(Today’s photo was taken on our trip to Yamaki Organic Soy farm last month)
You find me on the train to work. It’s a Saturday. About 8am. Not too crowded. I got a seat. It’s 30 minutes to my stop from here, no changes.
It’s been a challenging week. It started with my working on Monday, which I would usually have as a day off – occasionally I’m asked to go out and teach one or two-day intensive English course at client offices. I must admit I find these exhausting – they also serve to remind me that whilst I am perfectly capable of teaching, it’s not my forte. I’m more suited to planning, organsing, arranging for things to happen, then motivating people (through example etc) to carry them out. Still, I don’t mind teaching now and then. It’s good to have a change of scenery.
I do best at work when I’m presented with a problem which needs a radical solution – I’m thinking of multi-stage processes that until now have been carried out piecemeal – lacking a workflow. I like to analyse the stages and see where connections can be made, where waste can be cut, where duplication can be avoided. Unfortunately, it looks like it will be increasingly difficult to devote much time to this kind of thing as the recession sinks its teeth into our industry, resulting in more work for fewer people.
Due to my not having Monday daytime off, I had several very late nights as I attempted to do the misplaced podcast editing. Thus, from Wednesday on I found myself absolutely exhausted, and had a couple of early nights. This meant that I was unable to do anything on those days but my day job (and a Japanese lesson on Wednesday night) – something I always find immensely frustrating, as it feels that I have simply sold a whole day of my life just for the sake of money. I know that this is the way that our economy works, and I know that the sum of money I receive in exchange for my time is infinitely more than so many people on the planet, but it still makes me feel a little sick.
These feelings are exacerbated when I watch incredible films such as Home, which I highly recommend you make 90 minutes to watch. It features some stunning ariel photography shot over a period of many years, telling the story of the development of the Earth, highlighting the challenges we now face, and attempting to inspire us to do something about it (hat-tip to Bastish.net, one of my all-time favourite Japan photo-blogs, for the link)
I found myself feeling pretty upset and frustrated by the middle section of the film – not due to the film itself, but due to the things it was telling me about what we have done to the planet. It also made me think about what I am doing here. Well actually, to be honest it made me feel that I am completely wasting my life by devoting my time to earning enough money to pay the bills so that I have enough money to go to work …and pay the bills again. I should be doing something to make a difference.
But this is why I try to make use of every hour outside of my day-job to work on my portfolio. One of my medium-term goals is to be making English-language environmental documentaries, which are linked in with online resources that allow people to get involved and make a difference themselves, locally. If we’re going to sort this problem out we need to empower everyone to do their bit. What Yann Arthus-Bertrand has created is absolutely phenomenal, but it would be even better with a little postscript of actions one could take.
Incidentally, I’m not pretending I’m any great film-maker – as you can see from my YouTube channel I’m not. But there are great film-makers out there, and I would seek to work with them. Likewise with the online side of things – I’d always seek to team up with those with expert knowledge / resources.
I’d also love to be doing something like this:
Extreme Ice Survey in Action from Extreme Ice Survey on Vimeo.
It’s early days.
I find it comforting to remember that it’s early days. If I look at people around me who are doing some great stuff in Japan, I see that on the whole they have been here for a good length of time. Say, 7-10 years. This gives me hope – I’ve only been back 10 months. If I can achieve what I have so far in 10 months with a full time job, what will I be able to achieve in 10-years (much of which will be spent without the distraction of a day job, although with the distraction of children)?
The podcast experiment is going well, with a doubling of subscriptions in the last 10 days (thanks to the Debito interview), and approximately 4000 downloads. This week marks the halfway point too (we agreed to make 12 main episodes for series one, and are now at number 6) – that feels good. I’m glad to be on the Metpod too (Thursday edition, about 3/4 of the way in); it’s good practice in being concise.
Last night I made a mad dash from work down to the new digi-IMAX (uses standard film instead of IMAX film) in Kawasaki for the first showing of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen – a great film for little boys like me. The gathering had been arranged by my good friend Steve Nagata, who had kindly sorted out the tickets and stuff in advance.
It struck me that this was the first time I’d hung out with a bunch of people from the Tokyo tech scene for a non-tech event – that made me smile. It’s nice to have friends.
I was given a lift back by Danny who blogged it at (www.dannychoo.com) – this was no ordinary lift home though as he provided Transformer sound effects for us as we drove, transforming the Nissan into a huge Autobot. The film had obviously infiltrated his sub-conscious as (to my alarm) upon leaving the car park, whilst concentrating on the GPS he attempted some off-road driving, mounting the central reservation! The thing that amused me was that as we headed for the kerb I was actually expecting the car to detect the side of the road and somehow stop of its own accord – clearly I’ve been hanging out with tech geeks too much.
I’m planning on registering as a sole trader on Monday to help offset some of the costs of our extra-curricular businesses. Podcasting doesn’t exactly require require a lot of investment in expensive equipment, but it does involve a lot of travel and so forth. It would be good at least to get the tax back.
The rainy season has begun in Japan – it will last for another month or so. I’ve decided that I quite like it, what with it being a natural part of the cycle.
Anyways, we’ve long since passed my stop, so I’d best be off.
One of the problems with global awareness and communication is that our perspective on the significance of what we achieve or should do is very distorted. I understand your frustration with selling your time to pay bills, but you’re not just paying bills. You’re buying your own enhanced capability in life and a comfortable existence with your significant other. Your electric bill pays for your ability to use your computer, cameras, etc. (among other things). Your water bill allows you to be clean and feel good about yourself.
You should view the bills you pay as paving the way toward you getting what you want as well as making sure other people are paid for their work in making you comfortable and capable. The bills always represent something you gain. If you gain nothing, then you need to change your lifestyle so you aren’t paying for those things you don’t really need.
I’m always of the mind that our significance is not in the grander scale but in how we impact people in smaller, more meaningful ways. You can’t stop deforestation, but you can choose not to buy goods or services that lead to it. It’s a drop in the bucket, but if everyone did it, the bucket will fill up soon.
I think that we each have to be the best person we can be each day, and that the aggregate of small changes we make will lead to change far more effectively than making films or writing articles or whatever. It’s the change that matters most.
Bah, I submitted too quickly.
I wanted to essentially say that being a person who does what he can to care for the planet is far more valuable than being another person telling others to take care of the planet. This applies to all things. Being a charitable person is more relevant than informing others about how and why they should be charitable. Be the best person you can be, and then you can know what you do is more important than any larger project you can undertake. It’s applying your principles every day that is the far harder, yet far more important thing.
I understand and agree. I would like to be both. Perhaps I’ve listened to Seth Godin’s “Tribes” too many times!
I think that charming wife of yours is your best asset!
I’d have to agree!
I, think, we all have to teach English sooner or later. I am not sure if there is anyone who really has a great passion for the so called conversational(pseudo-immersion method) used in Japan. You and I may both teach English but that does not mean “English teacher” defines us! No, it is just one of the many roles in life we play.
Speaking career wise: Never, despise the day of small beginnings. Any, beginning is better than none at all. Keep your eyes peeled for opportunities they are out there, but they won’t come without a fight.
If you haven’t already take sometime to reflect and look at how far you have come and what you have already accomplished. This may also give you some encouragement.
A wise man once said:
define you or confine you”
I think this applies to situations as well. In other words you have not sold yourself for money, no if you wanted to do that you could have done that in London or New York. You’re in Japan because you made and educated and heart felt decision to be here(Maybe also because of God, Fate, chance, or Karma). You are also here for a greater purpose in life. I am sure you will find your way in Japan so don’t give up. If you do give up(and you won’t) I think you should apply for BBC, CNN, or NHK. I think you’re an excellent reporter and producer already.
Brian K. Mitchell