Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2020 Is Here

A bowl of "toshikoshi soba" (New Year's Eve noodles)

Well it's finally here. We’re on the cusp of a brand new decade. Much has passed in the 2010s alone, some bad, but a lot of it good.

For me 2010 saw the beginning of my new life as a husband. It saw the birth of my three boys and thus my life as a father. I discovered a lot about myself this past decade. Who would have thought that I actually love kids so much! Who would have known that I would one day be proud to be a dad. I found out that I actually love teaching kids English. I found that I can't make it as a car salesman, or a car encyclopedia.

I learned that I need to listen to my intuition. On more than one occasion, I ignored a persistent voice in my head, and I later came to regret it. That's possibly one of the biggest lessons I learned in my life; learn to listen to your gut. If something doesn't sit right with you, there's probably a very important reason.

Here is something more I learned; there's nothing more important than family. There may be a lot I'd like to do, a lot I'd like to explore and discover, but at the end of the day, family comes first. From now on, for every decision I make, I need to keep into account that I have a family to take care of, three beautiful, handsome young boys to see through. And, it doesn't have to be a complete sacrifice, my boys and I can travel this life's journey together!

Every day, I am amazed to see how much of myself I see in my children, how much they take after me. Without my prompting, my eldest has gone through YouTube and listened to a lot of the video game music I love. Whenever I start humming some of my favorite chip tunes, my son starts humming along with me. "How do you know this song?" I ask. "I just heard it on YouTube." he responds. Kirby. Sonic. Link. Mario. My son knows a LOT of video game music without my guidance and I'm just blown away. He's a little mini-me. My second also joins in, and my 3rd is already learning to repeat melodies. In every one of my boys I see a piece of me and I'm just amazed.

Readers know the saying "You don't know what you got, 'till it's gone." I think I now understand what that means. I'm reminded of that here and there. Sometimes you complain about something all day long, or you take something or someone for granted, and then it's gone, and then things are different and you wish things were back how they used to be.

I had a job that I didn't know I loved until I left it. Every day I'd complain about disagreements at work. It was rare to come home without some sort of problem that happened. Then I quit to leave somewhere else. I was so proud of myself for doing that. "I'm going my own way," I thought to myself. And then, as they said, it was "Out of the pan and into the fire."

I took a pay-cut to have my "revenge" on my old job for having "mistreated" me. "The job would open up opportunities for a more permanent position," I was promised. "You'd grow in our international department and do more than just teaching." The job sounded too good to be true, and it turned out I should have listened to my first impulse; it was nothing more than a glorified conversation school. Worse; I often had to babysit immature college students, some whom I wasn't qualified to deal with because they had special needs. (I'm an English teacher, not a mental health clinician.) To make matters worse, some of the staff made it a very toxic environment; an environment in which I dreaded coming into every day because you never knew what it was going to be like. And then, and I should have seen it coming, the contract was up in 3 years. All 3 years I was thinking to myself "I should have never left my old job. I should have stayed. Sure I had problems, but not as much as this. And I used to make MORE. WHY DID I LEAVE??? I was a stupid idiot." The last time I could remember doing a job was being happy, doing something I felt was rewarding and fulfilling, was at my old job teaching kids.

I went through a really tough year. After 3 years at a 2nd tier Japanese university (they wouldn't rehire me because of the strict 3-year limit), I took on a job as an independent contractor selling cars from Japanese auction houses to foreign customers. "We'll teach you everything you need to know. All you need is N2 Japanese skills," I was told. That the "company" was only like 4 people based in Tokyo should have been my first red flag. Again, more lessons learned. I now know what it means to be an "independent contractor." It means your job has no obligation to keep you and can let you go at any time. They don't have to pay any insurance or worry about any tax information; everything is on you.

Well, the Japanese was there, but it was evident that I knew absolutely nothing about cars. On top of having sales skills, the people at the company I worked for briefly actually, really wanted someone who was car encyclopedia. And by car encyclopedia, I mean knowing cars by manufacturer, model, year, what problems it was prone to, what modifications people tended to make to them, what market there was for them etc. I thought I made it very clear from the beginning that I was not a car guy, but even so, after only 2 weeks, they started talking to me about "letting me go." For a second time, a job wasn’t actually what was advertised. Why did I ignore all the red flags? I was desperate, that’s why.

I didn't know what to do. With 3 boys and a mortgage, I seriously was contemplating the thought of suicide. Not even a month into the fiscal year, what was I going to do? All Japanese companies and schools usually hire well in advance before the start of the fiscal year, on April 1st. After that, few to no companies hire. Anyone looking to hire was probably desperate, which probably means something is wrong with the job conditions. I needed to find something and take what I found for now. Serious hiring doesn’t start until a few months before next April. I was seriously up a creek.

Luckily, my wife was understanding, and she was there the whole way. I applied for unemployment benefits and started "pounding the pavement" as they say. I applied here and there and went to different interviews until I finally decided on a conversation school. Gratefully, one of the interviewers saw my plight and saw that I could work out at his company, so after long last I finally had a source of income. It wasn't what I was making at my previous job, or the job before, but it was something to keep my family afloat for a while.

My new job barely payed, with meager raises every year based on performance. Most days I started at 9, sometimes 8, and I got home at 7 at the earliest, with swaths of unpaid time, up to four hours, in the middle of the day, because few people come in for lessons in the afternoon. It had minimal vacation time, and to top things off, I had an uneven schedule, working Saturdays and having Sunday and Thursday off. It made me miss my days as a teacher, when I had all of Summer and the Winter Break, not to mention most weekends off. I couldn’t complain, though, because the job was saving me and my family that year. The job did have insurance benefits and minor perks, like discounts at hotels. But I knew I just couldn’t stay here for too long. Thinks were looking rather bleak, and then a miracle happened.

Luckily, I kept in touch with a person at my old, old job, the job I wish I never left, and he started telling me about how the school was planning to expand, and that there might be an opportunity for me to come back. We kept in touch, and finally, by the winter of that year, they asked if I wanted to come back. "You won't start at your old salary, but it will definitely be more than what you're making now. And, there will be a chance for an increase as our school grows," he said. I TOTALLY WANTED TO DO IT.

 I talked with my wife, who wasn't very happy at first. "You're changing jobs again? Do you remember why you quit the last time? I don't want you to change jobs again if you're going to quit after another 3 years. Do this only if you are absolutely sure that this is what you want to do." I said "Yes. To be honest, I can't remember being happier than when I worked here. I want it. I want my old job back."

And so, a year ago, I started working at my old job again. And here I am, one year later, SO HAPPY to be doing my old job again, making SO MUCH MORE than at the conversation school I was working for previously.

The moral of the story is, you don't know what you got 'till it's gone. Appreciate what you have.

In some ways, perhaps I'm grateful for what I went through. Now I know where I stand, what the job market is, and how good I actually have it. I hug my boys and my wife every day. Where I work, I teach English and play with children with a smile. Old staff and parents who had seen me before are so glad to have me back. How could I ever leave here?

Every day, I am grateful to be where I am now.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I'm looking forward to this new decade in 2020.

So many things are coming down the pike.

For one, I'll be starting my 2nd year back at my old job. SO happy about that.

We're thinking of FINALLY buying a Nintendo Switch and some games for it. I'm TOTALLY looking forward to FINALLY being able to play the new Zelda: Link's Awakening remake! Can't wait to play the new Smash Brothers, Splatoon and Mario Kart. And who knows what else!

But you know what I'm REALLY looking forward to?

Visiting the new Super Nintendo World at USJ, here in Osaka!!!

Me and my boys are going to make some memories!!!

It will be a glorious 2020.

2020, HERE WE COME!!!

Me and my family, January 1st, 2020

Thank you to anyone reading this.

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Oshogatsu: Japanese New Year