Anxiety won’t get me down!

Hello again, my lovely readers. I hope you are all well.
For several years now, I’ve been an avid chess player, and I’ve had a membership on a website called Gameknot, which allows users to play chess against each other and gives them a certain amount of time to make a move before the game “times out” and the one who failed to make a move before time ran out loses. Up until maybe mid-February of this year, I was super-dedicated to playing chess on that site; I would log in every single day and make moves in all the games that were my turn to play. I would also train with Chess Tactics, an extra feature of the site that gives you a certain position on the board and you have to gain the greatest advantage in the shortest number of moves (usually two or three). Sometimes it is simply a “find the move that will lead to checkmate” sort of situation, but more often it’s a situation in which there is an easy way to capture the queen, a rook, or even just an extra piece in general, and you’re allowed to play through ten Chess Tactics situations per day. Ever since I started doing tactical exercises, I’ve found my game has steadily improved to the point where I win about 75% of the time.

But recently, I’ve found real life making me depressed. My short-term goal was to go to Japan and spend a few years there, teaching English and getting some work experience while at the same time living in a foreign country all by myself so I could figure out who I am and what I want to do with my life, but my plans for that fell through. I applied for JET, but that program is so competitive that almost no one gets in on the first try, and so I got rejected at the first stage of screening. I also went for Interac, and I sort of breezed right through the application process; after submitting my online application, I was immediately invited to do a phone interview. I passed the phone interview with flying colors and was invited to a face-to-face seminar, which is the equivalent of getting a job interview. My Interac recruiter informed me that only about 25% of applicants get to the seminar stage, and I heard from about a dozen current and former Interac employees that if you get invited to a seminar, you’re basically guaranteed the job, as long as you’re not a crazy person or anything. Not only that, but I had to turn in all my documents for my visa when I went to the seminar, so I was pretty confident that if I did well at the seminar, I would be offered the job. Well, even though I aced the interview, sample lesson, and grammar test and my recruiter told me that the outlook was really good (and she took all the documents I had brought for my visa – background check (cost $15), visa photos ($10, plus a one-hour trip to the photo shop, where my glasses apparently created a glare and they had to take the photos three times to get an acceptable set), pre-interview questions (this took me two hours to complete), the whole nine yards. I hadn’t brought my transcripts with me because I wanted to wait until my graduation was posted before I turned them in, but if I had brought them, that would be an additional $8. I also had to rewrite my resume – this wasn’t a document that showed off any special skills I had or anything; this document was literally so that they could see that I had had twelve years of education with English as the primary language. In layman’s terms, going through the school system of an English-speaking country and graduating from high school in that country. Literally. They just wanted to know that I had gone to elementary, middle, and high school in America and had studied English as my primary language.)

Both the Interac website and my recruiter said that if I couldn’t turn in all my documents at the seminar, I could mail them in to the office instead, which I was planning to do with the transcripts. But wouldn’t you know it – my official graduation date was January, and yet my school dragged its proverbial feet and didn’t approve my graduation until March. I dunno – maybe Interac thought I wasn’t graduating until May and so therefore wouldn’t want to wait until June to settle my visa? They do state on their website that the average age of an Interac ALT is 33, and they do require that you have $5000 of your own as start-up money, to pay for your plane ticket, apartment, and that first month in Japan when you earn basically no money because it’s summer vacation and you’re not working, so maybe they’re not as fond of recent college grads – I have heard of some gaijin getting a job in Japan but treating it as a fifth year of college and partying and drinking every single night until 3 AM. Probably Interac was stereotyping me with those f*ckers.

*end rant*

Anyway, about two weeks passed after the seminar with no news whatsoever from Interac. Then, randomly on a Tuesday evening, the Tokyo office e-mails me and says that they “cannot proceed with my candidacy at this time.”

Enter a month of depression, lost motivation, and broken dreams. I couldn’t go a day without crying, and I was even under the impression that I had wasted four and a half years of my life studying Japanese and that I should just stop wanting to go to Japan. During this time, I also found my energy slipping away from me – my writing, my passion for anything and everything, and any hopes I ever had for the future were beyond my reach. I couldn’t write, couldn’t read the library books I had checked out just a week or so before I got that e-mail, and I couldn’t even do something as mindless as playing video games. My mind would always inevitably drift back to the fact that I wasn’t going to go to Japan and my future was filled with doubt. Around this time, I also stopped visiting Gameknot, which had previously been my favorite thing to do – play chess against others and improve my skills.

You may be wondering why I’m posting this now, several months after the fact. Well, a few things have rekindled my spirits. It hasn’t been easy pulling myself back from the brink of throwing everything away, changing my name, and moving to the other side of the country, and there are still some days when I can’t bring myself to do anything – days when I just sit at home, depressed, trying to get the energy to do anything other than sit in front of the TV and watch lame daytime shows. But days when that sort of stuff happens, compared to days when I’m out and about, living life, exercising, getting fresh air, writing stories, have become less frequent. But one thing that has inspired me to blog about this now is realizing that talking about all the stuff that happened that caused me to become depressed will actually make me feel better about it.

Today, I logged on to Gameknot for the first time in a while – most of the games I had been playing had timed-out, meaning that I had lost all of them. I also got a message from the captain of the team I belong to, telling me that because I had timed-out on so many games, I had violated team policy and needed to request a reinstatement of my membership before I would be allowed to play more games for the team. While drafting my response to the captain of the team, I realized that telling him the truth – that I had run into some problems and lost all motivation for anything – was the best option. Not only that, but on Tuesday, I went out with a friend to do some shopping, and over lunch, we got to talking about a girl from my past – this girl had done some mean things to me and hurt me very badly, destroying my trust and making it hard for years after that for me to trust anyone else. It’s been a while since I’ve even though about her – the incident with this girl happened in the fall semester of my senior year of high school, and in sophomore year of college, halfway through the summer, I found myself able to trust others again. I think one big reason for this was my coworkers – I was working for the orientation program at the time, and my coworkers and I were all really close, and as I spent time with them, I realized that they truly cared about me, and that I had become best friends with two of the other women in the program without even realizing it. It was at that point, when I realized that my friends really did care about me and didn’t think I was annoying and weren’t just pretending to like me for their own benefit, that I realized that this girl from the past didn’t need to haunt me anymore, and that I could move on with my life. But this friend was someone I hadn’t spoken to in a few years, and she had no idea about what this girl had done to me – last she had heard was that this girl and I were “best friends, almost sisters” and that we did everything together, and telling her about this girl while we pigged out on Fuddruckers made me realize that talking about this stuff makes you feel better.

Ever since sophomore year of college, I’ve been able to be who I truly want to be, a positive, outgoing, genki sort of girl who never lets anything in life get her down. I even made a promise to myself back then, that I would let go of all my anger, hatred, sadness, and grief over what happened in the past and start over. Since then, I’ve found that I rarely get truly angry with someone – oh, yes, I do get irritated like anyone else when the supermarket is crowded or the bus is late, or when some random pedestrian decides to walk very, very slowly across the street and causes me to miss the light, but the sort of rage that makes your blood boil is something I experience very rarely, and I tend to forgive most minor trespasses now. I’ve regained my passion for the important things in life – my writing, chess, and of course, my swimming.

In fact, I competed in a meet in March, and I kept thinking that I’d be lucky if I even dropped two seconds off my time – last year at this same meet, I got so freaked out at the fact that it was the first meet I’d swum in since high school that I had to stop on the wall for a second because I’d swallowed water and couldn’t breathe. I was expecting that I’d probably swim the same time again, except this time I wouldn’t stop on the wall, so I would be faster by about two seconds – the amount of time I spent resting on the wall to catch my breath. Instead, I surpassed any expectations I had set for myself and dropped one minute and 58 seconds from my time! At first, when I saw the results and the time I had gotten, I thought that there must be some mistake, or that my timers were dyslexic or something, because my time from last year was 9:17 and my time this year was 7:19, which I almost couldn’t believe. But then I asked my coach, who had seen my swim, and he told me that it wasn’t a mistake and that 7:19 was my actual time for the swim. (For those who are wondering, the event was the 400 IM, which basically requires the swimmer to swim 100 meters of each stroke: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle, in that order.) The dramatic improvement in my swimming coupled with a few other personal accomplishments made me realize that I’m not just a worthless person who can’t do anything, which is what I had thought of myself right after the Interac debacle.

Wow, this post got way longer and more rambly than I had first imagined it would be. When I started writing this post, I thought it would be just a couple of paragraphs about how I feel better after telling someone what happened and wanting to get back the happy, chipper part of myself I used to be. I just realized that this would be something like three pages if it were handwritten, so I’ll stop here. I would like to say, though, that this blog post will be a reminder to myself to stop letting my personal life get in the way of my professional goals and aspirations. You hear that, Corinne of the future? Stop feeling sorry for yourself and just do something!

Farewell, my dear readers, until next time. 乙女

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