There were tears, whispered conversations, coin-flipping, bribery-fuelled negotiations, even a few break-ups. Nothing could spark drama among my friends and coworkers during my time in Japan like this one word: Recontracting.
Once a year, in the darkest, coldest and most depressing time of year, I had to sign my name on one of two lines: “I wish to accept reappointment” or “I DO NOT wish to accept reappointment.” Everyone in my position had to do the same. A year is just a year, but at the same time when you’re talking about living on the other side of the planet it’s AN ENTIRE YEAR. These were some of the hardest decisions to make, and to help others make, and to helplessly watch others make.
Sometimes, though, I wonder what it would be like if everyone did this.
How different would life be if every year you had to agonize over whether to continue your current course of action for another year, or cease all operations and do something completely different? If you had to make lists of pros and cons and consult with your loved ones, friends and coworkers about a decision that ultimately only you could make?
Yes, once a year people often reflect on their lives and set goals for the coming year. But this isn’t some new year’s half-assed dieting resolution. It’s all or nothing, and once you sign that line, there’s no turning back for a whole year. The process of deciding takes you through the fire, and when you come out, you’re committed to your chosen direction, whether you want to be or not.
Today I looked through my old blog posts to see where my mind was at each year as I made those decisions. You can pretty clearly see the progression:
We had originally planned to stay at least two years, as long as we liked it enough, and we did, so we are. There’s a lot we still want to do here, that we definitely can’t all do in one year. Plus, going through all the trouble to learn Japanese seems futile if we’re only here for a year. Of course, there’s many more reasons, but I won’t bore you with all the pros and cons.
The best news this week is that I have finally paid off all of my student debt, within two years of graduating!
Whether we’ve made the right decision or not I don’t even really care anymore, I’m just glad to be off that fence.
While we have enjoyed our time in Japan, and it has given us the opportunity to, among other things, be the “exotic” people that couldn’t attend our high school reunions because we’re “abroad” (and we are both much more popular at high school this time around, by the way), we are more than ready to move on.
These were hard decisions. The first two years less so, but year three (2013) was the hardest in terms of actually deciding – it involved all kinds of complicated measurement systems as my husband and I attempted to allow science to lessen the decision-making burden on us. Year four (2014) was the hardest in terms of living with the decision afterwards – leaving was damn hard and a huge part of me didn’t really want to.
Each year’s decision was a milestone, though, due to the way it caused me to examine everything about my life and decide if I wanted to stay the course or move on. How would I make that decision now if I was given a clear-cut binding choice to “Continue your life in its present form” or “Cease all aspects of your current job/residence/life and move on to something new?”
If I decided to stay, what plans would I make to make the most of my time?
If I decide to move on, what steps would I take to prepare for the next year doing something new?
If you were forced to make such a choice, what would you do?