I’m Almost 35 and I Still Don’t Know What I Want to be When I Grow Up

It’s not easy to admit to yourself that you’re hopeless. No, not hopeless, maybe. Adrift. Wracked with doubt. Rudderless. Unsure. Standard Millennial malaise. Bored. Lost.

Over-reacting?

Back when I was a carefree child I wanted to be a paleontologist. Because of all the simple ideas a kid can latch on to, I chose dinosaurs. Plus, getting paid to dig holes in the ground sounded like a sweet gig. Like many people those interests went away when something else came along.

For me it was Nintendo. You whippersnappers just getting out of college had a similar reaction to, I don’t know, iPhones probably.

I’ve gone through a lot of what you might call career options or at least, career attempts. I couldn’t stick to a single one. Was it because I’m lazy? Perhaps. I also don’t have much patience for gratification. Instant or nothing baby!

I’m worried it might be because I came in on the tail end of the lead gasoline craze. Count your blessings Gen Y. The economy might be dead by the time you enter it and the world might boil all the ice away, but at least there isn’t stupidity gas in the air anymore. Stupid poisoned environment. I’m glad we fixed all of that.

Where was I?

Right. Crippling depression brought on by a complete lack of fulfillment. People talk about how there are lots of famous people that didn’t hit their mark until later in their lives. I’m sure if you look hard enough there’s a snazzy infographic out there to back me up. It’s all a big case of confirmation bias though.

You’re going to find examples of great successes who were older if you look hard enough, that’s just basic logic. For every one of those geezers like me but successful you find, however, there’s bound to be a thousand or a million other chumps who amounted to nothing.

Like me.

Man, this is getting dark. Let me try and lighten the mood up a little bit.

A few days after I quit drinking I saw a guy fall down some stairs and split his head open. Blood everywhere. Sounded like a cantaloupe in a pillowcase.

Shit. I’m making this worse.

That moment helped clarify my decision to jump on the wagon. Because it easily could have been me stumbling down a staircase like a sack of wet noodles. Honestly, it’s a miracle I made it through my late twenties without falling in front of a train. I can’t even count the number of times I made it home completely blacked out.

There’s a time and a place for everything though and it’s called Roppongi.

How does this relate to finding a rewarding career? It doesn’t. It just serves to remind me that for a long time I couldn’t picture being in my thirties. I didn’t plan ahead much beyond the next time I would get drunk. Which was all the time. Not a great way to live a life but it keeps things simple. One decision tree.

Are you drunk? Yes? Get drunker. No? Do you have to work? No? Get drunk.

Fun times.

Nowadays I’ve stuck my foot into political work like one sticks their foot in a puddle the depth of which they vastly underestimated. This was a great idea right up to November 8th, 2016. Come November 9th I was wishing I’d stayed in Tokyo and maybe taken a header down some steps instead. Yeah, I said it. The 45th President is worse than violent head trauma.

That’s insensitive of me. No one chooses to crack their skull open. Some 60 million people woke up on a Tuesday and said to themselves, “Yeah. This will be a good idea.”

If you can explain that to me I’d love to hear it.

You might be wondering if the guy on the stairs was all right. I have no fucking clue. I had a train to catch and I wasn’t about to miss it. I wasn’t going to wait for the last train because that shit always ran late. It would have taken me at least an extra hour to get home. Plus, it’s always super crowded with drunks.

The world is a cold place.

Metaphorically speaking. Scientifically speaking it’s getting hot as shit.

Why does the Right Hate Liberals?

I lived in Japan for nine years. I bring this up because as a foreigner there, I often got the sense that the government saw me as a mild inconvenience. It might have been the frustration apparent on an official’s face when my Japanese wasn’t good enough to navigate complex tax procedures. Despite his English not being good enough to navigate Cat in the Hat.

Languages are hard ya’ll.

I lived there though, it was on me to learn how to speak good. Fair enough. It might also have been the difficulty in getting a visa for longer than I had proof of employment. One year contract? One year visa. Since you can only get a visa with a guaranteed income that made it difficult to change jobs. Unless you’re the type that works better under time pressure.

You could argue the government is just looking out for the gaijin. You wouldn’t want to be stuck in a place without a support system. It certainly lit a fire under my ass to keep steady employment whenever the visa date came around.

It might also have been knowing I had things pretty easy in terms of being a foreigner, given that I was white. And a dude. And American. That mix often adds up to banker after all.

All foreigners are required to carry ID and have to show it to police whenever asked. I was carded exactly once during my nine years in Japan. It was because I was drunk and belligerent on a public street at 8am on a Monday. I might have been yelling obscenities in front of children. I can’t remember for sure because I was drunk and belligerent.

My friend, who is also an American dude, was carded once for standing outside of my apartment late at night having a quiet phone conversation. Pretty much the exact opposite of my experience. He got carded at least once every other week, so he was used to it.

Did I mention he is of Filipino descent?

I’m not trying to make this about racism in Japan or even in America. I’m not qualified to talk about it because of my white privilege. As South Park tried to impart years ago, I don’t get it. Because I can’t. I get that I don’t get it. Get it?

But it’s hard not to see it going on.

I had it better there and I have it better here. None of this is news and I’m not expecting to open anyone’s eyes that have kept them shut until now. What worries this particular white male is the other hatred that has been stewing for a while now. Because it affects me! Me by golly! And isn’t that the point? Yes, as I will explain later.

In the wake of Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement, many on the right said it was a great move because it “made liberals cry.” What the fuck is this? Kindergarten?

How is it that the force in charge of America makes decisions based on how much pain they cause to the other side? Is it due in part to the fact that a large number of people who identify as liberal are also minorities? It’s no longer acceptable to say racist things in public. Twitter jumps all over that shit now. Racism is going to racist so what’s the alternative?

Jeff Sessions is working diligently as Attorney General to set back civil rights by decades. And he’s like, Kunta Kinte next to the Cheater in Chief.

Elections and marriages, a double threat!

Hatred of an ideology is becoming as baseless and rooted in ignorance as the hatred of skin tone. Obviously, the history and results between the two are incomparable. I’m not trying to claim the same type of suffering by being a liberal. There are plenty of “Bernie or Bust” types out there who’ll do it for me. #shotsfired

Yet, for perhaps the first time, straight white people in America are learning what it’s like to be hated by their government. Black people have put up with it for as long as they’ve been here. Latinos certainly understand the threat of an adversarial government. Every person of color in this country is forced to come to grips at an early age that the people in charge don’t like you.

I got a small taste of that in Japan. Racism Light, fewer problems, less filling. But even then, my white hetero-maleness shielded me from the worst of it all. A super power that doesn’t make for a good comic book perhaps but I was comfortable taking advantage of it.

I came back and stumbled head first into the frontlines of this fight. Racism Classic, now with more power. Thousands and millions of us tried to stop it. Or rather, shove it under the rug for another cycle. It didn’t work for a hundred reasons that didn’t involve someone named Clinton.

Most of my volunteers on the campaign were black women, which should surprise no one. They knew what was going on. They also knew the election wouldn’t wave a magic wand and fix the problems in their community.

They still came out though. And that was before all the horrors Trump has unleashed in his short tenure as President. Obviously though, we all saw it coming. Us stupid libruls. We tried to warn you that hate was growing. It threatens all of us. That’s why things feel so scary.

It’s equality of hate. Because now it doesn’t matter what you look like. If you believe certain things, a way of thought that you chose, now you are a target for the worst ills of humanity.

But what do I know? I’m just a Liberal.

Shared Humor is Cathartic: #covfefe

In case you’re not the type of politico who checks Twitter constantly, you might not know what covfefe means. Then again, it’s already seeped a bit into the general consciousness. The true meaning will be discussed for ages to come, I’m sure. The actual creation of this new vocabulary it thanks to the Tweep in Chief, Donald Trump.

I came late to the covfefe party, I only checked into Twitter about an hour after Mr. 45 tweeted a partially formed thought. The tweet itself is now gone from Twitter. Once again, Trump goes with the deletion of Presidential records because it embarrasses him. This is on paper, from what I understand, a crime. But whatever, get to the lolz.

Late on Tuesday, the President of the United States tweeted “Despite the negative press covfefe”. Now, as I write this the White House is trying to spin this as something more than a simple typo and a mistakenly sent tweet. They even tried to claim there’s some secret meaning that only super smart Trump types understand.

Which is complete bullshit. Not a chance. It’s more embarrassing to pretend otherwise.

Anyway, as the internet often does, it latched on to this mistake by the most powerful man-child in the world and mocked it without mercy. Trump deserves every single mocking tweet and late night joke. Here’s why.

He is causing severe emotional torment for a large number of Americans. I’ve disagreed with a lot of politicians before. I disagreed highly with George W. Bush. Until this year, I was confident Bush Jr. would go down in history as the worst President the USA has ever had. No longer, not a chance. Trump wins by a mile.

Now, I understand that a lot of people will disagree with me. Some people think he’s doing a great job. Some people don’t care as long as it doesn’t bother them. There are even some people who think Hillary Clinton would have been worse. Whatever. That’s all fine and good.

The problem is Trump is so blatant about not caring what people who disagree with him think. He is convinced 100% that every idea he has is perfect because he thought of it. A lot of people agree with him because on the surface he appears to think like they do. These are the same people that railed against Obama as an imperial President.

The difference is Obama actually tried to work with the other side and was constantly slapped away. He didn’t say and do things that embarrassed the nation as a whole. People say Obama ruined our reputation abroad which is the complete opposite of what happened. He repaired what was damaged by the last bumbling fool to occupy the Oval Office.

Trump is the bull in the china shop of all our nightmares. Can you blame us for latching on to the one purely innocent example of comedy this man has produced? We try to joke about his awful relationship with NATO but it represents the worst our relations with Europe have been since WWII. The Russia investigation kicks over new rocks every day. He threatens the entire world because he thinks the US shouldn’t have to take any responsibility whatsoever.

We are tired of constantly being stressed out by the assault on our values this man represents. That sounds ironic I know because it’s highly reminiscent of the Tea Party rhetoric. Obama in their eyes wanted to tear down their most fundamental beliefs. The problem is, he really wasn’t trying to do anything of the sort.

Trump is actively trying to tear down what I believe is good about this country. Then he has the gall to look us all in the eye and tell us it’s not happening. Or if it is it won’t be that bad. Or if it is that bad, then it’s not a big deal. If it is a big deal then it’s not his fault. Or if it is his fault then we deserved it.

Having to constantly fight against that coming from the highest reaches of power is exhausting.

Please excuse us for taking a small break to make fun of an old man who has trouble handling technology. Of course, when I put it like that it sounds mean doesn’t it?

But this is Trump we’re talking about. He’s beyond sympathy.

Fighting the Entropy of Apathy

I took a few days off from my blog this week. I know I’ve only been at this for about two months. Plus, the “job requirements” I’ve set myself are pretty lax.

Three articles a week? Cake walk.

All of my other personal tasks are equally simple to achieve. Still, it’s always nice to feel like I am accomplishing things. Even if I’ve rigged the expectations. It’s easy to succeed when the bar is reading book instead of watching Netflix.

I shout them out all the dang time so it should be obvious that Netflix played a big role in my mini-vacation. Caught up a bit on House of Cards. It’s nice to imagine what having a competent sociopath in the Oval Office is like rather than an incompetent one.

Call it escapism.

I also worked on my fourth or fifth complete viewing of Parks and Recreation. Love that show.

The point is that I didn’t really “do” a lot over these past few days. I think I’ve made it obvious that I don’t exactly do much on a normal day. I can stretch what should be a few hours of accomplishment in to a whole day effort. I can also waste the day away without so much as a twinge of regret. Is this some kind of laziness superpower?

Are most people like this at heart? In Japan, it’s elevated to an art form. I learned from the best.

Don’t get me wrong. I can work when needed. I put in 80 hour weeks during the 2016 elections. I got up at 5am so I could drive an hour away through a hurricane in order to be in front of a Dollar Store an hour before it opened. Why? Because I was told it would help win the election. So, I did it. I’ve got no doubts about my capability to do work.

The motivation aspect is what I’m worried about.

Would getting up at 5am each day help me become a successful writer? Maybe. Is that even what I want to be? More importantly, is it right to require such effort in the first place? I think if I was pulling a steady paycheck and my boss told me to get up at 5am to write blog articles until the sun went down I could do it. Would it be worth it?

Probably not. So, why should I bother?

Too many rhetorical questions I know. I hope this is a common line of thinking for most people. It would make me feel better if it was. Why do I get up every day and do what I do? Why can’t I just crash on the couch and watch Netflix? I suppose this is the Republican nightmare of welfare. Give people enough money and they won’t do anything.

Then civilization collapses and anarchy reigns.

Obviously, if everyone just watched Netflix there would be nothing to watch in the first place. Until computers can do everything for us at all times perfectly. Which might not be that far off. For now, it’s up to each person to decide what is important to them. What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning?

Is it just to kill time until the next day comes so you can repeat the process? I’ll admit that has been the case for me more times than I’m comfortable with. That’s how I felt for a long time when I was living in Japan. For me, perhaps the best way to quit laziness is the same way I stopped drinking and smoking.

Cold turkey.

Something tells me it’ll be harder than either of those previous vices.

Trumpism: The Cult of Donald Trump

Editor’s note: This was originally posted in February 2017. Almost none of the revelations that consume the news today regarding Russia had come out yet.

So I’ve been reading this book in my spare time called “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene. It was first brought to my attention by an Uber driver in L.A. so you know it’s high quality…

So I’ve been reading this book in my spare time called “The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene. It was first brought to my attention by an Uber driver in L.A. so you know it’s high quality…

Anyway, basically it’s a collection of stories from history and teachings from books like The Art of War and The Prince broken down into lessons about gaining the ephemeral quality known as “power”.

I wanted to read it because even if I couldn’t be as ruthless as required by some of these tactics it is good to be aware of them in case they are used against you. However, when I reached Law 27 things became a little scary.

“Law 27: Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cult-like Following”

There are 5 steps to this law. Rather than just list them and let readers come to their own conclusions I feel like I need to be more explicit as to how the man currently in the office of the President has seemingly followed this path to power in particular.

Step 1: Keep it Vague; Keep it Simple

“To create a cult you must first attract attention. This you should do not through actions, which are too clear and readable, but through words, which are hazy and descriptive.”

Trumpisim: “Make America Great Again”, “Repeal and Replace, Build the Wall”

These phrases sound great and project a real sense of power. When it comes to achieving them things become far murkier. Trump’s much vaunted deal with Carrier was fraught with unfortunate realities in terms of making America great again. Republicans have been calling for repeal of the ACA for years but are only now rolling out ideas for replacement. Ideas which do little to fix what problems there are with the program and threaten to take away the parts that are actually working.

The wall will be a boondoggle. Mark my words.

Step 2: Emphasize the Visual and the Sensual over the Intellectual

“Once people have begun to gather around you, two dangers will present themselves: boredom and skepticism.”

Trumpisim: Constant rallies

Trump never seems comfortable unless he’s in front of a large crowd of sympathetic supporters. That might be part of the reason he brings staffers to speeches to applaud and cheer for him. Less than a month into his Presidency while being assaulted from all directions over allegations of misconduct and incompetence, Trump holds a literal campaign rally. In 2017, not 2020. Clearly he’s falling back on the spectacle that served him so well in 2016. The sight of large cheering crowds emphasize his popularity which is why he is so adamant in his attacks on stories to the contrary.

Step 3: Borrow the Forms of Organized Religion to Structure the Group

“Your cult-like following is growing; it’s time to organize it. Find a way both elevating and comforting.”

Trumpism: Mike Pence

I don’t think anyone can argue that Trump has ever been an ardent representative of the Christian faith. This step is actually the one that applies the least to Trumpism as it is intended to be more about structural organization specifically. However, the 45th President is not afraid to claim divine intervention in the weather. The choice of Mike Pence as VP gives him all the cover he needs in terms of Christian conservatism without demanding any real sacrifice on his part.

Step 4: Disguise Your Source of Income

“…you must never be seen as hungry for money and the power it brings. It is at this moment that you must disguise the source of your income.”

Trumpism: Tax returns

Do I really need to go over this part?

Step 5: Set Up an Us-Versus-Them Dynamic

“To keep your followers united, you must now do what all religions and belief systems have done: create an us-versus-them dynamic.”

Obviously this is not a unique aspect of Trump or many other political candidates. It is a central idea behind why spectator sports are so popular. People like being part of a “team”. What is dangerous and scary about Trumpism is the official target known as “them”.

The media. The term “fourth estate” refers to a medieval concept of society where the people were broken up into three broad groups. (The clergy, the nobility, and the commoners, in case you were wondering.)

The idea is the press is a separate entity who’s role is to check the power of the others. An independent press is so important that the founders of America made sure journalistic protections were enshrined in the Constitution itself.

Trump’s attacks on the press started almost immediately. His administration has constantly given false or misleading information to the public and when news reporters point that out he calls them “fake news”. Anyone the least bit critical is denied legitimacy. The message is clear “we [us] are right and anyone who disagrees [them] does so just because they want us to fail.”

We need to have the ability to question power. If they do something wrong they should be held responsible. The chilling effect Trumpism could have on legitimate criticism is frightening. I’m personally somewhat worried about posting a long description comparing the President of the United States to a cult leader as the family is notoriously litigious.

Despite the click bait nature of the title of this post I am not saying with any certainty that President Trump is a cult leader. I have no way of knowing if he’s read this book or even if he consciously follows the steps listed above.

But the similarities frighten me.

The Value of Writing Advice

You’ve probably read a metric ton of articles, books, blogs, stone tablets, semi-fore flailing’s, about how to write. Or maybe this is the first article on the subject you’ve come across.

Which would be weird.

Anyway, I have a degree in English, Creative Writing focus from one of the top Engineering schools in the country. I don’t say that to disparage my school or its writing program.

But it doesn’t often elicit assured nods and mutters of approval when I talk about it. This is why I almost never bring it up. Another, more important reason, is I don’t get out much.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately reading up on how to write. Consistent study of my craft is something I’ve put off for a long time. Here and there I would indulge in an attempt to “be a writer” and typically I’d stop. Maybe it was because photography had cooler toys. Or a podcast was more collaborative. Or improv comedy was more fun.

Time and time again I would do something else, anything really, rather than write. These past two months I’ve tried once again to write. My biggest fear is I’m only able to do that because I’m unemployed. Yes, that’s right, two months of regular writing is not enough to break into a world of riches and rocket ships. Is that what wealthy people buy nowadays?

Rocket ships?

I’ve also done a lot of studying about how to write. Mostly about how to write quality marketing copy and such. You know, riveting stuff. Important to be sure if you’ve got a six rocket ship a month habit. But these are just a bunch of new rules to learn. In school, I learned the rules of fiction, now I’m learning non-fiction, web based writing.

Plus, books on these subjects are more numerous. For some reason.

I wouldn’t call it advice though. Telling you to keep paragraphs to four sentences or less is more a guideline than advice. I think the issue with writing is that since it’s all subjective, telling you how to do something can easily be framed as advice. Take it or leave it. A lot of writing advice out there seems more like adding tools to a toolbox rather than teaching you how to use them.

Well, they tell you how to use them. However, showing you how to change the oil is different than learning how to become a mechanic.

With photography, for example, it’s easy to get hung up on the gear and figuring out how each number changes the result. Raise your ISO to make it brighter. Slow down the shutter to make it blurry. Spend several thousand dollars on a lens you’ll use once.

And so on.

One of my favorite purveyors of writing advice is Chuck Wendig, who talks about being a writer as someone who digs a tunnel. Once you break through to the other side of success you blow it up with dynamite behind you. So, no one can follow you, of course. Because fuck those people.

The point is you make your own path. It’s hard work and it’s not like you want to blow up the tunnel. You have to because there are dark things chasing you. There’s no choice. Everyone has their own reasons and their own methods.

The key is not giving up and letting the monsters catch you.

Which is good advice. Real advice, not just how many words should be in your title.

My personal advice is rather simple. Just write more. Doesn’t matter what or how much. People will ignore you until you give them a reason to stop what they’re doing and pay attention. You can’t really predict how that will happen.

Or if it even will.

The only thing you can control is the output. Maybe nothing will come of it. That’s how I feel about the whole thing now. But I’ll keep writing.

Write more. That’s my advice. Let me know how it works out.

Are you glad you came back?

Imagine you just made one of the biggest decisions of your life. You have no idea if it’s going to work out. You decided to go for it anyway. Once you’ve taken the leap, how do you know if it was a good choice? When I went bungee jumping for the first time the measure of success was pretty simple. I didn’t end up plunging head first into a raging river.

Not all decisions are going to come with such instant feedback, unfortunately.

When I left Japan, I imagined a life that would fall into place with relative ease. Perhaps that was naïve of me. I figured I would be able to find some sort of job that would let me live a modest lifestyle in or around Raleigh, where I went to college. That’s where the friends I have from before my time in Japan still live. I would then pursue a computer science certificate and perhaps after that a Masters. Not asking too much I think.

A job did not materialize immediately. I was fortunate enough to be able to spend my first summer focusing on my studies without any financial strain. Which was a good thing. If you’ve ever taken a college level course in Java or Discrete Math you already have some idea. Now, take all that academic pain and suffering, mix it together, and squeeze it out into half the time. I don’t think I’ll ever take two summer courses again if I can help it.

I did well though! Better than I ever did in school to be honest. It turns out if you actually study and do the work good grades aren’t as mythological as I once believed.

Then came the campaign. I tried for…like a week to do both the job as a field organizer and the next course in my program. Every one of my coworkers I mentioned my class to were shocked to hear I was attempting such a feat. The general consensus after I withdrew sometime later was “Yeah, that’s definitely a smart move.”

And it was. After a twelve-hour day, the last thing I wanted to do was bang my head against a wall of code salad. I lost about half the cost of the class when I withdrew so NCSU got a few hours of their new basketball coach’s salary on me. I’ll consider it money well spent if the team doesn’t completely suck next year. (I’d settle for beating UNC once.)

After finishing the campaign, I didn’t want to jump back into class without knowing what my working life would be like. I got started with the job search and have continued at a steady pace right up until now. Still no job. Hopefully it’s not because when you Google me the first thing that pops up is someone with my name who stole $50,000 to go to Hooters.

I haven’t answered the question yet. Can you blame me? There can be some heavy stuff wrapped up in such a question. When people hear that you made a major life change they want to know if you’re doing well. Decent people at least. If that’s not the case for you, what are you doing talking to jerks in the first place?

As for me, it’s hard to give a solid answer. I’m 34 years old and I live with my mother. Couple that with a strong interest in Japanese culture and that’s a dangerous combination on paper. I should just buy a Trilby and a body pillow. Lean into the skid so to speak.

But, I’m technically still a Millennial so the mainstream tells me I have some lee-way about my living situation. So that’s lucky.

Am I happy though? Well that’s honestly something I can’t answer. I’m certainly happy at certain moments of the day. Other parts not so much. Is that any different than anyone else? Have I achieved what I wanted when I left Japan? Not really. Are those things indefinitely out of reach? Probably not. Hopefully not. Am I better off today than I was a year ago? Again, hard to say. I’m pretty much in the same place I was a year ago. Except now Drumpf is President.

Not looking too good on the old “better off” scale. Sorry. I didn’t vote for him.

Anyway, if you came by for unending positivity, I’m not sure you really “get” the vibe I’m trying to cultivate here.

5 Phrases are All You’ll Need to Make Friends in Japan

I spent about three years in college taking Japanese language classes. I was also fortunate enough to study abroad in northern Japan for a summer. It was specifically for language study so we covered about a year’s worth of lessons in 8 weeks. After all of that I was still terrible but could pretend with the best of them. When I had 30 minutes or more to craft a text I could even be eloquent.

Little did I know, that I would only need about six phrases for 80% of my conversations with Japanese speakers.

Ehhhhhhhh?

It’s hard to classify this one as a phrase. It’s more of a sound effect. Translated, it’s similar to saying “What?” when you hear some shocking news. Just like in English, you can extend the sound for as long as you want. Clearly, longer durations indicate greater surprise. It takes some finesse to know how to use this one but it can be quite versatile.

Example of appropriate use cases: Someone tells you some news or information. Can be anything from “I bought an ice cream” to “The President is a Russian spy.”

Sugoi!

Unlike the previous phrase, this one can’t be used to give yourself time to think of a real answer. Sugoi translates roughly to “great.” So, you have to be at least certain what the person just said to you is positive. If someone tells you they were just diagnosed with cancer, answering sugoi might be in bad taste whereas a long “ehhhh?” would be more appropriate.

Example of appropriate use cases: Someone tells you something positive or otherwise good news. Can be anything from “I bought you an ice cream” to “The President was impeached for being a Russian spy.”

Honto ni?

This one is a bit more flexible. It translates to “Really?” and has many uses similar to its English counterpart. It can be used in both positive and negative circumstances depending on your inflection. This is also highly useful for when you’re either not paying attention or your friend has said something that needs elaboration. It’s a good way to encourage further discussion.

Example of appropriate use cases: Someone tells you something that piques your interest. Can be anything from “I heard they’re making a new flavor of ice cream” to “The President said something stupid on Twitter today.”

Majide/Uso

I group these two together because they mean roughly the same thing and you’ll hear them used interchangeably. Uso is probably the more popular variation. Roughly translated to “lying” these phrases are used much how an interjection of “bullshit!” is used in English. The best use is to show a friendly incredulity when someone might be telling you a tall tale.

Example of appropriate use cases: Someone tells you something that seems quite unbelievable. Can be anything from “I ate ten ice creams just now” to “The President signed a bill helping the poor today.”

So desu ne.

Finally, the most important phrase of all. The rough translation is something akin to “so it seems.” English unfortunately doesn’t have the full elegant capacity needed to describe how useful this phrase is. It can be said after literally any statement and seem profound. If for any reason, you don’t understand what was just said to you, drop a “So desu ne” and it will work.

Example of appropriate use cases: Someone says literally anything; however, it is perhaps most appropriate to impart a sense of finality on the discussion. Can be anything from “I enjoy ice cream” to “The President is a terrible person and I’m chronically depressed because of it.”

P.S: If you don’t know how to pronounce these phrases, maybe look up Japanese phonetics? It’s not that complicated. I mean, it only took me a few years. Simple.

Why did you come back?

No one has said this to me in an accusatory tone…yet. It sounds similar to the other question, “Why did you leave Japan”. However, someone pointed out to me that it’s not the same at all. I could have gone anywhere in the world after Japan. I chose to go back to North Carolina. Why?

Before I came back I took a long trip across the country on the train. Partly because it was a little cheaper than a direct flight back and mostly because it seemed romantic. The truth is it was a little like riding in business class of an airplane for about 60 hours. It gave me time to decompress. I felt this would be a good idea since I had no idea what I would be doing with my life once I got back. Still don’t by the way.

I’m going to save a true description of my trip for another article, but it was a positive experience for sure. I got to experience four of my county’s most famous cities. L.A, New York, Washington DC, and Boston. I had only ever been to NYC before and that was back when I was a child. Well, Long Island doesn’t count, does it?

L.A was my favorite but that might be a little unfair since I spent the most time in that city. I don’t know if I would have the patience to settle down there. I wouldn’t get the hang of the “make a U-turn just where ever” driving culture. The weather was tops though. Chicago was nice if cold but the current President tells me it’s a war zone so I probably shouldn’t stay there. NYC is just the American Tokyo which was nice for nostalgic reasons. Boston has a nice small town feeling but I don’t like seafood enough to make the best of it.

Jokes aside, any one of those places I could have been comfortable, job permitting. That turns out to be easier said than done. A lot of people make this jump with an employment plan already lined up. That’s the sensible thing. Not me though. I was sure I’d find something so why worry?

It turned out to be harder than I expected.

Maybe I could have gone to Europe, blend in better. I might want to keep that option open depending on how things go over here.

But nope, North Carolina for me. Why though?

There’s something to the call of the familiar. I talked about feeling disconnected from the culture, in Japan. For all its faults, I like being from North Carolina. It makes up a big part of who I am. People who knew me over in Japan know well my fierce opinion that there is only one true kind of BBQ. Pulled pork with a vinegar based sauce. We can respectfully disagree over the style of meat, brisket and the like. If we’re talking pork though, there can be no compromise.

It’s those kind of baked in ideas, even if they’re over something as silly as a meat sandwich, that I missed. I preferred tonkotsu ramen as any right-thinking individual would. However, I could never feel for it on the level of someone from Fukuoka where it is a specialty.

The feeling goes beyond food of course. What it boils down to is a sense of place and reputation. We humans are quite good at wrapping up our self-worth in what other people might identify us by. I want people to like vinegar sauced pork BBQ because it is delicious. It also represents where I’m from and my own identity. I searched long and hard for a quality pork sandwich in Tokyo not only because I wanted to eat one. I wanted to show my friends something that speaks to who I am.

I’m sticking with the food metaphor because it is a clever way to frame the real reason I came home. I have been troubled with the way my state has been acting politically. Being part of the South means you could hardly call us “progressive” but we were once doing well compared to our neighbors. That changed in only the last few years. Now, however, one party is taking out their frustrations at having been in the minority for so long on the other.

I’ll let you guess who.

What gets me upset is that these folks are doing massive damage to our reputation without any real gain. They do it to spite people they hate for reasons that often seem to hinge on “you did it to us too.” The worst part the bending of the rules and rigging the system to stay in power. When these folks fall out of power they try to strip away what they can. It’s depressing that people can act this way in a place that’s supposed to be known for “hospitality”.

We’ve made some gains. It’s going to be a long hard fight from here on out. When I moved back I hadn’t planned on it being like this. But I’m glad I’m here if only to add my own weak voice to the swell of resistance. Finding a reason for being somewhere is never easy. At least here in my home I have roots to trace.

Imagine If: Dispatches from an Alternate Political Universe

January 22nd, 2017.1 –

President Clinton spent her first full day in office responding to controversy surrounding statements she made about the crowd at her inauguration. Several outlets have questioned an assertion she made during a visit to the CIA regarding the attendance of the ceremony.

During her speech, which was intended to show her support of the intelligence community after the firestorm surrounding both the alleged Russian hacking attempts and her own troubles regarding the handling of classified information, Mrs. Clinton stated that her inauguration was “one of the largest crowds in history.”

Several news organizations quickly released photos from President Obama’s first inauguration in 2008 side by side with those from yesterday. While after a cursory glance both crowds appear similar in size there do seem to be several large gaps towards the back of the viewing area during yesterday’s event. Ridership numbers provided by D.C Metro indicate Mrs. Clinton’s inauguration was indeed heavily attended but the numbers are less than those reported 8 years earlier.

President Clinton’s newly appointed Press Secretary, Samantha Spencer, was out earlier in the day to answer questions from an at times hostile press core. She repeated claims that Mrs. Clinton never said her inauguration was “the largest ever, period,” but in fact had used a more moderate framing as “one of the largest.”

This defense hasn’t won over many Republicans on the Hill, however. Jason Chaffetz, Chair of the House Oversight Committee, held a press conference moments after President Clinton had left the CIA. “I was there,” Congressman Chaffetz said of the inauguration, “It was certainly not one of the biggest inaugurations in history. The fact that the President would mislead the American people on day one of her administration is despicable.”

Chaffetz, who was one of the lead drivers of the Benghazi hearings that plagued President Clinton when she was Secretary of State, went on to announce his intention to continue a pattern of rigorous congressional oversight. “I find it troubling that we never got a satisfactory answer to the question about the President’s missing emails. Now that we have clear evidence of her desire to mislead the American public about something as simple as the size of a crowd, I believe it’s time to re-examine what happened with the infamous private server.”

Donald Drumpf, who following his narrow electoral college defeat has hounded the Clinton transition about supposed voter fraud, took to Twitter once again to rail against the new President. In a series of early morning tweets, he referred to Mrs. Clinton as both, “sad” and “a liar.” He went on to rail against the apparent “slack” that the mainstream media is giving President Clinton. His final tweet ended with “If I were President people would be going crazy over this. Unfair.”

Drumpf has been meeting with various leaders in conservative media, including former campaign advisors Roger Ailes of Fox News and Steve Bannon of Breitbart News. When he isn’t tweeting about the Democrats he has been dropping hints about his plans for a new media company, the scope of which remains to be seen.

Lost in the flurry of news surrounding the crowd size statement was President Clinton’s assertion that the intelligence community is a key component of the fight against terrorism. “This is a fight we can win without sacrificing any of our basic freedoms or personal safety,” Mrs. Clinton said to finish her rousing speech, “And that’s exactly what I plan to do.”

The White House has announced that one of President Clinton’s first executive orders will deal with strengthening the country’s borders and adding resources to the fight against terrorism. The President is expected to sign the order later this week.

  • This article is a complete work of fiction. If you needed to be told that then you haven’t been paying attention.