Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The Decade In Me
All of the usual media outlets are doing their decade in review pieces these days so I thought I'd do one too, although one of a more personal nature. Instead of talking about technology or music or movies, I'm going to talk about me. Hey, it's my blog.
Ten years ago I was facing the new millennium as an editor at IGN. I had helped launch the site a few years before, had maneuvered myself into lifestyles content (music, movies, gear) and was making more money than ever before (or since). It was the high-flying days of the internet boom and we were all told (repeatedly) that we were going to be rich. Like the Y2K bug, it was all hype, and soon, with the market crashing, things started to fall apart for the internet.
As for myself, I realized that I had sold my soul for the promise of riches. I was moved away from music and onto IGN For Men, a Maxim-like site where I wrote about the "Babe of the Day" in the most salacious prose imaginable. I was routinely called a sexist and a pig, and although it stung I rationalized it as being a "persona," not really me. But real or not, it was eating away at my insides, and after the crash I had a sort of revelation about what I had done. So I took off for Los Angeles.
A change of scenery would do me good, I thought, and for 6 months it did. I was still working for IGN, albeit from home in L.A., and I was off the babes and onto music technology. A significant improvement. It was not to last, though, and I soon joined the growing ranks of the unemployed. I went on unemployment, cashed out my 401k, and drank beer with my other unemployed friends.
With lots of free time I decided to devote myself to making music and soon was releasing breaks records as Kemek the Dope Computer. I got DJ gigs, did some traveling, did some remixes, but it wasn't enough to pay the bills so I went back to work, this time as a copy-editor (and later managing editor) on a pair of automotive magazines in Anaheim.
Looking over this now, I can see how I got more and more off-track from what I wanted. I dropped out of college at 23, my rave lifestyle having taken precedence over scholastic pursuits. Because of an innate ability to write (and with the help of a friend) I ended up at IGN. But the days of finding a job with no college degree were disappearing. With so many people looking for a job, getting through that HR filter was harder and harder without a diploma. So I took a job writing about something I had no interest in (cars) in North Orange County, an average 2-hour crawl of a commute away from my home in Hollywood.
By spring 2004 I had had enough. I quit, sold my car, and went to Japan. At age 32 I was finally being spontaneous. It was a tremendous gamble, as any hope of a visa sponsorship hinged on finding a job at an English-language publication willing to overlook my lack of a college degree. Teaching English, the usual route for Japan transplants, was out of reach for those without a diploma. With no degree, and no real editorial jobs available, I had no choice but to go back home to the Bay Area, my tail between my legs, and start over.
But the seeds were planted. I fell in love with Japan and decided that no matter what, I was going to get back there to live, work, and do whatever else it is people do. And so, in the summer of 2005, I started back to school to get a B.A. in Japanese, first at a local community college and then, in January 2007, at San Francisco State University. I also spent 2008 in Japan as an exchange student. And now, knocking on the door of a new decade, with almost a full 37 years behind me, I am finally a college graduate.
The next step is to go back to Japan. I've already applied to the JET Program, to teach English in rural Japan. If that doesn't pan out, however, there are all kinds of other English teaching jobs. Now that I finally have that degree, nothing is going to stop me from living in the place that I love. And, this time 10 years from now, I hopefully can look back on a decade of living in Japan and tell you all about it.