Ahhhhhhhhh I don’t even know where to start. First, my room is no longer a mess. It now looks like this:
which is so much better! The room came with the bed frame and a small mattress as well as the desk and chair. I brought my bedding and then bought another futon set (for guests), a small bookcase, a plastic chest of drawers, and a hanger rack (AKA the closet).
Work is going really well. I am very much enjoying my job and, I believe, doing well at it. I had my one-month performance review and it seemed to go wonderfully. I have stopped worrying about getting let go because I can’t handle the science stuff after all (as the company head warned me was a possibility when I was hired) and now I’m just looking forward to making it to three months, which is the official probationary period. I have also learned more about the hierarchy of the office and my department DOES have to vacuum too. I am really glad though that there isn’t cleaning every day like there was at the school. I have also been assigned a mentor (which is supposed to be a super secret thing), a Japanese woman from another department, and we are required to have lunch regularly. We had our first one and it was great; I don’t think they paired us by personality but they might as well have because her hobby is reading, she owns two cats, and her phone case is purple. Done, I’m in love.
I have even gotten used to the bathroom etiquette and I use the stupid Sound Princess if someone else is in the bathroom with me, I try to remember to knock on the door before I go in, etc. And more and more staff have discovered I speak Japanese (my lunch with my mentor was all Japanese) but it still really bothers me if I see one in the hallway and she switches to English and says “Sorry!” or something. Just. Don’t. I am discovering that what I hate most of all is special treatment and special treatment that calls attention to me. “We got a foreigner over here, gotta speak English so she understands! Listen up everyone, we’re speaking English to the foreigner here!” No, I don’t need that, leave me alone and just treat me like anyone else.
I did have a realization that helped me be okay with that extra attention. Basically, the notion that everyone is curious about me and everyone wants to talk to me and find out things about me, and everyone wants the boost in social status/perception by those around them if seen talking to me and hanging out with me. The idea that I am a social bonus to a Japanese person. Sometimes, yes, it’s an annoying concept (I don’t want to be like a zoo animal, an object of curiosity) but it does help me feel better sometimes knowing that it’s not negative attention – quite the opposite. That allows me to bask in it a little, and feel more confident, and thus more able to easily brush it off. Also, getting spoken to in English by service people has become a rare occurrence (probably because I am not going to tourist places – of course it happened at Tsukiji, in Kyoto, etc) and it always helps if I greet people in Japanese first to establish that.
Ironically, the one place NO ONE tried to speak ANY English to me was at… Tokyo Disney!!! Ry and I went to DisneySea, had an amazing day start to finish, and were thrilled that no one tried to speak English to us. His Japanese is better than mine (N1… so jealous) and he gets just as annoyed as I do about the speaking English thing (Ty on the other hand doesn’t mind at all – if only I could be that carefree too). So funny that you have to go to Tokyo Disney to find the one place where service people are not going to immediately speak English. That was also just such a great day; we explored the park thoroughly, bitched about the popularity and ubiquity of Duffy, rode all the major rides twice, ate too much bad food, didn’t annoy each other, took lots of great photos, and just generally had a magical day.
The transition has been rough, as it was when I first moved to Matsue/Japan, and my anxiety/OCD is flaring up bad again, and again it’s unexpectedly rough – this was the best decision for me personally and professionally, so why should I have to suffer? No, I hate this! Same as before and it’s really sucking. I want to think I’m moving past it by this point but I probably have another month at least to go experiencing it at this level. But this time I have access to English-language therapy and I have found a therapist who is a native English speaker. I can walk to his office and while sessions cost $100, it’s worth it. I’ve been twice now and both times have left me feeling better about issues that were previously tying me up, and he’s had some really, really, really good insights that I wouldn’t have come up with on my own. Like: when I start worrying obsessively about some sensation in my body which could be a symptom of something serious, or start panicking thinking I’m about to die in some way, and how this flares up majorly when I’ve just moved or am in a new and unfamiliar situation – I am using those behaviors as a security blanket. The situation is scary and new, but that thought pattern isn’t, so I engage in it to “comfort” myself even though it actually makes me extremely UNcomfortable and unable to calm down. Wow, just wow. It’s so true! I mean, just knowing that isn’t enough, it doesn’t stop anything or make it better, but I feel like just realizing that is a breakthrough that has the potential to help.
I think the main thing that’s been on my mind though is how much things have changed, how much my circumstances and reasons for being in Japan and future plans have COMPLETELY CHANGED. That’s really the scariest thing; I keep thinking “Do these changes invalidate my previous reasons with which I justified this move, which made my relationship super long-distance?” I dunno. Some of you might know this story but I’ll summarize anyway. Basically, I spent every year since college graduation (2008) scheming ways to get back to Japan. First I thought I’d teach, ideally with JET, and Kirk was interested in going too but I had to wait for him to graduate college too and since he had transferred schools and changed majors, it took a lot longer than both of us anticipated (not until 2010). Then he got a job in his field right out of school, which meant he didn’t want to take a break from a budding career to go do something totally non-constructive for his resume in Japan. So that left me on my own, and I decided I’d rather be a student than teach. Well, that meant I needed a lot of cash upfront, that I didn’t have, so I made some life decisions to be able to save more money (get a new job, move back home) and worked hard at that. However, the scholarship committee for the program I wanted to do saw that as more of a reason NOT to give me money and in the end only coughed up 1/5 of what I needed, leaving me on my own for the majority, and I couldn’t finance it. I was however able to pay for and get funded for a summer Japanese program, which turned out to be completely amazing. Then I finally returned to Japan to teach.
Here’s the important part. My reasons, from the very start, from 2008, fueling EVERY desire to return to Japan? Wanting to be a translator. I’d wanted to be a professional translator since college. I had a grad school in mind and I wanted to go there and then get hired somewhere. But my Japanese wasn’t at the pro translator level yet so I had to work on that first and, to my mind, the best way to do that was to go to Japan. In the meantime, I worked jobs in my hometown related to my English major and love of editing/proofreading. So, when I came to Japan in August, it was all with the goal of improving my Japanese to be a translator. Translator translator translator. I thought for sure when I was hunting for jobs in Tokyo to justify a move there after my teaching contract ended in March, I’d need Japanese skills. I thought I’d likely find a job that required N2+ Japanese. In the end, though? I got a job that doesn’t require any Japanese knowledge, and is in fact done all in English, and ties more to my past experience editing than my desired future experience translating. So… huh?
Have I completely lost sight of the reason I came here??? Or is it okay? Because I really like this job. And I really like the idea of taking the experience I gain here back to my home state and using it to look for science/medical editing jobs, which will likely have NO connection to Japanese. So… is all this Japanese study pointless in the end?! What about translating???
Indeed. I don’t know. I have gained some “professional” experience translating, in that I was accepted to a Japanese first-come-first-serve translation commission website, and was able to snag and complete maybe around a dozen jobs, but aside from that, no pro experience, which makes it very difficult to get hired for real translation jobs. And… I’m not even sure I want to work as a professional translator anymore. Yeah! That’s the really scary part. As a hobby, it’s great fun. I can do everything my way, my rules, no one else edits it or changes it, I have the final say, and the topics are always interesting because it’s song lyrics or interviews connected to things I care about. Pro translating… does not sound like it will be as much fun. It sounds like it will be translating things and topics I don’t care about, that are often frustrating to decipher and render in English, and my work will be subject to editing and changing by others and dealing with the client will always be difficult in some way. I mean, yes, I think I have a unique and strong gift for translation. I want to bring my ability for blending beauty and accuracy to a wider audience; I want it to benefit people and the world. But I also don’t think translating for companies conducting business is going to do that. Literary translation is more my jam, but there is NO way I can just break into that with no real pro experience and no higher academic degree (you ever notice how a lot of literary translators are also professors?).
As my day job… I’d actually like to just keep editing. I like editing/rewriting/proofreading and I’m good at it. Pro translation, if I could someday be able to do it on the side (preferably of the literary bent), would be nice. But right now, it doesn’t sound appealing as a full-time thing.
And yet, that’s the whole reason I came to Japan!!! But if I’ve discovered a new reason that’s just as good… because I doubt I could have gotten this medical/science editing experience back home, which will get my foot in the door of that field hopefully… is it okay? I think it’s okay. But I’m still making my peace with it. It’s kind of a shock, but at the same time, I think that’s just life.
I’m planning to move back in a year. So the question remains: once I am back, if my job doesn’t use Japanese, and I don’t live in Japan, and I’ve achieved the highest certification possible (ideally I’ll pass N1 in December) so have no further study motivations/objectives, how the heck am I going to keep up with it???
Go back in a year. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel like enough. I still have so many shrines to explore! At least I found a place with good coffee where I can study, because I was really slacking on that N1 studying since the move (and since I switched to a job without built-in study breaks). And I have joined a gym which I love – it is the best gym I have ever belonged to – and I am getting into a fitness routine which should help a lot with anxiety. I have also joined a running group which is a good social outlet with a good mix of people (about half Japanese, half foreigners) and lets me explore a different part of the city every week while getting exercise and increasing my endurance. I am getting to see all these people who also live here that I know from basically every phase of my life (we’ve got college people, BTX people, Matsue people, online people, new people…), I’m getting to know my sharemates (we had a dinner out that helped a lot in getting to know them and no longer feeling like I live with strangers; the girl I don’t like also moved out which was great although so did a girl I did like!), I’m learning my area and realizing I live in an amazing location with so many good things within walking distance, and I work in a great location too. I’m discovering favorite places and making lists of where I still want to go. I even made up with my sister and she’s visiting me in a month. So all the pieces are in place to have a great next year here, and hopefully for me to stop feeling so anxious about everything despite that promise. I just gotta be patient and stick out the last of the rough transition period…