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.
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.
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!