Nine months

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As of today, Mr. K has matched the nine months he spent on the inside with nine months on the outside. Continue reading

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Needing a little bit of Tokyo

shinjuku picture

I sometimes forget that I live in what is loosely described as greater Tokyo. Life happens and it’s mundane and it all becomes so normal that it’s only occasionally that I’m reminded that, whoa, I live on the outskirts of the biggest, zaniest city in the world.

I’m not having a great week. We’re having problems with our house, the owner and one of the neighbours at the moment. I don’t feel quite like getting into the whole thing yet – I suspect I’ll be more up for telling the whole awful story when there’s a resolution at least in sight – but the whole thing is upsetting and we’re looking at moving. 

With that as a starting point, it hasn’t taken much for my mood to head steadily downward. There have already been a lot of problems the last few months and, when we do get through something, it’s often only with a lot of stress involved. I’m also running on about 4 or 5 hours sleep at the moment, which leaves me miserable more often than not, and, all in all, I’ve been a bit of a mess. Teary. Dizzy spells. Loss of appetite. Stressed.

On Wednesday, I had to head into Tokyo itself for a work thing. I wasn’t thrilled when I first heard about it, but I did have the wherewithal to at least figure I may as well make the best of it. Instead of rushing off and making the one hour plus return trip as soon as work was finished, I asked the childcare to watch Mr. K for an hour more than was strictly necessary and lingered a little.

I did two things. One, I had lunch in a Nepalese restaurant in the laneway leading out from Okubo station. Two, I headed off to Takashimaya Times Square in Shinjuku nd, most importantly, the branch of Kinokuniya that is still housed there. It’s my favourite English bookshop in this city, and it was one of the very first places I visited when I first came to Japan. 

Only after I was done with that did I make the long trip back to pick up Mr. K (who had quite enjoyed his day with the other babies) and then retreat to what doesn’t entirely feel like home just now. 

Physically, the whole thing left me exhausted. I had had even less sleep than usual, the trip was tiring, work was intense and Tokyo is overwhelming. Mentally, though, I realised I actually felt rather stimulated. I felt an old fizz of excitement just being there in the heart of Shinjuku with all those people swirling around me. And, most importantly, I began to feel less sad and more up for fighting it out, whatever the next it happens to be. 

The Facebook High School Problem

Over the weekend, I got thinking about high school and promptly got on Facebook to check out what my former classmates were doing now.

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Not my school – actually, a school in New Zealand. It’s a good (happy, glossy, promotion-purposed) depiction of things, though. Source.

This was a bad, bad idea. Facebook has a way of simultaneously presenting the best and worst of people; when you’re looking at what’s publicly displayed, it’s very much the glossy stuff without any cracks in the veneer through which sore points might show and for which you might feel compassion, and without the jackass posts or comments that remind you of what kind of people they really are. No, it’s all beautiful photos of husbands, wives, children, exotic holidays, happy friends and fancy job titles instead.

I wasn’t a raging social success at high school. Academically, I did quite well, but socially, I was a disaster. I had no confidence, I was shy, and, aware of how nerdy my grades made me and how dorky I actually was, I was scared to do anything that would brand me even more uncool than I already was.

The school itself was a public co-ed one in the suburbs of Melbourne. The families who had enough money sent their kids to private schools, but those who didn’t quite have enough for that but still had enough to own houses and live in the vicinity sent their kids to this school instead. It was considered nicer, less wild and a bit better academically (my sister would snort at that) than the other nearby options.

It was a school full of kids from families trying very hard but frantically trying to look like they weren’t. A lot of my classmates, in hindsight, were the same. As well as the usual trying to fit in teenage business, there was a strong attitude of just not ever being caught getting into anything. The only form of passion really celebrated was sporting prowess, which I didn’t have, and you could do things deemed “bad” like draw on your school organizer with permanent marker or get smashed at the weekend, but anything else required the appearance of not caring unless it was something so niche-y that it was too weird to make fun of.

In other words, it was like a lot of other schools, really. It wasn’t the worst school to have attended, but it wasn’t the best either.

So I found myself looking at the public profiles of the people with whom I graduated but who are not my Facebook friends. Quite a few of them were still friends with the exact same people they were friends with back then, living in the same area and, my God, making slightly updated versions of the same jokes. It was that last one that really awakened some contempt in me, I admit. They had had all these years to do what they wanted with their lives, experienced all manner of personal and social upheavals and yet there they were, making a slightly advanced version of “lol ur gay” jokes.

The rest of what I felt, though, was jealousy and inadequacy, a icky wave of it fresh from my seventeen year old self. It was ridiculous, I knew it even as I felt the mood coming over me, but I was acutely aware of once again being somehow on the outside, just like I always had been. I didn’t have the sense of everything fitting together, place and person and background, and, as much as I might mock them, I can’t help but long for friendships that strong and enduring. Basically, fifteen years later and 8400 kilometres away, I was still wanting to fit in with my high school peers somehow.

Failing that, because I quickly realised I was, I wanted to somehow prove I was better than them, that I was actually above all that shit and somehow having the last laugh. Again, it didn’t work. Thinking about all the things that I’m grateful for in my life didn’t ease the sense of inadequacy I felt, especially when I thought of my work and my financial situation. In fact, that just made it worse, because I’m already second-guessing myself on that front and then I could add guilt to the mix of ugly feelings, for not being appreciative enough of what I do have.

Like I said, it was ridiculous, but is it really that surprising? These were the first people against whom I ever judged myself as something like an adult. To find myself looking at them again even in the a distant, cyber way was to once again do the same measuring. I wonder if it’s so unusual at all that the inadequate feelings still so readily rise to the surface, especially when the measuring that is happening takes place somewhere like bloody Facebook.

Ultimately, the way out of that nastiness into which I had cast myself was to shut the damn browser window, get on with my day, and remind myself of why I’ve made the choices I have, the plans we’ve got, and the various ideas I have for making the things I’m not happy about better. It took, all in all, quite a bit of energy to wade through it.

I’m not going to conclude this a list of the things that are great about my life for which I’m glad, because I don’t think that’s the lesson in this. No, this is a note to myself.

Next time you feel curious about what such and such is up to, STOP. Do not start Googling anyone you once knew, especially pre-university. The answers are simplistic, you know they don’t tell the whole story, and you won’t like them anyway. You’re just going to feel bad about yourself, and then feel bad about feeling bad about yourself. Hell, you’ll end up overthinking things so much that you’ll eventually feel bad for your snap judgements of them and how unfair you’re being by not crediting them with being complex thoughtful humans just like everyone else and even typing this is exhausting.

Go read about the Social Survival Mammoths and Gypsies, (I love Wait But Why), remind yourself to focus on you, and do something vaguely productive instead.

Ok? Ok.

 

 

Political shenanigans

I had a fun weekend watching the shenanigans of the latest Australian federal election. Another hung parliament, still no prime minister and no ruling party determined. It’s been very entertaining.

Does Australia have a government today? No. We do have a Lego election, though.

I haven’t been registered to vote for several years now, what with being out of the country indefinitely. As annoying as going to the embassy is and as eyeroll-inducing as much of Australian politics is, I still liked trying to get the leaders I approve of most into government with my one little voice and I kind of miss voting now. My family lives in a very safe Liberal seat (right-wing – the capital L makes quite a difference) and I tended to vote for the left-wing parties, so it didn’t seem like I made much of a difference, but the effort was there, at least.

In Australia, it’s compulsory to vote once you’ve turned 18. It’s a pain even when you can vote in relatively close proximity to your home, and maybe not much will change, but to not do so just seems irresponsible. You have to vote. It’s just one of those things you do. I guess that’s why it’s always a bit shocking when people in other countries who are fully entitled and capable of doing so choose not to do so. How is anything ever going to change if you don’t even exercise your most basic right to try to get what you want?

That being said, I do understand feeling disillusioned enough to just not bother. You don’t need to look far to be given cause to question the efficacy of the system. Look at the rise of Trump, and Brexit. My home country is headed for their fifth prime minister, one way or another, in three years, and Japan underwent a similar series of prime ministers a few years back.

I saw articles strongly countering people’s claims that democracy isn’t working all that well over the weekend, yet the tones of the articles and the headlines themselves were nasty and/or patronising enough that the core message got drowned out, and that’s a pity. Telling people that they’re too stupid or making them feel that way seems to be a huge part of the problematic state we’re in.

So yes, maybe the current system is broken. Maybe an overhaul that I can’t even really imagine is called for. But for now, this is the best we’ve managed in regards to letting people have a say, ever. It might not be much of a say, it might always seem to be the pick of a bad bunch, but it’s better than nothing.

And if nothing else, it’s amusing.

The two… umm, protagonists? Image source

No, really. Worrying, yes, but entertaining!