At the edge of the horizon

At the edge of the horizon
At the edge of Japan

Thursday, January 24, 2013


I just finished watching a fantastic film called "Margin Call," which opened in theaters in the US about 1.5 years ago.

 It has been out in Japan for a while as well, but I didn't see it in the theater.    I was hesitant to watch a film about the financial crisis, since I basically experienced it first hand.   When I was living in NYC, post grad school I took a job at a hedge fund.  It was an administrative job (, as I assisted a group of analysts at one firm and was the CEO's assistant at another firm) that I thought  it would be beneficial for my writing career as it didn't require too much energy from me during the day.  And for a while it was beneficial.  I was able to do a ton of writing in the evenings and I had started directing as well. I was also fascinated with the financial industry.   But I got the job at an inopportune time unfortunately.  And when the financial world started to crumble, I, along with many others, was in the center when things fell apart. It was a wild and scary ride, though I think many of my colleagues around me found it oddly exhilarating at the same time.  Many of those people though had savings accounts and assets worth more than anything I'd ever owned, so they had some leeway in their lives to experience that roller coaster without freaking out too much.  In addition, I think on some level many saw potential opportunities in the egregious losses and tectonic shifts happening at that time.     

I realize now that I haven't really talked at all about that time of my life with too many people.   Maybe there was too much upheaval around that era of my life and too many disappointments, sadness and for a long time anger, but I just didn't want to relive it.  I left NYC for a number of reasons, but they all lead back to the loss of a steady job and personal turmoil in my life due to a lack of financial stability (everything else runs like a domino from that).  Even writing about it here right now is causing me to relive the panic that I felt constantly after losing my job in the midst of what the Japanese call "The Lehman Shock."

It's hard to lose a job.  People don't realize that, until they lose one.  It's really difficult when you're just starting your career.  It's difficult to write about it as well, to even admit to it.  It's not like quitting a job -- though I suppose if you quit your job and then find yourself unemployed for years, it would eventually lead you to the same place.  People can be heartless without even realizing it.  They'll judge you for the loss, even if they know it wasn't your fault.  It's the name of the game called capitalism.  Only the craftiest or those with the most privilege survive.  Those weaker or less important are culled and sent on their way.  It's an incredibly cynical game*.  Even at an extraordinary time, the feeling is still there always. Starting in 2008, I saw it happen so many times I started to get sick just thinking about this economic model we buy into as a model of success. I began to reject the idea of success as being defined the way it was defined all around me.  *There is probably someone who'll read this and cynically agree with these statements.  I don't blame them though, they've just bought into a way of thinking that has been imbedded into American culture via capitalism.

After watching this movie -- which I highly recommend to anyone interested in learning a bit more about what happened, even if it is a fictionalized version -- I started thinking about how I got to Japan, how different my life is here and how hard it was to adjust to living in Japan after all of the things I went through preceding my first year in Okinawa.  I went through depression prior to moving to Japan (and probably through a portion of it).  Eventually, I realized that in order to get over it, I needed to just put it all in the past and start over.  Even up until last spring I was still dealing with regrets about opportunities I had lost, etc.  But after I came back to the US this past summer and visited friends, family and former co-workers, I realized that was all a different part of my life and that I was quite certain that the woman I am today isn't the girl I was back then.  I decided it was time to start moving forward.  It dawned on me that Japan was that attempt, even if I hadn't completely realized it and that in not completely realizing it, I wasn't taking advantage of everything that Japan had to offer to me.

Japan has been very good to me.  I really do love it here.  I know Japan, especially Okinawa, is no where close to being perfect, but it has given me a perspective on things that I would never have gained if I had stayed in the USA; if I had retained my job and stayed in finance somehow in NYC.  The world has so much potential, even if the systems that govern it are extremely flawed and imbalanced.  I'm so happy that I have a job and that the job actually enables me to use my talents to help others.  Now I just have to figure out where my post-Japan life will lead me to...


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