almost couldn’t believe the turnaround. (And this is WITHOUT meds, people! I’m still off them!). That was a month or so ago, and while the optimism wore off a little, I am still feeling oddly chipper about the idea of continuing to live here. I also sort of feel like the whole Trump thing has neatly solved my dilemma by making the US not quite so appealing anymore. Sometimes it’s nice to have a decision made for you because one option suddenly became quite obviously not so attractive.

I was obsessing earlier over how this was never my dream. One of my coworkers told me that this very life was in fact her dream – since middle school. She decided in middle school that someday she’d teach English in Japan, and she held onto that dream. Her mom made her promise she’d stay in-state for college, knowing that as soon as she graduated she’d be off with JET to Japan. And she was, and she taught for a while then joined my company, and she’s very happy here in Japan and has no plans to move back to the US. My other coworker said in middle school her goal was to move to Japan be a game producer of Final Fantasy 25 (ha, little did she know it’d be 2017 and 15 has only just come out).

And then there’s me, who thought I’d be the luckiest girl alive just to get to make one visit to Japan in my lifetime.

Why didn’t I dream bigger? I don’t know, but just because I didn’t doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy my life now. It’s almost crazy to think how I ended up here and how many twists of fate and bits of luck have brought me here. Just because I never thought this was possible doesn’t mean I have to give it up and pursue something more ordinary. Especially not to make friends and family back home feel more reassured about me and my choices. My sister moved back to the US but she only sees our parents/goes home one time a year, two at most. That’s the same as me…

I also realized that deciding to leave was also a way of running from problems, which will probably follow me to the US. Like: I hate that my kitchen sink always gets clogged (because there are no built-in garbage disposals here). I hate that my bathroom gets moldy. I hate that my bed is a twin size. I hate that I don’t have a desk for working, just a low kotatsu table to sit at. I hate that my bicycle (cute and purple as it is) is old and rusty and the tires go flat easily and it’s effort to pedal it. I hate how expensive my rent is, and how far (10 minutes) my place is from the station. I hate how my living room doesn’t feel cozy. I hate how hot and humid summers are here. I hate how my shower curtain (and living room curtains) are held up by suspension rods, not actual fixtures, so they fall down sometimes.

All of these things, I was going to fix by leaving – so not really fixing them at all, just avoiding them. I might get to escape my rusty, flat bicycle, but I’d just end up dealing with car insurance and car repair bills again. One problem for another. But what if I stayed and actually tried to fix them? What if, after the summer when I may get to go to a con in LA for work, I look for a new job, one that pays better and is seishain (permanent company employee) status so it has bonuses? What if, after doing that, I move in with one of my friends so we can have a bigger place but save on rent? What if I sell my twin bed and bedding and buy a bigger bed so I can feel like a goddamn adult? What if I get a tall desk and an office chair? What if I get a better bike? What if I accept the mold-growing bathroom (until I bleach the shit out of it periodically with Kabi-Killer) and the lack of garbage disposal as the price of admission – the price I pay to live here with good health insurance, basic safety with low crime and NO guns, and general good quality of life? Plus, a TON of amazing friends I’d be so sad to leave and not get to see regularly anymore? (On that note, Ry and I booked flights and hotels to go to Shanghai over Golden Week! Shanghai Disneyland with one of my favorite Disney buddies, here I come!)

What if I grow up and start acting like an adult instead of whining about not getting what I want?

These changes can’t happen overnight, but they’re something to work towards. It’s better than just running away and thinking starting over will fix everything. I’m not saying I’m going to stay forever, but I no longer feel compelled to leave. It’s nice to have the warning bells in my head go silent. I’m realizing that I actually am comfortable here, and leaving would disrupt my equilibrium. It may not have been the original plan – but what ever is?

You are never gonna get everything you want in this world
First things first, get what you deserve

See the light where the sky meets the sea – it calls me

I know everybody on this island
Seems so happy on this island
Everything is by design

See the light where the sky meets the sea
It calls me
And no one knows how far it goes
If the wind in my sail on the sea stays behind me
One day I’ll know
How far I’ll go

I’m recently returned from a visit home to the US for Christmas. I went to Los Angeles and stayed with my relatives there, and then I went to Nebraska where my parents live and spent the holiday with them and my sister. I came back to Japan on New Year’s Eve, and for maybe the first time I strongly did not want to go back. As soon as we landed, my voice disappeared as if in protest. I’ve been back a week now and I’m trying to cling to the feeling that it’s not real, that this isn’t my actual life. It’s just a pretend expat life halfway across the globe from my home country. If it’s not real then somehow that makes it a lot easier to deal with.

Try as I might, I can’t fight the feeling inside that tells me that I do not belong here and I need to pack up and go. If I didn’t feel this way, and if I weren’t increasingly convinced that if I stay here I might as well resign myself to being single forever, then staying is actually not a terrible decision. It’s safe here, I have health insurance, and I have a good job that’s relatively fun most of the time (and crappy a fair portion of the time too thanks to a crazy person who insists on stupid meetings and procedures, let’s be real). There are a lot of reasons why this is a good life and one I’d be crazy to give up for something entirely unknown.

But I just can’t stop thinking about how this isn’t what I intended. I never meant to stay here this long. It was supposed to be in and out. Stay long enough to get fluent enough to attend translation grad school back in the US, then go once I could do that.

And there’s the part of me that’s itching for the next adventure, the next challenge. When I was still living in Dallas, I thought it would be impossible for me to ever live and work in Tokyo. I read blogs like Move Over Godzilla, desperately jealous of her life, which sounded like a wonderful dream to me (and now we’re friends and she’s basically my cat’s godmother). But now that dream is mine, only it doesn’t feel like a dream. It is when I take a step back and look at it objectively. I’m living a life that would make my 14-year-old self just die of envy and anticipation, one she would have never imagined or desired in a million years.

That’s the other thing – just when did I start wanting to go so far away from everything I’d known? When did I start wanting to stay so far away? I get told all the time that I’m so brave, so adventurous, that this person I’m talking to who lives no further than 20 miles from where she grew up could never do what I’ve done. While I was home, I told my relatives of my plans to move back to the US sometime in 2017. “Good,” said my grandpa’s wife, the relief plain in her voice but shocking to me. Is what I’m doing now so aberrant? And then I went to a new dentist’s office to get a cleaning and had to explain to the hygienist that I hadn’t had a cleaning in a year because I live in Japan and don’t like Japanese dentistry or how dental insurance covers visits. Later, I had to explain the same thing to the receptionist, and a lady in the waiting room overheard. All of them looked at me like I’d grown two heads. The simple fact of my life is so outside the bounds of what they could ever consider. When did I start becoming different from the majority of the people who surrounded me in terms of wanting to make a life far from where I’d grown up? I can’t ever remember dreaming of a life outside my hometown.

While I was home, I saw Moana. I loved it and have been listening to the soundtrack – and fighting back tears when some of the lyrics hit a little too close to home. Moana was always told to find happiness in her village and island, not to pursue the feeling she’s always had that there’s something worth exploring beyond the water. For a time, she believes that.

I’ve been standing at the edge of the water
Long as I can remember
Never really knowing why
I wish I could be the perfect daughter
But I come back to the water
No matter how hard I try

She thinks she can be happy without ever venturing out – but realizes she can’t, and that her people were originally voyagers and explorers, and she goes on a journey and comes back with plans to make her people voyagers again.

I have become a voyager, and in a way I am the child of voyagers, who are the children of voyagers themselves. My parents are not from my hometown or my home state. They met in college in a town that was my mother’s hometown but for my father was only another stop along the way for his family. He had grown up in various cities and states, and after he began college his parents and youngest sibling moved again. My parents moved to my hometown because my dad got a job there.

Perhaps because my parents were not from the place where I grew up, I never felt a strong tie to it. I’ve always wished to live in a beautiful place, and that city is not beautiful to me. The one thing that matters to me about my hometown is my friends, who I made in school and who are still my strongest and best friends, and the majority of whom still live in that city. My parents no longer do; two years ago they moved to a city neighboring the town where they originally met (partially by coincidence as that’s where my dad was offered a job, and partially to be closer to family).

Most people don’t do that though, and I’m just realizing that now. Most of my friends live in our hometown and have chosen to raise their families there. They like that it’s familiar, that their parents are close by too, and see nothing wrong with it. I met up with my 2nd grade best friend in LA, who left our town for college and has never moved back (I hadn’t seen her since middle school), and we expressed to each other how amazing it is that we’ve both left – and how what’s even more amazing is how so many have stayed. I guess I just never would have predicted that – didn’t more people realize how boring it is? How ugly it is? Do they just not notice, or is being close to family more important? Again – when did I become so different? Have I always been like this or did it develop over the years? My parents never took me on international trips; we didn’t have the money for that. I never fantasized about living abroad for a long stretch of time. At the end of my two study abroad sessions, I was so happy to return to my country. And yet I’ve become an expat, but it feels like I’ve never been able to truly enjoy it. Or I have for a short stretch before wanting to leave again, and then the cycle repeats. It’s been like that the whole time.

(And if I’m so different, how am I going to fit in with people in the US? I was already an awkward kid who had a hard time making friends, though it finally clicked for me eventually. But even now I don’t have anything to say to hairdressers or dental hygienists – normal people – and it’s gotten even worse now that I live abroad. I can’t expect that to change after moving back. I’ll have experienced something most of them will never know. One nice thing about being an expat is that when you meet other expats, you automatically have more in common with them than you would your countrymen/women. I’ve always felt like I fit in at social gatherings here. This is another thing that makes it tempting to just stay.)

When I wound up living in my home city again after college (for what ended up being four years), I wasn’t happy about it. I had to do it for circumstances related to the person I was dating at the time, who is also from that city and still lives there, but I felt trapped. I definitely wanted out, and saw Japan as my out. But I didn’t see myself moving to Japan and staying there; I saw it as a step along the way on my journey. I worked hard towards my goal of going to Japan, and believed that there was a voice telling me I had to go do this to create the life I wanted for myself. Well, maybe there was.

But now there’s another voice, and it’s telling me to go. Again. But I’m scared, because the US is a scary place now, and I’m not confident I’ll be able to build such a good life there. I can’t just go live with my parents in my hometown because that home doesn’t exist anymore. I can go live with them in Nebraska, but I don’t want to live in Nebraska. If I didn’t fit in with most people in Texas, I certainly don’t fit in with most people in Nebraska. It’s the land of basic white people. So I’ll have to job hunt from afar, which puts me at a disadvantage, even though I’m bilingual in Japanese and have game company experience. I want to wind up on the West Coast but I’m very worried about whether I can land on my feet this time. I should be more confident – I always have so far. I did the impossible and got jobs in Tokyo, after all. But job hunting in the US is a bit different, and it can sometimes take a while. Meanwhile I’ll be in my parents’ basement, which does not have as many windows as I’d like, especially in the bedrooms, and I’m worried I’ll get depressed instead of using my time off to recharge, work on personal projects, and do freelance translation (which I’m also worried I won’t get enough of – there hasn’t been much of it for me lately and the savings I’d gotten from it are getting depleted).

Worried, worried, worried. That’s the theme of thinking about my impending move back. Sometimes I really wish the voice inside me telling me I have to do this wasn’t so strong – I’m not at all convinced it’s truly the right decision. (Did I say voice? It’s more like a blaring siren inside my head every day I’m here telling me THIS IS WRONG, THIS IS WRONG, THIS IS WRONG. It was quiet while I was in the US because it felt right and natural to be here. But I emerged from customs and it was back.) But yes – I don’t think I will meet a good life partner for me here, and I really want that for my life. That’s true. And I miss things like being able to easily check out books from the library, and buy the types of paleo-friendly, eco-friendly food and daily necessities I want from the grocery store – that’s true too. And I’ve suffered from some of the worst depression and anxiety in my life because I was living here, in an inherently (for me) stressful place so far away from my support network, and so many Japanese men have done me wrong, and there’s less sunlight hours in Japan than in the US, and the racist microaggressions… etc etc etc.

I think in a way, this is how I have the next adventure, how I take my next leap. While I’m scared, part of me is excited to tackle the challenge of trying to find work in games in the US, of trying to be able to live on the West Coast. That’s what seems impossible to me now. But so did life in Tokyo, once.

See the light as it shines on the sea
It’s blinding
But no one knows how deep it goes

“I will drink life to the lees”

[Written prior to the election. I have MANY THOUGHTS on that and a lot of worries, which I may get into at a later date.]

Oh my god, I finally have an entirely free weekend with no plans. None!!! FINALLY!!! I don’t know what is wrong with me, but I just keep getting caught in this loop of wanting to stay in but getting a million invitations and turning down only a few and just doing the rest, and while it’s FUN it also means my apartment is a complete shambles because I only come home to sleep and eat dinner.

Some of the things I’ve done in the past couple months:

  • gone to Tokyo Ramen Show with my two coworkers/friends I hang out with all the time NOT to eat ramen (though we did that too) but to see a voice actor from the mobile game I play every day do a talk show and then we got to meet him and talk to him one on one which was actually deeply embarrassing. His face is just so beautiful.
  • trained for and successfully ran my first ever race, a half marathon. The training entailed three physical therapy appointments to teach me how to strengthen leg muscles to avoid knee pain, and tons of exercises and practice runs. I’d never run longer than maybe 12k before (half marathons are 13 miles/21 kilometers). I blame this all on Miss Godzilla, who I ran it with and who encouraged me and our other friends to sign up (I was the only one who registered in time). My only goal for my first race was to make it under the time limit of 3:05 (oh, and not get injured) but I actually finished at 2:28 which is insane, especially considering I had to walk/power walk a lot of the last few kilometers. I ran the Chiba Aqualine half marathon and while it was amazing to run out into Tokyo Bay on a giant highway, the gentle but steady incline there AND back sapped my energy! But that moment when I was running back and checked my phone and saw I’d run 17k–the farthest distance I’d ever run–and felt so much confidence was amazing. After the run we (me, Miss Godzilla, and her husband Matcha-kun) headed straight for a fancy onsen at a fancy hotel, which was just what we needed. There was a lazy river inside the women’s baths…
  • went to Karuizawa in Nagano with two friends, and it was so great with such clear pure air and green forests everywhere. I had to run 15k as training for my half marathon, and my friends are runners too so they ran the first 8k or so with me, and it took us to a waterfall in the middle of a nearby forest. It was magical. Plus we visited a gorgeous, luxurious onsen (Hoshinoya) twice while we were there, and stayed in an amazing renovated yet traditional guesthouse in the woods
  • saw Kimi no Na wa (Your Name) and it blew my damn mind. I can’t get over how amazing this movie is, and how I just want to watch it over and over. It was so, so good. I just wish it would come out in theatres in English-speaking countries so I can make my friends back home go see it, goddammit! I need people to see it! Oh, and the soundtrack by Radwimps is really good too.
  • saw Spitz with my friend who just happened to be visiting from Germany right at the perfect time to go with me! Our seats were about 10 rows from the front and center, so it was great to just feel soaked in wonderful Spitz music, even though a lot of it was stuff from their new album and not my old favorites.
  • went off my meds and pretty quickly felt depression clamp back down on me, which is annoying because depression didn’t even used to be my problem; anxiety was. But it made me feel like “oh, so I can only tolerate life in Japan if I’m on meds. Got it. Yeah, I really need to move back.” I’ve started exercising more since then and the endorphins have been amazing and really helped. I feel like I’m in a pretty good place now, but I still just feel so antsy about my life here all the time. I feel like I can’t settle down, like I need to get out of here. I really wish I didn’t feel like this because it’s basically like I’m living a dream life, but it’s like a constant warning blaring in my head. I’m going to try to move back sometime in 2017.
  • went to Seoul for the second time and stayed with my friend since 5th grade again, and hung out with her cute white Persian and hedgehog. We went to a raccoon cafe!!!
  • logged in to Ensemble Stars every damn day. Yep, that’s still happening. I’m also watching Yuri!!! on ICE which is so good and also very, very gay. It is practically BL.
  • Went to Tsuruoka, Yamagata with a former Yamagata ALT to meet up with other former Yamagata ALTs and watch “Japan’s most moving fireworks.” The fireworks filled the entire sky and were set to music; it was indescribably amazing. We stayed with a friend who has ADORABLE cats.

I’ve realized that I have a lot of friends here. Like, a lot. It’s mainly due to joining a running group soon after moving to Tokyo, and pretty quickly bonding with a bunch of other expats. Each of those people introduced me to other people, who introduced me to other people. Three years later and at this point I am hanging out with friends of friends of friends–and the original friend has left Japan! Not everyone though; a lot are still here and I see them regularly, although many of us don’t run with the group as often as we used to. Aside from those people I have the friends who moved to Tokyo with me from Matsue (Ry and Ty), the people they introduced me to (including Nichome friends who I manage to run into every single time I go, which isn’t even that often anymore. Summer 2013 we were there every weekend), the friends I’ve made through work, and the people I knew from college or study abroad. I also have some freelance translator friends picked up from networking events. I’m really happy with the social network I’ve made for myself here. (Although funny that it’s never led to a SINGLE boyfriend. I’ve had to meet them all through apps or dating sites.)

I also realized that I do a lot of different things here, and while it’s fun it also eats up a lot of my money. Like, going to doujinshi events and buying doujinshi and then going to Ikebukuro and buying more doujinshi and anime/game goods gets expensive. I’m jealous of most fangirls who get to live at home and not pay rent so all their money can go to this stuff. But then I also go out to eat, or go drinking, and that costs money too (in Japan it can get pretty pricey when you’re drinking with a group for some special event like someone’s birthday. Like minimum $35). Or I go somewhere that’s far away, which costs money. And I like going to Tokyo Disney, which is also expensive (I usually only go about 4-5 times a year, but still). Even going running with my group costs money. Joining a gym costs money. Basically, being a nerd who is also active is pretty expensive. Most nerds save money by staying in all the time. I also go out quite a bit, so I don’t save that way.

I’m trying to work on saying no to invitations and having less plans. It’s not like I’m an extrovert; I actually need a lot of alone time. But it’s really hard cutting back. Things sound fun, and I want to go to them. I also feel bad saying no to someone’s birthday thing, for example. And I always think–“What if at this event I will meet someone it’s really important for me to meet? Can I really afford to risk missing a potential amazing opportunity?” Like, not just in terms of love, but in terms of my career as well. I could meet someone who could refer me to amazing work I would love to do. And there’s a part of me that’s like “I will drink life to the lees” and wants to have as many different experiences as possible in the hopes that someday I can turn them into writing (another quote, by my favorite Sylvia Plath, from her journals: “I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life”). Or another part of me thinks: “This is it, this is a choice, an intersection in your life.” And what if based on the choice I make here, a parallel universe forms. Like, maybe in some parallel universe there’s a me who never moved to Japan and is living with the boyfriend she had when she moved, fully satisfied in love (or thinks she is) but still longing for new experiences. Big life choices are always hard for me because there’s so much I think about.

It’s also funny because I’ve changed a lot just living here in Japan. Only 4-5 months after I first moved here, my sister and I went to Thailand from Japan together, but none of the things she wanted to do sounded fun to me (I declined to go ride elephants with her, for example. By the way, this elephant farm has an excellent reputation and it’s basically the only place to consider doing that because it isn’t exploitative to the animals at all). Now, they all sound fun and I’m kicking myself for missing out on them. But we were just at totally different places in our time in Japan; she was nearing the end of hers and I had just arrived and was still terrified of so many things. Living here has made me more adventurous and I’m really glad that happened. It makes me think that taking the plunge to come live here was worth it, even though I lost things along the way.

On a somewhat related note, I get really frustrated when I think about friends back in the US who talk about wanting to travel but never do. “Oh, that place is on my bucket list.” “Oh, I have such bad wanderlust.” But in the past 5-10 years, they haven’t traveled outside the US, or even gone on an extended non-work trip to another US city. The reason they claim is because they can’t afford it. I really think that’s BS for most people who aren’t in serious debt. It is possible to set aside money every month into a travel fund, and also to make a series of decisions based on increasing your income and minimizing your expenses. You can also do what my sister did, and read credit card forums until you know which card to open and how to maximize the benefits and miles from it. She financed her trip to Europe (the airfare, anyway) mainly on credit card miles after reading up on how to game the system. My point is that if you really want something, you will find a way. And if you don’t, you need to stop talking about it like you do because it’s frustrating to hear.

Anyway. Work is still… work. There is still a crazy person as my manager who seems pretty disinclined to consider me for promotion. She knows I want it, so does the other manager (who’s much more on my side, but not usually willing to stand up to her), and they like to tease me with it and exhort me to “remember to act like a leader,” but she continues to try to convince me I don’t really want it and I might not be suited to it anyway. Ugh. I don’t even want it anyway if it’s going to mean her explaining the job to me like I’m 5 years old. If only I could leave, but I need to stay at least until 1.5 years here, ideally until 2.

In the meantime, I’m getting lots of great stories about this girl. She wants to pretend she works at a fancy print publisher and not a nerdy game company (she works with anime style art but hates anime AND anime fans, WHO ARE OUR USERS), so she designed this brochure passed out an anime convention over the summer to look “fashionable, like a magazine.” In the design instructions for the brochure she included the year’s Pantone colors, AS IF THAT MATTERS AT. ALL. The cover of the brochure ended up totally bland and unimpressive (literally two character sprites on a grassy field) when we had a chance to really wow people with a cool, attention-grabbing cover. When Japanese representatives from our company visited the booth, they were horrified and wondered if anyone walking by the booth knew that it was a game company. They had the booth team frantically rework the PowerPoint to make it expressly clear that this booth was for a game. These are the sorts of terrible decisions she makes all the time, and no one stops her. She is a nightmare, and she has made numerous people quit. But it’s Japan and she’s a permanent company employee, so she will never be fired, and I doubt she will ever choose to leave. She’s deluded herself into thinking that she’s crucial to the team and she’s selflessly taking on the mantle of manager when what she really wants to do is creative stuff, but the team needs her so she nobly works as a manager–when the truth is she does the least work out of everyone and all she does is slow us down by insisting on unnecessary meetings and questioning things that aren’t a problem (she loves to police people’s vacation time, for one). Plus, the managers above her are a revolving door of people who don’t care about our team, so no one is around long enough to notice or care, and she basically has free will to do whatever she wants and explain away any mistakes as being not her fault. (Nothing is ever her fault.)

Anyway. I’m trying to just not be bothered by her ridiculousness, stay out of her way (and just nod and agree when I do get caught in her laser beams), and get through my time here for the sake of my resume and future job hunts. The right decision when working with a crazy narcissist like this is absolutely to quit, and that was my instinct once I realized that a month in, but it’s a bit more complicated when you live abroad and need a job to have a visa. (Another reason to move back.) As I’ve said before, my job is amazing except for her. And who knows. Maybe someday I’ll have enough anecdotes to write a David Sedaris-style essay on her.

Masochistic friendship

(I almost don’t want to post this because there is a chance the person I’m talking about may see it. I don’t know if she knows/remembers this blog address or has it bookmarked and would be checking it. If she did see it, she wouldn’t be happy. I have cut or limited her access to what I post on social media because it became clear to me that she couldn’t be trusted with my words as her idea of me is wildly inaccurate and anything could be new fodder to support her negative view of me. As Aaron Burr says in Hamilton’s “Non-Stop” (and lol, wouldn’t this person just love a musical reference), “Every proclamation guarantees free ammunition for your enemies.” I’ve been following that philosophy in dealing with her, and publishing this post runs directly counter to that. However, the friendship is effectively dead, I don’t want it revived as I’d just be signing up for more abuse and sarcastic tolerance of my quirks from her, and while we have mutual friends they would not really care if she ran to them to complain about me and they would not stop being friends with me as a result or anything. She would definitely show this post to her newer friends and trash talk me over it though, and perhaps leave a salty comment – though she seems fairly committed to radio silence. Well, I guess if it provides her entertainment, so be it. We aren’t in high school anymore and she can’t ruin my social life in retaliation again.)

In the spring, I let a friendship with one of my supposedly closest friends fade away, and she did the same. It’s becoming clear to me now that we never really liked each other all that much anyway (or well, I did a lot in the beginning, and it was partially hero worship for me, but I’m not sure if she ever really genuinely liked me), and while I don’t know why she continued to make token efforts to stay friends (she’d gchat me, usually something like “WHAT UP” every few months, encourage me to visit her or move to her city, etc), the reason I did was increasingly because I wanted to be the person who remained in her life after so many others had left it. I knew she was toxic and frequently insulted me or belittled me. I didn’t feel good about myself when I was with her; I felt like I had to shrink myself down to be the tiniest, most palatable version of myself, and even then I could tell she didn’t like me. She put down the things that I liked (Japanese culture stuff, etc) even though I made an effort to get to know the things that she did, so we could still have some things in common. My ex Kirk picked up on it and openly disliked her for how she treated me (she didn’t care for him either). Later, after I moved to Japan and began dating Japanese guys, she started telling me things like I “only like him because he’s Asian” or that I had yellow fever, or that she couldn’t see why I was still there if I was “so miserable.” (Never mind the fact that I could say the same for her and her life in her city.) The word just about everyone who knows her uses to describe her is “abrasive.” It’s very true.

But as I watched her beloved boyfriend leave her and it hit her in the gut, messing her up for years and possibly still to this day, as I witnessed friends storm out of her life (quite literally once, and supposedly that friend shouted “Good luck with that one!” to her roommate as she left) and give up on her, I felt like I owed it to her to stay, to stick around. I felt like I could take the abuse, that we could keep being more superficial friends, who just talked about fandom-related stuff and shared fic links.

I also started off very much adoring her. When we met we were in middle school, which for me was the first time meeting people who had gone to other elementary schools (I went to the same one from kindergarten to 5th grade) before we all converged in this one middle school. I was making lots of new friends with girls from other elementary schools, and I had met her through another new friend. I was immediately impressed by how cool she was. She wasn’t preppy popular (her style was more punk/goth/alternative), but she had a lot of friends in a lot of different circles, and she seemed so above everything with her sarcastic attitude. I always saw her as a social butterfly with very high social intelligence, and as someone who struggled to make and keep friends growing up, I admired that deeply. In some ways, I very much idolized her, and so I treasured our friendship as we grew older and closer especially in high school, bonding over shared nerdy interests like Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings movies and actors (which she always seemed half-ashamed of, especially when in front of her friends from the non-nerdy circles). In a lot of ways, I felt proud to be her friend, I felt cool hanging out with her (those moments when I got into her car and we would drive around town together were everything to me), and I felt proud to have stayed her friend. And that was a reason why I put up with a lot of how she treated me. (Writing this all out, it sounds pretty fucked up and I have to question a lot of my own motivations.)

But it just got to be too much. She started going to therapy, which I thought would be good for her and tone down her personality, but instead it just made her self-righteous. She began pressuring me to go to therapy regularly, implying that I had so many problems I really needed to be doing that. I explained to her that seeing an English-speaking therapist in Japan costs an average of $100+ a session (the English-speaking therapists are not insured) and I just couldn’t justify it when I didn’t feel out of control of my life. She seemed to get it but I could feel her silently judging and disapproving. Apparently the whole time she thought I needed to get serious help.

The argument began over the stupidest thing. I made what I thought was a joke, which clearly wasn’t a joke to her and she said “Because I know you, I know you didn’t mean to be offensive when you said that, but that was offensive,” and I reacted badly and defended myself saying that it’s offensive when she tells me I have yellow fever, to which she exploded and told me that I always do this, I always make it about me and make myself a martyr and keep things bottled up and then burst out with them and it’s not healthy, I need help because this isn’t okay, etc. She called me toxic and narcissistic. (I remembered later that in high school she’d encouraged me to read this book she’d just read called Don’t Call Me a Drama Queen! about people who have drama queen tendencies. I was a bit bemused as this didn’t seem familiar to me at all*, but I did read it.)

I’m not saying my response was a good one by any means but really my greatest sin was getting defensive (“no, you’re the offensive one!”). I just don’t think it was indicative that I need urgent mental help. (I did end up going to one session of therapy to discuss this issue, and I laid out all the facts and my therapist agreed she was better off gone from my life.)

What she said really threw me and I went around to my closest friends and family members, showing them the conversation (including the not-great things I’d said too, of course) and asking them if she was right, begging them to be honest with me, that I really needed to hear it if it was true. But no one agreed with what she was saying.

So I went back and told her that while I’d considered what she said and asked those close to me to see if it was true, no one agreed and maybe she’s right but I just couldn’t see it. I apologized for getting defensive. And she never responded, and it’s been months now.

What’s surprising is how easy it was for her to let this be the last straw. It makes me wonder if she ever really liked me at all over our 18-year friendship, and I have a suspicion that she didn’t. I always had the feeling she was more amused by me than actually genuinely liked me, but then she’d encourage me to visit or talk to me and I’d think, well, maybe she does like me. But I’m not sure she ever really knew me at all. I suppose part of that is on me, though–anytime I tried to show her who I really was, I could sense the waves of judgment coming off her, so I’d go back in my little box approved by her to be my space to take up in her presence. My goal was maintaining the friendship as opposed to us growing together, because that might mean us growing apart.

In the end, I just feel sorry for her. So many people have left her life voluntarily or she’s driven them out. Her closest friends at this point are, with one exception, people she met in the past few years, and she always makes a great show out of how much she adores them, calling them by special nicknames (which I never received – or actually, to be fair, we tried once and it didn’t stick). But she did the same thing to the other friends who ended up leaving her, and I just feel like the cycle is only going to repeat. She uses up friends and then just finds replacements. It’s like she can’t sustain real friendships for very long.

I also have to notice how much other people’s mental health issues play a role in the friendships she’s lost. She had another friend, her best friend since middle school, and she also lost that friend last year because she didn’t approve of that friend, who has struggled with bipolar disorder and depression, getting pregnant and having a baby. And now she apparently thinks I have serious issues and need help.

I also remember that during the biggest drama I had with her and some other people in high school (detailed below), I had a dream that I was so angry at her that I was trying to hit her – slap her, I think. But my arms would lose strength and the blow would never connect. If I’m recalling the dream correctly, she only laughed at my attempts. I felt powerless and ashamed. This is how it felt in the friendship – that she held all the power and I could never fight back. I’m realizing now that we had a very twisted connection and a lot of dark history and misunderstood feelings that sadly will never get sorted out, and I definitely have a role in that – it is not all her fault by any means. It may well be what’s called 腐れ縁 in Japanese – literally a ‘rotten connection,’ an undesirable but indissoluble karmic bond. Except that I feel fairly confident now that the bond has been severed, and we will not be reconciling unless she changes in a major way, and I just don’t think she will.

I may catch some shit for this post in the end if she sees it, but writing all this out really helped me sort out my thoughts and realize some things. Sometimes I can be kind of a masochist…

* At one point in high school I did stir up some shit within my group of friends, mostly by making posts on LiveJournal (lol) that people didn’t agree with and unintentionally hurting feelings, which caused further drama, but I hadn’t done any of that to be dramatic on purpose. I actually hated being in the center of that shitstorm and at one point turned off my computer for a week so I wouldn’t have to even look at it. At that time, this friend I’ve written this post about was the ringleader of the girls calling for my head and gleefully trash talking me. We ended up reconciling, but she really was a very enthusiastic leader of the anti-me brigade. Anyway, I can see why people who don’t know me very well might think I’m a drama queen, but the truth is I’m just too sensitive (things bother me more than they would others), too blunt (I come right out and say things that others feel hurt by as I was too honest), and to some degree not socially intelligent enough (it just simply doesn’t occur to me to predict the fallout that my words will cause, because to me they’re perfectly innocent). The fact that one of the friends I’d known the longest couldn’t see that about me and preferred to view me as this narcissistic drama queen who enjoys stirring shit up and being at the center of attention is just proof that we needed to stop being friends, as she didn’t know me at all and was apparently happy that way.

Why is the chase all that matters for guys, it seems?

I really don’t understand why… guys try so hard to hook you. And then once you’re hooked, they’re no longer interested.

The beginning is the best, really–they’re working so hard to impress you, picking up the tab and not letting you contribute, making reservations, doing research, happily going along with what you suggest, telling you how great and beautiful you are. So when it happens, you’re primed to agree to be their girlfriend.

And then, slowly, it starts going downhill. It may take a few months but it will, inevitably it feels like.

I’m getting to the point where I just can’t trust a guy to stick with me. He’ll ask me out, sure, but then it’s like he considers his duty done and now he has pasted a girlfriend onto the facade of his life, but he’s certainly not going to change any part of his life to accommodate said girlfriend, he’s not going to change anything about himself. And I remember the compliments I got at the beginning–you’re so beautiful, etc–and I wonder if they ever actually cared about who I was, or if they just wanted to show me off.

See, this time I had my eyes wide open. I was skeptical. I knew that if someone was complimenting only my looks, he may not like my personality. But he seemed so easygoing and laidback, he seemed like the type to take it in stride. He told me all about how he thinks it’s a guy’s job to keep his girlfriend happy. I started to think that okay, maybe he can handle me. Maybe he can handle that I’m insanely picky about food, I’m addicted to an idol boy game that keeps me tethered to my phone all day (at 2.5 hour intervals most days), I like BL and anime and other weeb/otaku shit, I have dealt with anxiety and depression in the past, have been on medication for them, and those issues may flare up, and I’m generally a sensitive person who sometimes needs a break from stimulation (all of which has gotten me labeled as a drama queen by less charitably minded people/”friends” in the past).

So I started trying to let him in on it. I could tell the mental health issues thing weirded him out. I wouldn’t have even told him except that a side effect of my medication (which I stopped a month ago, but we’ll come back to that) was going to be something he’d notice, so I thought he should know. I could tell he was judging me for using my phone so much, especially because he likes to be as untethered as possible (he prefers to use an iPad over a phone–who knows why). One time I even purposely ignored my game on my phone because I knew he’d give me the side eye for picking it up and playing it.

Who knows if any of these things really contributed to it, though, because what happened was that he thought I was trying to tie him down by asking for too much contact. Basically, I wanted us to talk every day. That’s how my most successful relationship worked and I was super happy with that setup. On my first date with this guy, he asked me how to make a long distance relationship work, because he’d failed before but he gets sent on these month-long business trips and he was worried about maintaining a connection with someone during that time. I said “As long as there’s communication, you can keep the connection alive. But it has to be regular communication.” He smiled and looked relieved. He seemed to agree with me completely.

And yet, when that proposition became a reality, he balked. I wanted us to have a short chat ideally every day but once every couple days would have been all right too. Just 30 minutes or so of us being available to one another to catch up in real time about our days, weekend plans, etc. I was willing to compromise on the communication frequency. I told him he could work it out. But he was still spooked. That whole idea scared him. He thought I was trying to tie him down and he told me to “think of our relationship more casually.” Excuse me? You asked me out, you asked me to be your girlfriend, and you talked a big game about how it’s your job to keep me happy. You gushed about me to your friends, to your PARENTS, your parents bought me presents, you cut your hair for me, you made it sound like you planned to be with me for a while, and now suddenly chatting daily is too much?

He did agree that I was completely right and that this had been an issue in his past relationships. And yet instead of challenging himself to try something new, he ran. All of a sudden his job had him working hours so long he never got to go home (boo hoo, you made your choices) and “we aren’t a fit” because I’m trying to control him. Except I’m not, I’m just coming at him with American relationship and communication ideals. This is normal and not controlling in the US. I don’t want to control him. I just want to keep our connection strong through regular communication. Not messages you send here and there, and I reply to hours later, and you reply to hours later, and we never have a real-time conversation and I don’t know when I’m going to see you next. No. I’m not going to do that.

So yet again, I’m left blindsided by another guy who swerved away from a chance at a deep connection, which is what I want. Why even ask people out if you don’t want a real connection??? I don’t even know how to trust what guys say going forward. I mean, what can I do? If they ask me to date, be like “Stop. Do you really mean that? Do you really like me for who I am and are you willing to try to forge a real bond with me?” I can see many guys just running in the opposite direction from how intense that is. Or, or, they tell me what they think I want to hear. They enthusiastically say they’re down for that (just like he did on the first date), but in reality they’re not. How can I even trust what they say?

And then I fall for them. And then as soon as they can say they “got me,” they lose interest. What the fuck? Do I just have to pretend to be aloof and uninterested the entire time so they can feel the thrill of the chase and feel motivated to keep me happy? Why are men like this?

I’m not even really that upset about this guy specifically. I liked him, but I was just starting to get to know him, and some of what I saw, I didn’t like–such as how he had a weird habit of shouting (in English) “Make some noise!!! Let’s bounce, yo!!!” at random times. I do NOT know why. It’s hilarious in hindsight, but still totally insane. Definitely glad I don’t have to deal with that anymore. Or how I’d turn around and find him chatting to some random sketchy guy from Bangladesh (he lived there and can speak the language), which happened twice. Or his weird ideas about sex and our weird singular encounter (0 orgasms. For anyone). I dodged a bullet, but when I think about the future, I still feel pretty hopeless. Is it really going to be any better in the US?