Monday, October 25, 2010


I was doing four things at once, this one time, and I accidentally typed the word incorrectly. It’s a fun rendition of the word though, giving me the impression simultaneously of fish, hairstyles, and how busy one must really be in that moment, to not notice the typing error. It’s almost as good as “blasmephy.”

Every time I get snowed under with tasks---

Wait. Let us be perfectly clear about the nature of these tasks, because that’s important too.

Some of it is work. Of course. You gotta work, not just for the rent, but to feel useful in the world. Sometimes, there is more to do at work than other times. Or, maybe there’s just always a lot. Lesson plans and lesson delivery.

Some of it is housekeeping. Because you can’t just let your apartment go to shit while you try to do everything else there is. There’s always going to be clutter, laundry, piles of papers, vacuuming, dust, stickiness, maybe even mold. There may even be the way you aren’t quite satisfied with the furniture arrangement.

Some of it is the event schedule. All the events vary in their demands and fun levels.. some of them are strictly pretty much work. But some things you gotta do, and you gotta do them now while you have the shot at them. So basically, anything that is Japan-only, I should take in before I don’t live here anymore. Also, getting around Japan takes about 50% more time than you think it will. Just sayin.

Some of it is socializing. Because all work and no play makes your life sad and alone. Here (no, actually, for me, anywhere I’d be) it’s twofold… one side is keeping in touch with people around me in the local or semi-immediate area. My fellow JETs, the events there are around involving them, just spending time unwinding with them. The other side is keeping in touch with the important people in my life who are far away. Writing letters and using skype.

Some of it is self-improvement and maintenance. That’s why you take karate class, or study Japanese (or all eight). Because it’s good for you, and sometimes you like it, and it’s rewarding.

All of these things are important. All of these things take time and energy. And every time I get snowed under with tasks of my own creation, I think to myself, man, it sure would be nice if my life were simple and I only had one job to do. I nostalgically project a future time when this will be the case.

Yeah, you can laugh. I do, too. Because I know very well there will never be a time like that. I will never have just one job, will never eliminate any of those categories, really. because it will never be enough for me “just” to be a really great [insert title here]. I’ll still be organizing charity bike trips on the side. For the rest of my life.

To be fair, some things change, and others change back. When I lived with a roommate, I would sometimes find myself thinking, this will be a lot easier when I live alone. And some things are. You basically are responsible for all the stuff you have, and you never have to wonder, what the hell am I supposed to (allowed to) do with this object/food/mess of my roommate’s making?

But of course some things are less awesome. If everything is yours, then everything is your responsibility too. No one is going to wash the dishes. No one is going to complain if you don’t, but really. No one is going to do anything around that place but you. Nothing is going to change unless you actively do it yourself.

So sometimes I think, this will be easier when I have a more permanently settled place to live. And in some ways, yes, managing my stuff will be easier in a longer-held location. But in other ways, no. Because I won’t have the inevitable point in the future where I will get to abandon it all and start over. (But, dude, I won’t have to start over so damn frequently)

That goes for activities, too. On the one hand, I will be less pressed to do everything at once just because there is very limited time for me to do it in. But on the other, I won’t be just quitting stuff because I’m going. I’ll have to quit stuff because I want to quit, and the people on whom I quit will know that’s why I quit.

It isn’t and never was about doing less, exactly (though most of the time, it is). It’s much more about finding the right balance. By the end of high school, I’d accumulated a schedule that was packed precariously just over budget. The stuff I did was all wedged in place like the stones of an archway, and I was only a little bit worn out, and I was only a little bit holding back in my activities (I didn’t try out for Oklahoma! and I didn’t decide to shoot for a black belt).

The advent of college and the clearing of all those activities was the act of jumping right from everything-I-could to nothing at all, so in a panic I filled my extracurricular time quick as I could. It was easier, since there was less of it (I did my homework very fastidiously).

When I first got to Japan, too, I had too much free time. My apartment was always clean and I was pretty on top of every little obligation (there weren’t very many of them). But I wasn’t really all that happy, either. I didn't scramble, this time, though. I know that arrival in a new place, in a new life, necessarily means that for the first span of time, you’ll have nothing to do. Then, for a while, you’ll have less to do than you maybe want to be doing. Of course one thing, then another, and the next thing you know, you’re over capacity.

The problematic pattern isn’t so much the tendency to want to do a lot. I will not always be caught up on my correspondence, and sometimes the laundry will pile up.

But every time I’ve moved to a new place, I’ve begun with nothing, and built too much. Generally this is not so much because I “cain’t say no,” but rather because I want to do everything. I see some event that needs a leader (like the prefecture bike ride) and think, well I could do that (and I can). And I enjoy it. I can say no.. I just frequently do not.

The problem is just, of course, sorting out priorities. Deciding which are most valuable, which are the most important, wedged as they all are between my work ethic, reputation, curiosity, ego, and sanity.

I’m going to have to quit something that doesn’t make the most-valuable list, is all.. not just do til I leave everything I’ve signed up for thus far.

And shove all the rest into my life wheresoever it may fit. Along with fish and bad haircuts.

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