Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Eikaiwas Work

The following entry, like everything else in this blog, is a work of pure fiction. No references to any actual people, events, or corporations (including that which employs the author) is intended; and any resemblance to such persons, events, or corporations is entirely coincidental. Any claims the author makes regarding the motivations or business tactics of any corporation are completely fabricated for the purposes of fiction. Copyrighted images of Duke Togo have also never been used in company advertisements without proper permission.

To advertise a discounted TOEIC test preparation class, one of the Japanese teachers at my school made magnetic signs featuring a grim-faced Golgo 13 and some flashy statements about the cheaper price. She stuck the signs in the upper left corner of the whiteboards in every classroom where they could grab the attention of students during lessons. Though it was pretty cool to have Duke Togo looking at me during the day, the sign got in the way when I stuck practice cards on to the whiteboard and took up space I needed for writing. My annoyance with the sign grew so great that I finally moved it to the lower left where it wouldn't obstruct my teaching. Some days, however, after another teacher had used my classroom, I couldn't help but notice that the sign would be blocking the upper corner of the whiteboard again. We played a back-and-forth game for about a week until I took to shifting the sign back to the upper corner myself every time I left the room for fear of getting a talking-to.

If that's not the perfect metaphor for how English conversation schools in Japan operate, I don't know what is.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Time Management

Joseph Heller wrote Catch-22 over a six-year period while he worked at an advertising agency in New York. Every day he got up, put on his suit, and went to work like everybody else; but every night he worked on that enormous novel whose character timeline he’d painstakingly laid out on his desk blotter. He had rent to pay, plus a family to support; and he managed to finish such a huge project at the same time. I wonder if he ever came home after being belittled by his bosses, overwhelmed with too many assignments, or frustrated by bureaucratic nonsense, and found that work had drained him of the energy necessary for writing. More importantly, I wonder what his attitude toward his job was.

Some nights I also come home too exhausted after shouting out pronunciation and answering grammar questions to do the things I’d like to do. Other days all I can do is lay down on my bed and stare into space because some nonsense order from an invisible superior has left me so bitter and frustrated with Japanese offices that I want to shout in their faces that all their regulatory nonsense is a misguided waste of everyone’s time. On those days I can’t do much at all. I especially can’t write.

In that respect, my job fails me a small but significant percent of the time. When I envision my ideal job, I of course imagine something that would challenge me, stimulate my thinking, and would give me pure satisfaction at the end of every day. My second choice (and a more reasonable option for the present) is a job that is not at all stressful or mentally taxing; supplies the necessary income for food, rent, and student loans; and leaves me mentally free to do my own work after I’ve clocked out.

My brief stretch painting houses was the closest I’ve come to the latter scenario. Every day I drove to Hillsborough to touch up windows and coat walls while listening to NPR, and came home still energized enough to write the bulk of the Carcrash Parker script (it just didn’t pay enough to let me move out). If I were disciplined, I know I could work a day job purely for the necessary sustenance and focus my main energies on writing. Keyword being if.

My current job strikes a tenuous middle ground between these two extremes. It’s interesting enough to stimulate my creativity and allows me to live on my own, but the stress interferes with my free time often enough so that I must mention it here. While it’s true that I’m not working on a novel, and most of what I write can easily be described as hack work, it’s still important to me to keep at it. I have an adventure game script to finish, Japanese to study, kanji to learn, and observations that beg to be written down.

It’s a challenge anyone with aspirations outside of their job has to face, and one that is especially pronounced in all us twentysomethings with lofty dreams set adrift in the Post-College Abyss. I can’t force myself to write on the bad nights (though some sources tell me I should try), but I can work on the good.

If it’s any hope, I will say this: I’m writing this entry on a weeknight after work.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bachelor Living

Last night I brought out the steel wool for the first time and discovered that my frying pan is actually silver, not brown.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Kofu Winter

Two days ago it snowed in Kofu for the first time this year. I ran to the top (i.e. the third) floor of my building with all the youthful excitement of a kid on a snow day to look out over snow-covered roofs and mountains that were shrouded in white; in awe at how the usual gray cityscape now looked as cozy and welcoming as a cool winter's drive through the mountains of New Hampshire that I left behind exactly one year ago today.

It was gone by three o'clock.