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).

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