Friendships are hard to maintain without spending money.

Ugh. Troubled and upset by a situation I’ve found myself in with my college friends (although I’m probably the only one aware of it).

When I got to college, I began hanging out with a few different groups of people. Over time, one of them became the mainstay, even though I wouldn’t even call them the best suited for me in terms of interests, personality, etc. They were just the people I hung out with the most and over time they became my main friends at college. I enjoyed being around them but couldn’t shake how incompatible we seemed to be. We did a lot of things together like vacations and outings and so on. We held a joint post-graduation reception for us and our families where we played a slideshow of photos of us throughout college. We did Secret Santa-type games, we had tons of movie nights, dinners, etc. There were six of us, later seven, all girls, and we even gave ourselves a group name and at one point nicknames. So this was a fixed, not fluid, friend group. I think they valued my place in the group and my friendship more than I did theirs. They told me they would miss me so much during my junior year abroad, that I was the glue holding the group together, and they even threw me a surprise going-away party. (Although things changed during the year I was gone, and I came back to a slightly altered dynamic that it took me a while to get used to. There were definitely some disagreements and misunderstandings and hurt feelings as a result.) For my part, I just couldn’t get past how these were very much normal, regular girls–far from the nerdy anime fans that made up my circle of middle and high school friends (many of whom are still my closest friends today). I felt like I didn’t fit in and was the odd one out, even though we have shared some pop culture obsessions over the years like LOST. But they were the type to love Twilight and The Bachelor and everything I find boring and common (I know, I sound like a terrible pretentious snob). And I just felt like they never really truly understood or even knew all of me. And there have been so many times over the years that I’ve felt let down by them.

Nevertheless, they were my college group of friends. It’s been four years since graduation and it’s been interesting to observe how the dynamic has changed. One of us has pretty much fallen off the face of the earth, a movement that began our senior year, and now she’s really only an honorary member. As for the other five and me, I am pretty sure none of them would call me the glue of the group anymore. In fact, it’s looking more like I’m getting edged out by just about everyone, even though I doubt it’s a collaborative move agreed upon by all or anything.

And I’ll take full responsibility for my role in that, I know that there have been things I could have done over the years to stop that and I didn’t. While I was close with one in junior and senior year (we visited each other while studying abroad; we took senior portraits of one another), the summer after graduation she got so upset by my repeated (and, she felt, insensitive) requests to return a book of mine she had borrowed that she called me one day to lecture me. Our relationship has never been the same since, but she is much beloved by a couple other members of the group, so if it’s a choice between her and me they’re going to choose her. Another two have always been rubbed the wrong way by my sometimes blunt spoken nature, and it just seems we don’t mesh on a fundamental level. I try very hard with them to be someone they’d like but I don’t seem to get anywhere and I’m not sure they’re ever going to let me make any more progress. The last two have become my favorites as we seem to be more inherently compatible, but they have been geographically farther from me and that hasn’t done us any favors. Also, recently one of those last two was in town, and when she’s in town we always get together and have a good time, but for some reason this visit she didn’t plan in advance to meet with me. Instead, she texted me the night before she was going to fly back to ask me out to a movie–because someone else had canceled on her. And we met up and I was glad to see her and I had a good time, but she seemed lethargic for some reason. Also, when I asked her, it turns out she had been planning a meeting with the other friend who’s somewhat local (one of the ones I’ve always sensed doesn’t like something fundamental about me). The last time the three of us were in town, we had dinner together and (I thought) had a good time. I have absolutely no idea why, this time around, I would get not only left out of the plans entirely, but that I would become a last-minute afterthought for the person in the group I had thought I was closest to!

I’ll also admit that since graduation I haven’t made this group my priority at all. I’ve been happy to reunite with my old group of high school friends and grow closer to them instead; for some reason, many people in college totally broke things off with their old friends in favor of new college friends, including a lot of this group, and I definitely did not. There was, for sure, a part of me that felt like “I’ve got my real group back, and you guys have never been the ones I was most compatible with so it’s not as important for you as it is for me to stay close.” I am also very online-oriented when it comes to contact, and they are more Luddites; using the phone is big with them. Texting and phone conversations are huge with this group, and that’s just not my preferred method of communication. If they wanted to chat with me online more, I am sure we could have kept in touch better, but that just never happens. I also have tried pretty hard over the years to keep a big email chain going, but especially lately it’s been falling flat; no one will respond to the long, thoughtful catching-up initial message I wrote. I’ve also dragged my heels when it comes to meeting up in person; the closest one to me geographically lives on the complete other side of town where I never go, and I am just not able to justify spending the time and gas on someone who I continue to sense just plain doesn’t like me and get along with me, even though we try for the sake of the larger group. The others are in the other major cities in my state, and I have rarely gone to visit (for time and gas-cost reasons, mainly). When I have, I haven’t had the best time. So I’ve turned down offers to join everyone else for a vacation many times at this point. And a lot of my reasoning has to do with my future plans that I’ve been working towards for the past few years; I have needed to save just about everything I have, so I have not justified a lot of vacations and time off. It makes sense to me, but it looks like my friendships with these people may have become a real casualty. And I’m not putting in enough to make them feel kindly and supportive towards me when I say I can’t make yet another thing. I’m sure they’re feeling the rejection, and they have begun to withdaw from me in turn. I’m not even getting invitations now, as you can see. In fact, one (one of the two who I don’t click with intrinsically) is getting married, and I wasn’t asked to be a bridesmaid. But she asked the other four. I am the only one in our fixed-member group of friends (minus the one who we never hear from anymore) who was not asked to be her bridesmaid. That. Hurts.

Yes, I may not even be in the country for the wedding. Yes, I said I wouldn’t be in a wedding party ever again for anyone. For those two reasons I would have turned her down if she’d asked. That doesn’t matter when you consider the sting of realizing you are the only real member in our group of friends that this person does not consider herself close to anymore. The only one. And, yes, this is making someone else’s wedding about me, AKA exactly what you’re not supposed to do, but… I can’t help feeling hurt.

And because I’m a blunt bitch, I did tell her how I felt. I mean, I was gentle. I told her that I’m sure she had good reasons, and I understand why she made this decision, but it still hurts. And she said “I’m sorry you feel that way” but they needed to keep the wedding small and focus on only the people who knew the two of them as a couple. And she’s right. While I fully support their relationship based on everything I’ve heard, I haven’t seen her fiancé since college (because they don’t live locally and I don’t visit). She’s right but it still stings to have it made so obvious and before me. And I just hate being told “I’m sorry you feel that way.” It doesn’t show any empathy or sympathy at all. And I hate being told lies about keeping the wedding small. If I were a closer friend, that wouldn’t matter, and you and I both know it. It’s about as bad a lie as “I’ve just been sooooo busy lately, that’s why we can’t get together.” Nope. You make time in your life for the things and people that matter, and “busy” is no excuse. If someone’s not making time, it means you’re not that important. And it’s the same here. I’m not that important, anymore.

Every time I talk to one of them, I try to be myself and say what I want to say, about any topic, and I just feel like they wince. And politely sidestep what I said. In order for me to fit in with this group, it feels like I have to be a sanitized, tamer, more “normal” version of me.

(I also need to say a few words in my defense about my behavior since graduation. Aside from focusing on the local friends I felt naturally closer to, I have had to deal with a lot in the past four years. My career path plans have changed several times, resulting in numerous disappointments. I became extremely anxious starting the year after graduation and it has really taken me until just about now to figure out how to deal with myself and not freak out about the things I used to freak out about. And also to learn how to calm myself down when I do get anxious. I am way more relaxed now overall compared to then but it has taken a while. These people probably still think of me as a high-strung, high-maintenance person. In the meantime, I’ve gone to many therapy sessions and I did a year of meds. I also got official diagnoses of generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. I tried to tell my college friends about this, but I didn’t get much of a reaction. It didn’t make a real impact on them. Maybe I’d already done the damage by then and they didn’t have any warm feelings towards me left. I mean, resentment can really eat away at a person. It’s impossible to have a good relationship with someone who resents you and vice versa. It’s a poison in relationships of all kinds. Last summer Kirk and I worked out some issues related to that and things have been so insanely better since then, so the difference can be like night and day. But if resentment is there, things are not going to get better until it’s gone. And I don’t know if they’re willing to consider lifting their resentment towards me, even though I know all of my actions were perfectly understandable and justifiable in the context of my issues; I just don’t know if there’s anything I can do to stop it at this point.)

I mean, I know exactly what caused this, and I know it’s largely my own fault, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. And that, weirdly, considering everything I’ve said, I want to reverse the process. I want to repair these friendships and get them to like me and love me again. But what are my reasons? Is it because I adore and want to be close to these people? In most cases, no, not really. They are familiar, like relatives, so I don’t want to give them up, but if I didn’t know them I wouldn’t think “I must be this person’s friend.” Mostly, I think it’s out of shame and embarrassment. I don’t want to be the one abandoned by an entire group of friends. There are many times when I think “I could do without this person in my life,” and withdraw or officially sever ties, but that’s been on my terms. This started off on my terms, but now it’s on theirs. Now I’m scrambling and scrabbling to get my foothold back–and just to save face? I’ve already made overtures to several of them. But honestly, they might already be done with me. And I have no idea how to proceed in that case. Because I hate the idea of staying friends in name with someone when in reality there’s a mutual complete lack of fondness there. I’d rather be honest and just cut the ties. That’s what I had to do with my Paris friends when, in a shockingly similar situation, all of them turned their backs on me. But I feel different things, and varying desires to stay friends, about all of them. So I can’t just do a mass defriend/remove-from-life. And if I do only a few, it could be awkward in the future if we’re all together. Although at this point, who knows if that will even happen and I’ll be invited to it!

But when you can’t afford to visit people and show them with actions that you think of them as important… when all you can do is use your words and talk and make online contact… how is this not inevitable? I honestly don’t know what I could have done differently. Gone on those visits and had a miserable time doing things I didn’t want to do or spend money on (like country dancing or eating sushi at a non-authentic place yes again I am a snob)? Ugh. I guess I’m going to have to chalk this up to “sacrifices along the way as I pursued a career change.” But, I still hate it. And at the same time I wish these people would be more understanding of me and my situation. I wish they still felt I deserved that.

I mean, I guess all of this brilliantly illustrates just how much of a selfish asshole I am/can be. Yikes!

Friendships are hard to maintain without spending money.

Ugh.

Advertisements

Upheaval

Not much to report; I’m currently in “waiting for results/on pins and needles wanting to plan my future” mode. Also, “hoping money would magically rain down from the sky” mode. Doing a couple Japanese textbook lessons every weekend, some Read The Kanji every day, and translating a lot in my free time (neverending pile of things to translate). I’m happy though that translation has gotten so much easier and faster since I increased my level. It’s amazing! But I’m also having to work hard to get my fitness levels back to where they used to be before I took my studying break. It’s like I traded increased Japanese ability for decreased muscle/strength/endurance. But, super worth it and I’d do it all over again.

(One small note about gym stuff… remember how I said I probably wouldn’t still be doing Pilates if not for my amazing instructor? Yeah, well… she quit! The gym changed up the times for the classes I had with her, and took away a few others I wasn’t attending, which really pissed her off and made her feel unappreciated (she protested, as did many of her regular students myself included, but it didn’t help)… plus attendance dropped since all the changes made things more inconvenient… and I guess it wasn’t worth it for her gas/time-wise with less classes to teach a day… so she quit this location! Nooooooo. I totally understand her decision but I still hate it and I’m mad at the gym’s stupid management. I hope they’re sorry now. I got to have one last class with her, which I didn’t realize would be her final class here, and then the next time I went there was a sub, and there’s no permanent replacement yet. I’d like to say I’m still going to go, but… probably not. However, I’m trying to change up my weekly workout routine to compensate for it, and still get in some ab work on my own every week anyway. And at least I’m going to yoga 2-3 times a week. But–sigh. I’m going to miss her!)

First, a little follow-up to my entry talking about how hard it is to make and keep real Japanese friends in Japan, instead of just sticking close to the other foreigners/ex-pats there. Right after I wrote that I came across an article Debito Arudou wrote on the subject, and the follow-up piece with readers’ responses. Not a real fan of Debito Arudou (especially the fact that he makes a point to call himself by his naturalized Japanese name instead of his birth name; I just think that’s stupid even if it is his legal name now) and in general he’s a fault-finding whiner but in this case he’s more or less got it right. It’s an interesting read in any case.

Thinking about how irritating it is that in Japan you’re often considered more of a “foreigner” representative archetype than an actual human person, I’ve noticed there are some parallels when it comes to, of all things, feminism/sexism. One of the points there is to get men to view women as whole and complete people, humans, not “women.” Don’t ask “how do I talk to girls”–just talk to them like you would any other human being. They are people, not a monolith representing “women.” It’s the same with how many Japanese view foreigners–you’ll always get asked where you’re from (what’s your nationality), it will be assumed that you speak English (and you will either be avoided in order to dodge the possibility of having to speak English, or you will be accosted for free English conversation lessons), and many conversations will revolve around your country and the differences between it and Japan (with many subtle reminders of how Japan is unique and better–four seasons, anyone?!). For once I would love to see a Japanese person just ask a foreigner, “How’s your day going? What have you been into lately?” instead of, “Today is so cold/hot, I bet it never gets this cold/hot where you’re from!” and making almost every conversation about your differences instead of your similarities as humans.

Anyway! I had shabu-shabu recently with some friends and friends-of-friends; the dinner conversation should have been entirely in Japanese considering the four Japanese people there and three of us able to converse in Japanese, but everyone wasn’t spread out well so it wasn’t as immersive as I would have liked. The shabu-shabu was delicious though, of course, and I got to try out a new restaurant which is good but a little too far for me to want to go again. I also noticed something that bothers me: the advanced Japanese learner who nonetheless has a terrible speaking accent. Terrible. Just horrid. He can express himself quite fluidly, call on the vocabulary he needs easily, but his pronunciation is unbelievably awful. It hurts to hear. I seriously don’t understand how anyone can get to that level and never think to put serious time and effort into fixing your accent. Maybe I’m just biased because it comes easily to me, I mean I do know how hard it is to improve an accent (hello, French), but at least try. It gives the rest of us a bad reputation.

A friend also turned me on to this article and, by extension, Michael Erard’s book Babel No More where he studied hyperpolyglots, people who have studied 10-50 languages. (She sent it to me with the note “This is you! He should have interviewed you!” but I fall pretty short of those criteria!). I really have to disagree with that approach. If you haven’t mastered a language, to me, it’s not really worth it. Don’t say “I know [x]” if you couldn’t actually hold a real conversation with a native speaker. Because I feel like these people really aren’t mastering the majority of these languages; there’s just entries on a résumé. So to me that sort of thing really isn’t as impressive as it seems to people who don’t study languages, who only have high school French under their belt. As I said here, it’s really not that great to be a jack of all trades if you’re not a master of at least one. I’d rather focus on complete fluency in one of the most difficult languages to learn as a native English speaker, thank you. That’s what should be truly worthy of admiration.

What I really want to discuss though is the recent changes at my job. There’s been a lot of upheaval and weirdly I’ve emerged from it as the most senior person in my department in terms of longevity with the company–but I’m not the boss! That’s okay though, I don’t want to be. When I quit my other job to come back to this one, I was excited to work with my boss/managing editor, who had been such a great mentor for me since 2009 and also just a wonderful, warm, and sweet person. She was also eight months pregnant when I returned. We only worked together in the office for a few weeks before she had her baby and went on maternity leave. She swore to us she’d be back in December… then it became January… then on the day she was supposed to start back, we got an email instead letting us know that she had decided to make her maternity leave permanent (though still do freelance work for the company, mostly PR stuff) and as her replacement we were going to bring back my former co-editor, who had quit to go work somewhere else about a month before I did! Who was also someone I had grown close to as we’re pretty similar and we had gotten together a couple times since she quit. So it was very much a situation where the good news canceled out the bad news, even though we were all sad about the bad news. (It also turned out this had all been planned since Christmas!!)

I wasn’t upset at all at that my boss didn’t approach me about replacing her. When I was re-hired, I found out that she had also been in touch with this same girl, who had turned them down (even though she was unhappy at her new job just like I was), so they re-hired me instead. I’m fine with that. She’s an excellent editor and writer and she has a master’s degree in journalism, so it makes perfect sense that she’s the person they would pursue first. She is further along in her career than I am and it doesn’t hurt my feelings at all. It was the same here; she’s the much better choice for the job. It was also sort of a direct hire situation where my old boss went straight to her (“If I quit, would you consider replacing me?”) and they worked it out amongst themselves; no one else was considered for the position. And also, I don’t want that job, I don’t want to be the boss. I’m only 26! I’m very happy right where I am.

So that happened, she started in January, and things have been great with her in charge. Then, in February, another co-editor made an announcement: she and her husband were very likely about to adopt! This was someone who had been hired to start the same day as me, and had worked part-time (three days a week) ever since. When I came back we became office roommates and as the person with the most longevity in editorial she acted as interim managing editor during my boss’s maternity leave. It turns out that after years of trying for a baby, they had decided to go the adoption route at least to start. So very soon everything worked out and a pregnant girl chose them and they adopted her baby; she went into labor at the end of February and just recently we found out that my coworker’s maternity leave is also going to be permanent. We had hired a replacement just in case anyway, so that’s another full personnel replacement. Fortunately, I really like the new editor we hired and I think she’ll be a great addition to the staff.

And as if all that weren’t enough, we had another change: someone got fired. Well, it needed to happen. This was someone who was hired a couple months before I came back, to replace both me and the other girl who left (who’s now managing editor!). At my boss’s baby shower in September, I asked her how the new girl was doing. Her answer: “She’s good… she’s okay…” in an optimistic but not enthusiastic tone. After she went on maternity leave, it fell to me and the other editor (the one who adopted and left) to read and review her editorials after she wrote them. I quickly noticed several glaring red flags. It wasn’t that she was a bad writer… but there were a lot of details she wasn’t getting right. Consistently. I’d point them out one time, they’d pop back up the next. And sometimes the way she put the editorial together just didn’t make logical sense and I’d be moving around chunks of text to rework it. She would also frequently send me the wrong file, the wrong attachment, or no attachment. There were lots of mistakes to revise, constantly. It took time! I tried to remember my recent experience and give her positive feedback too. But it was hard when she needed so much work, and when she couldn’t remember to implement the changes we were asking her to absorb. (She also missed a lot of work for what I felt were trivial reasons, and this was after she’d taken time off shortly after she first started to get married and go on her honeymoon! I kept thinking, “You’re already on thin ice, why are you damaging your standing at work further!”).

She sensed that she wasn’t quite getting things, and cornered me one day while I was proofreading to ask if I thought she was doing a good job here. I told her I was too busy to answer her, and hoped she wouldn’t ask again. I also didn’t really like her on a personal level. She was nice, but also the type to talk big and never follow through, and the type who seems to make bad decisions in general (like deciding to foster a very needy adult dog–sorry, but you’re never going to get rid of that dog! Or telling me she wants to lose weight and then grabbing fast food for lunch every day), and I always lose respect for people like that. She also radiated insecurity and neediness, the type whose problems can easily transfer onto you, and I can’t be around people who are going to contribute to my anxious tendencies when I’m trying to be as relaxed and anxiety-free as I can in general. (I often have to tell myself, “Other people’s problems are not your own and you can’t make people behave the way they should. Don’t sink your mental energy into issues you have no power to change.”) I pointed out my misgivings about her professionally to my co-editor, and I pretty much knew she needed to go and wanted her gone, but we sort of agreed there wasn’t much we could do until our managing editor got back. Then she never got back, and I wondered if the new managing editor would notice the same things. I hoped she would, but I had pretty much given up on thinking it would happen when one day it did. She got let go, and it was messy–I heard her bawling loudly in my managing editor’s office. She left in tears.

Weird things have come to light since she left. She was 30, and this was her first full-time job (that probably explains all the absences). She had ADD and wasn’t taking her medication. She left an unacceptable amount of unwritten profiles, meaning she was way behind on her work and had been wasting a lot of time every day. In the end she benefited quite a bit from lacking a true supervisor for a long time. She probably would have been gone much sooner if that hadn’t been the case. So I’m glad she’s gone, since I wasn’t fond of her personally or professionally, but I do feel terrible for her–this happened the week before her birthday–and I have a feeling she’s going to be unemployed for a while and I just truly pity her. I’m full of conflicting emotions about this, but I am very happy that my managing editor recognized the same things I did and made a very tough but right decision. She also hired a replacement who starts next week.

So since October when I re-started here, the composition of my department has completely changed until I am the only one left who has been here the whole time! Ha, just a little ridiculous. But all the changes have been good, or good-but-sad, so it’s all right. Just, wow! No wonder I’m a “senior editor” now (got a promotion in name only).

Practicality

First off, results came in today and I didn’t get the full ride scholarship I had been desperately hoping I could somehow beat the odds to receive. I was overlooked for academics who will likely waste their useless degrees working retail, not becoming esteemed professors and authors of valuable books on Asian culture. Yes, that sounds petty. But I don’t get it. I want to do something practical and useful, I’ve done many things to distinguish myself and I’m active in my local Japanese community–the president of our Japan-America society even wrote one of my letters of recommendation–and I’m passed over for people dabbling in nothing at all of any good to society (for the most part). Aside from the Ivy League names dotting the list (which begs the question, why do these people need funding again?), a lot of the successful recipients sound more like indecisive dilettantes, picking up one degree and then another in a totally different field because they can’t figure out what to do with their lives. How, exactly, are all these master’s degrees and Ph.Ds and detailed research proposals in Japanese ceramics in the 1600s and so on going to be used in concrete careers? Is that really behavior and life choices that should be rewarded and funded? Well, whatever, enough bitterness. I had suspected I wouldn’t be chosen for those reasons and I was right. I am just sorry they couldn’t see what a great candidate I am and how much choosing me would have enriched their foundation. Maybe that sounds narcissistic and entitled but I truly believe that. So, back to square one, back to worry over whether I’ll be able to do this. I really need funding.

Moving on… a side effect of resolving to read more Japanese new articles has been increasing pessimism about Japan and, by extension, my desire of basing a future career around Japanese products/goods/language. Besides the fact that all eyes are on China these days to outstrip Japan as the major Asian superpower (so I should really be learning Mandarin instead, but I took two weeks of it and really wasn’t feeling it–I love Japanese instead!), Japan just seems headed downhill. Soooo many cultural problems that those in power are sluggish at best (disinterested, close-minded, stubborn, and inactive at worst) about fixing. For example, if something could be done about women in Japanese society, I feel like so many problems could clear up, including the declining birth rate (because it seems to me that many Japanese women want to stay independent and not virtually enslaved to a husband and family, so they are choosing not to marry and procreate. So if you want the birth rate to go up, take measures to make marriage and motherhood more appealing to those women). Maybe I’m just going to sound like a presumptuous foreigner here, but I’ve been reading up a lot on this lately and I haven’t come across anything to disprove this. If society’s perceptions could change to accommodate viewing women as capable of pursuing careers independent of marriage/children–and to accommodate views of men as doing “women’s work” like shopping at the grocery store, cooking for the family, caring for the children, and doing the housecleaning; just anything to shake up these staid prescribed roles–that would do so much good. My sister teaches English and reports that so many girls, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, don’t dream very big: “Preschool teacher” and so on. No one wants to be a scientist, an engineer. Girls don’t want to stand out in class, either, and let the boys take all the attention for getting answers right. At companies it’s the norm for women to do administrative work and for men to do all the real professional jobs. I wish that would change so much! It would benefit society immensely to show women that career and marriage/motherhood are not mutually exclusive, that you can have both, and that you can dream as big and be as smart as men. And I look at the Diet and I just can’t see that group of old-fashioned fuddy-duddies doing anything that would help that.

It just seems like Japan is stuck in a rut and things are going downhill and it’s going to start affecting its position in the world soon, and it keeps seeming like not the best idea to align myself with a country and a language whose star is not so much on the rise. Also, exchange rates are absolutely ridiculous at this point in time, making an already expensive venture even more so. It just seems like everything is telling me, “Don’t go, this isn’t wise.” And yet… I just can’t listen. It’s what I want to do with all my heart, and my current career is not enough to sustain me forever, and I’ve delayed it so long already that to wait any longer would probably drive me crazy as well as make everyone around me roll their eyes and lose faith in my ability to follow through on what I say I’ll do. I have to try and it needs to be now. But I wish I could feel better about it; I wish there were better news coming out of Japan. I would love to be wrong about this but I don’t think I am. I also look back on my 2006 self who first went to Japan and I just feel embarrassed; so much I didn’t know even though I thought I knew everything.

On the bright side I’m learning a lot, so that part of my resolution has been successful.

Japanese-wise I keep having it confirmed that all my frantic studying has paid off and I really did launch myself into the next stratosphere of the language. I can read better, for one, and maybe I can listen better too. It feels pretty good. I’ve been able to crack open previously illegible books and find that I can read them pretty easily now. As an example, when I first visited Japan I bought a random volume of BL manga at a bookstore, just because I could. I’d been a BL fan for a long time (still am! Holla). I chose it purely because the art on the cover was good; it was shrink-wrapped (as most Japanese books in stores are) so I couldn’t look inside. When I could open it, I discovered the art inside was nowhere near as good as that on the cover. Shocking! I mean, I know now that everyone knows not to trust the exterior art, but I didn’t know better then. Anyway, so the art inside was bad and my Japanese wasn’t good enough to read it and figure out what was going on; I only had three (easy) semesters under my belt when I bought it. The other night I was sorting through things in my room and I came across it; I opened it up and finally I could read it. So I read the first chapter. It’s crap. I don’t want to own this anymore. If I wanted to buy BL in Japan just to say I did, I should have done my research and actually gotten something good by a vetted author, not a random book off the shelf. I have a lot of Japanese manga I don’t need anymore (most sent to me by TOKYOPOP while I was rewriting them) and it looks like the best way to get rid of them is going to be to take them to Japan and resell them at a Book-Off or something, even if I get peanuts in return. Seems cumbersome but I doubt there is going to be a market for them here and it seems weird to just throw them away.

That little episode–and the larger act of sorting through my possessions for what to keep and what to sell–reminded me to double down going forward on selectiveness in what I acquire. What seems worth paying full price now may be a regretted purchase years down the road as I bring it to Half-Price to get literally pennies in return and have to face the fact that I threw money directly down the drain. I always think I have this in mind and that I’m only buying what I really want to keep for good and then come across all these things I somehow need gone. The worst is when the item is no longer functional in any way but you have a sentimental attachment to it that prevents you from putting it in the trash can.

On another note… my sister is really good about finding things I’d be interested in and sending me links. The other day she pointed me to the (Japan-based) Society of Writers, Editors & Translators and I’ve been going through some of the fascinating articles posted online from their newsletter. I’m enjoying the articles, although groups like this just make me feel intensely desperate and envious, remembering that I’m not a part of that world yet even though I am dying to be. Although I am already a writer and an editor, just not (currently) with anything related to Japan/Japanese.

Anyway, I enjoyed the review of Globish, since the notion of English as the world’s dominant language has interested me ever since my French host dad mentioned, while my mom was visiting Paris and we were having dinner with my host family–and speaking in English for her benefit, some of us less fluent than others–that many French people have/had grown up with the idea that the dominant language in the world is French. Because for centuries, that was true. And it’s very hard for them to adjust to the fact that it’s pretty much English now, hence why a lot of French people (somewhat stubbornly) don’t speak English and expect your French to be very good or they are impatient. Anyway, I took particular notice of this, which begins with an excerpt from the book:

For centuries Japanese was remote, mysterious and separate. But this special linguistic inheritance does seem to have made Japan proud of its culture, as it did in Britain. Paradoxically, a nation that is assertive in business and commerce is unconfident in language and culture…Ever since Commodore Perry’s appearance off the coast of Tokyo in 1853, and long before Hiroshima, there had occasionally been suggestions from leading Japanese that the country should adopt English, or even French, as the national language. Many older Japanese, Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe, for example, are fluent in French, and well versed in French culture, a hangover from colonial days.

This is all either misleading or just plain wrong. As those of us who live here know, the Japanese are second only to the French in taking loving care of their language. Those on the masochistic margins who have denigrated it are arguably no less enamored of it than the linguistic nationalists who have extravagantly extolled it. The first part of McCrum’s last sentence here is incorrect, and the final phrase is baffling.

Ha! First of all, I completely agree, but moreover it made me think: It’s interesting to me that the two languages I’ve focused on the most are also ones highly prized by their native speakers–indeed, arguably some of the most highly prized languages in the world. I certainly don’t hold English in such high esteem or feel as much pride for it as Japanese and French people do about their mother tongues, and I’m not alone. Everyone looooves to repeat that joke about English beating up other languages in alleys and taking their syntax, grammar, vocabulary, etc. If English has to be the dominant language in the world–no matter how convenient it is for me as a native speaker of it–I wish it could be a better, more ideal language. It has so many flaws. And most of us are uneducated about it; I’m still amazed every time I come across someone who believes English is a Romance language (I guess because when learning SAT words, the Latin roots of many are emphasized, so maybe people think that Latin-based vocabulary = Latin-based grammar and syntax as well; it does not and English is Germanic).

I also came across two more articles that address the rise of machine translation and how it threatens translators today, which of course is a topic I am very much interested in. Fortunately, at least in the opinion of the author–someone who also happens to be a California-based J->E translator, AKA my dream, so I’m definitely jealous–the outlook is favorable, which is reassuring.

Still, I just feel like there are so many obstacles keeping me from what I want to do and feel I need to/should do, and sheer desperate passion/fervent hoping isn’t going to make them disappear… I wish I had money!