Trust my instincts, close my eyes, and leap?

So, while I’m really enjoying my time here in this city working at this school, when my contract ends in March I’m moving to Tokyo (well, Tokyo area–I’ll live in a dorm or guesthouse, probably in my old hood of Chiba) to try and get a different kind of job. Really any kind that will have me, that can pay a rent and sponsor a visa, and that ideally isn’t English teaching–not because I don’t like it but because anyone can do it and I’d like to try for something not anyone can do. Starting April 2013 I’ll have 90 days to find a new job before my visa expires, and even then if I can prove I’ve been actively seeking work it could get extended.

Starting in about spring 2010 my utmost goal was to attend the IUC 10-month Japanese program in Yokohama. I began planning my life and making decisions around making that dream a reality. I knew I needed money, so I quit my low-paying job and took a higher-paying one, only to go back to the first job after a raise when it turns out I hated the new job. I moved in with my parents to eliminate rent and utilities expenses. I spent late 2010 and early 2011 on pins and needles waiting to find out if I’d get the funding to make it in time for the 2011-2012 school year. I didn’t. I was heartbroken. I attended a Japanese summer program anyway and followed Plan B, move to Japan to teach.

Since I gave up on 2011-2012, the question has been: should I try to make it for 2012-2013? I’ve been agonizing over this decision since September.

I’m pretty sure I’ve ultimately decided no.

The rejection experience has left me pretty bitter. I’m mad at academia, and mad at the people who award the kind of money I need, who don’t want to award to me because I’m not following the laziest and most useless life path of academia. Seriously–in 95% of cases, the people getting advanced degrees in pointless academic fields are not going to become professors. They went straight on to grad school after college BECAUSE THEY WERE SCARED OF THE REAL WORLD. Oh, but let’s reward them! They are too scared to get a real job, so they need money! Let’s give it to them! Let’s validate their cowardly life choices.

It just makes me sick. The thought of applying to people and organizations like that all over again, when they shit on me so spectacularly the first time around, is extremely off-putting to say the least.

Ironically, I’m the kind of person who you’d think would be a perfect candidate for an advanced degree or two. I’ve always been a good student, the kind teachers love. I write a great essay. I love learning and I don’t ever want to stop. I’m a voracious reader with a very large vocabulary. I know three foreign languages. I have a lot of things I’m still interested in studying that I didn’t get to in college (in fact, I know I squandered my college time by studying many things I was less than 100%–or even 70%–interested in, and should have made a ton of wiser college-related choices starting with my alma mater, but it’s too late for that now). I did IB in high school, and the highest academic level classes in middle and elementary school. Logically, I should have joined my classmates from those advanced education programs and gone straight on to grad school after college. But I didn’t, and I don’t know, but it’s looking like I never will. Because I’m too practical to appeal to the awarding committees, who apparently want someone who flouts all logic and would rather make an incredibly stupid decision (take on more debt in a recession) than face fears and truly test yourself.

So yeah. No fancy 10-month program with 98% of my peers grad students working on theses about the most useless subjects imaginable, when many will not become professors because there are not enough spots in the academic world, and it’s looking kind of like no fancy translation grad school like I’ve dreamed of since 2007. I still want to go, very badly–after all this is not an academic grad school, it is more like real-life translator job training complete with mad employer connections hence the appeal–but it’s just… so… expensive. And see what I said before about my utter lack of confidence that award committees will give me the money I need. Originally I wanted to try to enroll by fall 2014. Now, I don’t know if that can happen, or if I even want it to. Do I want to uproot myself again, so soon?

I’ve just been burned. Bad. And I thought I’d feel better after some time to lick my wounds, but I don’t. I simply don’t feel like staggering to my feet and submitting myself to more pain. And I’m not even sure the program would be the best use of my time and money (so much money) anyway, assuming I could somehow afford it. It’s made for grad students, not future translators. I’d have to do a lot of things I’d never need to do as a translator. I really feel like self-study can cover a lot of what I need–which is something often said and rarely followed through on, but I’m pretty disciplined, and that’s something I’ve proved to myself so I know–and there are private Japanese language schools I can attend for 3-6 months to fill in any gaps.

Mostly, I just want to test myself. See if I can close my eyes and leap, and land on my feet. If I can’t, I go home to the US. I go home to my boyfriend and my family and my cat, and try to cobble together my new career from there. Either way doesn’t sound so bad.

I’m being real, why is that so impossible to get?

I’ve been thinking lately about why it happens that my intentions get totally twisted in the views of others sometimes. It’s just happened so often over the course of 26 years that it’s a little ridiculous.

I started thinking about it when I realized some of the comments the lunch lady at school has made to me might be a little passive-aggressive. The lunch lady is in charge of bringing in and setting up trays of school lunches for the teachers. I don’t usually eat the school lunch because it’s very Japanese and fishy a lot, and it’s rude to not eat everything, so I opt to bring a lunch instead. My desk in the staff room is right by where the lunch lady wheels her stuff in and begins setting up, so she got to know me pretty early on, and I’ve helped her put together lunches a few times. I’ve been genuinely nice to her and I believed she was being genuinely nice back. A couple months ago, one of the other teachers began asking me if I wanted the dessert from his school lunch when there was one, which I always accepted. Now he knows to give it to me and every time I feel pleased and grateful and like I belong and am liked. The other day he’d given me the mikan tart from the lunch, which was good (all the tarts are good!), and when the lunch lady was by my desk beginning to clean up the trays near the end of lunchtime, I told her that the tart was good (as my way of complimenting her, even though it’s not like she baked it herself). I mentioned that I got it from the teacher who gave it to me. She said something along the lines of “oh, yes, because you’re young and cute [that’s why the other teachers like you/spoil you].”

I was pretty stunned. It was just so blatantly passive-aggressive. Like, forget that I’ve been nothing but nice and sweet and willing and helpful to everyone here, all the other teachers and staff, all the time. I’ve done everything that’s been asked of me with a smile, I’ve tried my hardest not to cause trouble for anyone. No, if someone is nice to me, it has to be for no other reason than that, according to her, I’m young and cute.

And then I thought back to the troubles I had at my last job… where those three girls all developed a strong dislike of me, even though I was nothing but pleasant to them, and I mean truly sincerely nice and sweet. I wasn’t faking anything, I was being real. I honestly liked them and wanted them to like me too. And I wondered – was it the same issue? Is this “young and cute” perception inspiring jealousy and thus dislike, rendering all my efforts to get along with them futile from the start?

Honestly–and I really mean this here, I’m not just trying to sound humble–I don’t think there’s anything about me that should inspire jealousy. I don’t think of myself as a person with enough [X quality] to warrant jealousy. I don’t see myself as threatening these women in any way. If anything, I admire THEM for various reasons, and just want to be friendly with them.

I know this sounds sort of smarmy, and like there’s no way I can be for real. But I am! I am for real! I am this sincere and good! And that’s the other thing–no one can believe that there exists such a person. There’s no way I can be for real, so I must be acting this way to manipulate, I must have some ulterior motive, which fuels the jealousy-sprung dislike even more. A misconception arises, and grows unstoppably the longer they know me. Trash-talking ensues, and finally gets back to me, and I am hurt and stunned. Blindsided, every time.

Unfortunately this pattern has happened several times now in my life, and it’s a nasty shock every time. Evidently there’s a big disconnect between how I view myself, and how I am coming across to others. And I really don’t know what I can do to fix it. But this has to be the connection linking all these incidences…

1. Middle school, seventh grade (age 13). Things come to a head between me and the majority of my friends from elementary school. After foolishly becoming best friends with the most unpopular girl in our grade in first grade, despite the fact that I had dropped her by second grade, I was labeled as just as weird by association by my classmates, and did not have a lot of friends–or no close friends lasting longer than a year–until 4th-5th grade, when I grew close to four girls and considered them my closest friends. We entered into the same middle school and began mixing with the new people there. I got to know several new people and began to hang out with them; one of those four old friends was part of this new group. The others were not, but not out of exclusion; I tried to include them every chance I got, and I still sought them out to chat with in the halls and when we had a class together and tried to keep our bonds strong, but they seemed lukewarm to most of that and to my new group. Sanrio was one interest we all shared, however, and these Sanrio facebook-like books began to get purchased and passed around. I had a Spottie Dottie one I had all of my friends–including the old ones from elementary school–fill out a page for, and treasured it. Then it came to light that someone else’s book, that I hadn’t signed yet, had somehow turned into a place for several people to unload their unhappy feelings about me. Apparently, my elementary school friends felt like I’d changed and that I was the one treating them badly. I’d invited all those people to my 13th birthday party, and they’d come, but evidently those three old friends had felt like I’d invited them out of spite somehow.

When I learned this I was so incredibly shocked and hurt. I had never, ever, ever, ever had any ill intentions towards them. In my view, I had done all I could to keep our bonds strong. I still liked them just as much, but if anything I felt like they didn’t care for me very much, which is why I had pulled back a bit. But I was still just as friendly to them when we did see each other. All I was guilty of was forming/joining a new group with people I had more in common with, who liked me more expressively, that I clicked with better, even though I had tried to include them as well whenever I could.

It still baffles me how even my most innocent actions were interpreted by them to be so intentionally hurtful, simply because they were upset with me. I mean, they read things into my behavior that absolutely weren’t there at all–total fabrications, but they believed them so easily! I won’t get into how Aro, who informed me about this, was a little too gleeful in telling me–we’d spent the early years of our friendship being very competitive with each other, and there was finally something bringing me down.

To this day I am still friends with only one of those old elementary school friends who were involved in the trash-talking, but our friendship was rocky for years as I still felt betrayed by what she’d done. The new group I formed/joined turned out to be the origin of my current group of close friends today, we stuck together throughout high school and hung out on college breaks back home, and I still talk to most of them regularly.

2. High school, senior year (age 18). Things come to a head between me and several of my previously closest friends over something I’d done a year before (carry on a brief online flirtation with my friend’s boyfriend towards the end of their relationship and a little after they broke up, then kiss him several months later). While that sounds bad, I’d like to point out that I wasn’t the only friend of hers who did this, but I was the one who received the worst punishment from other mutual friends. I was on the business end of a nasty dressing-down from one of them, who accused me of all sorts of evil intent I was completely innocent of–deliberately flirting with him/seducing him, etc, none of which happened–it had all been him instigating it.

3. Editor job (age 23-25). Over the three years I spent at this company, three separate women took a strong dislike to me. I would compliment one on a cute headband (a sincere compliment that I truly meant), and she would go to one of them later: “Oh my god, did you hear what she said? What does THAT mean?” and infuse my innocent statement with all sorts of malice that wasn’t there at all. The third, the worst one, misinterpreted almost everything I did or said around or to her as having ill intent, none of which was actually there. In reality, I liked all of them and just wanted us to have a good relationship. But it got so twisted.

Let me repost the old entry I wrote about that third one on her last day of work at my job.

Dear Girl At Work I Just Found Out Hates Me,

Today was your last day. Thank God you’d already quit before I found out you’d been trash-talking me all over the office–the last two days have been awkward enough for me. Seriously, what is your problem? Do you just enjoy being a negative person? It’s not that I’m so amazing I would never expect anyone to dislike me, but here are your bizarre-ass reasons.

1) While preparing for the Thanksgiving potluck in our office kitchen, I had a casserole warming in the oven while you stood in front of the oven door stirring your soup at the stove. I opened the oven door to check on my casserole and did not apologize to you. Evidently, this honest mistake–I really don’t even remember what happened there, but I was probably in a hurry and just forgot, or I said something and you didn’t hear it–was UNSPEAKABLY rude and you’ve repeated the story (probably with many exaggerations) to anyone in the office who will listen. Séri is so rude! She opens oven doors on people!
2) I had the audacity to send you, the birthday coordinator, a cake flavor request from me and the other January birthday girl. We agreed on red velvet. I thought I was being friendly and helping you out, since you’d be asking anyway. You thought I was rudely telling you what to do, even though the email was as nice as can be. You received it and immediately forwarded it to your co-conspirator with a catty “Oh, my god. Look what I just got. Can you believe this?”
3) When you reasoned that “red velvet is just chocolate with red food coloring added” (um, no it isn’t, FUTURE PASTRY CHEF–there’s only one teaspoon of cocoa powder in red velvet) and purchased two packages of crappy grocery store chocolate cupcakes to bring to the January birthday celebration at work and I said “I don’t eat chocolate cake” and didn’t eat any of them, this only proved your point.
4) After you quit and your job of birthday coordinator opened up, you told me I had been “unanimously nominated” for the job. I told you I didn’t want it and that was just another example to further your negative perception of me. Although by that point, I could have given you an honest compliment and you would have tittered away to others later all, “Oh my god, what did she mean by that?” (which actually happened with your co-conspirator, unbelievably enough)
5) I am “weird.” Yes indeed, I am weird as many of my friends know, but I don’t broadcast that part of myself at work. Instead, this is your definition of weird: doesn’t play stupid mind games. Is honest and sometimes blunt. Is shy and quiet but then will bust out with a surprising irreverent remark. Doesn’t act like a catty bitch still stuck in high school giving out dishonest comments and compliments. And who knows what else.

All of these ridiculous reasons and perhaps more are why you hate me. Seriously?! Are you insane or just really, really insecure? I’d honestly like to know what your problem is.

When you were hired six months ago, you had just broken up with your fiancé and moved back to [D City]. Prior to moving away from [D City] with him, you had worked here as an editor. You needed a job, my boss was fond of you, so she found you a job in the only open position in the company. It was not an editor job, but you were told that in several months we would need to hire another editor and we would bring you on. It is now six months later, and you have found another job as a pastry chef and are moving on. When I first found out about this a week ago, I was shocked and disappointed. I had considered you a future editorial coworker, I had genuinely liked you, and I had always been nice to you and thought that you were nice back to me. I thought we had a mutual friendly rapport and looked forward to becoming closer in the future. I knew you were going through hard times after the dissolution of an engagement and I had sympathy for you. I included you on funny emails about dog costumes and wondered why you never came along to anything like a birthday lunch for me. I always thanked you when I sent you my approved editorials, it being your job to process them. When speaking to you, I never once got the sense that you disliked me.

We held a going-away happy hour for you Wednesday night, and I gladly attended. After everyone left but me and another girl in your department, the truth came out about everything she’d overheard you say about me. It was a complete and utter shock. I still fail to understand WHAT I do that no one else does that attracts that sort of vitriol. So far as I can tell, none of my other editorial coworkers have received this sort of hate, but I think they act pretty much the same as me. What is so hateful special about me?? I really try to keep myself tamped down and held back at work, I don’t let my true colors out much because I thought it was best to always act professional and not be too personal at work, but perhaps this is the exact thing that gives off a snotty impression.

In observing you the past couple of days since I found out, I have realized that you are a typical queen bee type person, much like the other girl who I also thought I was friendly with, genuinely liked, and it turns out she secretly hated me and was trash-talking me (who has now also, fortunately, left the company). While you don’t strike me as the typical mainstream sorority-girl type, you still manage to have a very clever, attracting type personality. People are drawn to you and want to be friends with you, and you see this and manipulate them–while never actually acting as if you do, it’s still what happens. You thrive on gossip about others. It drew me in too, I thought I wanted to be your friend. But it turns out you are just another insecure girl trying to feel better about herself by trash-talking others. I really feel sorry for you.

But I do have to admit that you (indirectly) brought to my attention the fact that among a few people at work, I have a reputation as stuck-up and strange. (Why do people always assume quiet people are snooty? I really don’t understand it. It’s not that I think I’m too cool to talk to you, it’s that I don’t have anything good to say!) It makes me want to scream that no one bothers to look beneath the surface and just makes assumptions about people. This has happened to me throughout my entire life, and people are always downright SHOCKED the first time I let out a curse word in their presence or prove myself to actually be, you know, cool. And guess what, finding out a few people at work secretly hate me is NO picnic and I really just want to yell at you that I already have enough problems of my own and don’t need this at all. Anyway, I’ll be working to change my public image at work from now on, especially because your co-conspirator, someone ELSE I would have never suspected dislikes me because we’ve always been very friendly towards each other and I thought we had a genuine mutual liking, still works here and is in a managerial position–enough to have gotten the last four other people she disliked fired–though thankfully I’m in another department and she has no power over me. And yes, if I could do it over again, I would have sucked it up and eaten a goddamn chocolate cupcake, but I was really pissed at the time and I honestly had no idea why you would have done something so careless. I wanted you to feel hurt that you had been thoughtless, but it just became more fuel for your fire, another thing for you to bitch to someone else about. How immature are you, by the way, when you bake wonderfully presented and delicious vanilla bean cupcakes the month before, and then the next month–which has birthdays for two people you don’t really like–you completely half-ass it? Seriously. If that was my job, I would never, ever half-ass someone’s birthday celebration just because I didn’t like them, as some kind of “fuck you,” and then use it as proof that they’re just as prissy as I suspected. Oh, but I’ll definitely be enjoying the Irish cream you brought to the white elephant Christmas party that I ended up getting. Suck on that; no wonder you looked so unhappy that it was me who won it in the end.

Good luck at your new job as a pastry chef not knowing the difference between red velvet and chocolate cake. I can probably bake red velvet better than you can. And good riddance, bitch.

I just don’t understand. How has this kept happening? What is it about me that inspires this in others? How can I stop it? Is it just a “young and cute” perception inspiring instant dislike? Will it only stop when I’m ugly and old?