Tag Archive | Work

Agent XXXX And The National News

The last time I spoke about work, it wasn’t long after training had wrapped up. I’m now approaching the end of my first three months at the job and hoping I get to stick around.

When I come home from work, J usually asks me how my day was. There’s very little I can tell him, because I’m sworn to secrecy when it comes to the content of the calls I relay. I’m not even supposed to discuss my calls with the people I work with, unless they have to take over my call because I’m leaving for break or to go home.

Technically, I can’t even give out my operator number, at least in connection with my real name. So if I’m on a call, I’m Operator XXXX, or Agent XXXX, or Communications Assistant XXXX, depending on what location I have to represent and how that area handles their calls. Even if I call a company, and they ask me for my name, I have to repeat, “I’m Operator XXXX.”

And I really want to give out my operator number here, because… I have the best operator number ever! It’s also the worst operator number ever, but let’s stay positive. My number stands out. It’s an even number, and I don’t just mean its divisible by 2. It’s a plateau number. Where everyone else on the call floor says their number a digit or two at a time, I can say the entire number all at once because it’s shorter to do so. And so, because of that, I stand out. It doesn’t help that my personality stands out either, so I have to try and not make waves. Because the number stands out, my favorite callers remember who I am, and are pleased as punch when they see my number appear on their screen. Likewise, I have a caller or two that remember my number and won’t let me process their calls, and while I thought it was just me, there was an audible groan from a coworker when I had to hand off my call one night from one such caller when she saw who was on my line.

Technically I’m not an interpreter. In most cases, there’s nothing to interpret. If you read this aloud, you’re doing the same thing I do every day, just reading words that are typed. You do have to assume a certain tone of voice, though I’ve noticed that speaking calmly reminds the other party that I’m just speaking on behalf of another person, that I’m not actually trying to fight just because I’m saying fighting words. The closest I come to being an interpreter is when I have to take “sign language” and convert it to phrases you’re more used to hearing. I used quotation marks because no one is actually signing to me, just typing the words. Perhaps you know of the gorilla that can do sign language, and you know how the phrases come out like, “Koko sad.” I would have to convert that to “Koko is feeling sad” when I read that out loud, and that’s the closest I come to being an interpreter. Most people use common phrasing, so at best I have to interpret their typing mistakes, and hope they interpret mine when the person on the other end is talking slightly too fast for me to keep up.

I do get all sorts of calls. What calls do you need to make? Deaf and hard-of-hearing people, in addition to those with speech impediments, make the same phone calls you need to make. It could be anything from dealing with credit cards (activating, making payments) to calling for medical-related reasons (pharmacies to refill prescriptions, doctors to set up appointments) and even calling friends and family members. We even have callers who are ordering takeout, in fact one woman was making me hungry because she was ordering chicken parmesan and a cannoli from an Italian restaurant one night.

I never know what the call is going to be when it drops onto my screen. I have to dial it and hope I do right by my caller. Like anyone, some people are more particular about how you handle calls, even going so far as to express a preference to the gender of the operator. I can understand the reasons for some of the preferences, such as the gender preference being there so that if the caller is male, he’s being represented by a male voice. Other preferences deal with how you introduce yourself to the other party (announcing relay or acting as if you are the caller), how you handle recordings (mentioning there’s a recording playing versus typing the recording verbatim), things like that.

So I got this call…

To distill it down to basic details, my inbound was a representative of a group of people seeking to gain and maintain equal rights for that group of people, and my outbound was a writer and reporter for a news outlet. You might not be aware of the group that my inbound was representing, but if you live in the United States, you’ve heard of the publication that the reporter works for. Knowing the scale of this call, you can understand the importance of making sure that I relay everything word-for-word, not omitting anything, making sure that everything is spelled as accurately as possible. Mind you, I’m already bound by FCC regulations (yes, the Federal Communications Commission) to make sure that my call is relayed accurately and completely. But one misspelling could mean that an email isn’t delivered, or a person is inaccurately credited, or any number of other things.

I figured the piece would be a fluff piece, like “by the way, this also happened.” So I shared the article on Facebook when I thought to look for it a couple of days later. I was so giddy, because I was even mentioned in the article… okay, so the words “speaking through an interpreter” were used, and in no way was I actually named or credited. But… that was my call, that was a half hour or more of my 8-hour day. I was so proud!

And then… George Takei shared the article on his Facebook page.

And then… my local news website paraphrased the article on their site. Which wouldn’t have been so bad, but I ended up making one guy feel like I was attacking him personally. While I wanted to explain my side, my maturity kicked in and I decided not to engage any further in the discussion. I won’t get into it too much, because part of his argument against me personally might be correct, but most of it was name calling and assumptions that weren’t true. So before the local news site’s Facebook page admin removed the comment thread between us for that post, the guy took the argument to Messenger where I ignored it. I might have carried on a conversation and intellectual debate if it seemed like a possibility, because I wouldn’t have minded it so much if I was going to learn something.

But oh well, it’s the price you pay for 15 minutes of fame.

Now mind you, I could have found this article online as it was gaining traction. I could have read through it and found a way to put myself in this story, weaving a tale about that unnamed interpreter being me and what my life is like. Or I could have added this paragraph to confuse you and to cover my tracks. Either way, whether this is the result of using a national article like a writing prompt or it really is my life. aren’t you a bit curious as to what it must be like for the person who gets assigned an outstanding number, or for that generic interpreter or source or informant or what have you?

Well, now you know.

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Walking Through The Park And Reminiscing


I’ve been riding a wave of euphoria for about two weeks straight, basically since moving in with J.

Well, it hasn’t been completely euphoric, as that would be a fantasy. Who can be that happy all the time?

I’ve been trying to remember the events of 2011, as if it would matter to look back at something that should be forgotten. I remember being mad at J, though I don’t remember what I said. I don’t remember how he reacted, if he just kind of let me walk away or what happened. I remembered that his girlfriend at the time had me labeled as someone who would steal men from their girlfriends, and I knew I wanted to get away from all of that.

I looked at the old texts I had. It was always him writing to me first, and me responding in a rather indifferent tone. It wasn’t that I was bothered by talking to him, but I wasn’t overjoyed. I had forgotten how much fun he was, but I had apparently forgotten the rough patch as well.

To be honest, I wouldn’t even want someone telling me what I said or did back then. If I can’t remember it, if I can’t pull up old messages with others that had my side of things, then my mind is probably blocking it from my memory for a reason. And I should just let it go.

After all, I’m living with J now. And I don’t remember having to apologize to get to this point. I have text messages from him, where he clearly started the conversation. He kept reaching out to me, until finally I needed a place to stay and then he let me in. A part of me feels like I don’t deserve this.

I’ve been doing little things around the house, from cleaning up the bathroom to doing the dishes and even making sure the dog is let out to do her business. J has said that other people have had an issue with doing the dishes, but I’m sitting here thinking about the dishes I have in storage that I can’t wait to use because it will mean we won’t be using paper plates all the time. I don’t mind doing the dishes, especially since it’s just the two of us. In fact, yesterday I washed out his lunch containers, despite him saying he would do his own dishes and didn’t mind. I was already doing the dishes at that time. It needed to be done. I’m beyond the point in my life where chores are a pain in the ass. A year ago, I lived in an apartment where I had to do all the chores because the ex fiancé had every excuse why he couldn’t do anything to support our household. Now I’m looking at dust, thinking, “I should clean that… I wonder if he would mind, or if he would get suspicious, or what would happen.”

For the most part, I did the dishes to pass the time yesterday. It wasn’t a problem.

The problem was being woken up at 6:30 am, maybe sooner, because the cat was insane and he woke me up. As I laid in bed, the aroma of coffee wafted through the air, and I was so tired that it wasn’t until midday when I thought that I should have asked J to make me a cup of coffee while he was at it. Just before 7, I gave up, and I sleepily made my way down the stairs to the living room where J was watching Firefly. It wasn’t because I wanted to be around J, it was because the dog would be in the living room and the cat would be too scared to approach me. It was my way of getting back at him for the wakeup call.

J finished that episode of Firefly, and then I bid him farewell as he left for work before getting myself ready for work.

After I returned home, I put the dog out, even though J would have been home about 20 minutes later and would have put her outside out of habit. To me, it didn’t matter, it needed to be done and there was no sense in making the dog wait any longer.

I put some chicken on the kitchen counter to thaw, and then I started doing the dishes. When J walked in, we talked for a bit and then he went off to play video games while waiting for me to get done. After I did the dishes, I made a few more as I cooked dinner. By the time I was done, it was a late dinner for me but slightly early for him. I made enough for two servings, but it would have been three servings if I had a little more tomato sauce. I just cooked the chicken in a frying pan, then added pasta and tomato sauce, and put some cheese on top once I put mine in a bowl. It wasn’t anything special or fancy. I offered some of it to J, who wasn’t going to eat it if it meant that I wouldn’t have any to take to work the next day. After some “do you want it or not?” he finally gave in and agreed to having some. After all, I had time before work today that I could have made something more, and there was still some plain pasta that I could do something with. I ended up eating the last spoonful of the chicken and tomato sauce mixture alongside the plain pasta that I added cheese and butter to to make macaroni and cheese.

That night, we watched The Avengers, which I’ve seen before, but since we’re going through the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe, we re-watched it for the important details. So of course, since we’ve both seen the movie already, we called out random trivia and quotes at various moments.

By night’s end, I was starting to feel a bit down. I cried myself to sleep, as I felt like I was bothering him and taking up too much of his time, probably even wasting my time by trying to do the right thing. I had closed my door, leaving a gap for the cat to leave to use the litter pan, but otherwise I kept it from being opened any further by putting my binder of music CDs behind the door. I figured if J got up in the middle of the night, he might wonder why my door was actually closed. Maybe he would care. But it doesn’t seen like he’s been waking up in the middle of the night anymore, at least since giving him the letter.

Saturday was a slow day at work. I wrote a letter that told him I had a thing for him. I told him I had written a letter, but didn’t tell him who it was for or what it was about, just that I stayed in the break room at work to finish writing it. So after I came home that day, and we went to the grocery store and looked like a romantic couple to at least one other customer (despite not wearing his jacket after he offered it to me, because I was dumb and chose to get my own hoodie), and we had dinner and watched a movie, it wasn’t until we were going to sleep that I handed off… the letter. After he hugged me good night, I handed him the folded up piece of legal pad paper, telling him “that’s the letter, good night,” then I headed for my room.

“What?”

“That’s the letter. Good night.”

I asked about it on Sunday, and he said he had read it. But nothing seemed to change between us, which was either a good thing or a bad thing, I figured it was a good thing for nothing to change, because that would mean he already felt that way about me. But it was a bad thing if nothing changed, because I had written the letter in such a way that said he wouldn’t be held responsible for making sure I felt good, and that even if I wasn’t involved that I did want him to be happy with someone and that he would likely make some woman happy, so he could be left to just do whatever, which would mean he wouldn’t have to start a relationship with me.

The letter was probably the stupidest thing I could have done. I’m 33 years old. I just did the 13-year-old thing. Clearly I’m not ready for a mature relationship.

So that, of course, weighed on my mind last night, along with everything else. I felt like I was bothering him. So I vowed not to bother him.

I managed to sleep in a bit today. I got ready at my own pace, and let the dog out just before I left for work as a means of preventing any accidents until J got home. I was scheduled to work until after dark, and normally on such days, I would drive to work so I could avoid a dangerous situation. I wasn’t yet brave about walking alone at night, but I decided I would do it anyway. I figured I needed the walk to clear my mind of whatever the sleep hadn’t erased.

I didn’t send any text messages to J all day. I didn’t check in with him at all. I spoke to a mutual friend of ours, and told her I felt like I was bothering him but it was probably just being tired after a long day. I also told her about walking to work, and how I wondered if I would get a text message from J when he got home and saw my car but not me. Well, I didn’t get any such messages. After work, she and I spoke for a bit outside the building, about the safety of walking after dark. I was going to listen to music on the walk, but then decided to take the precaution of keeping my ears open. As we parted ways for the night, she told me I should text him, just to let him know I was coming.

“On my way” was all I said.

A moment later, I got, “I’m still downstairs to keep an eye out for ya.” And okay, that thawed my heart, somewhat at least.

I wasn’t quite on the steps leading to the front porch when I heard the door unlock. He was right there waiting for me.

We spoke for a moment. He hugged me and asked how my day was, and I said it was fine. The calls were uneventful, but I wasn’t thinking of work when he had asked me about my day. I thought about telling him how I felt like I had been a bother, but no part of me had the courage to admit that, or at least no part of me wanted to create an issue if there wasn’t one.

We headed up the stairs. A little more chatting.

He opened his arms for another hug, so I hugged him. And then he kissed me on the forehead. For the first time since moving in, he kissed me, even if it was just on the forehead. That’s, like, the kiss of a guy who feels protective of you. If I didn’t already feel like he was watching out for me after I got out of work, that kiss sealed the deal. Suddenly, I didn’t feel like I was bothering him, at least not for more than the end of a long day.

My bedroom door is open again tonight. I like to think that when he wakes up in the middle of the night, or even when he starts his day, he peeks in my room and smiles. I’m probably snoring, my hair is likely a mess, and my body is probably contorted in some weird fashion. But I’m here. I’m not sure if that’s what he hoped would eventually happen if he kept texting me off and on again, but it did happen. I should just let the past stay where it is, in the past. He and I aren’t in our twenties anymore, a lot has changed in 6 years, and this is clearly the makings of something else as well.

Where Is There A Towel When You Want To Throw It In?

I started a new job almost two weeks ago, and let me tell you, a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Granted, I’m one paycheck down and my bank account is still in the red, but the next paycheck will put me back in the black. It’s just a matter of time, but things are looking positive just the same.

I’m a relay operator at a call center, so blogging is a bit of typing practice for me even though I have to drop punctuation and type everything as I hear it being said to me. It’s a fairly simple task.

Training went well. The first day or two, it had been said that training was the hardest part of the entire job. What seemed to be the hardest thing for me was the fact that there were countless macros, keyboard shortcuts that would automatically enter text to the deaf or hard-of-hearing caller to tell them what was going on with the call, and other macros that affected the call itself or the interface we use to relay calls. However, we had cheat sheets listing the macros and how they were used, which made things easy.

I suppose another difficult thing about the job is that there is a certain flow to each call, a certain procedure which needs to be followed. Press this button to start the timer, because that’s how we get paid for outgoing calls. Use this macro so the caller knows the person speaking is a male or a female. Record the recordings so you can relay them to the caller and they know everything being said. Yeah, I guess it’s not a hard job at all.

This past Wednesday, we went from practicing the call flow in the training room, to being on the call center floor taking actual calls. It started out easily enough, as there were four of us in the training group and we were paired up, one person taking calls and the other person listening in and being there to assist the other person if need be. For the first hour, I was on the listening end. It didn’t seem too bad, and I think I was either bored or maybe distracted, because I kept glancing around the room and taking in my surroundings. There was a window nearby, and I looked out at the businesses below and the rooftops of houses in the distance. The weather was typical for Syracuse, as it altered between being sunny and cloudy.

We went back into the training room for a bit, and asked questions if we had any. Then we took a lunch break, and came back after that to the training room. We spent some time in the training room before going back to the call center floor. When we went back, it was my turn to take phone calls.

I didn’t feel nervous or anxious, but I did feel like I needed to take a breath and level off. I needed a bout of confidence, I needed to relax, I needed… something. Most of all, I needed to tell myself I’d be fine, but with hardly anything to go on, I really didn’t know if I’d do well or if I’d screw up completely. I did my thing, logged into the system and started taking calls, and I let everything sort itself out.

I was terrible! Maybe I wasn’t completely terrible, but I forgot to assign genders, I forgot macros, I didn’t record the recordings to relay them accurately,… ugh. I had a call where I was going through automated prompts, and had to wait for the hard-of-hearing caller to give me the necessary response I needed for the prompt. By the time I got that info, the automated call would try to transfer to a live representative, but there was a half-hour-long wait if the caller wanted to wait that long. I was getting stressed, I felt like I wasn’t serving this person as well as I should have been, I felt like they were getting mad at me, and I hoped I wouldn’t be taking calls for much longer after that.

We went to break after that period on the phones. I took out my cell phone and went to YouTube, searching for a 5-minute meditation to somehow relax and calm down.

What was going on with me? The last time I can remember getting that overwhelmed from being on the phones, it was the second project of my first job when I wasn’t making any sales. I remember being on the verge of tears as I went to my supervisor and asked to quit that day. I didn’t give a two-week notice, but I just remember him seeming a bit disappointed that I didn’t try to stay on yet understanding that I realized it wasn’t a job for me, at least not at that point in my life if at all. Years later, he came through my line while I was a cashier at a grocery store, and he remembered me and was friendly to me and asked how things were. It was a step down, career-wise, but I was also working for a really great grocery store, and I think maybe he could tell I wasn’t the same person and was just doing what I needed to do.

But was I ready to quit this new job? I was thinking, at that point, that maybe it wasn’t the job for me. Maybe I can’t do relay services for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. It’s too much work, and the bosses are going to complain that I’m not doing things properly. And, I just had anxiety, even if it wasn’t a full-blown panic attack, even if I was still able to function at life. Do I want to have anxiety, day in and day out? I had anxiety after one hour on the phones, so what am I going to do when I have to spend 8 hours on the phones?

The meditation helped, but I still wondered if I could do the job. Somewhat thankfully, I had to stay late to make up for time I lost while trying to get temporary living assistance. My after-hours time was spent just shadowing another person on the call center floor. The woman and I talked for a bit, and she told me that the supervisors expect new recruits to make mistakes for the first few weeks or so. Yeah, that made sense, but I also wanted to be less obvious that I was a new person when people called in. I didn’t want to seem like I didn’t know how to do my job. The woman told me to give it a few weeks before giving up on it. I knew it was good advice, and I knew I wasn’t in a good enough position to give up my job so soon. I needed the money, and I didn’t have any other offers lined up. I had to stick with it, for better or worse.

The next day, there was another hour on the call center floor. I still wasn’t amazing at this job I considered keeping, but I didn’t need the 5-minute meditation afterwards. Maybe I had better calls, who knows. I can’t really say what the difference was, but it seemed like it was just another day.

Friday, we spent at least 7 of our 8 hours on the call center floor. I was half-awake and a bit hungry as I had skipped breakfast. The first call that dropped onto my screen was a teletypewriter user who typed, “HURRY” and the number for me to call. As I was dialing, they told me they wanted me to press the button during the automated prompts to connect them to a certain department. My trainer listened in on the call to help me speed up the process, because she recognized the caller. My trainer told me that I had a difficult caller and that it would be a challenging call. A few expletives later, which surprisingly didn’t come from me in this instance, I was speaking to a different representative for one of the calls I had to make for the teletypewriter user. I had to make a few calls for this person, and some of the representatives just weren’t good enough for them. When the call ended, I wasn’t even exhausted. I was entertained, if anything.

The few calls I had that weren’t wrong numbers or hang-ups, I had a mix of rude people and sweethearts. I was feeling far more capable of doing this job after four hours than I had felt after the first hour of being live on the phones.

Towards the end of the work day, I ran into the woman I had shadowed on Wednesday. She asked me how things were going, and when I told her I was feeling pretty good, she basically said, “I told you so!” I explained that I didn’t know if it would be a few weeks before I felt more confident, and that I was surprised that I was starting to get comfortable with the job. She was glad to hear that I wasn’t giving up, not that I really talked like I was on the verge of throwing in the towel, just that I wasn’t confident in my ability to do the job until Friday.

Friday night, I got a text message. “You’re working with meeeeeee!” It was from a friend of mine who I met when I worked at Media Play back in late 2005, who I later worked with at another call center by pure coincidence. She saw my picture on the board of “New Graduates” and asked which section I worked in. She does CapTel, which is a captioning service for phone calls. I’m not sure how different it is from my relay calls, other than different software or equipment being used perhaps. All the same, it’s nice to know I’m working with someone I know even if we’re not working together.

I know I still have some performance issues to work out, and that a number of things will get easier in time (such as memorizing those macros). But I wanted to be challenged, I wanted to take job skills I already had and use them in a new way. So far, I’ve been challenged, but so far it’s also been rewarding. Learning Japanese won’t help me advance with this job, but it does give me the ability to work towards my dream of going to Japan. Hey, I’m not giving up on that dream, and I’m not giving up my job too easily. Both are a challenge, but both can be attained by stepping up and facing that challenge head-on.

Let’s do it!

Pounding More Than Pavement: My Frustrations of Job Searching

Unless you’re looking for work, there’s no way you could understand how difficult it can be just to find a decent job.

If I submit 20 applications in a week, you would think that at least one of those would result in an interview, right? It’s a 5 percent success rate. That’s what I hope for, and I’ve turned up empty-handed.

The hardest part is just filling out the application. I have to fill out information for at least 8 different jobs, more if I want to list repeat performances at the same employer. Some places expect a phone number and the name of a manager. My work history spans over 12 years, and includes a store that filed for bankruptcy and closed. At least one of my past supervisors has retired, while others have moved around to different store locations and others have just moved on to other companies. And then, one of my more recent employers happens to be the brother of my ex fiancé, so I’m nervous about any biases he might have against me. If I have to fill out an application where I can’t just import data from somewhere else, I’m spending an hour flipping between tabs in Firefox just to review all of my employment information, with another tab to Google for phone numbers for all of these jobs. And to be honest, I really don’t remember exactly what I had been getting paid, other than my lowest has been $6.25 an hour and my highest has been $12 per hour.

My experience puts me in a bad spot. I have a lot of experience as a sales associate and cashier working in retail environments. I don’t have a lot of management experience. For some places, I’m going to be seen as overqualified. With my experience, I could ask for higher wages. Unfortunately, companies could hire someone who they can pay less. So if I apply for a low-rung management job, I’m up against people with more management experience than I have, which looks better to an employer. In that sense, I’m actually unqualified. It’s like the fact that I have an Associates degree, in that I’m not seen as qualified for a position that requires a Bachelors degree even if I do have the knowledge and experience required.

So if I’m not getting interviews, it looks like I haven’t done anything.

That’s when people step in and offer advice, such as, “have you tried actually pounding pavement? Some places won’t post their jobs online.”

Thank you! I did spend a day trying to pound pavement. Between four different Asian restaurants, I filled out one application, left my name and phone number at two locations, and at the fourth location I was told they weren’t hiring and just sent away. I figured an Asian restaurant would give me an excuse to work on my Japanese, possibly even whipping up okonomiyaki in the kitchen if I was able.

At another restaurant, I asked for an application and was handed one to fill out, and then I was told to complete the form outside of the establishment. This was in the afternoon, and the restaurant was absolutely not busy, so they could have allowed me to sit at their bar or one of their tables and made it look like they were working. I’m fairly certain that my application was filed in the circular filing cabinet anyway, just based on how the one waitress acted towards me.

“Well do you have any waitressing skills?” No, but I could be a dishwasher, or I could bus tables. Does it matter what my skills are? You probably asked me to apply everywhere that was hiring, even though I’ve been trying to find work related to things I know I can do.

Which brings me to my next issue, and that’s the people who act like there is someone, somewhere, who is handing out jobs, but they can’t seem to tell you who that person is. I’m already dealing with my own thoughts about my debt, the bills I have to pay, the ways I’ve probably messed up an application, the fact that I’m not getting phone calls for interviews. Adding to my stress by making me feel like I’m not already spending enough time on job applications, or that I must be making mistakes that no normal person would ever make, is not helping my situation.

And then there’s McDonald’s.

Anyone who suggests that I should work at McDonald’s is the most infuriating person I could meet. I’m not saying the work is beneath me. I will say that there are easier positions that pay more. I just worked at a call center, getting paid $11 to sit in front of a computer and call people. If they were angry, I just had to hear them complain before they hung up the phone as forcefully as they could manage. If I work at McDonald’s, I might be lucky to make $9 an hour, but I certainly won’t be given a full-time shift of 40 hours a week. If I get 20 hours a week, I’ll have to deal with the possibility of hot grease burns on my skin, I’ll have to deal with customers who are irate,…

Actually, let’s talk about McDonald’s customers. People who unleash their temper over an ingredient being put on a burger that they didn’t want, even though they’re not allergic to that ingredient. People who throw things at the employees because things didn’t go their way. People who say the workers are incompetent, even if they make simple mistakes that can easily be fixed if the customer had any patience. People who leave their trash on the tables because they don’t feel like picking up after themselves.

A $2 cut in pay and being scheduled for half as many hours is not worth having to deal with all of that. I’d rather work at the porn store and deal with an armed robbery. If you work in fast food, I really hope the minimum wage goes up and you get paid what you deserve.

If you were wondering, I’ve been trying to work with staffing agencies as well. My last staffing agency hasn’t returned my call after I found a position I was interested in applying for. I just met with another staffing agency today which has two positions lined up that would work with my skills. I’m hoping for that to be my silver lining in all of this, and even if it’s not a permanent position, it should hopefully be something to get me back on my feet for a little while.

I want to be more than I am. I just need an opportunity to show what I can do in the meantime.

The Long And Short Of Why I Want To Travel Far And Wide

There are some things in this world that I shouldn’t have to explain.

Maybe I should rephrase that. There are things in this world that can go without an explanation.

No, that’s still not quite right. What about, once a person has made a few mistakes in life, they start to learn from them and can probably make better-informed decisions later on?

Well, I’ve made enough mistakes with this introduction. I guess all that’s left is to explain a few things. It seems counterproductive compared to the intro I was going for. Or, did I do everything as I wanted to do, and it’s now exactly what I was thinking?

Plotting and scheming aside, the point I’m trying to make is that I sometimes feel criticized for wanting to go to Japan. While it hasn’t been said in so few words, the statements come down to things like, “you should give up on going, I can’t understand why you would want to go to Japan, you will be disappointed when you get there.” I usually hear, “do you have to go now? Can you wait 10, 15, 20 years?” Why should I wait? I’m not getting any younger, my body isn’t becoming any more capable. I already have to wait until I get enough money put aside, and that wait will be long enough. But when I hear people ask why I can’t put off the dream of going, I feel like they’re really asking why I can’t give up on going altogether.

Clearly, I need new friends. Or I’m overthinking things.

The short answer is, Japan makes me happy. I feel like people who care about me should want me to be happy.

Why does Japan make me happy? It just does. I can’t really explain it, and I know if I try to explain it, I might lose the magic. But of course, I apparently need to explain the whole thing.

It didn’t start with Wakkanai.

My Dad was stationed in Wakkanai while he was in the Air Force. I don’t remember if there were slides. For you kiddies out there, slides are basically physical photos that you can shine light through, and you put a tray of them on a special projector to help a room full of people fall asleep quickly. Anyway, that’s not important right now. He was in the Air Force as a Russian linguist. For you kiddies, the United States had a grudge against Russia for a number of years, and it was called the Cold War. My Dad basically translated radio transmissions.

When his time had ended over there, he brought home some stereo equipment that probably still works to this day. I was raised with the knowledge that Japanese electronics were superiorly made in comparison to American electronics. I watched the movie Gung Ho, and admired the Japanese work ethic. I think I watched Big Bird Goes To Japan as a child. But, I barely knew anything about Japan, I barely had an interest in Japan.

I had an interest in the Moon.

By the time I became a teenager, I loved looking up at the moon and stars. Astrology interested me, and I learned that my sign, Aries, was a fire sign. And then I was flipping through the channels on TV one afternoon and saw a cartoon with these girls who defended Earth in the name of the name of the moon or one of the planets. I saw a bit of myself in the title character, Sailor Moon, but my favorite character soon became the one who’s a fellow Aries, Sailor Mars. When they weren’t saving the day, they were living their lives in and around Tokyo.

I started watching Tenchi Muyo as well, and even a bit of Yu Yu Hakusho. Eventually I watched Fullmetal Alchemist.

One time, I was near the comic and gaming store and decided to drop in. I found manga, and bought one book as that was all I could afford at the time. But after I started working and driving, one volume of manga turned into over one hundred. I was a bit addicted.

When I was still in college, though, I started getting into L’arc en Ciel. I remember looking up song lyrics and translations in the computer rooms while I was between classes or after I had finished up whatever I was working on. After I graduated, I bought an iPod while working at my first job, and I had some Sowelu and Utada Hikaru songs along with some L’arc on there.

It wasn’t an interest in Japan, just in Japanese media, but I was happy. Life seemed to be going well for me, I had both of my parents, I had started working and had a car to get around.

And then I met a guy.

When I first met him, he kind of had a significant other. She didn’t really want him, and had ended things with him by the time I saw him again. They were both at a party that one of my friends was hosting, and I was there as well for no reason other than I was invited to a party. He was there because his now-ex was going to be there, but he felt a need to heal his wounds by getting drunk and crying on the sofa. I had knelt down next to the sofa, the armrest being all that separated me from his feet. I wanted to help, I wanted to be supportive. He ended up calling one of his friends who drove over and picked him up to bring him home.

This guy’s life was a bit of a wreck. Someone broke into his station wagon and stole things from him. He was driving a station wagon because that’s all he could afford at the time, and it was already falling apart. He was also living with his brother, who looked Korean. He actually looked Japanese to me, but was apparently half Irish and half Korean. His brother had a different father and was full Korean, if memory serves me correctly.

Not that it mattered what he was, because to me he looked pretty good. I really didn’t feel worthy of being around him. Oh, I should mention that after checking up on him the next day, one thing led to another and I started going over to his place nearly every day. I thought things were going somewhere, but I had never had a boyfriend before and I had nothing to base my experiences on.

One day, he started talking about looking at newer cars, and had his heart set on one at a local dealership. Knowing his struggles, I did what any foolish girl would do. Well, because I felt a bit guilty for enjoying Japanese stuff while I had an interest in an Asian guy, I sold the manga and gave him the money to put towards the car.

After about a month, he didn’t want to see me anymore. I learned a lot in that one month, more than I really care to explain. But I lost my interest in manga, and my interest in everything else waned as well.

The second time wasn’t as good.

Eventually, I bought more manga, though my collection wasn’t as impressive as it originally had been. I didn’t read the volumes as often or as quickly. But I met a guy at work who became a bit of a friend, nothing more. To some degree, he got me back into anime, but I wasn’t as interested as before.

I went to an anime convention with him, my second ever anime convention. I remember feeling like I had outgrown anime. I was surrounded by people cosplaying characters that I didn’t recognize. There were anime titles I had never heard of. The finest moment was meeting Vic Mignogna, voice actor extraordinaire (seriously, look him up on IMDB or something, he’s in nearly every English-dubbed anime you can think of). Aside from that, the day was a bit of a waste.

Eventually, I was rescued…  by food.

While working at a well-known grocery store, I bought The Manga Cookbook. Unfortunately my ingredients were limited, and I could barely make anything in the book despite the grocery store having an Asian food section with imported goods. I did try my hand at making udon noodles, though, which turned out alright.

While working that job, I lost my Mom, which caused me to move to New Jersey. Okay, a lot of things caused me to move to New Jersey, most of which were bad decisions. While I was living in New Jersey, my boyfriend at the time introduced me to Mitsuwa Marketplace. At first I was interested in going, but after going I was in ecstasy! All the ingredients I couldn’t find before, I could find at Mitsuwa! And there was a bookstore nearby where I could buy manga in the original Japanese! And I spent more money than I should have, but it was necessary.

I returned a few more times after that. I always made sure that I ate something from the food court, because there was no way I’d be able to make anything that tasted quite like it should. I loved the feeling I had while I was there. I came home after my first visit, and realized that I didn’t have any L’arc songs in iTunes, just a couple of Hyde’s songs. I started tracking down all of L’arc’s albums on Amazon and eBay, which gave me a bit of an endorphin rush when I bought another album and when it finally arrived.

I had forgotten how happy I once was to listen to Japanese rock and pop music. I listened to Horizon, and it reminded me of a dream I once had. But the food also made me happy, because everything was new, and everything I tried was amazing.

Japan was where I needed to be.

The search for a job can make anyone go a bit insane. The thought eventually popped into my head that I could move to and work in Japan, so that became the plan before I even knew what I was getting myself into. But a plan like that is good to have when you think of all the angles, and in my case I realized that my then-fiance and I were two entirely different people. Ignoring what I had to consider for myself, I realized I couldn’t have my fiancé travel with me to Japan because the flight would be too lengthy for him to deal with his disability, and then he probably wouldn’t want to go out and do anything with me once we were there. Not only that, but leaving him behind meant that we were back to having a long-distance relationship.

I like to think that the entirety of that discussion was one of the many factors why we broke up. Our relationship left me broke, but it also left me with the freedom to go and do what I want to do once I’m not poor. Since I put more thought into going to Japan, I know what I need to do to go, and I don’t see a reason why I shouldn’t go.

So what else?

I’d like to think I’ll eventually meet someone while I’m in Japan, and maybe I’ll give in and have children, thereby helping out their birth rate and keep it from declining further.

If I’m in Japan before the Olympics, maybe I can get into hospitality and be of some use when the place is mobbed by tourists who speak more English than Japanese. Otherwise, I could always just assist in teaching the language.

My interest in Japan isn’t anime and manga. I might go to a concert, if time and finances allow. I might do some video gaming-related things. Or I might decide to be boring and check out as many temples and shrines as I can. If I lose interest in Japan, I could go elsewhere.

I’ll have to go over on a student visa and go to a language school, then work part time to make a living. I can’t get on a work visa because I don’t have the right credentials, and it would be cheaper to get my bachelors degree in Japan. But it is possible for me to go to Japan, I just need to get my finances in order before I can go.

Tomorrow, I think I’m going to make a PowerPoint presentation of this entry, then save it onto my phone so I can make the argument at a moment’s notice. Basically, the Japanese stuff makes me happy, and so I’d like to go to Japan and live there for a while. I know what I need to do to get there, and unless you’ve travelled abroad, you can’t say that I don’t know what I’m doing. But there are things I can’t plan for just yet, because airline tickets change prices, tuition costs increase, rent goes up, so those things will have to wait until I’m at a point where I have to consider such things.

This is what I want. This makes me happy.

I’ve spent enough time trying to make others happy. Now I want to do something for myself.

Bravery To Know The Truth

I haven’t posted anything in about a week, and that post was on the serious side. What can I really say? I’m back to the desperate job seeking, money is tight, so I’m not really going anywhere and doing anything special. Not only that, but one of the cats is routinely urinating on the blankets I use at night, and my friend thinks it’s funny because “he’s just an animal who doesn’t know any better.”

So my self-worth has tanked. I was sitting on the sofa last night, staring randomly towards the floor, while my blankets were in the wash, and I was thinking there was no point to washing the quilt covering the sofa if it was going to get peed on again, that I might as well just deal with it since my skin never actually touched the part that got wet. Maybe I should just stop caring when the living room smells like cat urine, and let my friend deal with the smell while I’ve been blessed right now with a sinus infection. I didn’t feel worthy of sleeping with clean bedding. I didn’t even feel like my friend cared, like she would think differently if it was her things getting ruined and she had to clean her bedding before sleeping, but I just had to put up with it.

But that much wasn’t important, other than to say I was feeling pretty miserable. My phone, which was sitting on my lap, alerted me to a new e-mail message: “I can talk in about 30 minutes, if you would like.” It was from my friend in Japan.

We hadn’t talked in about two or three weeks. There was a disagreement between us, which resulted in the usual bout of silence. I had the last words, which I used to get a few things off my chest which had been bothering me, but I knew those words could also be my last words ever so I stressed that what I was saying wasn’t out of anger or spite but my own concerns.

If I hadn’t thought about him every day, then it was every other day. I thought about what I said, and I know how it sounded. When I was feeling weak, I considered apologizing for the things I said, but then I reminded myself to stand behind my words. I had concerns, I needed to address them, and I did, so why turn around and wave it off like I wasn’t bothered? I imagined conversations with him and how they would go. And I often looked out the windows towards the street and towards my car, on the off-chance that he got the nerve to come all this way to see me just to say what he needed to say. At night, I just had to pull the blankets over my shoulder and tell myself to stop trying to imagine that I’m living in some romantic comedy.

I really didn’t think that I was going to hear from him again. I questioned how long it would be before I would stop thinking of him. But then his message was met with a bit of uncertainty on my part, so I responded with an “okay.” When he messaged me later to say he was ready to call, I responded with another, “okay.” It’s not the greatest way to begin a conversation, I’ll admit, because I could have been in any kind of mood to give a simple “okay” and he wouldn’t know if things were fine or if I’d bite his head off. The phone conversation started with telling me he was only going to be on the phone for about a half hour. When he got into what he wanted to say, which was his response to my last e-mail and a few things left unanswered, I started to interject and he told me not to interrupt him. He had things he wanted to say, things I didn’t quite understand, and he wanted to make sure he said as much as he could in the time he had.

At one point, I noticed his voice was a bit shaky. I’ve thought about that a few times over the past day. Was it hard for him to say what he did? Was he nervous? Was he determined? Was he scared that I would escalate the argument and start screaming at him?

After two hours, he said he was ending the call. It was only the fourth or fifth time during that call that he said he was going to hang up, so part of me wondered if he was going to think of yet another thing to talk about with me. We got past the worst of the call, as we started talking about my job search. I was laid off a few days after our argument, and I never wrote to him to tell him about that. I just wanted him to think I was still doing okay, that I had a grasp on life and was taking care of things. So when he mentioned me working, I had to let him know what happened. I think it changed his mood a bit, because the conversation did shift gears. It wasn’t about resolving conflicts and having courage to do so, it was about realizing that I had more pressing issues than how things were going with him.

And then we talked about Himuro, which was the most fun part of the conversation. So it’s no wonder that the conversation as a whole lasted almost two hours. It wasn’t spoken, but perhaps we just miss each other at times like these.

I went to bed feeling a little better about things between us. Well, that and my blankets were fresh from the dryer and they were amazingly warm and cozy. I desperately needed the pick-me-up, and my Japanese friend will never realize how meaningful it was to hear from him at all at that moment.

Well, the sun is coming up. I’m not even tired, but this is exactly what my friend would complain about: my habitual bedtimes that fall in the early hours of the morning. It’s only 6 pm in Japan, which means if he finds this before he goes to bed, I’m going to wake up to a potentially unhappy e-mail from him. So… nighty-night!

Gotta Be Coached

Just when I thought things were picking up, I learned there was an emphasis on the word “temp” in the phrase “temp agency.” I was hoping for a longer run, but the work dried up and the need for me was no more.

A lot of good came from having a job again. Probably the most important thing was being able to pay off one of the smaller creditors. Unfortunately I also had a $500 car repair bill, which would have helped to pay off more of my debts if I didn’t need the repair. It is what it is.

Before I left New Jersey, when I had just started with an insurance job, there was one day during training when one of the owners of the agency came in to our class and spoke to us. He gave us four things to remember to do:

  1. Write down your dreams
  2. Be coachable
  3. Have a good attitude
  4. Let go of fears

At the time, I wasn’t writing down my dreams even though the idea of going to Japan was at the forefront. I did have a good attitude, as I was convinced, even while I was watching everything fall apart, that I was doing just fine and that my problems at the time were starting to turn around. I didn’t even think of my fears, so how could I let them go? What was I even afraid of at that time? As for being coachable, I wasn’t in a position to be coached, so I didn’t have to worry about that at the time.

I was coached once in this past month. When I was told I would be coached at some point during that day, it felt like the equivalent of saying to me, “wait until your father gets home.” I was a bit nervous, wondering what I had done wrong in my calls and everything else.

It wasn’t as terrible as I had anticipated, though. To begin, one of my calls was audited and I scored a 92 out of 100. That came later during the coaching session. The coaching actually started with trying to overcome rejections, people telling me they weren’t interested and me accepting that as an answer. I was also asked to change the tone I used for the introduction script, as I was far too cheerful and also sounded like a recording. My boss played one of my calls, and it was one where some woman answered the phone with a curt, “What do you want?” I went into the introduction, completely broken out of the tone I had been using.

“You were talking so naturally,” my boss remarked.

“Yeah, because I was scared of her!”

My boss talked about how I could carry on conversations rather well, as he had asked about my umbrella earlier in the day and I was telling him that no, it wasn’t actually a sword even though the handle looked like a katana. I love that umbrella because it always sparks a conversation or at least catches someone’s glance.

But the meeting wasn’t entirely me being told what to do or what I was doing wrong. If I had questions, I asked them. Sometimes I asked if I was doing something right, or if it was acceptable at all. Sometimes if I was given advice, I would slightly question that advice or explain why I was doing things my way, because I was looking to understand the methods used instead of just blindly doing things a certain way.

I walked out of that coaching session feeling pretty good about things. Better still, I applied some of the advice I had been given, and I noticed an improvement in my metrics, my number of completed surveys per hour.

So understandably, I was sad when work dried up because I’m not working there now. I feel like things had just begun, you know? I was honing my skills, and now I have to see where I’ll be going next.

But I was coachable. And it worked out well.

There is another side to this. Not that there was a time when I wasn’t coachable, although I’m sure I’ve had stubborn moments when I just didn’t understand what I should have done and then didn’t change.

I had one job where my immediate supervisor actually refused to talk to me.

I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting a uniform shirt. Someone said I had to “earn” the shirt, but no one told me what I needed to do to earn it. My first shirt was a pink shirt, for breast cancer awareness month, which meant I still needed the regular blue shirt by the end of the month, but it was a start and I wouldn’t need to wear my own shirt anymore. When I got my name tag, my first name was split, and below that it said “Media” while everyone else in my department had a name tag that said “Media Specialist.” After a year, I was no longer on the schedule, despite my willingness to pick up extra shifts when people couldn’t work when they were scheduled. I knew exactly who my immediate supervisor was, and we were rarely scheduled at the same time, but when I did see him, he was always too busy to talk to me. So I never knew what, if anything, I was doing wrong. All I knew was I wasn’t getting the best treatment, but I stuck with it because I thought things could improve or that I could show that I’m actually a decent employee.

Of the four points I mentioned, while I agree with all of them, I think being coachable is so often overlooked and forgotten. I think people get into this mindset of doing things how they want to do them, or they might do their own research to see how to improve, but I don’t think people actually invest the time to talk to others who could point out their flaws and how to change. Even if a person allows someone else to tell them what needs to change, I don’t think enough people actually try to understand what’s being said, they might think they know the advice they’re being given but they don’t know how to apply it or how to change.

And also, write down your dreams. I think I’m going to go do that now. Oh wait, isn’t that why I have a blog?