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#BookReview: Confessions of a Texan In Tokyo

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Celebrate Good Times!…Responsibly

When I got to the karaoke place, I was actually ahead of schedule for the rest of the crew. They were all still trying to gather up and throw things away from the hanami party. It was getting dark and cold, so no way could they stay out there. The idea was to head to a cheap af karaoke place across from Shinjuku City Hall.

Since I ended up arriving so early, I decided to take a long walk for a few blocks. I’m going on a bit of a weight loss journey and so I’ve started walking more. I started down the main street, where I saw Louie Vitton and a whole bunch of super expensive designer clothes shops.

A gaggle of Korean ladies exited from one place with big smiles and chatting before calling a taxi for all of them and their bags. I figured they might’ve been models or higher income bracket of some kind people, because your normal tourists generally never get taxis. They’re just so expensive here. Case in point, a couple of Chinese tourists passed by with a guide book and bickering between the two of them (probably about which way to go, probably married because it’s an older gentlemen and lady). They could’ve gotten a taxi to get to their destination, but opted to walk.

Shinjuku is a melting pot, both in terms of tourists and actual residents. I knew people in the area who lived in Japan for over ten or fifteen years. The majority were from Southeast Asian countries, but there were the odd American or Canadian in the mix. As I walked, I wondered if I was going to end up here in two years. A lot of my friends loved Shinjuku, especially Ni-chome the Gay District.

As I was on my way back to the karaoke box, I turned right to the Shinjuku Shrine. I didn’t do the New Year’s tradition of visiting a shrine and getting my fortune read. I figured now was as good a time as any. I purified my hands at the entrance and walked over to the omikuji box. For 100 yen I discovered this year I might have a little luck, but not really in a lot of areas. I decided to wrap the fortune around a tree and try again some other time. I’m not overly religious or superstitious; I believe in making my own luck. Still, can’t hurt to pray and try, right?

By the time I walked into the karaoke box lobby, my people were there, all nine or ten of us. They all shouted in surprise to see me because I’d told them I’d been sick on the Facebook event.

My good friend Mr. D hugged me and said, “Yeah, when L____ told us you were coming, M______ and I both figured, ‘She’s probably bored!'”

I laughed and nodded. “You are correct! I hated the idea of just being sick and lonely. I didn’t wanna miss out on congratulating L______ for getting a job!”

L______ originally made this event because he thought he might have to leave the country. He couldn’t manage to land a job that would give him visa support. Luckily, at the last possible second, a school hired him! So a sayonara party turned into a congrats party. All’s well that ends well!

We all marched up to the karaoke room and discovered we were given a big ol’ party room! I walked in and froze, feeling a sense of deja vu. I turned around to look at another friend in the group.

“Did we have this room before?” I asked. “I feel like…I’ve been drunk in this room before.”

People paused, looked around, and then my friend Le____ laughed. “Yeah! I think we have in fact been in this room before!”

I made a bad joke no one heard about us needing to just reserve this party room for us every weekend then. People all immediately started inputting songs. “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers came on first, setting the mood for all of us to scream the notes out at the top of our lungs. I thought my throat would hate the singing because of my illness, but nope! I managed to sing without hurting. Man, those meds were something else. I made a mental note to ask for that same medicine next time.

We mixed up some Japanese songs. I put in “Face My Fears” by Utada Hikaru in English, even though I meant to put in Japanese better. I could sing both just fine, I just preferred the Japanese vowels for singing. Someone else put in the Japanese version of the Digimon song, to wit everyone lost their goddamn minds because we’re all a bunch of queer nerds.

And so of course, Disney had to happen, because as I said Queer Nerds. Mr. D and I did a duet of “I Can Show You The World.”

Le_____ proclaimed at the end, “That was so beautiful! You two just got married!”

And everyone laughed their asses off. Mr. D is a definitely gay man, so that was never gonna happen, but I appreciated the sentiment. I think we would’ve made a good couple in the 1950’s with me as his beard, but those old fashioned days are gone (thank God and activists).

We changed our tune to some epic “Take Me to Church” by Hozier, because we all have ex’s that screwed with our heads and we sometimes need to vent about that trauma through some therapeutic screaming into microphones. Then we got hit by Ariana Grands’ “7 Rings,” and even though we all complained about it, we all still knew the damn song.

I don’t think she’s a bastion of LGBTQIA+ representation, personally, but straight people for some reason really, really want her to be so there she is leading the charge in the UK Pride. And to be fair, she’s fine. She has been a very strong ally, no doubt about that, but I still think it’s stupid that a country that birthed Elton John, The Goddamn Spice Girls, Sam Smith, Lady Sovereign, Boy George, David Bowie (Rest in Peace, love), and many others chose Ariana Grande because…I don’t even know.

Again, to be fair Japan chose Ayumi Hamasaki to perform for Tokyo Rainbow Pride, so there’s also that. She’s also one of the few strong allies to LGBTQIA+ people in Japan, so I get why she was chosen. Also, she asked to perform, supposedly, so there’s that.

Anyways, we sang our hearts out and talked in between about new jobs coming in April or changes in current jobs. In Japan, schools and businesses do a lot of internal transfers. Some people lost their favorite Principal or Vice Principal to a better school, or alternatively celebrated the loss of a terrible teacher to lower level schools. Getting fired in Japan usually only happens when someone gets arrested, otherwise they’re just shuffled around. We all told L_______ congrats on his new job!

After about two hours, we packed up and headed off for Cafe Lavendaria in Ni-Chome for a Lazy Moon Party. Lazy Moon Parties are just gatherings where people can come in dance, and it’s open to all of the LGBTQIA+ people. It’s also generally earlier than most parties, starting at 8:00 p.m. When we got there not a lot of people were hanging out. Cafe Lavendaria is a staple in the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s a great place where in the daytime you can chill and read a book from the huge wall length bookcase, and at night there’s usually some kind of event going on that’s interesting.

The D.J. was already putting on some sick beats, so we all started dancing. I stayed good like I did at the karaoke box and didn’t drink alcohol. Fun fact: If you’re on antibiotics, you’re not supposed to drink. If you drink, you’re basically making it harder for the antibiotics to do their job. I managed to dance and run into some old friends. We all had a good time and caught up on things.

I thought being responsible would put a damper on things, but actually I still had a lot of fun. Also, bonus points to my friends since none of them put any pressure on me to drink. I figured, I don’t know, I would look like the weird one out not drinking, but actually no one cared. I realized that also, I’m pushing into my 30’s. Why the hell would it even matter if someone tried? I know I would just tell them to leave me alone, if it happened.

And then something else kind of clicked in my head: We’re all mature adults, that’s why no one is being pushy.

I know it’s a weird realization to have on a dance floor, but I had it all the same. Gone are the days of the nonsense where there were always those assholes in the group who had to demand, “Why aren’t you drinking, huh?! You want me to buy you a beer?” Because the concept of fun without beer was alien to them.

I used to be a little bit of an ass like that in university, but I realized when I got to Japan that kind of stuff was rude as all hell. I got the memo, but a lot of people didn’t get that notice well through their 20 something’s. Nowadays, no one feels the need to prove anything, I think. We’re all a little bit older and wiser, and that’s good.

I hit a wall at about 10:00 p.m. I could feel my body being mad at me for going out while sick, demanding the sleep I refused it earlier. I hugged people goodbye and headed off for home. I felt pleasantly happy, because I managed to have fun and make a decision that made me happy. I was still responsible, but I had fun.

And the next day promised some more excitement, because I had a birthday party to attend.

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Do Not Self Diagnose, Kids

My last day of the old job was Wednesday. About halfway through the day, right before starting my kindergarten classes, I felt a fever hit me. I quickly diagnosed myself with hay-fever, so I took a bunch of allergy and ibuprofen pills before starting classes again. Spring time and I are mortal enemies, even though I adore the flowers and the hanami parties.

On Thursday, I was out for a good twelve hours. I recently went to Yokosuka Base and asked a friend to buy some generic NyQuil and DayQuil (and Taco Bell and Pizza and etc). I forgot that NyQuil really just knocks me right the hell out. I spent that day and some of Friday recuperating, but also managing to do errands and such.

On Saturday, I woke up knowing something was wrong. I was sick, and not the I can just get over it kind. I coughed up green mucus and chucks of white stuff. I felt like an idiot and kicked myself the whole way to the doctor’s office. I was supposed to head off to a hanami party, but instead there I was in the lobby with a thermometer under my arm (Yes, Americans, you read that right. Japan does the under the arm method.).

I got a bit irritated with the receptionist. She told me to take my temperature, but she gave me a thermometer with a low battery. It died twice, and I tried to show her. But she just told me to sit down and do it again. Finally, after the third try, she asked if it was done, and it wasn’t, but I stomped up to her receptionist’s desk without a word and SLAMMED the thing down. I walked back to my seat. She did not ask me to take my temperature again.

I have a three strikes rule. I am polite the first two times someone is an ass to me, especially if they’re in customer service or related. After strike three, I don’t feel much obliged to be polite anymore. Also, I’m sick, so she could get over it.

The doctor talked to me in English. I like this guy. He’s got a direct and no-nonsense attitude that reminds me of my old pediatrician I had back in Kentucky. I came in and said immediately, “I think I made a mistake. I thought I had hay-fever, but I think it was actually a sinus infection.” I told him about coughing up stuff.

He asked me, “Did you have allergies in the states?”

“Yeah, I did. I’ve always had pollen allergies, and asthma.”

He did a small suck of air between his teeth, the Japanese sound of “Well, that’s not good,” and then check my lungs and throat. He felt my neck, I’m assuming to rule out other issues like strep and tonsillitis. He nodded and started typing into the computer on his right.

“I’m going to give you antibiotics for the sinus infection, and I think you might have a little bronchitis…like before.” His disapproving tone was noted.

I’d had a pneumonia scare back in November, which had turned out to just be bad bronchitis. He decided to switch the antibiotics this time. He didn’t really tell me that, I discovered this when I went to the pharmacy. I always check my antibiotics because I’m allergic to certain kinds.

I hate being sick while on vacation. It feels like a cosmic joke. Oh, you thought that you’d get time to enjoy yourself?! Mwahahahaha! Here’s a fever and a horrible time. Technically I guess I’m not on “vacation,” I’m more or less on call in case my new job has some kind of orientation or meeting. Until I got that email or call though, I was collecting papers for a new visa or tax papers, or HAVING FUN! At least, that was the plan.

Instead I was miserable and bored for a good twenty to thirty minutes while my prescription got filled. As I sat there, I thought about on the way home, getting comfort foods, and just spending time cooped up at home. The thought filled me with absolutely no happiness. There are days I love staying at home with nothing to do, but not this day. This day was supposed to be for frivolity and good times, dammit.

I got to the counter and as per usual, the medicine was the most “expensive” part of the doctor’s visit. I paid about 1,500 yen to see the doctor and then about 4,000 yen for the medicine. I got antibiotics, fever reducers, cough medicine, stronger allergy medicine, and an inhaler. I think the inhaler probably is why the medicine was 4,000, because last time the other meds were just 2,500.

Whenever I see people in America get up in arms about socialized medicine, I take my cheap af pills and laugh at them. Ambulances are free, not over a thousand ridiculous dollars. Flu shots are free at most clinics, but you still have to pay the doctor’s fee. Sure, the dosages can be smaller than what I’m used to in America, but then I can just go buy some cheap fever reducers or something at the store. The antibiotics are the same doses.

As I get to the train platform to go home, it’s well into the afternoon or early evening. I had stopped to grab a drink and take my first meds of the day. Already the fever was going away and I could breathe through my nose. The coughing had stopped along with my itchy eyes. Basically, once they kicked in and went to work, I felt a whole new person. I thought about going home, all alone, to my tiny apartment and just…relaxing…all day….

Without even thinking about it, I messaged my friend, “Hey! Are you guys still out and about?”

Screw it, I was heading out.

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New Year, New Home, New Goals

On a Tuesday night in December, I came home to discover the roommate gone. All their furniture, all their books, all their clothes, just gone. I thought I would break down, get upset, but actually…

I let out a breath I’d been holding for months.

The knots in my stomach subsided, and I realized for the first time in forever I could just exist in this space. It was good, somehow it was…fine. I took notice that my apology letter was left behind, my last ditch attempt at making things a little less bad between us before we headed off in different directions. 

Not accepted, obviously. 

I took stock and took photos. The trash was fine, considering that I got threw away like trash. It almost felt symbolic, but I didn’t appreciate it much as I swept through the garbage. I picked up things here and there, things I’m certain they didn’t mean to leave behind. It felt like an exorcism, washing away the pain, putting everything into a semblance of order. 

It also helped to keep me warm in an apartment with no heating, so bonus I suppose. I went through the throwing away a bunch of tea things left behind, dumping it all into the trash. I got a big cardboard box from the trash collection downstairs so I could put all their things into it. I still don’t know where it’s going, but I’ll figure that out later. 

Most people in my position would say, “Just throw it away. They treated you like garbage, so treat them shit like garbage.” But it doesn’t feel right. I can’t be that hateful and vindictive. It’s not who I am. I’m not doing the right thing for them, but for me.  

I searched through where this stuff was, if my stuff had been damaged in the move out tornado that plowed through so quickly. Nope, just stuff shoved here and there, but nothing damaged. I put stuff into boxes before heading off to work. 

During my break, I calculated that I couldn’t pay the 70,000 yen price for their side of the rent over two months. I would need to move out, and with nothing to my name, I would need to sell everything in the apartment. My bed, my camera, the table, the fridge, the washing machine, the whole new life I just established in April…all of it would have to go. 

I mourned the loss of friendship, of the life I tried so hard to carve out in this new space, but when I came back “home”…I felt something settle in my chest. I’d been feeling like a weight had been sitting on it for so long I forgot what it felt like without it.

It felt…kind of good?

The price of this freedom is steep, and I wish it hadn’t ended with a fight leaving me basically bankrupt, but I felt better than I had in ages. I was freezing, I was nearly homeless, but I also didn’t feel like I needed to walk on eggshells anymore. I didn’t have to worry about what would happen when I opened my front door anymore, I knew what to expect, which was nothing. Nothing at all but the last few bits of furniture and silence. 

I can figure out the moving process, it actually makes things strangely easier with them moved out. I can sell the things and move on quicker. I can call everyone, review the contracts, get things canceled, and just have it all done really quick. 

Someone once told me, “Sometimes it’s good when they leave you,” and I always thought that was just disingenuous advice from people to make others feel good about being abandoned. Instead, I get it now.

Sometimes, you don’t even realize how stressed you are when you live with someone everyday, someone who sees you as not a friend but something to just use up until you’re not useful to them anymore…and then they leave.

Suddenly, there’s a bright side, because you’re not trying to gauge their mood, figure out what the “right” thing to say is or the “wrong” thing to say is. 

When it comes to the falling out, they hurt me, I hurt them back, and then nothing past that could be forgiven on their end. We hurt each other badly in such a short amount of time. I’m the villain in their story, I’m sure. I’m a monster and evil, because I made a mistake. I am not at all faultless in this tale, I did damage, I tried to repair it, but there wasn’t any point in the end. I think the moment we did this move in it was nearly doomed or destined to end in disaster. 

See, they could have bad days, you see, but I couldn’t. They needed their feelings validated, and if you didn’t validate them exactly as they wanted, you were the awful person. They are allowed to have mental health issues, but mine are “just things you need to get over.” 

But the grievances of the past are useless. I should have brought up my issues earlier, I should’ve stuck to my boundaries, I should’ve worked more to save just in case this happened. I keep blaming myself for not seeing it coming months ago, like I could ever be that kind of psychic. I know it’s not logical, but there it is. 

Everything I’m recounting is also biased, of course, so I’m sure from their point of view I deserve everything that’s happening to me. I’m sure somehow for them I deserved to lose everything all at once and face my worst fears of this whole moving-in with a friend experiment. I’m sure that I’m a horrible bitch, and maybe I am a little bit. 

There are no victims here, though. I’m admit fault, I admit I fucked up. I admit that during a really bad day I said things I shouldn’t have. The main thing I regret is I said in an email (long story on why email, just roll with it), “I moved all my things into my room. If you damage or take my stuff, I’ll call the police.” That was so vindictive and full of malice, and I shouldn’t have said it. It’s not excusable, but I was in a bad head space, because I thought I might get fired and I thought they had already thrown me away without even talking to me. 

They only talked to me for the last week and a half through Facebook and emails, because I guess talking face to face wouldn’t be okay anymore. When I lost Softbank service one day, I decided to write them paper letter. I tried to apologize and explain my side of things and bought them a present for their Christmas vacation, but I did end the letter by saying I didn’t want to be friends anymore after we moved into new places. 

I felt like they wouldn’t see past their own needs, their pain and their hurts always trumped everyone else’s. Their struggles were the hardest struggles, and no one else could compare. I couldn’t accept that kind of friendship anymore, not when they hurt me and never saw a problem with it. 

Maybe they decided if I didn’t want to be friends then I didn’t deserve to be treated like a person anymore? Who knows, I never will. I won’t be reaching out anytime soon. At first I tried to ask mutual friends how they were, but that’s a useless endeavor. I realized today it’s really not my job anymore to see if they’re alright. They left, it’s done, time to pack it all away. They wouldn’t do the same for me, why am I doing it? It’s energy better spent trying to claw my way out of the hole they left me in.   

That being said, knowing this day and age of cyberbullying, I’ve scrubbed all traces I possibly can of them from every vlog and blog post I could find. I don’t want anyone to get revenge on my behalf. I don’t want revenge, I don’t want them to get a karmic comeuppance, like I said I fucked up too. It’s not as simple as one person bad and one person good, it’s messy as hell. Yes, they’ve left me in a bad place, but putting them in a bad situation isn’t something I want. I hope they’re happier without me, I hope they go on and find a better place (or at least a place with heating).  

Bit by bit as I’m cleaning and tossing away things here and there, I know I’m gonna be OK. It will because I’ve got friends and family who love me, who are supporting me from near and far. I’m already noticing I’m mentally more stable than I’ve been in months, so that’s great. I think having my own space is helping me to cope. I’m going to get my stuff and move, and I’ll move on. It was a learning experience, my heart is broken, but I’m not lost. I’ve got pathways to go.

Christmas and New Years have been rough, but hopefully 2019 will be better.

And I’m really choosing to focus on this year. I’ve got goals and ambitions to put all of this tragedy behind me. I’ve learned hard lessons, but that won’t stop me from going forward. I want this month to be a small footnote in my history, something that won’t define me as a person in the years to come. 

I want to do many things, so many things, but I can’t do everything. So I’ll focus on what I can do. I want to write more, so much more. I want to get a book out and published before my birthday in the summer.  In that vein, I’m going to start vlogging more about my creative endeavors along with all the Japan things. 

There are other more personal things I want to do. I want to send out more cards to family and friends. It’s time to stop the excuses and be good to the people who love me, who have always been there and I feel like I’ve been taking for granted. I can’t make the commitment of one a day (that’s a goal doomed to fail) but at least put out a couple a month around birthdays and such. 

I won’t have much money in the next few months, but I want to save money so I can do things like see family and friends next Christmas. It’s been awhile since I’ve been back, so I want to go back and get caught up with the people that I miss so much. 

I don’t have a plan for most of these targets, but I know these are the things that matter the most for me. I want to pay back everyone who helped me, somehow, someway. I want to give back to them the support I’ve needed. I feel so grateful and blessed to have these people in my life, and I need them to know that. 

I’m not going to look back in despair, I’m just going to move and move onward. Things are rough at the beginning of this year, so things can only go up from this point. Guess that’s kind of the benefit of ending a year on a low note? I can only ascend. 

To the friends and family who read these blogs, I love you all very much. Many blessings to you in 2019! I hope it’s a better year for us all.  

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Today Was Horrid, Thanks for Asking

It started off with me throwing away about half of my room. For reasons I can’t quite get into, I needed to get rid of as many things as possible, and quickly. So that’s what I spent a good two hours doing in the morning, just getting trash bags and throwing things away. 

It sucks. I cried, a lot. If you followed the old moving blogs, you’ll know I already had to get rid of most of my stuff before I moved to Tokyo. Now I’m basically scaling down to nothing. It cuts, bad, but it’s absolutely necessary. 

Then, I got to my transfer station for work and discovered the goddamn Chuo-Sobu Line was down. I was in trouble already for (supposedly) being late too much, and I had promised my boss I would never be late again. I was lucky that a senior teacher met me at the station and called it in. 

S.T. and I jogged our way to another train line, then speed walked it to another station, and then finally arrived at work, I was already mentally thinking, “That’s it, I’m fired.” 

“I’m fired and done and everything is going to hell in a hand basket.” When I arrived at the school, I already kind of accepted in my head it was going to happen. I’m a pessimist, worst case scenarios are assured. 

One small nice thing was the S.T. who actually offered to fight our boss for me if he gave me a hard time about today. I told him with a smile, “Don’t worry. It’s gonna be alright!”

Because that’s what I’m good at, faking that it’s all okay. 

I also didn’t eat much today, which kind of adds onto this misery a little bit. I actually haven’t eaten much in three days, my stomach is in knots and I can only force myself to eat like 3 things – peaches, cereal, and maybe chips. Even then, I get halfway through and then stop. 

After I prep for all my classes and I ate a pear for lunch, I told S.L. I needed to go for a small walk. He approved it, so I headed off. I walked and walked around, just thinking about everything. I thought about how much I wanted to just throw it all away today: the job, the apartment, the stress, the life that I’m living…

Heya, depression, it’s been awhile, can we not? Oh good, now this is a thing to add to the shitpile. I contemplate what would happen if I gave my boss my verbal two months notice, then I move out of the apartment, and then I just end…things. Note: Not the best thing to contemplate before you have to be bubbly and teach children. 

I walked, walked, all in circles and just wondered if I should walk out and away. Other teachers in the company have done it. Hell, I replaced one. Regardless, I couldn’t do that, not to my students. The kids wouldn’t understand, I would know, I was kid who got walked away from, so I wouldn’t do that to them. 

I decided to go back and try to figure things out. 

And of course, my boss came while I was out of the school. So now I’m late and I’ve left the school, so he’s showing up to find me “slacking” on the job. 

Fantastic…

I expected him to lay into me as soon as he got the chance, but I discovered he’d holed himself away in a spare classroom with a laptop. When I knocked to get his attention, he put up a finger and told me he’d be a minute. 

Surprised, I made to move back to my classroom, but not before reassuring the school’s assistant. “Don’t worry, everything’s alright.” She was hovering close to me, worried, I could tell. 

I went into my classroom and set up everything so I could just be ready if the meeting was too long. I didn’t know what to do, or what to say. According to the internet, say nothing or as little as possible was the best method. I didn’t know if I could speak. I was on this knife’s edge between knowing I was fired and finding out I wasn’t. 

My boss came in and sat down across from me about five minutes later. He came in and, well, didn’t lay into me. 

“Jess, alright here’s the paper, read through it first and then we’ll talk.” 

I will confess, I didn’t actually read it. My vision was fuzzy and my mind was in a thousand other directions. I nodded my head anyway and said I was done, and he said simply. 

“Alright, I know you’ve said you’ve got a medical condition, but you’ve gotta factor it into your transportation. If you’re gonna be late, still call in, yeah? But when you’re calling you’re making other people scramble to work and it can inconvenience up to six different people to figure things out. Now, it’s done, I’m not one to belabor these things. We’ve talked, and it’s settled.”

Oh.

Oh I’m NOT fired.

…This is good?

I said some things, asked some questions, they weren’t important. He also said that, “Of course the trains are out of your hands! Just be sure to call with enough time for us to get things in order.” 

Neat, ok.

I didn’t really feel relieved though. My chest still hurt, and I was still in fight or flight mode. I wanted to either scream or run away, or both like a madwoman. Luckily, a student showed up, and my teacher switch flipped on. For the next two hours, I was on autopilot. I was smiling, laughing, joking, and getting kids to speak English. 

There were other bad parts about the day I still can’t get into, but essentially every other hour my phone sent me an alert and I had to deal with it in between classes. Nothing felt better, nothing felt right, and I knew it wouldn’t for a long time yet. 

But at least I have a job, so yay, not completely broke. 

Going home I felt sick, like I wanted to throw up sick. A warning probably did mean I wouldn’t get a recommendation letter if I left, so that was awful, on top of everything else going on in the background. I wished I could’ve been born someone stronger, someone who could just push through and not hurt so much all the damn time. 

I’ll just keep pushing through, somehow. As I’m typing this, I’ve abandoned my half-eaten bowl of cereal, and I’m trying to convince myself to sleep. We’ll see how well that goes. For a day like today, odds are it will end with nightmares. 

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So I Rolled My Ankle

When I was younger, like all of five years younger, I could push myself through a lot. I once fell off a stage, completely wrecked my ankle, and I could force myself back into work the next day. Now that I’m 29 and running right into 30, I’ve discovered that I can manage to sprain my ankle by just tripping. 

I was on my way to work on Thursday when my heel – because ya know, women we gotta wear heels or risk looking “unprofessional”- got caught on a bump and sent me tumbling to the ground. I felt an all too familiar crunch and roll in that ankle socket. 

With a resounding, “FUCK!” that no one around me really responded to, I picked myself right back up and walked to work. I compartmentalized it as something to deal with later. I’m usually good with pain like that, so I forced myself to work and went through the motions. 

On the day of, it hurt, but I kept sitting down and propping it up. Luckily, my last two eikaiwa classes canceled, so a bit of ibuprofen and determination kept me going. When I got home to friends staying over and roommate [X], I briefly mentioned the ankle but once again compartmentalized. These friends were from Sweden and a rock band. I had to stay up to make sure they got on those taxis and headed to the airport. 

I stayed up late with them, learning Swedish and Finnish, singing Disney songs and generally having a good time. I was aware of the pain, but just chugged more ibuprofen when no one was looking. After 3:00 am, they were off in a taxi to Haneda and I fell asleep. 

I woke up in SO MUCH PAIN. 

My ankle wasn’t as swollen as I expected, but boy it didn’t feel good. I forced myself to relax, just take it easy. I had work the next day, so I needed to recover and go.The whole day I put ice then heat, I canceled classes and plans, I KNEW I needed to get better to go to work. 

See, at my job we only get 5 personal days. That’s it. Granted, we get long winter holidays and other random holidays interspersed throughout the year, but only 5 paid personal days. No sick days, just 5 paid leave days. I knew if I wasn’t better I’d have to take that day off. I had a run of bad luck with sinuses and colds in the past couple of months beforehand, leaving me with one last precious paid day. 

Saturday came, and I woke up once more in pain. I thought about it hard, as in furiously trying to tell myself that I SHOULD just push through it and go in. As I thought about it, I knew I couldn’t. The kids were active, it was 6 plus working hours on my feet. There were toddlers who would need someone running and jumping around with them. I knew I couldn’t do it. 

Calling into work has to be done in a set time. If you miss the time window to call in, that means there is a chance student classes will have to be cancelled. From the business standpoint, that’s the real worst case scenario, and I get that. I’ve always called in within the time frame. 

On Saturdays, it’s 8-8:45. Ok, fine, no big deal. I tried to call, twice, only to encounter a busy tone. I’m not surprised. I imagine a lot of people are calling in with a holiday on the horizon. It probably won’t look good on my records for me to call in as well. My stomach is in knots. I’m not calling in because I want more vacation time, I’m calling in because I literally cannot work with a sprained ankle.  

When I get through, the operator gives his name and asks me how he can help me. I get tense, because I know this man is at a higher level in the business than me, and he’s not really as understanding as the other higher ups. 

“Yes, hi, um I’m calling in because I’ve hurt my ankle and I can’t make it into work today. I’m really sorry.”

He sighed. He mumbled something, asking if I had tried to call in before. I said I had, tried to make my tone sound light and friendly. He didn’t seem to care. He asked about my schedule, if there’s anything to note, and I tell him. I did my best to answer his questions. 

And then he said,”I see you’ve used 5 days of absences,” like I’d become the worst employee of the year for this, “is there anything we can do to help you?”

I…didn’t know what to say to that. 

A thousand different thoughts flew through my head. Was he really asking because he cared? His tone definitely didn’t really imply that one way or the other. Was it a threat? No, it just sounded automatic, like he’d asked this question before a million times. 

“No, I just got sick a lot recently. I know this is my last day, but I just can’t work on this ankle. I’m really sorry.” 

I hate myself immediately. I hate how I sound, like I’m groveling to keep this job. I’ve found myself recently questioning what I really even like about it nowadays, and the answers are few to none depending on the day. Moments like these, where I feel as if I have to be sorry for being hurt or sick or just…unwell? It feels like fire ants under my skin.

“Alright, well take care of yourself. See you around, cheers.” 

After the phone disconnects, I wonder if my boss will call sometime soon, to ask me about the absence or demand proof or something. The day goes by, but I don’t get that dreaded phone call. But then again, they will come to observe me at some point in the near future, and they’re never satisfied with what I do in the classroom.

I feel like a puzzle piece that doesn’t fit. It’s not the worst work in the world, but eikaiwa isn’t something that fulfills me. And it suddenly dawned on my half-way through the day why I could push myself through the ALT work and not the eikaiwa work: Because I was a part of a team at a school, but at the company I’m just a cog. 

When I was hurt before, I went to work but the other teachers made sure I rested between classes. I knew the school nurse had compresses, so I could chill and heat it throughout the day. I knew I wouldn’t have to run, jump, or play but just use a crutch from the gymnasium that was lying about as I taught a grammar point on the board. 

With eikaiwa, there was just me and the students. There wasn’t any help, just go to work or don’t and look bad. I’m still wondering if I’m going to get a phone call or an email or an observation with a side of lecture. And when I do, my normally backbone-hardened self might crumble again. I need to keep a job until the next hiring season, at least, I can’t just lose it only halfway through. 

And all over a rolled ankle. 

I’m going to do what I can, try my best not to get sick for the rest of the year. Maybe I’ll go out and find some nice professional looking flats? I don’t know, all I know is I have to make sure that I survive until the end of this contract without missing another day.

Hopefully, next year with a TEFL certificate and a JLPT certificate a few more doors could open up for me. Until then, I’ll just keep “taking care of myself.”  

Posted in Uncategorized

I Won’t Give Up On #JaymeCloss

Jayme Closs is 13 years old. She is missing and she’s in extreme danger.

Five days ago, police in Barron County, WI received a 911 call from the Closs residence. The caller didn’t talk to the dispatcher. Within four minutes, police arrived to discover James Closs (56) and his wife Denise Closs (46) murdered in their home.

Barron County Sheriff’s office issued an Amber Alert for Jayme Closs some hours later. Due to the fact that a suspect and a vehicle were not identified, it was a delayed release.

But something happened after the alert went out with this particular photo.

People began to demonize Jayme immediately.

In the first 24 hours, instead of helping to share information, social media decided that they had already decided who the murderer was.

Conspiracy theories even began about the picture itself.

However the truth was far more mundane. The first publicly available picture for the police was Jayme’s Facebook profile picture.

While it’s not the best angle, it’s all that was available at the time. The rest of Jayme’s public photos on her timeline were too old, with Jayme looking more rounder faced and shorter than her now five foot self.

Usually in kidnapping situations, the parents are the first to give photos of their missing child to police. Since that couldn’t happen with this case, police ran with the most recent photo available to them. Later on, other family members gave different photos, much more clear and less strange looking.

But the narrative of her as murderer was already locked in place, especially on Twitter where True Crime fans love to spread “theories,” even at times encouraged by news media personalities.

As most people are probably aware, the first 24-48 hours of a missing persons case is critical. Police rely upon this unspoken and necessary trust with the public that when an amber alert is released that people will be looking for said missing person.

Despite Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald stating repeatedly into the void, “She’s not a suspect,” over and over again, the news sensationalized it and the speculations continued.

Thanks to Twitter users liking and responding to the speculations, many of those hit trending pages, cluttering up the feeds with wild theories.

And thanks to that, a lot of misinformation made its rounds.

Many news outlets latched onto the Miami lead, spreading that misinformation like wild fire. After it was deemed not credible, that Jayme was in fact still missing, it has been over 48 hours before that got cleared up.

Paul Blaume, a reporter for Fox9, tried his best throughout the whole case to continually give factual as well as credible details. He also was one of the few voices humanizing Jayme online.

The case of Jayme Closs is terrifying and heartbreaking. Someone shot through the door, killed her parents, and then took her by gunpoint.

And in addition to that horror, social media failed her. Speculation and sensationalism ruled over facts. Deemed a villain, Jayme wasn’t looked for properly, and the window to find her alive has drastically narrowed.

Over 400 tips were called into the hot line provided by Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald, but none of those leads panned out. Now on day 5, it’s over 800 tips, but still no leads. FBI has expanded its search nationwide.

Yesterday, the ground searches finally began.

Over a hundred volunteers searched along Highway 8 for evidence. That means the police have credible suspicion that someone might have thrown evidence along the road, so someone might have fled from the crime scene in that general direction.

Yet, still no leads and speculation only increases with each passing hour. Finding her alive means that the narrative of Jayme Closs must change. Usually, parents are the ones who tell people about their missing children and plead for their safe return.

The plea that should exist for Jayme Closs should go something like this:

Jayme is a sweet, shy thirteen year old girl. She loves to dance every chance she gets. She loves to spend time with friends. She has dreams of being a dancer when she grows up. Her family is grieving tremendously. They’ve lost two very loved people, and the thought of losing Jayme too is too much to bear. So if you have Jayme, let her go. Give her back to her family. Drop her off at a hospital, fire station, or somewhere else safe where she can be found. Please don’t harm her. She’s just a child.

Instead of vitriol and villianizing, people should be sharing her image along with the tipline 1-855-744-3879. Talk about her as of she’s the child endangered as the police do.

Speculation isn’t going to save Jayme’s life. Actually, it might have devastated her chances of being found. Going into day five with no leads paints a grim picture for investigators.

I’ve started a rather long Twitter thread that I’ve added to as updates occur. I’m not giving up on Jayme, because I feel like so many other people have. The local county and police haven’t, but a rather large part of the nation’s population has, and that’s heartbreaking to me.

Jayme Closs is a victim, not a suspect. Let’s try to find her before it’s too late.

Updates:

It’s day 13, and a few holes are filled into the story.

Jayme’s family – her aunt Jennifer and another relative – came out to say they’ll “never stop looking” for her. With them was the Closs tiny family dog left behind at the crime scene.

Which now makes sense as to why law enforcement believe that Jayme should still be alive. Someone shot open the door, killed the parents, but not the dog. Whoever took Jayme has a semblance of a conscience.

The Barron County Sheriff’s Office and the Milwaukee FBI both seem to think that whoever broke completely intended to take Jayme with them.

The Sheriff Fitzgerald also released vehicles of interest to the case.

Over 2,000 volunteers helped to comb the area around the Closs house, and over 2,000 tips have been called in and 1,200 tips have been closed.

Rumors and speculations still abound on the Internet. A lot of people still live the secret boyfriend theory, even though the FBI have combed through her social media by this point. Both the Sheriff and the FBI have stated that if there was a person of interest or a suspect that information would be released.

As it stands, nothing.

At this point, the investigators will shift through forensics over and over again to see what they’ve missed. Tips will get called in and throughly vetted. With any luck, someone like you will see Jayme and call 911.

Any information of direct knowledge about Jayme’s location is worth $50,000.

Do you know someone acting suspicious?

Odds are Jayme was taken by someone she knows. They’re probably someone in the community, probably someone who is a loner, and has a history of petty theft or burglary. Oddly enough, this person probably has no history of sexual misconduct or murder.

Here is where people would say that’s speculation, but it’s actually based off FBI behavioral analysis of residential kidnappings.

Now, someone who kills and kidnaps while also having a shred of empathy (i.e. not killing Jayme or the dog) won’t be unaffected by those actions. They will be stressed, act out, react to the news either explosively or not at all. Think extreme reactions completely out of character for this person.

The FBI behavioral analysis paints the usual suspects as male, white, 30’s – 40’s, with no family or really close friends. They may have had sexual deviant tendencies but never acted on them before.

A female residential kidnapper usually kidnaps children as surrogates for the children they lack or have lost. With Jayme doing dance, it’s possible that someone was able to get close by being a female that the troupe and kids could trust. That being said, female residential kidnappers tend to take babies, not 13 year olds.

Either way, if you know someone in the Barron County area who isn’t acting like themselves, is a bit too interested in the Jayme Closs investigation, knew her and her family, and something doesn’t seem right, call it in.

Jayme Closs is in danger and we need to find her.