Tokyo life is over… back to the US

I finally did it! I made the leap and I’m back in the US now. I quit my job late August and then spent just under two weeks traveling around Japan, visiting my favorite places one last time, just in case. Most of September passed in a stressful haze as I packed up my apartment and my belongings after four years living in that place and seven years in Japan total. It was so ridiculously stressful! I had to sort all my stuff, throw away so many things (including registering 粗大ゴミ big trash with my city and paying so they would come pick up my big items no one wanted like my sofa, closet rack, broken microwave/oven, etc), post on Facebook groups and Craigslist and Mercari to sell and give away so much more, arrange for like a dozen strangers to come to my apartment and pick things up, and then pack all the things I wasn’t selling into boxes to ship to the US via slow boat. (They still haven’t arrived!)

And don’t forget that I have a cat! I had to arrange everything for her to travel too. We visited the vet many times in the month prior to departure so she could get vaccines and health checks. Of course, none of these were needed upon arrival in the US–at US customs, they just waved us through. They were all needed so she could spend one night at the airport pet hotel the night before the flight, and so she could clear export quarantine at the airport and be cleared to leave Japan. (I never ended up writing in detail about the process of bringing her to Japan in the first place, so maybe I’ll do that at some point… maybe.)

Just picture me leaving Japan–and later entering the US–with two giant suitcases stuffed to the brim (one ended up overweight even though I tried so hard to keep them within the weight limit when packing), one giant cardboard box (long story, but at least it was light), a cat carrier, and a backpack. Plus I was an emotional wreck because my wonderful, amazing, precious closest friends in Tokyo had made a scrapbook for me filled with photos of all the trips we’ve taken together, and they had all drawn me pictures of my favorite characters and written amazing messages. Saying goodbye to each of them had already had me in tears, and when I got the scrapbook I couldn’t even look at it closely because I knew I’d lose it. So when I got to the airport the morning of my flight, I had lots of time before I could pick up my cat from the pet hotel, so I went to the outdoor observation deck, found an isolated bench, looked through the scrapbook, and just cried my eyes out. Even now, writing this, I want to cry. I love my friends I made in Japan so much. I never would have imagined that I could make such amazing friendships when I first moved there, people who’ve literally changed the course of my life and I’ve changed theirs in return. Leaving them was the absolute hardest thing about this whole decision to move back. Once I’d picked up the cat, taken her to quarantine, picked up my luggage, checked it in, gone through security, and gotten to the gate and had some time to sit, everything hit me all over again and I couldn’t stop the tears. Fortunately I wasn’t facing anyone so I just let myself cry and cry as I gave my cat food and water (she had been so nervous at the pet hotel that she refused to eat…). On the flight, too, I listened to the song I always knew would be my ‘leaving Japan’ anthem, and burst into tears again. I had to just throw the airplane blanket over my head and let everything out.

“We won’t be leaving by the same road that we came by…”

Keane, “My Shadow”

So then why did I leave Japan? I mean, I agonized over the decision here on this blog so many times, the reasons shouldn’t come as a surprise. If I had to list them…

  • I had absolutely no hope for my romantic life in Japan, and I didn’t want to resign myself to being single forever with more or less 100% certainty
  • As a conventionally attractive (I guess) blonde, blue-eyed white woman in Japan, I get a lot of attention just wherever I go and whatever I do. I don’t enjoy this attention. I’m not the type of person who enjoys that, but it happened no matter what. I hate getting stared at, and it happened all. the. time. And it never stopped! Every day was filled with new people who hadn’t seen me before who would stare. Whenever I complained to Japanese people about this, they’d laugh and say, “It’s because you’re so pretty!” – I was told this many, many times. I honestly don’t care what the reason is – I can’t handle it. It drove me up the wall. I soon learned how to tell people were staring at me (usually when on the train) without looking at them, and I developed a multi-step plan that usually worked to get them to stop staring at me. Step #2 involved a nasty glare. Sometimes, however, all steps of the plan failed, and I had to actually walk away to another part of the train to escape it. In my last 2-3 years in Japan, I almost always wore sunglasses when leaving the house in the summer, and a white surgical mask when leaving the house and going home in the winter. Of course it didn’t disguise me in any way, but it really did cut back on the staring, because as soon as people saw they couldn’t get a good look at my full face, they stopped looking. But if they could, they would look to their heart’s content. I could feel these gazes and there was a definite difference in wearing a mask/sunglasses vs not wearing one. I also always pulled back my long blonde hair, since I knew it attracted extra attention too. Basically the uglier and less attention-getting I could make myself, the better. I felt naked and anxious without something on my face to block people from looking at it. It really wasn’t a healthy way to live, and I knew it wasn’t sustainable. As much as I enjoyed so much else about living in Japan, my own anxiety about the attention generated by my appearance and people’s reactions to it meant that I could not live there forever. It was just too stressful for me personally. Other people are able to handle it perfectly fine, and that’s great for them. I’m jealous! But for me, I just couldn’t do it anymore.
  • As a non-Japanese person with fluent Japanese and no technical background living in Japan, the type of work I could do was fairly limited. I could work at a mobile game company, or… well, that was pretty much it. And I didn’t dislike that work, but the salaries were fairly low, and it just felt like it was going to be hard to progress my career in any real way after a certain point. I wanted to be free to do more things, and to not be bound to a job at all times so I could keep my work visa.
  • Related: Work culture in Japan sucks. Workers are expected to be totally dedicated to their jobs, regularly staying late and often coming in to work on holidays and weekends. I felt pressure to do the same thing, and even though I resisted it and worked productively so I could leave on time almost every day, I saw it all around me and it was depressing. Every New Year after the holiday, people would just… stop coming into work, because they had been so burned out and overworked that it took the company closing for five days for them to finally realize their lifestyle wasn’t sustainable anymore. Work culture in Japan and burnout is a huge problem, and I wanted to get away from it.
  • The weather and other related nasty things. As an example, last summer (2018), insanely high heat and humidity meant that dani mites took over my bedroom. It was a tatami floor room, which initially I was excited about because it felt all cool and Japanesey, but it’s the perfect place for dani to breed. I was getting bitten all over and losing my mind worried that maybe it was bed bugs (but it wasn’t, my mattress was totally clean) and what if I had to throw away my bed, that I had just bought in January? In the end I was able to buy some anti-dani packs from Amazon to place under my mattress and around my room, and that basically curbed them, but it just made me want to get out of this whole country!
  • Missing friends and family back in the US and wanting to get to see them more often than once, maybe twice a year.

So, for all those reasons and probably some more I didn’t get into, I moved out of Japan on September 30. Informed my ward office I was leaving Japan, closed out my visa (that one was hard… I’d just gotten a three-year visa last June, my very first one longer than one-year!), paid all my last taxes, and packed up and left.

And now I’m back in the US, living with my parents in a city I do not plan to stay in (and they don’t plan to stay here, either! After I go… wherever I’m going next, they’re going to move to a different state too).

I honestly wish I had better things to report, like that I already have a job at a famous game company in the US. I don’t. I have nothing, literally nothing going on. I don’t know where I’m going to live and if I’ll ever find a job that I want to do and that wants to hire me. I’ve had a few interviews (at, admittedly, very well-known places. Just getting the interview was huge) and have already been rejected for two of them. It’s such a blow to my confidence. I didn’t get rejected for jobs very often in Japan because I was usually the ideal candidate, so this is an entirely new and awful feeling.

I’m also searching for freelance translation work at the same time, and coming up empty there too. (I did a little bit of work last month, but won’t get paid for a while…) And due to a mishap applying for 2020 health insurance, I ended up having to cancel the 2019 coverage I had just gotten, so I’ll have no health insurance for the rest of the year. I had wanted to go to therapy or something, but now it doesn’t seem wise. I have no income and so while I do have savings, trying to judge when I should and shouldn’t spend money has been difficult. And going from being 100% independent with my own place living on my own and taking care of all my own stuff to living in a bedroom in my parents’ basement is… a big change. I miss having my own place and income so, so much.

That’s not even getting into reverse culture shock. I visited my friend who lives in Rhode Island last week and one day while she was at work I took the train from Providence to Boston. Getting there was fine, but going back there were ridiculously delays (paired with a total lack of clear instructions about what was happening or even what train was pulling into the station 30 minutes late, so I ended up getting on the wrong one!). What should have taken an hour ended up taking two and a half. It was insane. I just kept thinking, “This would never happen in Japan… this would never happen in Japan…”

I think I mostly came here to whine. It sucks! Moving back sucks! I really did dismantle my entire life, and now I have to put it back together again, and it’s just the absolute worst. I really hope things get better.

Musings on my past self and my family

Two things have made me decide to go look at my old high school era blog and reread the entries there. One was the fact that my favorite manga of all time, Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP, is getting a sequel (and the first chapter came out this month!) so I reread the second half of the manga, volumes 7-12, had a lot of revelations over parts of the story I had forgotten, and wanted to know what my 15/16-year-old self thought of them originally when I read them for the very first time. I knew those things would likely be chronicled in my blog from that time, so I opened it up. I’ve also been experiencing some difficulties with my sister lately and I feel like a lot of it is rooted in the fights we had when we were teenagers, so that was another reason to look back at my thoughts then.

It has been pretty eye-opening to relive that time. I forgot how many of the fights I had with my parents (dad mostly) and sister revolved around the Internet and the computer. This was 2002, and until we got DSL we had dial-up, which meant that while my sister and I had our own desktop computers, only one of us could be online at a time, so we fought a lot over whose turn it was. Of course there were no smartphones and Wifi giving us 24/7 Internet access. And then my dad decided we were staying up too late, so he set a timer for the Internet to shut off at midnight, which was the source of so many fights as well. He was also concerned we were “downloading too much” (we downloaded a lot of anime and music) and he didn’t understand that, for example, simply leaving a music program open did not mean anyone could access my computer and download files from it (and when I tried to explain this to my parents, my mom would just say “Listen to him, he knows about these things.” But he didn’t know better in that case).

I had sort of forgotten what it was like to live in my parents’ house and have to abide by their ridiculous rules. I am so, so glad I live on my own and support myself 100% and don’t have to do what they say anymore. There were silly religious things they made us do too–like an hour of Bible study every Sunday (I was raised Christian, and my parents would be deeply disappointed to know I am very much agnostic now, and will definitely never identify as Christian or believe in its teachings again).

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Moments of brightness

I have had a pretty bad week at work. Almost every day has involved a conversation with a boss at some level. At first I was discussing issues I had with how other people were behaving towards me, and then it was discovered that I had made an error in judgment and suddenly I was the one apologizing and vowing to be better. And of course, feeling terrible about myself all over again, because this was a pretty major mistake that involved apologies on my boss’s part to people higher up in the company.

Last week, when I was already miserable after January not being the fresh start I had hoped for after a dismal fall and winter at work following an unwanted management change for my department, one of my coworkers noticed I’d been 元気ない (not cheerful/energetic) lately. I talked to her privately on Facebook later and told her some of what I was going through, and she was very supportive. It meant a lot. Then today, my former boss (who’s about to transition to a new role in a different department and is now more or less killing time in our department but not acting as our official supervisor anymore) also sent me a message saying I seemed 元気ない lately and offering to talk. It was really nice, because I had actually been considering asking to talk to him about everything because he’s been with the company since he graduated college, and if he’s stuck with it this far he must know something. But at the same time I didn’t even know where to begin so I hadn’t asked him yet. I’m glad he asked me first and showed me that he’d noticed. Even though he’s not my boss anymore, he’s still a way better boss than either of my two official bosses are…

So we talked for two hours (!!!) and I came away feeling SO much better. He feels the exact same way I do about all the management changes (which have effectively pushed him out), but he’s also put up with a lot worse over the years at this company, and – in my opinion – triumphed. He was once slapped upside the head by a former boss, who was wearing a thick ring which actually CUT HIS HEAD. HE GAVE HIM A HEAD INJURY. I cannot believe this is okay, at all. Another person forced my former boss to bow and give a formal apology to 100 of the employees during a group presentation, which was of course humiliating.

When I heard all this, my immediate reaction was “Why didn’t you quit?? I would have quit. I would have been out of there that instant after being INJURED and also HUMILIATED like that.” I don’t know why he didn’t (possibly an American vs. Japanese cultural way of thinking thing, although he grew up largely overseas so he’s not the typical Japanese guy), but he stayed (despite the guy who slapped him eventually kicking him off his team) and he thrived. He got a promotion to head of a team, he was transferred to be head of a new team (the team I eventually joined), and now he’s going to be an even bigger head of another new team. The guy who slapped him even admitted he was a good employee in the end. If he’d quit, that would never have happened.

It was really inspirational. Honestly, I’ve been wanting to quit. I feel humiliated and like I’ve fucked things up for good with my coworkers, so I might as well just leave because hardly anyone wants me around. I can’t work by the rules, which change frequently, and I feel stifled and constrained. I have a hard time managing my time well, but I also keep feeling pressured to take on extra work which gets me behind on my regular work, and then I get criticized all around for missing deadlines. I’m unhappy and resentful about all the changes and I just keep stewing over past injustices done to me and I rebel hard against the idea of obediently doing what I’m told. I’ve been trying hard to fix things like my relationships with my coworkers, which my bluntness and overly critical nature has left in tatters, but it feels like I’m just treading water and I keep making mistakes that land me back in trouble. So why don’t I just leave and find somewhere I can make a fresh start and this time be extra careful NOT to make the mistakes I made the first time??

Well, that’s how I’ve been feeling, but after hearing his story, I feel a little more inspired and determined to stay and make the best of it. Also, as much as I hate that it happened, having my error discovered (and by the way, I could have chosen to lie and say it wasn’t me who did it, but I owned up to it immediately) has reset my bad attitude. I went from resentful victim to humbled and contrite. I hope it doesn’t end up working against me in the end (which it will if I don’t prove I can move past this and not make a similar mistake of any kind ever again), because as sucky as it is, it might have been just what I needed. My manager, by the way, is deeply skeptical and suspicious of me now. She has serious doubts about whether I can really avoid similar mistakes in the future. She thinks I try to decide things on my own and need to stop (and I do). It sucks, but I guess I don’t blame her and I should just be grateful that she’s not viewing this as a firable offense. Anyway, I feel determined now to just lay low and do my job and nothing outside of my job and show her that I can be a good, obedient employee. Most of all, I just want to stay off her radar, because attracting her attention (and wrath) is NOT a good thing. I know that because of the company’s current financial situation, we can’t hire anyone new until June, and if I were fired the other two people on my team would have to do a LOT of extra work, so she’s not going to fire me for the time being – only if I keep making mistakes. But I’m not going to. My goal for now is to successfully law low and complete my job in a timely manner so that by June I’m a model employee.
[Edit: Realized later that my type of job is 正社員 which means I cannot be fired unless I am like arrested or embezzle from the company or something, so I have complete job security.]

But yeah. I’m really so, so glad I talked to him today, and that he was willing to talk to me as long as I needed, and that he noticed I’d been feeling down and cared enough to try to help. When I got the message from him saying “hey, you seem 元気ない lately. if you need to talk, I’m available”, my eyes welled up with tears, I was so moved. I actually had to try REALLY hard not to cry while I was talking with him, but that’s also like every serious conversation I’ve had at work lately. Being off meds = I could burst into tears at any moment. ANY moment.

So. Yeah. Moments of brightness in an otherwise gray and miserable landscape. That is where I’m at right now!



I don’t even know what I want.

Regardless, this is sort of taking on an obsession in my mind at the moment. I can’t seem to stop trying to figure out exactly what it is I want and how I should pursue it.

I think my main dilemma is fellow foreigner or Japanese guy. Not with anyone in specific, just in general. There’s pros and cons to both. With a fellow foreigner, we both speak English so that’s easy, and we come from similar cultural backgrounds. But there’s also the real possibility he’s going to leave Japan before me, the fact that when we’re out together people are much more likely to assume we don’t speak any Japanese (which annoys me), the likelihood that his Japanese isn’t very good so I have to pick up a lot of slack and that he’s just an English teacher who probably has to return home to get a real career going, which he’ll want eventually. On the other hand, Japanese guy. The pros there are incredibly soft seal-like skin (don’t ask how I discovered that), adorable shyness, amusing secret hidden sides, and the opportunity to practice Japanese and learn new words – not to mention if I marry one, first I get to wear an awesome over-the-top wedding kimono (not the all-white ones with the hat but still, something elaborate and fancy) and make my sister wear a furisode and get married in one of my beloved Shinto shrines, and second I have something tying me to Japan. Cons are communication difficulties and frustrations (especially if his English isn’t good enough to communicate with my family and I have to interpret), different cultural expectations (like if we get married and he expects me to do the housework, etc – and because of how family registers work in Japan, I’d almost certainly have to change my name to his, which I don’t want to do with anyone), and long working hours and overtime. From what I understand though, Japanese guys aren’t generally looking for a serious relationship with a western girl, because they sense she’s not going to put up with their patriarchal society BS. And I’m not, but at the same time, I’d love to find that rare guy who is open to something different.

So when presented with a choice (now things are getting specific) – pursue western guy, or pursue Japanese guy(s)? I’m not sure where to put my energy, I’m not sure what is the best decision for my future, and that’s what’s driving me crazy. Is dating a western guy who will probably leave Japan before me – precipitating our breakup – a waste of my time/youth, and so I should focus on only Japanese guys who aren’t going anywhere? Or will it be a good experience and the real right person will be waiting for me at the end of it?

I think the “something to tie me to Japan vs. someone whose time here is more limited than mine” is the real thing I’m agonizing over. I mean, I’m moving my cat here, and I don’t plan to move her back to the US unless some sort of crisis occurs and I have to move home. She’s got another good 6 years at least left, and she’s staying here until the end of them if I have anything to say about it. So I’m here at least until the end of my cat’s lifespan, and from what I’ve observed, people generally tend to stay in Japan for about 3-5 years, and if they find a significant other within that time, they stay after that. If they don’t, then they go back to their home country. I’m enjoying my life so much right now, but I don’t want to hit 5 years and have no personal ties to Japan (that is, to someone Japanese or at least someone who’s here long-term) and start to let my homesickness and feelings of not wanting to miss out on seeing my family anymore call me home. I mean, I guess if I feel that way I feel that way and I’ll decide accordingly, but for some reason, right now I’m just looking for something to keep me here. But that’s silly, because another person shouldn’t decide my fate; I should be the one controlling it. And yet… so many of my friends here are happily coupled. I used to be, and now I’m not, and it feels a little insecure and jarring.

It’s also the fact that my ex already has a new girlfriend, and he went on his first date with her a week after we broke up. One week! What that tells me is he was coasting in our relationship for a long time, and didn’t initiate a breakup himself because he was afraid of what it might do to me in my anxious state. Ugh. I know it’s not a competition, but it still stings, and part of me feels a compulsion to catch up.

It’s also that I’m 27, 28 in a few months, and I’m worried about hitting my late 30s/40s and not having a life partner because I didn’t grab one when I was young and desirable. Even though I’m undecided about having kids and probably have at least until 35 in terms of fertility, the clock still feels like it’s ticking. So many Japanese women here I know are 30s/40s and unattached and seemingly will be for the rest of their lives, and it’s scary. At the same time, I don’t see them being proactive and trying to date, and I wouldn’t be that way – I’m not being that way now – but it’s still a frightening picture of a potential future. I don’t want my independence and ideals to cost me lifelong companionship.

At the same time, keeping up a relationship is a lot of work! And I’m enjoying not having to be accountable to anyone all the time. But I miss the security and the companionship and do want to find a life partner, an 運命の人… I do still hold out hope of finding someone I’m really, really compatible with and feel like I’m meant to be with. I’ve let go a little of the idea that there’s “The One” for everyone – I think there can be multiple “Ones” depending on life circumstances – but I’m still very enamored of the thought of a soulmate out there waiting for me to find him. I can’t help it, I’ve been dreaming of that since I was a child/teenager, and it’s what I get off on in my favorite fictional relationships – the one true couple, whose connection is destiny and fated and spans everything, who you can’t imagine being with anyone else ever. I thought I’d found that, but it was just first love and me trying desperately to make it work despite mounting incompatibilities and mutual personality flaws.


Oh, and JLPT N1 is in less than a month and here I am focusing my energies on dating instead of studying. Can we say “going to fail”? Yup.

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?


Welcome to my new home… if you’d like to learn more about me, you can go here.

About the title: “translatory motion” is a physics term that means motion in which all points of a moving body move uniformly in the same line or direction. This is how I’d like to view my path towards becoming a translator, and obviously I take a looser interpretation to the term “translatory” to suit my situation.

I do use pseudonyms here for myself and the people in my life that I’m close to, so if you know me, please don’t use real names. I have a lot of snoopy family members that I disagree with on several points (religion, politics, etc) and I’d like to not have to worry about being discovered by those I don’t want reading my thoughts! (It’s happened in the past that I’ve been sent emails pointing out swear word usage and so on–very annoying.)

Please enjoy! And since I’ll talk a lot about Japanese here, I’ll also say: どうぞよろしくお願いします。