Monday, October 22, 2012

Official seal of approval


It's getting really real over here. I seem to keep saying that, but no matter how many times I say "I'm moving to Japan," it always feels like a small part of me must be kidding...I mean, how can that be real??? Even though it is. BUT HOW CAN IT BE??? And it's going to feel like this until I'm in Tokyo looking around wondering HOW DID I GET HERE?!?!? AND WHY DIDN'T I EAT MORE MEXICAN FOOD BEFORE I LEFT??? So in the meantime, each step forward just makes this whole thing seem a little bit more like it's actually going to happen. Because it is. For real. RIGHT???

This morning I was notified that my visa was approved by the Japanese Immigration Bureau. Okay, even that weirds me out a little bit...I'm immigrating??? Yup. So now my to do list has this awesome line item on it:

And it is comforting to know that they too believe that I am not a criminal (because I'M NOT) and am worthy of being in their country. Little do they know that Japan just got a whole lot more awesome. How do you say "Buckle up" in Japanese?

Speaking of awesome, I have the most awesome dad ever!!! Within an hour of hearing that my visa was approved, which gives me permission to book my flight, this wonderful man had forked over a full 100,000 airline miles to book his baby girl a business class ticket to Tokyo. LOOK:

That's right. I'm going over in style, kiddies. But how crazy is it that I am now the holder of a ONE WAY TICKET TO JAPAN???? Small, but hopefully not too important, pieces of my brain are currently exploding. And for anyone paying attention, yeah, that's just shy of SEVENTEEN hours spent on the plane... which reminds me that one of my patients was very concerned about the length of my flight over there and insisted on telling me his remedies for "avoiding phlebitis" which I solemnly vowed to follow. I guess it's time to keep that promise, because who wants phlebitis? Not me! What is phlebitis? I don't know. Miss that guy.

So November 25th is the day. The official countdown starts NOW.

I need to go lie down.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Soooooooo, when I was applying for this job, they asked me to give a range of dates when I'd be available. I said November 20 to January 6. In my very first interview, they asked me if those dates were actually based on something or whether they were completely arbitrary. A pretty nervy question, if you ask me, but I got used to that kind of thing.

I may have told them something about wanting to be around for at least two months after my nephew was born...which sounds good and has a definite element of truth to it. I love that little guy. Just look at him, for crying out loud:

Now that your heart is completely melted, here's the truth:

I have tickets to a Madonna concert on November 19th. Boom. I have priorities, people.

And I don't know why January 6th. Why not? Because I like a holiday named "Epiphany"? I'll admit to arbitrary on that one.

But you don't say that junk to an interviewer. And I guess you also hope they don't one day read your blog, but who cares...I already got the job. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tokyo is unprepared for what they've signed up for!!!


That's where I've been assigned to work!

Where the heck is that???


Wait? That doesn't help? How about this:

Still nothing? One more:

I can do this all day. Last one, I swear:

You know, I don't think that probably helps you at all either. But it helps me! It means I haven't been banished to the hinterlands!! I'm centrally located! I'm so happy!!!!! Yay!

So now I am exploring housing options. Did you know you can use craigslist in Tokyo? No? Well, you do now. It is just as messed up there as it is here. Whoa. For real. But....whatever...maybe I will find some awesome people to live with...who aren't secretly wishing to kill me in my sleep. Fingers crossed!! We'll see...

So, in case you are interested, officially, I will be working for Gaba Corporation teaching in their Ikebukuro Learning Studio. I will be teaching adult students in a one-on-one format. That's right...I'll be freaking out one Japanese person at a time, instead of traumatizing groups of children, as you may have been imagining. I will be assigned a cubicle to teach from, and you can see a video tour of said cubicle HERE.

I've been adding "conservative business attire" to my wardrobe (YIKES), while also reserving a corner of at least one suitcase for some costumes (or wait...should I have said YIKES here instead?). Or more than a corner. Maybe. Let's take a moment to pray for the people I am going to live with. Jesus, please prepare them. Amen.  

And here's a sample cubicle I could live in:

I love how there's a shelf for my own bowl, cup, and chopsticks. And a real bed! Woohoo! So here's the plan: rent a room in a guest house for a month while I find a more permanent situation. Craigslist, friends of friends...who knows...junk is going to get interesting pretty quicklike. It's okay. I'm ready. For serious.  

Fun facts about Tokyo:

I'll be the tallest person there. Fact.
Lady Gaga is not going to be touring there at least through April. Boo. All dressed up and nowhere to go! MAYBE NOT. We'll see....
People walk around during minor earthquakes like nothing is happening, even when you're in a shop full of glassware. I've seen it. PS I think "minor earthquake" is an oxymoron. PPS I love the word "oxymoron."

Was I supposed to look up actual facts? Whatever. I'm tired. You'll just have to take what I give you, or do the arduous work of heading over to google yourselves. 



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Let's have real talk

I am still alive!!! As I mentioned in my last post, I am traveling for the month of October, visiting beloved friends and family that I will not be able to see for at least the next year, barring they decide to make the journey to Japan...which I hope they do!!! It has been a lovely trip so far, with stops in Tampa, Las Vegas, Boston, and now Newark, Delaware, where I am writing this from my dear friends' kitchen while munching on a delish homemade pumpkin chocolate chip muffin, preparing to head to Washington, DC this afternoon. It has been two weeks of feeling overwhelmingly loved and joyfully throwing myself into the daily lives of the people I adore. Except for those three crazy days of splurging and pampering and gluttony in Vegas...nothing "daily life" about that, which is exactly as it was meant to be. Indulge me in some photosharing:

It was my job to police this cheese-related meltdown. I may have just taken pictures instead. :)
Breakfast in the boonies. Best kind. Oh, unless it's room service. I love room service.

The joys of a 3-year-old's enthusiasm. "Hulk smash!!" has never been so adorable.

Escape to Vegas. Yeah, we're amazing.
Exploring New England, doing some "leaf peeping"...that's a real thing! 
This is only the second time I have ever seen fall colors!
A lovely day at the pumpkin patch with my dear college family
A new friend acquired during the splurgey days of Vegas. :)
It has been two and a half weeks since I quit my job, and as a result of my current jaunt, I am finally starting to gradually feel like myself again. Some of you may have wondered what exactly has prompted such a dramatic shift in direction in my life, ditching my life as a nursing home psychologist in Florida to be an English teacher in Tokyo...actually I know this is true, because some of you have actually asked me "What has prompted such a dramatic shift in direction in your life?" Or something to that effect. You know what I'm saying.

Here's the truth: I need a break. Those four words took a long time to fully embrace and accept and admit the truth of to myself. I have lived my life as an extremely productive, self-sufficient, and capable person. Every goal I have ever set for myself has been accomplished, and generally in spectacular fashion. I am used to feeling successful and strong and able. So it took a very long time for me to acknowledge the true depth of the burnout I was experiencing, that I couldn't just "power through" it, and that drastic measures would be required to fully correct the situation.

As I have mentioned previously, my life has undergone some pretty extreme change in the last couple of years, with some pretty severe and emotionally draining consequences. Add to that the completion of my doctorate in clinical psychology (no small task!!), and three years as a nursing home psychologist where I've carried a very heavy caseload both in terms of number of patients (average 60-75 visits a week) and the fact that they tend to drop dead on a regular basis, which is NOT MY FAVORITE THING IN THE WORLD.

So even though I have been very vigilant and diligent (wow, try saying that five times fast) about taking care of myself, surrounding myself with supportive people, taking vacations and mental health days and federal holidays even though I don't work for the government anymore, it caught up with me. Hard. Reaching into my emotional reserves day after day to provide "unconditional positive regard" and empathy and love and care for 30-40 broken people twice a week...well, those reserves got depleted. And reaching into an empty well, finding you have nothing left to give, and giving it anyway...I can't even begin to explain how terrible that feels. How many days did I get dressed for work, only to find I was unable to will myself to go? How many times did I sit in the parking lot requiring a pep talk from a friend to get out of the car and actually walk into the nursing home? How many afternoons found me hiding in the bathroom at work to have a moment to cry and collect myself? A LOT. And all the while feeling IT SHOULDN'T BE SO HARD. I SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO THIS. But these were all LIES. Lies that kept me pushing far longer and far harder than I should have.

And so I've wised up. I may have been a little slow on the uptake, and let things get worse than they should have, and may have needed to be beat upside the head with a rock to accept that it is okay to back off, to step away, to REST. And maybe I really don't need to go so far as to move to Japan for a year...that could be a teensy bit of overkill on my part...but I'm nothing if not thorough!! And the idea of not bearing even the smallest bit of responsibility for the emotional state of others sounds simply heavenly. I know that I will come back to my work as a psychologist in some capacity in the future...but for now, I'm going to take this opportunity to replenish my reserves and embrace this crazy adventure and see where it takes me.

I have lots more to say about this, but I've got a train to catch! Until next time, my lovelies: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES! I really mean it!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

If these last two weeks didn't kill me, then I'm golden

I'm still here! These last two weeks have been absurdly busy...remember what I said about cramming a lot of stuff into a short time? I DON'T KNOW WHY I DO THAT. But I do. Every time. All I can do is accept the madness and power through. And I made it...but barely!

So I gave notice at my job two weeks ago and wrapping that up was both heartbreakingly sweet and also quite brutal, complete with temper tantrums (not mine), tears (theirs and mine), and a dramatic threat of suicide that only needed a Victorian fainting couch to complete the scene (two more days like that and it would have been mine). Essentially I went through 30 breakups in two days. NOT EASY. I'll miss my patients, but I think it's going to take a while before I miss my job. A looooong while. Like maybe forever. Or maybe not. Let's put a pin in that.

And one week ago, this adorable bundle of joy was brought into this world by his superstar mom:

My precious adorable perfect nephew,
Mark Henry aka "Hank"
So I've been busy falling in love over and over with every change in facial expression, baby pterodactyl squawk, and whiff of delish baby smell, and that takes up time too. WORTH IT!

Then our lease on our apartment was up yesterday, so there was endless stomping around the house shouting "I HATE PACKING!" plus bribing the concierge of our building with a free TV to not report us for using the freight elevator without signing up, and answering life's important questions, like:

"Does anyone really need 45 pairs of underwear?"
"Can I spray your room for fleas?"
"I don't want the iron squirrel...what do I do with it?"
"How much peanut butter and jelly can I eat before I go bald from malnutrition?"

(No. Yes. Then it goes to Goodwill. A LOT.)

Instead of just packing, I was also giving everything away. I wanted to give things to people who could really use them, so it's been a lot of work distributing a lifetime's worth of belongings. Just a small for instance: I have always loved books...have a bit of a book hoarding issue in the point where a forklift once tipped over when it tried to pick up a container with all my books (true story)....soooooo, instead of a regular bed, I put together 25 boxes of books, covered it with a bedskirt, threw a mattress on top and VOILA! Comfy bed, and if osmosis works, then BONUS! See:

Looks like a regular bed...
But it's all books!
I was not kidding even a little bit.
But I got rid of them all! Well, let's be honest: almost all...I kept one box worth. I put a few select items in storage at my brother's house, and otherwise am taking 4 suitcases to Japan. This is officially everything I own:

And even some of this stuff is earmarked for giveaway
There were also many teary moments as my dear roommate and I came to the end of a fantastic era of roommatehood. Facing life without homemade donuts and manicures, the wall of mancake, smuggling TooJay's cake and champagne into the movies, poolside roommate meetings...well, frankly, it's gonna be rough. Awful. Terrible. I'm gonna go cry into my pancakes now. It's been 24 hours, and the withdrawal is severe.

She's the Wonka Bar to my Oompa Loompa
Then after we finished moving out yesterday, I dried my tears and got in the car and headed to Tampa to kickoff Friend Tour 2012. Now that I am temporarily homeless and jobless, I am taking the next month to travel to get a good dose of the people I love before I head to Japan. I'm feeling so blessed to be able to do this trip again this year!!

If you get nothing else out of this babble, get this: Relationships are the most important thing you have. Stuff is just stuff. People are nuts and messy and make life complicated, but loving and knowing others for who they really are and letting them know and love you as you are...well, that's what makes this ride worth it. From Dr. Risa to you. Free of charge.

Let's talk soon!
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