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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Pilates/yoga/personal training/exercise

In my paleo post (which generated some controversy over what I said about non-meat-eaters! One vegetarian former classmate/friend took great offense, as she is often wont to do, and immediately cut me out of her online life. Let’s just say that was more of a relief than anything and move on–though I did go back and reword that portion to sound a little more sensitive) I mentioned planning to spend a future post getting into how I’ve changed my workout/exercise routines, as well as my diet. Well, this is that entry! So here we go!

While I’ve curtailed my gym activities quite a bit while I’m buckled down studying, my normal routine has me going to the gym, ideally, five days a week. On weekdays it’s for an hourlong class, and on the weekends it’s a class plus about another hour of either cardio or weights. (I am also supposed to spend two mornings a week doing an hourlong workout at home before work, but that hasn’t happened in quite a while… it’s hard to retain motivation when you don’t need to lose anymore, and extra sleep is always so tempting.) I keep up with this pretty well, actually, mostly out of loyalty and fondness for my regular class instructors. I’ve found some really good ones at my gym, and both my regular yoga instructor and my regular Pilates instructor know me. In Pilates most of the other students know me as well, at least by face. Yoga for some reason, ironically, is less of a community even though I go super regularly!

My history with the gym: it’s taken me a while to get into the habit of physical activity, much less actually enjoying it. I never really liked PE classes in school and did no sports. I got into DDR and Para Para in high school but didn’t really consider it exercise. When I got to college, I automatically gained access to a gym (something I seriously took for granted). I would go a few times every semester to do some elliptical while jamming out to music. It would feel great but I never made it a part of my routine. I did bike around campus a lot and loved it, and in Japan I biked to and from the station every day. (I was shocked in Paris when we rented bikes at Versailles to realize how out of shape I’d gotten by how difficult bike riding had become for me!). The summer before senior year when I was living in LA with Lil (a very active, sporty person–a rugby player!), she introduced me to some fitness activities. We would go to her college’s gym and work out on ellipticals and go for jogs around the neighborhood (which was difficult for me at first after Paris, and bless her for being patient with me, but I grew stronger. On one run we saw a peacock!!!). (It’s another story, but Lil introduced me to sooo many things that summer–American Apparel factory outlet store, Little Tokyo, Arrested Development, cooking, beer appreciation, Trader Joe’s, The Melting Pot. We had so much fun, ahh!). That primed me to spend my senior year biking to campus regularly, taking an aerobics class in the fall where I mostly did elliptical, and going to yoga.

But after graduating college, I got very sedentary again; I wanted to be active but I didn’t want to pay for a gym membership (and I also wanted to be lazy, let’s be real). Two years of more or less complete inactivity passed before finally, at the end of summer 2010, I joined a gym near where I was living. I quit briefly when I moved and then re-joined a month later at a different branch, which is the one I go to today. Up until this past August though, I wasn’t doing much right. Elliptical for cardio, then a round of various weight machines. That was pretty much my routine. And from about November 2010 to May 2011, I didn’t go to the gym very often at all; maybe several times a month. I was bad. Then, as I mentioned before, I started to go very regularly (doing my old circuit of elliptical + weight machines, with the occasional yoga class) but I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted even after a few months.

So in August, frustrated with my lack of progress, I decided to start seeing a personal trainer, hoping she would teach me how to use free weights and help me lose body fat. This flew in the face of my other decisions geared at making and saving more money (moving in with parents, taking a higher paying job) but I rationalized it somehow. I just felt like I needed to do it. I chose a trainer from the board of them up at my gym, met with her, we clicked, and I bought an introductory round of three sessions. I liked them so much that I bought 10 more when they were over, with a discount, and that lasted me until October. After that I couldn’t justify the cost anymore (personal training is sooooooooo expensive!) but I learned so much and I love my trainer. We still wave to each other when I pass by her in the gym. She’s from Iowa and most of my family is from Nebraska (my grandma though is in fact from Iowa) so we bonded over Midwestern heritage. Mostly what I learned was how to use free weights, which weight machines were good, how to do cardio properly (treadmill, row machine, and stairmaster instead of elliptical), how to do things like squats, and she also encouraged me to re-start Pilates (I’d gone to some Pilates classes at my old gym, and before that done a Pilates DVD a few times, but it’s hard so it was difficult to motivate myself to go again). And of course I saw great results: gained muscle, lost fat–not as much as I would have liked, but at least some–though a lot of that was due to paleo as well. I absolutely wish I could keep seeing her and improving and getting stronger, but I can’t when I need to be saving instead. I still have some exercise routines she wrote out for me, and I go through them weekly.

I’m glad my trainer got me back into Pilates, but at the same time I have such a love/hate relationship with it. Let’s just say I would not be continuing to go if it were not for my instructor. I like her a lot, she’s funny (she’ll make fun of people who walk in during class to use the water fountain despite her sign on the door, often while the person is still in the room, and the other night we shared a laugh over some guy blasting “Dude Looks Like A Lady” on his iPod loud enough for us to hear it), and it’s out of loyalty to her that I return weekly even though I do not ever want to go. Do I want abs/a strong core? Yes. Do I actually want to put in the work to get that? No. Every class I’m kicking and screaming in my head, but I do it. I’ve now gone consecutively, without missing a single mat class, for a month and a half. I also go to her reformer class, with the machine, which is not quite so torturous as the mat class, but the time isn’t as convenient so I don’t go as regularly. In any case, I’m getting better. Slowly. It’s now easier for me to lift my legs over my head while lying down using my core strength; I was surprised the first time I realized that. Pilates also used to seriously kick my ass, and now it’s more of a manageable challenge. Some new people are always just collapsed and half-assing it by the end of class, and I never have that much difficulty anymore. I’m not sure I’ll ever have a low enough body fat percentage for visible ab muscles, but my stomach does feel a little firmer in any case, maybe.

I’ve also been involved with yoga for a while, but fairly recently is the first time I’ve been going regularly. I first went in college, since they offered free classes one night a week and I wanted to try it out, aware that my mom did it sometimes and liked it. (Free yoga! So jealous of that now.) I really liked it, and liked the instructor (something I took for granted then, even though it’s so valuable), but it was hard to motivate myself to go regularly. I didn’t go very often freshman year but sophomore year I would lend Han-Hee (Japanese language TA) a mat and we would go together a lot. Senior year I also got back into it and went fairly often. During the two years after college when I lapsed into a sedentary lifestyle, I did a couple yoga studio 10-days-for-$10-type trials; one studio I liked a lot and I wish I could afford a membership there and also that it was closer to where I live now. One studio was a Sunstone branch, which is hot yoga. It was my first time doing hot yoga and I think I could actually handle that aspect a lot better than the fact that while there are various types of classes, every class in the type is exactly the same every time. I hated that.

So when I finally got that gym membership, I also began attending yoga classes at the gym. My first class back was wonderful, and I felt so happy to be going to yoga again. I soon memorized the after-work and weekend yoga times, though–as with going to the gym at all–I was sporadic at best in my attendance. It really wasn’t until this past summer that I got serious about all of this and started forming real habits. The yoga schedule at my new gym is a little different, and I miss one of the instructors from my old gym (who remains the only one that has ever had us do goddess pose, which is the most successful way to stretch my normally super-tight hamstrings I have ever found, so I wish more people would incorporate it), but I’ve worked it into my routine. It’s also funny because the woman who is my current regular instructor also used to teach at my old gym, and I couldn’t stand her. I didn’t like her music or her style at all, and after I attended a couple of her classes I avoided them, and I cheered to myself when she stopped teaching there. At first when I walked into her class unknowingly at my new gym, I was really unhappy, but I gave her another shot. To my surprise, I grew to love both her music and her teaching style. I mean, it’s also fortunate, because she teaches most of the yoga at my gym, and the other teacher is someone I really, truly do not like and refuse to attend her classes. So I’m glad I like her now. I also discovered she does this great thing where, if the room isn’t jam-packed to capacity (and sometimes it is–my gym is a popular location, frequently crowded), during shavasana she’ll go around and give everyone a brief upper arm massage and then press down on our shoulders. (She’s also applied pressure to our lower backs when we’re resting in child’s pose in a gentler, slower class.) I really love nothing more than for someone to play with my hair, draw on my back, whatever (which I would often bug my elementary school friends to do whenever we were sitting in a group on the floor, and of course reciprocate), so this charmed me immediately. I love that she does this and it’s really probably that which endeared her so much to me. Also, as it turns out, our music tastes are really similar, so I don’t mind that anymore either. So I feel very fortunate to have found such good instructors.

As it stands today, I’ve gone to yoga at least once a week since probably the fall, and most weeks it’s 2-3 times, and might even bump up to 4 in the future. That’s pretty crazy for me, to realize I’ve stuck with something this long. But it’s really rewarding. As with Pilates, it’s become more of a fun challenge. I’ve developed the arm strength to actually be able to hover for more than a second in chaturanga, and I understand now how downward-facing dog can be a break/rest pose of sorts instead of cruel torture. When I finally got my boyfriend to join me for yoga in November, he was seriously impressed with what I can do, and reassessed his opinion of yoga as “easy.”

But I do have some yoga pet peeves.

  1. When people get competitive and even though I can tell they’re still fairly new to yoga, if I do something more demanding/advanced, they do it too. Pride isn’t supposed to come into play at yoga at all but, hey, we’re human, it happens; still, it’s distracting to try and be focused on only what you are doing when the people around you are too intent on proving something to do what’s right for their level and I get dragged into that competitiveness as well.
  2. When people just decide to check out or not do something. Like the teacher says forward fold and you decide you feel like showing off in plank, with an attitude of “I’m too cool and chill to do what everyone else is doing.” Some guy was doing this the other night and it drove me crazy. There’s also qi gong guy in another class who spends the 5-10 minutes before things get going doing a bunch of random qi gong moves; he even makes breath noises. What the?? And there’s the lady who seems to treat yoga as social hour, and I always see her in the back just doing whatever she feels like and not following the rest of us, since apparently yakking it up before class starts is the real reason she came.
  3. People who seriously just don’t listen to the instructor explaining the details of how to do the pose (where your feet/arms should be, etc), or even look at those around them to check, and persist in doing something totally wrong just to get through it, and don’t even seem to care! Why are you here if you don’t even want to try to do it right?!
  4. People who set up exactly parallel to me with their mats. Great, now we’re going to fling our hands into each other all class! You are supposed to stagger your mats so that doesn’t happen. Ugh.
  5. People who come to class in booty shorts and see-through tops. Really? Really.

At this point what’s keeping me going and into the gym and these classes is the knowledge that if I stop, I’ll lose my hard-earned muscles and strength and endurance and have to start all over. So right now, that’s my motivation to keep going. Plus, loyalty to my wonderful instructors. I’m happy to have found a routine that works for me and keeps me sane. I really have never felt so little general anxiety and OCD thoughts than in these last few mostly-paleo, variety-of-regular-exercise-filled months.

I’ve also started tracking what I do via Fitocracy and it’s been fun to see what my friends do as well. There’s certainly a temptation to start competing with them, but as studying is my priority now–and I’m in weight maintaining not loss mode anyway so no need to go hard–I’m not really able to. It is fun though! More fun than I thought it would be.

Let’s close with my favorite humorous yoga articles.

My final warning, when you are talking to one of your new yoga buddies, do not accidentally buttdial an old friend, especially if he is a sniping, gym-going homosexual, and allow him to hear you speaking the lingua franca of Yogaland, because, after seeing the record of the call and hoping he heard nothing, you will receive a text message reading: “YOU ARE SO FUCKING BUSTED BITCH – YOU’RE A LOSER!” and no amount of yoga will ever mitigate the shame.

It’s not like you’re the first. Other substitute teachers have come out with some real dillys too. Who can forget “think of your spine as a flexible snake in space?”

Namaste.

Paleo

Let’s take a Japanese break and talk about healthy lifestyle stuff. First, the diet aspect (exercise in another post). This is something that’s been on my mind a lot, as I spent early last fall losing about 10-ish pounds, and I’ve successfully kept it off since. It may not sound like a whole lot, but when you’re on the shorter side, it shows. Continue reading