Thursday, February 1, 2007

There. I Did It.

Inspired by Matterdays, and although I know I'm going to cringe when I look at this later, here's the job update: I don't have one.

After working for almost four years in Japan for an American bank at the sickest pace you can imagine, I turned down a promotion (actually, a couple, but one big one) and then quit my job. For a million reasons that I won't go into, it was the right decision. And no matter how long I go without work, it will always have been the right decision.

When I quit I decided that I would not go back to doing the same job (managing groups of branches and other offices) or my previous job (being a branch manager - worst job in the world - when you go into your local bank, be nice to the manager; she's basically on a suicide watch, trust me, and is only smiling at you because someone has a gun to her head, and she's kind of wishing they would pull the trigger), which I did for ten years, unless I really had to. And even then I probably wouldn't. I can't say definitively because I'm not there yet, but I think I would bag groceries before I do that.

My worst-case-scenario when I quit my job was that I would be out of work for maybe two months. I was actually much more worried that I would get a job too quickly and not have time to relax or remember that there is a meal that comes between breakfast and dinner, it's ok to leave the office before 3:00 AM, (at least on Saturdays and Sundays), and when you feel like you need to go to the bathroom, you can take a five minute break and do it. Those were things I'd forgotten while working overseas. I also knew I'd need time to get over the culture shock, which was significant. So I hoped that I would get a minimum of two weeks off before finding a new job.

So I've been out of work since June. I've applied for lots of jobs since then and had lots of interviews. The interviews usually contain questions/comments like this:
  • What is the time difference between here and there?
  • Like, what time is it right now in Japan?
  • I had a cousin who was a foreign exchange student in Singapore.
  • I've always wanted to go to Hong Kong.
  • Do they speak English there?
  • Say something in Japanese.
  • I love Chinese food.
  • Did you eat lots of sushi?
  • Do you still live in Japan? (What? But I have the same area code as you!)
  • Now, where is Japan?
I can't describe what it's like to be a sick workaholic slave for four (fifteen?) years and then spend eight months floating while trying everyday to not let the humiliation swallow you whole. The self-doubt is almost unmanageable, and some days there's no way to stop the negative messages in my head - if I were smarter, better, more articulate, more attractive, less direct, more direct, taller, shorter, anything, I would have a job by now. Those are bad days.

And then there's the freedom, the complete, crazy freedom, unlike anything I've ever experienced. There's peace - peace - and quiet. There's perspective and energy and time - things I haven't had for years. At times it's like being the only hamster not rolling around on an exercise wheel. The other guys are busier, but I feel like I'm on the inside of the joke or something. No longer riding on the merry-go-round, I just had to let it go.

I'm thankful I had a chance to save money in Japan - bankers make complete shit, but there's a lot of cash in being an expat - and I'm very grateful for friends and family who refrain from asking questions that have no answers and who measure my worth not by what I do but who I am. I have NO IDEA what happens next. I hope it's something good. I had an excellent interview on Monday, the best yet, but I'm way past getting hopeful about a good interview. I'm determined to make this a transition that I look back on and say, "My God, that was the best thing that ever happened to me." I hope I can do it. I also wouldn't mind if I look back and say, "I'm so glad I told those assholes where they could put that promotion." I think I will.


  1. Well put, friend. Well put. (and good luck)

  2. Is it wrong that I thought about 'What about Bob' when you mentioned 'peace - peace and quiet'?
    couldn't resist...

  3. peace and quiet could be goals in themselves. our society is a crazy place. work is not the thing i will wish i'd done more of at the end of this life. work less, live more. it's too fucking bad we have to have $$. i've thought of a convent as an alternative.