Joining the Rat Race

Over the last few weeks, I had formulated this blog in my head, but up until this morning it had a very different tone.  I was going to write about how my shitty job selling cell phones had turned into an adventure in training and management positions that was bringing me to different parts of Canada, with trips completely paid for and meals expensed on the company dime. I was going to talk about how the job I thought would take me nowhere was instead bringing me into realms I thought would take at least a year for me to get into.  It was going to be titled, “In The Land of Idiots, The Man With Half a Brain is King.”  Because at the end of the day, it’s not hard to outwork people that, well, do a half ass job because they’re only getting paid $13 an hour.  It just so happens that I lucked out and I’m actually working for a rather large marketing company that runs a plethora of projects for huge corporations in Canada and the U.S.  While all of these new developments have been great, I’ve quickly realized that I have abandoned views that I held dear for the last 8 to 10 years of my life while doing this job.

Now don’t get me wrong, all of the new perks within this job have been stellar.  I was flown to Vancouver and I saw very little of Vancouver itself, but the experience of being flown somewhere that I didn’t have to pay for and training people and helping to open a whole new slew of stores was awesome.  When I came back I was thrust into a management position temporarily and instead of working at 1 of the 9 stores in Ottawa West, I was managing all of them.  That’s crazy if you consider the fact that I’ve only worked for this company for a little under 3 months.

This morning, while I was deciding that I would write this blog tonight and making a mental note to buy wine after work (20 Bees 2008 Unoaked Chardonnay), I realized something.  I’ve joined the rat race.  Something I always said I’ve never wanted to be a part of, has so quickly become a part of who I am now and where I’m going.  I had a conversation with my boss the other night where I told her that I didn’t want her assistant’s job, or her job…I wanted her boss’ job or his boss’ job and if she was on the way up, I was down with following her there, but if she wasn’t I had no problem moving up on my own.  Just thinking about saying those words and looking at my viewpoint on all of this less than a year ago, I see a complete contradiction in ideas.

I used to abhor the idea of being part of the system that I am now deeply embedded in.  I’m not talking about my views from university, where everyone leans a little bit more left than they actually are and talks about people being cogs in the wheel, etc, etc (fill in your own Marxist rhetoric here). I’m talking about the views that I had in Japan, in that alternate reality that is far removed from the “real world.”  I always wondered why people that had returned to their home countries immediately began getting jobs that seemed so counter to what their views were in Japan.  But now I realize that it’s all part of the culture.  Coming back, I quickly realized that the 4 years I spent in Japan didn’t really get me anywhere in the “real world.”  The experience gave me nothing that I could use to springboard into a career, other than teaching, which I quickly ruled out after returning.  Granted, my lack of ability to springboard into a career is probably due to my degree in history which has lessened in significance over the years as the economy has tanked.  I also attribute my new views towards what I’m doing and where I’m going and how important it is to be successful because of the culture that exists here, in Canada.  I came back to find my friends; buying houses, getting engaged, having a lot of disposable income and relatively stable in their lives.  I, on the other hand, am not stable, have no clue what I want to do and live in my girlfriend’s parent’s basement.  This thought of being behind has definitely pushed me into where I am and the new views that I have come to embrace.  In the west, no one wants to be that 30 year old that lives in his girlfriend’s parent’s basement, including me.

In Japan, I didn’t care what anyone thought or what I did because everyone there was in the same position.  You kind of give up your family and friends and start new.  No one was comparing themselves to anyone else because we all made the same money and did the same job.

Being back here amongst my friends that I’ve had for more years than I care to count 3 glasses of wine in, I can’t help but compare myself to them and as much as the experience of being abroad is something I would never give up, after about a month of being back, it doesn’t seem to matter anymore.  Life experience doesn’t translate to a resume or a sweet ass job.  I find myself wondering if I’ve really made the correct decisions.  My boss is 2 years younger than I am.  My buddy who didn’t even graduate from high school owns a house and makes probably double if not triple what I’m making now.  And as much as I always said that didn’t matter to me, living in your girlfriend’s parent’s basement and having her father constantly say things like, “it’s cold outside eh?  Maybe it’s a good time to quit smoking,” kinda makes you think…did I make a mistake here?

There’s a kid that works in the pharmacy that I man a kiosk at, he’s an engineering student.  All through university and even during my time in Japan, my humanities friends and I always ripped engineering students like crazy.  And don’t get me wrong, I could own this kid in a debate on just about anything aside from civil engineering, but I look at him and think, “You’re set in a few years.”  Whereas I look at myself and think, hmmm, what do I have?  Going to Japan made me lose my command over the English language which is a humanities student’s claim to fame.  My brother, who’s an engineer, is writing me templates for professional emails and I’m actually taking them seriously because I’m lost with all of that now.  Even the template for my cover letters was written by my girlfriend’s father.  I know that I’m not alone in this, as I’ve seen that people who were in Japan for less time than I was, who are now doing their masters and are struggling when it comes to writing essays, thank you facebook.

I guess my major point in all of this random emo whining is that, being back in Canada has made me realize two things.  The first being that, in the west or potentially Canada only, you’re sucked into the rat race without even realizing it, all of a sudden you just realize, fuck, I need to succeed, at all costs.  Vacations and experience become secondary, your primary reason for existing is to move up and make more money.  The second thing is that the way you view the JET programme or any teaching abroad programme out of university is totally different than how you’ll view it when you return.  All of the experiences and the amazing things that you go through seem to take a backseat to you being able to find some sort of stability and success in the western life that you abandoned.  Kind of a negative blog post for anyone reading this that’s still in Japan, but I’m sure that it’s different for everyone.  I guess all I’m saying is that eventually everyone becomes a rat and they end up running in the race, or they stay abroad forever.

B