Whenever someone finds out I majored in Asian Studies in college, they say, “So you could become an English teacher?” Definitely not! (Those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter might not know that I teach English and very much dislike it.)
When I chose to study about Asia–specifically Japan–it was not with a post-graduation career goal in mind. You see, growing up, I learned nothing about Asia. Then in college I suddenly had so much information about Asia available to me. My boyfriend (now husband) was Japanese, and all my friends were studying Japanese, and there was an entire academic department dedicated to Asia. It was new and exciting intellectual territory, and I wanted to learn everything. I didn’t have an interest in using my future degree to become a translator or an international consultant in a large company. I just wanted to explore.
Fast forward to now.
I’m feeling lonely, unhappy, and unfulfilled in Japan. My husband is busy more often than not. He stays at work late and pulls all-nighters and sometimes has social obligations on other nights or the weekends.
My husband takes on so many roles in my life: life partner, sole family member, best friend, only local friend. So much of my social health depends on him. And since I don’t find happiness in my job, I have to get my happiness from my relationships. That’s where there’s trouble since my main source of human contact is strained lately. My happiness is too dependent on another person, I’ve realized.
My dream is to be a writer, to make a career out of telling stories. (At least I think it is, but that’s a topic for another time.) Being a writer is something very possible, but it requires years of practice to get good. And I need to make money in the meantime. So I’m stuck teaching English because it’s the only job I can do with my limited Japanese. Of course, once I can get my Japanese level high enough, a lot more options will be open to me. I could go to film school or join a theatre company, something more closely related to my interests.
But the truth is I have no desire to attach myself to this country any longer. My interest in Japan started with curiosity, and now the curiosity is gone. I’m not enchanted anymore, and perhaps enchantment was all I had. I don’t care about making Japanese friends. I don’t care about the social/political/environmental state of Japan. I don’t care about cultural exchange — in fact, I pretty tired of it. So then what is the point of improving my Japanese when I don’t care about using it?
But I’m still in Japan because my husband is here. I’m still in Japan because I don’t want to be a failure–one of foreigners who just couldn’t handle it and gave up. I’m still in Japan because I don’t know how I would talk about my experience to those who don’t “get” Japan–the “normals,” whose only knowledge of Japan is all the crazy and unbelievable stuff they’ve heard in the media.
I’m still here, but I’m unhappy.