At the edge of the horizon

At the edge of the horizon
At the edge of Japan

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Direction(s) of Your Life

I always think of my blog posts when I'm far away from my computer (and I really can't write via my iphone, it's just not feasible), so I then end up forgetting about the topics I want to write about.  Today, I think I'm just going to write about something on my mind that's been really bothering me.  This thing that's got me down is affecting everyone globally, but it started in the USA and Western Europe.   I was at the center of it in NYC in the finance industry when it began to crumble and implode on itself.

The 2008 economical meltdown didn't become the overnight depression that everyone thought it might.  Instead, it robbed a generation (actually, future generations) of their ability to live without struggling.  And now with some perspective, I believe it's become a restructuring of the global economy that will lead to all countries eventually be on the same playing field, rather than some having economic prosperity while others are barely above survival level.  It's just a theory of mine.  I can't back it up with economic data.  Sorry.  Some people have retained their employment, though their workload has probably increased or doubled and if they're not in the executive level of their corporation, they probably haven't received bonuses.  Yet while many people are not unemployed, others have sought month after month to find meaningful work, while they go haplessly from one temporary gig to another.  Yet, still another thing is happening:  the gradual restructuring of careers that pay at the level one needs to be able to survive to jobs that pay at or close to minimum wage.  What I mean is that while food and rent and utilities have increased or maintained current levels, wages have decreased, or jobs that were well paying have been outsourced to employees that will be paid only half the amount.  Sometimes this outsourcing and downgrading happens directly to those who have held their positions for their entire careers.  Here is an example of how this is happening across the USA.

It's also happening in Japan.  Recently, all government employees in Okinawa prefecture were given pay cuts as well as cuts to their bonuses.  It's made me feel very nervous to see this happening around me, because I've seen this before.  Since 2008, when I lost my job, I've moved in and out of industries that felt incredibly economically unstable.  I've witnessed how degrading and demoralizing this instability can be to the employees, who are working very hard to retain their jobs, who want to not have to struggle to survive.  In Japan, those who are tenured as government employees can't really be forced out of their work the way private employees can in the USA.  There are some protections, but the temporary workers can definitely be.  Unfortunately, Japan has become a place where many of its younger generation are temporary employees, moving from one job to another every year, sometimes not having work for months.  I have a few friends who are like this.  These friends are intelligent and university educated, they also have a ton of experience, but sometimes they aren't able to pass their exams for full time tenure.  These temporary employees are hit harder when pay cuts are issued, and they also do not have any job security.  When the going gets tough, it will be the younger generation that will pay dearly for the excesses of those in power.  What do we do about this? Most of us feel powerless now and incapable of steering our lives in the directions we want them to go towards.  Perhaps this sentiment though is just another expression of entitlement.  I don't know...But shouldn't we feel as if we can create our own destiny, or should we just accept what life hands us and not expect more?

I am in my 30s now, and when I was in my 20s, I pursued a career in the arts.  I pursued it, even though I was warned by many that it would be a long, hard road. I pursued it because I was encouraged to by my undergraduate professors, mentors, and friends. Since I left NYC, I have relegated this pursuit to "hobby" status unfortunately, even though it's what I invested in for my graduate education and its what I love doing most.  I try to incorporate my training into my daily work, of course, but feeling as if it's just a hobby frustrates me to no end.  Performance and writing were...are passions of mine and when I was living in NYC, I felt that this path was my destiny.  I remember feeling like, "this is it! I'm living the dream and even though I'm exhausted, I'm living the life that I always wanted to live."  But while I can make art and performance at any time, it doesn't mean I can be paid for what I'm doing. In fact, I've rarely been paid for my creations.  Thus, I am also one of the world's educated (perhaps, overly educated) temporary employees.

Granted, I'm on the JET program for now,  experiencing Japan and learning how to teach people ESL.  But after I leave JET, where will I be?  Reading about how awful the employment situation (and work situation) has become in the USA is not enticing me to return, even though I'm at a crossroads where I should probably consider returning due to personal reasons. This doesn't take into the consideration that I do love my life here in Japan.  I have my own apartment, a job that pays decently, I'm learning so many new things, I've met many interesting people while living here, I've had a chance to travel, and I can afford my life.   It's such a stressful situation.  To give up a job and enter unemployment (with the potential of being unemployed or underemployed for a while), or to stay in a job but perhaps do so at the loss of other crucial things.   I kind of wish I knew the direction that I should take...

What to do....what to do?  

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