生まれた町も通った道もまるで違う…

Well, it has been a while, but let’s wrap things up (better late than never). So, my last days at my old job did not really get any better. I did learn however that when my manager told me he monitored all his employees’ breaks, that was a lie – he was only monitoring mine. And it wasn’t on the orders of the CEO, who was upset when he found out (at my exit interview, which was held a few days before my last day), although he didn’t stay on my side for long. Anyway, long story short, I was very glad to finally finish working there.

I also had a lot of side freelance work going, but it’s all actually over now. Writing profiles for my old employer (the book publisher) turned out to be a big headache; I had to send them out for approval and then get annoying nitpicky comments back from the clients, and it was just a lot more work than I realized for what I was getting paid. Also, I was having flashbacks to all the frustrations I had when this was my full-time job. So, while I’m not proud of this, I quit in the middle. I still feel really bad about that and I should never have agreed to it, but I forgot how impossible dealing with those clients is…

The Viz thing is also over, and I’m fairly annoyed about it even though the decision to end things was mutual, so I’m going to rant about it a little. Basically, just about everyone who was an editor at TOKYOPOP when I was there as an intern does not take me seriously as a professional, and I’ve had it with trying to keep up with them. So, when I was doing the Japanese summer program, I took advantage of the location to go to the Viz offices and see two editors I know there who used to be TP editors. I was basically doing this to try and get freelance work of any kind (same reason I went to Comic-Con in 2011). One of them offered me a position as an intern to replace one who wasn’t working out. Okay, what? I had just quit my job as a senior editor at a book publisher. And you want me to be an intern? Pathetically though, I was so desperate to get my foot back in the door in that industry that I considered it briefly, but in the end it wouldn’t have worked with my class schedule. But yeah. And then that same editor assumed I was doing the Japanese program at a beginner level, and wouldn’t take seriously that I’d already had like 7 years of Japanese by that point. He also closely observed me speaking with some of the Japanese-speaking staff in the offices and decided my speaking/listening skills were subpar (because I had to ask them to repeat themselves a few times), which is annoying because those people weren’t speaking very clearly, the environment was loud, I wasn’t prepared, and I was nervous because he was watching me.

Sometime before or after that point, that editor sent me a translation trial to audition to fill in for someone. I didn’t participate in plans with my family in order to spend an evening working on the trial. I worked very hard, sent it back and – received lukewarm feedback. A line I had purposely rewritten to sound more natural instead of literally translating it was deemed a “mistranslation” – but I hadn’t misunderstood the line, I just thought that the literal translation didn’t sound natural. Anyway, no job resulted. Now, fast-forward to January of this year, when the other editor contacts me to say that one of their translators is going on maternity leave and she’d be interested in having me fill in during that time. I’m excited and agree, and the job begins in March. That agreement came to a close after only three weeks (3 chapters). Basically, the editor (who’s in charge of doing any localization/rewriting to the text after it’s translated) said I just wasn’t creating a translation she could work with, and she had to do a lot of editing to the text to get it to a good place.

Honestly, translating a shounen manga I wasn’t at all familiar with chapter by chapter in the middle of the storyline was a huge challenge. I feel like everything was stacked against me from the start, and I really did do my absolute best but it just didn’t work. First of all, I realized what a huge pain it is to create a translated script of a manga – you have to write out the panels, number them, and then number the bubbles/narration/sound effects inside each panel, and name each person speaking. To do all that from scratch, even for a 20-page chapter, is a HUGE pain and takes up a lot of time. I had a translation guideline spreadsheet to work with that named a lot of characters and also gave preexisting sound effect/etc translations, and I did refer to it a lot, but it didn’t cover everything. So there was that, and then there was the fact that I was coming into an incredibly complicated story with approximately a million side characters on chapter 54 or so, and I definitely didn’t have time to go read all the previous 53 chapters. I tried to catch up on what I could, but it wasn’t enough. I was totally lost on the story, which I also wasn’t interested in at all – the previous three manga titles I adapted were BL, shoujo, and… moe fanservice-y seinen, respectively, but I found them all basically interesting and easy to follow. This was my first time with straight-up shounen, alien monsters attacking in a dystopia world stuff. I found it so hard to follow and even harder to translate. There were several lines I just wasn’t sure about because I couldn’t grasp what was going on in the story at all that probably counted as mistranslations. Oh, and then the sound effects!! There are just so damn many of them!! And while a lot can be looked up online, every so often you find one that has no definition anywhere online and you just have to figure out 1) what it means; 2) how best to express the sound IN ENGLISH.

Then there was the schedule: the chapter would come in Saturday night Japan time and I would need to be done with it by Monday night. Usually, this meant me coming home Monday after a day of work and getting right to work and working for the next 5-6 hours to finish the chapter. It was so stressful and such a pain.

So, when it became clear that the issues the editor had with my translating just were not getting better even though I was making real efforts and putting in serious time to fixing them, I said “Are you sure you want to keep working with me?” and she took me up on it and let me go. At least I made $300…? Which I haven’t been paid yet, but…

It doesn’t really matter though, because I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE my new job, and it’s in the game industry, so I don’t really need manga translating as my foothold back into that industry anyway, because I’m firmly established in a sort of parallel/related one anyway. Ahhhh, I don’t think words can even express how much I love my job and how it’s such a perfect fit. Basically I’m translating the stories for one of our games, and I also do random translations and/or English checks for the other people in my department, and I help out with the proofreading of already translated scripts. There are about 10 people in my department, I’m currently the only non-Japanese (although two others are native English speakers and one is conversational in English and generally uses it with me – some others are probably conversational and can understand a lot but never speak it with me, and everyone else except for one person has fairly good English aptitude), and most of the time I use Japanese to communicate with everyone. I like all of my coworkers a lot and we laugh and have fun often, but we also still work hard together as a team. There have been a few rough patches (like when I wasn’t writing formally enough in my communication to other team members – using ritual workplace phrases and stuff – or when I was told I was defending my translations too stubbornly if the person who’d asked me to translate their Japanese didn’t think my English fit what they wanted to express well enough), but I think I’ve basically figured out what I need to do now. Aside from those bumps, it’s really been like I was a fish placed in a pond and started swimming right away, easily. The company is full of young people and we can wear casual clothes to work, so it all feels pretty relaxed (sharp contrast to the uptight dress code and atmosphere of the last place). Oh, and I also developed a terrible crush on someone at work right from the moment we met that I’m trying to get over, but I don’t really need to get into that…

What still amazes me is that I did it. I came to Japan to get my Japanese to translator level, thinking I’d have to go back to the US and go to translation grad school to be able to work in that field, but I was actually able to move to Tokyo and then get hired as a full-time in-house translator – and not only that, but at a company that makes smartphone games with romance themes, so I’m actually translating FUN stuff and not dry, boring scientific or technical or legal texts. I still want to pass JLPT N1, but otherwise, I’ve actually accomplished my original goal, and I didn’t have to do as much as I thought I would in order to do it. It’s just insane. (I’d still like to attend that grad school – I’d like to have a master’s degree – but it seems a little pointless now, plus grad school is expensive and I’d rather not rack up more loan debt, plus it would also require moving away from Tokyo, so I’m pretty sure I won’t ever go there, even though I had my heart set on it since 2007…)

Maybe getting that job used up all of my good luck for the year though (and if it did, I accept that because it’s worth it), because my love life currently SUCKS. Since breaking up with Mitsu in February, I’ve gone on a lot of dates with a lot of guys and had some new experiences, but still haven’t found anyone I want to date exclusively who also wants to date me exclusively. And I’m at the point where I’d like a boyfriend, not anything casual. It’s just really hard to find someone I like on every level and vice versa who wants the same things as me, and it’s back to the same conflict: fellow non-Japanese, or Japanese guy? Guy who’s probably here temporarily vs. someone from a different culture and different expectations? Physically I’m probably more attracted to Japanese guys at this point in time (and I also enjoy being able to LINE message them in Japanese which is somehow more fun), but I also want someone who can speak English somewhat well, and it seems so hard to find someone who’s not a slave to his job and who will understand where you’re coming from as a minority in their country but also treat you like a person, not a nationality/race. With another non-Japanese, things are superficially ‘easier’ in many ways but there are lots of other issues too. Sigh. I’ve gotten pretty discouraged and it’s tempting to get jaded but I’m trying to let this be an opportunity for me to practice feeling uncomfortable. I don’t like feeling uncomfortable and if I do I usually try to identify and execute a solution immediately so I can feel like I’m doing something about it, but this is the one arena of my life that can’t just be solved by my will alone. Meeting the right person is dependent on so many things, and you also have to accept that maybe you won’t ever find that right person. And even if you do, the connection may not be sustained longer than 5, 10, or 15 years. “The One” and “your soulmate” is probably just a myth, a fairy tale. It sucks because I’ve always believed in it and hoped I would find mine someday (and even thought I had for a while), and I really do want to be deeply loved by someone else (again) and of course love them deeply in return. And I don’t want to settle for anything less than… this sounds douchey, but… what I feel I deserve. So, the search continues, but I’m trying not to obsess about it, and just be open to opportunities and try a lot of stuff.

If I don’t stand out like a star among the moons,
if I am always late and he always backs away too soon
[…]
How will he find me
with no one’s arms to gather me together?
[…]
How will he ever find me?

–Deb Talan, “How Will He Find Me

It also makes the workplace crush all the more painful and annoying because it’s someone I share a lot of interests and tastes with, who is very very similar to me in certain regards, and sometimes it seems like we’d get along so well and have so much fun together, and I just wonder if he knows that… and he probably doesn’t, and he’s probably too focused on [x hobby] to be a good boyfriend to anyone anyway, and he might have some emotional baggage, and also a workplace romance is not a good idea anyway… but he’s very cute and easy to talk to so it’s hard to remember all that…

Then there’s my cat, who was successfully brought over to Japan in May. I had been so worried for so long about all the procedures and paperwork and the flight itself – what if they turned us away after we’d already landed in Japan? – but all the advance prep (the ISO microchip, the two rabies shots, the blood titer, the final vet check officially verified by the state vet, authorizing her for export) paid off and it went pretty smoothly from start to finish. My sister drove us to the airport and my cat was unusually quiet during the ride – usually she HATES car rides and cries nonstop, but maybe it was the TSA-friendly harness we’d put on her. Carrying her in my arms through security went fairly well, and then it was time for two flights (one only 45 minutes) to Tokyo. She was pretty stressed by the flying and moving around and I had to keep changing the pee pads in her carrier every few hours, but she was able to ride in the cabin with me both times and I was even able to put her carrier on my lap, unzip it a little and pet her through that for several hours. Then we landed in Tokyo and after I’d re-entered the country myself (man it feels so good every time to break away from the tourists and the Japanese people and go to the shortest line – visa re-entry!! Also, I think it’s funny that all this happened with a cat in a carrier next to me) and picked up my luggage, we headed for the animal processing counter next to baggage claim and got her checked in. They already had her paperwork and all they had to do was check her microchip to make sure it matched the info we’d already submitted. At this point, since she was out of her carrier but in an unfamiliar room, she did what she always does at the vet’s and tried to hide anywhere she could and attempted to go behind a storage cabinet… Poor baby, she was so scared, I think she liked it better in her carrier.

Then we rode back to Tokyo in style on the Narita Express with my 1500 yen non-Japanese-passport-discount ticket, rode the Chuo rapid one stop from Shinjuku, then took a taxi to my apartment. We got in the door and she ran under the couch but within the hour she was out exploring and even purring (although I just learned that cats can stress-purr too and it doesn’t always indicate happiness. Who knew?!). Basically, she survived and now seems totally fine in her new home now than 3.5 months have passed. Sometimes I worry she was just as happy with my sister and there was no need to uproot her for basically selfish reasons (although I justified it by saying I could guarantee her a home with no other animals in it, the way she prefers it, which I’ve never been able to give her before), but she loves being with me and bugging me and sleeping right up next to me even in the summer, and seems really really happy even though she doesn’t have a bird/lizard-watching window here, so I think it’s okay. And needless to say, I love having her here, and coming home to someone (even if that someone proceeds to meow at me for food, and bugs me even after I’ve filled her bowl with dry food because what she really wants is wet food), and sleeping and napping with her, and feeling like part of my family and my life from the US (I’ve had her since 2007) is here with me in Japan. She’s almost 10 years old, so I’m worried about her aging even though she still seems plenty young, but… anyway, enough cat talk.

The last thing is my new apartment, which I moved into in mid-March. I’m pretty happy with it too. It’s definitely small, especially once I brought furniture in, and I can’t have any parties here or anything (basically 2-3 guests max), but there’s a retractable ladder up to a second-floor loft where I sleep, and it’s a corner apartment so I have two windows downstairs and one upstairs (which also opens onto a roof ledge so I can sit out there – with a guest if I have one – and chill/drink), and of course it’s pet-friendly which is not exactly easy to find here. Also, the neighborhood and the other people in my building are generally very quiet, which is wonderful. And after moving to this part of Tokyo I discovered I know two other people living in it, so that’s awesome. And after living in a sharehouse, it’s nice to have my own washing machine and my own fridge for my usage alone right in my place without having to go outside. I’m also pretty happy with the rent, especially considering there’s a pet fee built in. I think I’ve made this place very comfortable (I have a TV I can hook up to my laptop, I have a kotatsu that’s going to keep me so warm in the winter, I have a couch that folds back so people can sleep on it…) and it’s a good place for me and the cat. Yeah, I’d eventually like to live somewhere bigger, but it’s really hard to find a good, affordable place when it’s just you – it’s a lot easier if you have someone to share the rent. So, I might be here for a while, but that’s okay.

In my last post I wrote:

I just want to hurry up and move completely, start my new job, get my cat, and enjoy a fun yet relaxing life in Tokyo with my friends. I’m so impatient for that. I hope I can be happy with that. Please let me be happy with that.

Now, almost a full 6 months later, has that come true now that all of those things have happened? Well… I think so, largely. I like my apartment, I love my job, I’m so happy my cat is here, and in general I have fun with my friends here (there was a bit of drama with some people from one group that’s left kind of a bitter taste in my mouth, and sometimes it feels like outside of 1-2 people I don’t have anyone I feel a real connection to, but…). My money situation could be better, mostly because my loans have been draining a lot of money out of my US account so I keep having to send money home and the bulk of my income comes from bonuses twice a year, but with this December’s bonus and if I’m able to do some good saving this fall (I did get my monthly payment lowered so that will help) I should be able to pay off most, if not all, of my remaining student loans by early 2015. So that’s exciting, and that will help my peace of mind a lot too.

Oh, and anxiety. I’m currently coming off my meds after being on them the previous year (after my more or less meltdown last summer). As with before, they made it very easy for me to gain weight and so I’ve been trying to stick to a good, healthy diet and run at least once a week to lose at least half of the weight I gained (enough to fit into some of my lower-size clothes again) and it’s working, I think, but slowly. I should be okay without the meds because I feel a lot better now that my life has calmed down. Hopefully I don’t start wanting to “fix” this or that part of my life I’m uncomfortable or unhappy about with another drastic life change, which would undo all this nice calmness I’ve got going. (I did recently entertain the idea of getting a transfer to my company’s SF office, but in the end reconfirmed my desire to live here for the next several years.) We’ll see. I think I need some practice being comfortable right where I am without plans for drastic change on the horizon.

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