On Burning Out

September 27, 2010

Another diversion from the almost two-months-old Hiroshima entries to bring you some floating personal thoughts

It’s 11:46 on a Monday night and I can’t sleep because of the drizzle smacking against the pavement outside of my apartment. The rain, quickly becoming a part of my daily routine, came suddenly with hardly any warning. The seasons in Japan seemingly replace one another without any grace period, the blistering summer months one day transforming into the gloomy autumn which will soon enough, with no warning, give way to the god-foresaken winter. Not many “pretty good days of weather” or even “ehhhh, I’ll take it” days pop up, things change rapidly.

I’ve found myself speaking ill of the Japanese fall…a season I once proclaimed “number one season” in my mental list-making days…a lot more recently. It’s obviously a bit stupid because it’s no different than what I’d be experiencing in, say, Evanston right now…and based on the amount of Twitter updates mentioning how today’s the first day so-and-so has to wear a sweater, I seem to be really right. Yet I’ve been having way to many negative thoughts about the new season…and way too many negative thoughts about other aspects of Japan that, one year ago, filled me with an idiot-glee usually reserved for a college freshman (no offense!). Part of me fears I’m burning out on Japan.

Within the people-living-in-Japan-who-also-write-or-talk-about-it-online world there exist two extreme stereotypes. Of course, being the internet, these representations probably account for, oh, about two percent of foreigners living in Japan total, but online they feel way more dominant. On one end of the spectrum are the “I love Japan SO MUCH” types, the people who seemingly have no bad experiences here and are masters at painting Japan in a positive light regardless of the situation. They would make amazing PR people. The flip side, though, are the souls who loathe everything about Japan and who spend lots of time online raging against the country. They seem bitter, sick of it all, disillusioned…burned out. I fear I’m slowly turning into one of those people.

Well, that’s dramatic. I actually don’t hold much against Japan…I still really like the country. And I honestly love my job and am terrified about having to start all over again back in America. So I’m really not like those folks on the web who despise Japan after being here too long.

But I’ve still been feeling pretty mixed on everything for a little over a month now. My first year in Japan went pretty well…save for a few instances of ennui where I can’t even remember the source now, I loved it. Signing up for a second year came with knowing a lot would be different…the thrill of everything being new that I felt 365 days ago (“whoa, weird Pepsi”) has been replaced with a far more boring familiarity (“I’m not drinking that shit”). That ones probably not hard to figure out just by looking at this blog, where frequency of updating has dipped big time recently and the only reason I’m writing this is because I can’t sleep, I felt inspired for some unknown reason and I have a slow day at work tomorrow. I fully expected that.

The problem, though, seems to be making the most out of the less-than-a-year I have left. I came to Japan pretty firmly believing I’d do two years and then get out so I stuck to that plan. Before August I would have pegged my chances of doing a third year at something like 60 percent “no way Jose” and 40 percent “OK!” Today I’d put that more towards 85 percent to 15 percent. Since being vague rocks, I won’t say what specifically has made me get a bit more frustrated (though I don’t really think there are many specifics), and rather throw out a list: at times I’ve questioned my teaching abilities, I’m nagged by a loneliness I haven’t been able to shake since college, I’m realizing I don’t want to lose the ability to be a “stupid young 20-something” at the moment and I’m kinda bored. It’s all basically Holden Caulfield-ish mixed with whatever that New York Times article said about the 20s being the new adolescence…because I really wanted to live through that again.

These issues have all collided at once to make me start acting like a dick at times. I try to always be respectful of Japanese culture and the differences that pop up, but recently I’ve been acting with a little bit more of a “screw it I’ma do what I want to” attitude. One weekend, I committed the big Japanese no-no of talking on my phone while on a train, something I never do…mostly because I have a phobia of talking on cell phones, but that’s for a therapist…but on this particular day seemed like a great act of rebellion. So I yapped away and then the guy across from me tapped me on the shoulder and gave me a look saying “dude, no.” I’ve also started eating food while walking (yes, this is frowned upon) and not properly separating my recyclables. Completely lame acts yes, but for me it’s like storming a military barracks.

So now I find myself wondering…how do I not blow these last few months. I actually am feeling better today thanks to a Saturday night spent in Osaka that…despite the presence of an all-time low bowling score…revealed some of my friends actually have the exact same problems. That night, coupled with the oddly delirious state I’m in now, has made me a bit more determined to go out there and actually enjoy my time left instead of be a baby about it. Innovative strategy, I know. Mostly, I don’t want to turn into one of those bitter dudes. I’m sure they make phone calls on the train.

(Japanese Fun Fact #79 – Japanese bowling alleys stay open until 5 in the morning. I don’t think that’s the reason I sucked so much at bowling, though.)

If you read all of that, sorry, this is the equivalent of a midnight snack for me when I can’t sleep. I’ll let you slap me in the face when I’m back in America.

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2 Responses to “On Burning Out”

  1. Vlad Putin said

    It’s 55 degrees out and I think my school has turned the heat on already. IT IS REALLY ANNOYING.

    Unrelated: maybe take a break from reading the Internets re: Japan? On the bright side, once you get back to the US you’ll still have YEARS to be a stupid 20-something who’s expected to do, well, stupid things. Maybe by that time, 30-somethings will even become the new 20-somethings and we’ll never have to grow up! One can dream, yeah?

  2. Emily Chow said

    Vlad Putin has a point. Still young! But I imagine that ennui can sink in anywhere you choose to settle down after a year or so, but it looks like Hiroshima was good and an experience in itself.

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