There are many threads to weave together for this entry, I’ll do my best to be clear and concise, but I make no promises that I’ll succeed.
Mid-Winter in Japan can be harsh. The nights are long, the days are cold, and often both the classroom and teacher’s room can be freezing. In fact, it is not unheard of for people to turn on fans and turn off the heaters in order to “circulate the warm air” even while it’s snowing outside. No amount of explanation can convince TPTB that this reasoning doesn’t pan out – though in fairness, this is also often done to get fresh air in the room since they use kerosene heaters.
This past Winter, while colder than I am used to, wasn’t overly bad. But it hit several of my friends rather hard and it brought me down a bit as well.
Some of my friends here in Japan (mostly ones for whom this was their first year) decided to leave Japan. Almost all are finishing their contract, but one left mid-contract to return to the U.S. It’s not all due to Winter weather, though. Some realized that they’ve gotten all they can out of Japan and need to return home. Others need to take a break so they can recharge and come back to Japan.
Whether they are leaving temporarily or permanently, I will miss them all terribly.
For me, though, I came to a different realization. While I’ve invested years into getting to Japan and being able to teach abroad, I’ve had to accept that long term this is not going to work out. My ability to save for retirement is severely hindered both in terms of pay and in ability to have tax deferred investments (one cannot contribute to an IRA with money that isn’t taxed in the U.S.).
It’s a hard realization, but my dream of being a globetrotting English teacher simply isn’t in the cards.
Accepting this, I’ve decided to go back to school. I’ve found a great online program through Colorado State University to get a B.S. in Information Technology. As it’s online, I’ll be able to stay here in Japan and teach while studying at home during the evenings. The program will take just a year and a half (longer if I decided to do a specialization). And, with any luck, I’ll be able to find a few online IT jobs that would allow me to remain abroad while still teaching.
I’ll stay in Japan as long as I can – I am not in a hurry to leave. With a little planning and luck, I might even be able to move to Italy to study Italian for a year before returning home to the U.S.
And to where will I return? Likely Florida. My parents are getting older and my father had massive heart surgery last year. My other brothers are married and have their own lives to lead. For them, uprooting and going to Florida would be difficult. For me, it would be as easy as a plane ticket and a new job.
It’s not ideal. I’ve loved teaching. There’s great joy to be had in coaching my students for exams, interviews, competitions, etc. But there’s a life after work… a life in retirement, and I need to plan for that as well.
Sadly, returning to university has meant dropping out of Kendo. This was extremely hard to do as I really enjoyed the class. Moreover, the sensei had put in a lot of work with me and in trying to communicate with me.
When I told him last night about my decision, I expected him to be upset. But I explained the situation and he said he understood and that it is important to prepare to take care of one’s family and one’s future. He gave me a shinai as a memento of my time in his class. We bowed, and then we hugged and said good-bye.
I was speaking with my mother about this yesterday. One thing we agreed on is that, no matter what, no matter what direction my life takes, studying I.T. online while living in Japan is pretty damn cool. There’s no real downside to it. And, if things change – I find a better job teaching, or some other changes come about – I’ll have an M.A. TESOL backed by multiple years teaching at different grade levels and a B.S. in I.T. backed by 14 years experience at Apple. That’s a damn fine safety net. I.T. market tanks? Move abroad to teach for a few years until the market improves. Get tired of living abroad? Return to the U.S. to work in I.T. And, as I wrote earlier, with some luck, I might be able to work abroad AND do I.T. work.
There’s something nagging at me in the back of my mind, though. I wonder if I’m going down the right path. In all honesty, if I could lead any lifestyle, I’d be studying Italian in Italy while working on my writing. I… I just don’t know that I have it in me to be that good of a writer. A Case of Do or Die was great to work on, and, had I not suddenly had the chance to come to Japan, I’d have loved to finish that story instead of abandoning it in its infancy. I have ideas for stories about an archaeologist and his robot sidekick, a father / daughter story about sacrifice set in a fantasy world, humans being exiled from Earth, and several other. I’d love to bring them all to life – but I’m stuck, wondering what is the better use of my time – I.T. or fictions writing.
Civilization: Beyond Earth
In 1999, Firaxis released a game called Alpha Centauri. It is likely one of the best games I have ever played. I’ve longed hoped for a sequel, but AC was tied up in legal wrangling over rights to the IP.
Last week, Firaxis announced a spiritual successor to AC called Civilization: Beyond Earth… and sweet lord it looks amazing. If you’re unfamiliar with this, check out YouTube for the game trailer.
Orphan Black: Watch it.
Lindsey Stirling: Listen to her.
StarTalk Podcast: Subscribe to it.