It was my birthday last week, the big 28, which means I’ve spent nearly a fifth of my life here in Japan. Kind of scary when you think about it like that, and perhaps more so when you consider how far people back in the “real world” have progressed with their lives in the interim.
I’m not saying I want to get married or have kids or even hold down a “real” but boring job, but I do feel like the years are starting to catch up with me. I have a plan, and it’s progressing (sort of), but you know, the uncertaintity in the meantime is a killer.
I find myself being a lot less tolerant of people new to Japan – the “Fresh Off the Boats” (FOBs) that in my line of work I find myself having to deal with again and again on a yearly basis. It’s a complicated issue – there’s the “gaijin in japan” aspect (you go through “stages” almost, and sometimes the newbies/short timers (“the tourists”, as my more cynical friend referred to them once) can be aggravating in their naivete (to put it kindly). This is not to hate – we all had to go through those stages at one time – but when you have to deal with hundreds of people acting the same fool way year after year after year, you start to lose patience. There’s also the age issue as well. 28 is not exactly mind blowingly old, but when most of the foreigners I work with or know are 22 or 23 (and more importantly, often fresh out of college) the gap can seem nearly insurmountable. More than the number, perhaps it’s the maturity difference that gets me – often rude, inconsiderate, or just plain immature, it’s enough to make me want to throw my hands up and go “enough already, I’ve had it with you kids.”
The fact that I have had cause to feel this way makes the press of years weigh even heavier than before. Since when did I stop considering myself part of that group and start refering to it as a them, separate and distinct from myself?
Last month, I had to give an orientation for some new foreigner teachers that had just come to the prefecture – in addition to that run of the mill jackassery that goes on at such conferences, I caught two kids blowing off the entire second day to fool around in the city. When I caught them, they tried to give me the lamest excuses I had ever heard in my life – I know junior high school kids who can lie better than those two – which I promptly called them on, then proceeded to scold them. The nerve! To skip a conference which you are being paid to attend at a job which rightfully you are woefully underqualified for and overpaid to do? What were these kids thinking?
I felt as if a parent scolding a child – and it really was like that, because if that was a battle of wits, judging from their lame stammerings, they came pathetically unarmed. But after dismissing them, I felt strange – since when I had I stopped being one of those fun loving fresh out of college fresh off the boat gaijin myself? It seems that sometime in the past 5 years, unbeknownst to me, I had (sort of) grown up. Now I was the adult, the suit (literally!), the one doing all the scolding and shaking my head at the idiocy that kids do. At the foolishness of young gaijin in Japan. I may not be an expat or a Japan lifer, but it seems like I’m headed on that path, and I’m not sure I want to be on it.
I enjoy dressing like a doctor from the 1890s…
Who knows. Maybe I’m reading too much into it. At any rate, I am getting old(er), and birthdays, really, have stopped being special. Mine falling on a weekday last week, I had to work my ass off all day, and was too exhausted by the time I got home to do anything but sleep. I didn’t celebrate and actually, nobody (my parents and best friend back home included) even remembered to call me. It’s easy to get lost and forgotten about here in this eastern island, while the “rest of the world” moves on with their lives. Maybe I’ve even forgotten about myself, if this sentence actually means anything. We can forget about each other here in Japan as well – the one person – a friend, or so I thought – I asked to do something with on my birthday told me, more or less, that they had better things to spend money on. I suppose you can’t fault a person for that, but if I can be unusually frank for a moment, what they said – as well as the fact that no one even bothered to call me on my birthday – really hurt me. Then again, I had an idea this would be the case when I made my choice to come to Japan, when I made my choice to move near Tokyo more for the money than because my heart was in it, so I have no one but myself to blame. This doesn’t, however, make it any less hurtful, however.
I shouldn’t say I was completely forgotten, however. I did get two presents, both from very unexpected sources. One was an oven (which is a rare and precious commodity in this country and one that I have been dreaming about for a while) and the other was this wonderful Paul Smith silk scarf, which you can see Vodafone Panda and me modeling in the various photos above.
I love how I’m looking up at the upper right hand corner for no reason…
It’s strange the way we change over the years – 5 years ago, I was dressed in baggy jeans and oversized hooded sweatshirts with purple hair. Now I pour over the pages of fashion magazine lusting after 3 piece bespoke suits, obsess over the finer points of habersdashery and men’s fashion, and dress my pandas in silk scarves.
I’m not sure if this really is progress or not. But it is fun to play dress up, adorning oneself with the trappings of grown ups and pretending to be an adult every once in a while.
Or at least for your birthday.
Now listening to: “P. Diddy – Last Night (feat. Keyshia Cole)”
yeah yeah, I don’t normally listen to Puff Daddy, but for some reason I really like this song, plus the girl from the video is quite hot. She reminds me of Emmanuelle Chriqui from Entourage.