I have now been living in the US for four months, which is weird on so many levels. On the one hand, it doesn’t feel that long ago that I was living in Japan. That the life I see my friends posting on Facebook was the life I led: a life of festivals, sushi, and dealing with student antics. On the other hand, it feels like a life ago. I’m different and the same, as is the way of human nature, right? Part of my first two months of living here was a struggle to figure out who “Living in Colorado with her parents” Jodi was. I was very familiar with “living in St. Louis with her parents” Jodi was and while that Jodi was who I needed to be at the time, she wasn’t who I needed to be now.
And “Japanese Jodi: isn’t someone that can function well here. That was the hardest part of adjusting to life here, I think. For one, the amount of English was really overwhelming at first. Everyone chuckles when I say that, but let me explain. In Japan, not only is English like a secret language you can get away with using with your other English-speaking friends in front of the vast majority of people, but it’s also kind of like a buzzer that someone is demanding your attention. For example, if I was on one side of the convenience store and my American friend was on the other, they could say something at a normal conversational volume, and I would instantly tune it because if there was English going on, it was meant for me. Also, if there was random English, it could be a Japanese person who was trying to get your attention. Basically, if I heard any English, it meant I was being addressed. And over the course of four years you get very good at locking onto that quickly because it stands out so much against the sound of Japanese.
When I moved to the US, there was no background noise for the first week or so. There is a reason why our brains filter out so much as unimportant: we have only so much attention to expend and it’s exhausting trying to devote it to all sounds. But now I’m used to it. Most English fades into the background, but I still have trouble reading on the train if someone is having a conversation or listening to loud music nearby. I still forget words in English from time to time and the Japanese word creates a mental block for a few minutes until I work past it, but overall my transition to living here has been going well. (I have the biggest issue remembering the word ‘sometimes’ and the phrase ‘it’ll be tight,’ in relation to timing.)
I haven’t posted in months for a couple reasons: I didn’t feel like what I was doing was interesting enough to post, I wasn’t doing much, and most importantly, I didn’t feel up to it. Then, once significant things started happening, I got too busy and mentally exhausted to write.
I am currently working as an Enrollment Services Advisor for an online university. What that fancy title means is that I make a bunch of phone calls (over 200 on bad days) and try to get one of the people from our database to talk to me for more than a millisecond. The people in our database have all expressed an interest in the past, either by going directly to our website to request more information or by clicking on something that said they would be interested in learning more about online school in general. Despite this initial interest, most don’t want to really talk to me about it. And even those who seemed like they were honestly interested when I did manage to get them on the phone have a tendency to ghost me thereafter.
It can be a stressful and mind-numbing job sometimes. But there are other times when you get someone on the phone and really connect. You get to know them and they realize you’re actually invested in helping them get their degree. Those conversations make the jobs doable. I am responsible for getting to know the potential students to make sure they would be a good fit, helping them through the application, and helping them succeed in their first class.
On the bad days, the days when I don’t talk to anyone and end up making several hundred dials, I end up doing origami or something with my hands while I dial. The problem is I like to make origami things, but I hate the clutter they create on my desk. Therefore, like a really slow moving earthquake, the effects of my origami production can be seen on the cubicles surrounding me in an ever expanding circle. I have had people who don’t know me, but see the origami stuff on someone else’s desk, come over and request one of their own. Which increases the number of people who see the origami, then in turn request their own. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle and it keeps my mind and hands active.
In an effort to really keep myself mentally and physically active (because being stuck in my cubicle all day is definitely not good for my health), I have been rock climbing every day. There’s an indoor climbing gym a five minute walk from my house. It opens up at 6 in the morning, so I wake up at 5, eat a small breakfast, sip my coffee, then head out. After I climb, I have about 20 minutes to shower, get dressed, and throw my lunch in my backpack. Some mornings I have to pack lunches for my dad and me, if I didn’t have a chance to do it the night before. For the most part, I’ve got my routine down pat.
My mom drives me to the train station and I take the train downtown. Including the walk from Union Station to my building, the whole thing takes about 30 minutes. Working in a cubicle farm isn’t as crushing as I thought it would be. The building has huge floor to ceiling windows (which I don’t face, but it’s still nice that they’re there) and it doesn’t have those painful fluorescent lights. That, combined with the blue-light filtering lenses on my glasses, makes the environment bearable. The biggest plus of the job (besides the obvious things like a paycheck and benefits) is the people I’m working with. My co-workers are great and, due to the nature of Denver at the moment, come from all over. So they’re all pretty interesting. I go to work, get my socializing needs fulfilled, then get home and retreat to my bedroom (which we all treat like it’s my own little apartment) after dinner.
It’s not something I think I could make multiple blog posts about, but I have been finding myself really missing writing. I think one of my resolutions for the new year is going to be “make at least 2 blog posts a month,” because even though my day-to-day life isn’t as exciting or varied as it was in Japan, there are still plenty of things to write about. For example, my first American Thanksgiving in four years was crazy. More than 20 people gathered at my sister’s for a really great time. I got to see my aunt and cousins for the first time in almost a year and I even got them to go rock climbing with me. Other exciting things since I last wrote:
- I’ve figured out my year-plan and taken steps to make it happen. I can’t write too much about this since nothing is set in stone yet, but there are going to be some big changes for me in the next six months.
- I got to tour the new Google building in Boulder thanks to my brother-in-law snagging us all passes. It was amazing and now I’m determined to find a way to work at Google, somewhere, someday.
- I made it to the top of my first 5.10 climbing route at the rock climbing gym. When I started, I had a lot of trouble getting to the top of a 5.7 (which is much, much easier). I can even do a chin-up now!
- I’ve been able to see two different doctors!
So the last one much seem strange, but I had forgotten how nice it was to be able to be able to a) find an allergist nearby who definitely speaks English and b) be able to accurately and succinctly explain why you are seeing them. My insurance in the States might not be as great as my Japanese insurance, but I can definitely do more with it. There are a lot of things I miss about Japan, but dealing with the healthcare system is not one of them.
And, don’t get me wrong, I do miss living in Japan. Even though I love living near family, being able to express myself intelligently in a language most people around me understand, and being able to pursue some hobbies I had to let go in Japan, I miss it. Some days it’s hard to explain exactly what I miss. It’s more of a general longing, like a deep ache in my chest that sometimes catches me off guard. I get by by reminding myself that Japan is there and isn’t likely disappearing anytime soon. I will get back there, but I have some work to get done in the States first. I have things to accomplish that will make is possible for me to visit or even work there again in the future.
I miss Japan, I love Japan, but right now, my life is in the States. And that is something I am actually enjoying.