On The Fear Of Becoming a NEET

Dear Ms. Weibelzahl, 

Excuse the abruptness of this correspondence. I’ve heard all about you and your upcoming move to Ottawa. As it so happens, my organization is based in Ottawa, and we are in need of someone with your qualifications and experience. I have already reviewed your profile on LinkedIn, and believe that you would be a perfect fit with our organization. We can offer you a competitive salary with benefits, travel perks, and even assist in your relocation across the planet. If this offer interests you, please contact me at your earliest convenience and we can discuss the details of creating a position tailored to suit your skills and aspirations. 

Sincerely, Boss of A Super Awesome Place To Work

The letter is fake, of course. A figment of my frantic imagination, attempting to stave off the nagging fear of the veiled future, taunting my hopefulness, mocking my tentatively confident optimism. Now mere months away from my upcoming move across the planet – to a foreign city in my home country, to the responsibility of sole household income-earner, to my 30th birthday – my pendulum swings erratically back and forth between anticipatory joy and utter terror.

The terror is of joblessness and the inability to fulfill my end of a bargain – to bring home the (glorious Canadian back) bacon – but there’s something more. A nagging feeling that perhaps “they” were right all along, that there really is nothing more to life than studying to study more to work to work more to get promoted to save for retirement to retire and to die. That my desire to and pattern of shunning the well-trod path of the modern world to find my own way will blow up in my face and prove “their” formula for success is the only one. That I will be doomed to drift purposelessly through life, that I will have had so much promise and now nothing to show for it, that I will be forced to concede and work a meaningless job (to me) until I am well past retirement age, that or just give up now and become a NEET.

NEET: Not in Education, Employment or Training

Someone who is “Not in Education, Employment or Training;” a NEET. They are that, but they are more than that: culturally, in Japan at least, NEET is used to refer to someone who has slipped through society’s cracks. Not in an economic sense necessarily, but in a social and cultural sense: someone who has failed to, or refused to, take their place in the social order as a productive member of society.

I have a student that claims she aspires to become a NEET. At first I was amused, but now I realize she’s serious. She has a sharp and creative mind and that’s her downfall: Japanese society in particular has ways to break people like her, to make them fit a mould they were never meant to inhabit, and she’s smart and unfortunate enough to realize it already. I see my high school self in her fiery eyes, and wonder if she ever sees herself in mine.

I really don't want to be a NEET!
Source Unknown

My writing has been all but nonexistent lately, because I’ve been “busy,” yes, but also because this fear of becoming a NEET or worse has paralyzed my creativity. I cycle through my inboxes and social media channels repeatedly and obsessively. Why? Waiting for that letter, perhaps. A sign. An answer.

But I realize now that the answer is inside of me, it has been all along. And if I want to flush it out, I just have to keep on writing.

It’s the first of four “Family-Free Zone” weeks over at Yeah Write, the place for “writers who blog and bloggers who write.” If that sounds like you, check it out!

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33 thoughts on “On The Fear Of Becoming a NEET

  1. My life has taken such a flip and a turn and a WTF in the past few years that I very much understand what you are saying here. Not culturally but internally. Although the parts on Japanese culture and how it affects the student you describe is very interesting. I feel America tends to stifle creativity with the dollar bill…it’s just another way. Great post.

    1. “America tends to stifle creativity with the dollar bill,” very apt observation, how many people have given up their dreams for the promise of a steady income? It’s a constant tension for me as well – how I’d like to live my life vs. how I feel like I should if I want to be responsible and secure. Thanks for your thoughtful comment!

  2. I loved the epiphany at the end – the idea that you’re the only one who can chart a new way for yourself. Great piece!

  3. Yes- keep writing. You’ll find your path irrespective of those awful labels that make us compare ourselves to some intangible standard. The worry is the worst! Nice post.

  4. I never heard the NEET concept before, but I love it. I too am in between 29 and 30, and I think that significantly contributes to the overwhelming nature of… Basically every thing that used to come naturally. You will be fine, Canada is beautiful, and you should enjoy the opportunity to be in between the cracks. Plenty of time to work and study in the future, it’s almost a luxury just to “be.” Nicely done.

  5. I remember the challenges of finding a job in one state while living in another. I can’t quite fathom trying to coordinate moving and job hunting from another country. Good luck, and I hope that letter is in the mail.

  6. Just have a baby. Problem solved. But seriously I’ll be praying for you and Jordan and hoping things fall into place for you.

      1. Ha! I suppose nothing will give someone a sense purpose like being someone or something’s mother. But I guess it does add a whole new range of challenges, Lol.

        1. I think “someTHING” is more my fate… maybe I should become the mother of dragons. Or cats. God knows I’m terrible with plants (and I’m not using that simply as an expression, he really does probably know!)

  7. I was reading that letter thinking “what?! why doesn’t this ever happen to me?!?!”
    I will be NEET for a while in June. My problem is that although I’ve been applying to lots of jobs that seem interested in me, no one will speak to me until I’m on British soil. I’m planning on taking loads of translation gigs from odesk.com to tide me over while I stay at the ‘rents. Sucks, but I guess that’s what I get for being able to enjoy 6+ years enjoying life abroad.

    1. Yeah… that’s what I’m afraid of, too. The Internet may be making all sorts of things more convenient, but when it comes to hiring people and/or convincing them to hire you, still nothing beats face-to-face.

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