It all began right here in Osaka eleven years ago.
I was a fresh-faced, recent graduate wavering between the prospect of a career in journalism or a career in teaching. My initial plan was to come here for one year, but like many of us who come here from abroad, that year quickly turned into two. Life was good: I had a great international clique of friends, a job I enjoyed and I was living travel experiences I’d built my dreams around. It wasn’t long though before the larger elements of both my working life and my social landscape began to change. While half the people in my social circle were mapping out long term futures for themselves in Japan, the other half were either heading back to their home countries to settle down or moving on to seek adventures elsewhere. This prompted me to
question my own life in Japan — and I soon found myself on a plane bound for London.
Once in London, I was able to find work selling advertising space for a wellknown British magazine. I was living in
the center of London, and about to begin earning a decent salary while working for a very reputable company in a very posh building, just around the corner from London Bridge. While I loved the feeling of living back in London and the novelty of catching up with things and people I’d missed during my time in Japan, something was hugely amiss work wise. In Japan, I’d looked forward to going to work everyday, but in London it was the very opposite. Every morning, I’d squeeze onto the tube during rush hour and look at the commuters around me wondering if they were on the way to jobs that they enjoyed, and if they were, I was envious. I’d then spend hours
sitting at my desk banging out close to a hundred calls a day and listening to my co-workers passionately making their sales pitches to clients. The passion and energy in their voices resonated with the passion and energy I’d felt for teaching in Japan: A working spirit that I couldn’t find for my own sales pitches, nor in any other way in this new job.
My decision to quit came on a Friday, a day usually full of excitement and adrenaline for everyone in the office: It was the end of the working week, and a final chance to reach weekly sales targets. I tried desperately hard to try and connect with the electric buzz that everyone else seemed to be feeling, but I just couldn’t. I didn’t care about the sales targets and I was making zero contribution to my team. I wasn’t doing something I loved, and that was a waste of time. The following Monday, I tendered my resignation. On a human level, I felt like I’d let my managers and my co-workers (many of whom had become friends) down, but on a personal level, I felt free again, and was left with a fresh determination to get back into teaching as soon as possible.
Upon my return to Osaka, I soon began to notice things and feelings that I had taken for granted during my first stint here. Simple things, like the musical alerts to signal the incoming trains on the subway. The rustic vibrancy on the Osaka streets as the city went about its everyday life. The unmistakable twang of the Osaka-ben accent as people conversed around me. All of these things had of course been present when I lived here before, but my time away somehow imbued a greater appreciation for them.
Fast forward another four years, and today I still feel those moments of appreciation on a daily basis. It still
feels amazing to walk down the street everyday. I get to teach within a variety of different settings where no two days are ever the same; everyday I am greeted with new experiences and discoveries; no class goes by without a smile or a laugh. I’m also in a prime position to be able to engage in my passions of writing, photography and dance. I love my life in this awesome city, and I whole-heartedly do not regret any of the decisions I’ve made. Sure, I’ve learned some things the hard way, but those lessons have just all been part of the experience.
For anyone currently contemplating what to do beyond spring, I have three snippets of advice:
1.Take your time:
If you’re having doubts about whether you should leave or not, you might not be ready to. Give it another year and see how you feel the next autumn.
2: Ignore any kind of social pressure:
As foreigners here, seeing our friends head back to their home lands to get a ‘real job’ is a common occurrence. While it is changing, there is still sometimes a negative stigma attached to staying here in Japan ‘too long’. However, long term futures can be carved out here in Japan. If you love what you do here, don’t stop. Whatever it is, keep doing it.
3:No decision is ever definitive:
Remember that you can always change your mind later if things don’t go as planned.
By Angelica Sutton