Chapter 1 : Preparations in the Cold Season

Last week, I had a vivid dream about the “soul-draining” white collar job that I referenced in my last entry. I reentered the office to find everyone frantic during a busy time and somehow not questioning the gaping Khazad-dûm-esque chasm which now separated the building in half. The scene actually most reminded me of the section-spanning bridges from Blame!:

The situation I found myself in seemed approximately as stark and depressing. I woke gripped by a profound sense of anxiety and dread. Discussing the experience with my friend Mike a few days later, I arrived at the conclusion that my 19 months with the company had been in a very real sense traumatic.

My current employment situation, while not without its own stresses, is quite endurable and sometimes even pleasant by comparison. I work about 25 hours a week in a cargo house at Boston Logan International Airport, spending most of that time loading or unloading mail from these guys:

While officially called “Unit Load Devices” or “ULDs”, you’ll most often hear them referred to as “cans” around the airport. We scan and load packages into these to be flown elsewhere and conversely scan and unload those arriving by plane. The packages come in and go out on trucks in these pallet-size bins:

Here’s a few more contextual pictures:

The work doesn’t pay particularly well and can be physically demanding at times but overall I’m fairly content with my current employment situation as a stopgap measure while I gear up to head to Japan. As an added bonus, I’m already getting on the East Asia sleep schedule since it’s a third-shift job.

In some way or another, I’ve already been preparing to leave since June of last year. One of the reasons I quit my office job was to sort out some longstanding health and lifestyle issues and such has been my main focus.

The first thing that needs mention is starting a sertraline prescription for mixed depression and anxiety. I’ve contended with depression to varying degrees since I was about 8 years old. There’s a lot to be said about the causes – an alternately neglectful and abusive home environment, social difficulties, genetic predisposition, and so on – but suffice it here to say that for various reasons I spent the overwhelming majority of my late childhood and adolescence without any relief for low- to mid- grade depressive symptoms. My experience had been more variable during college (this is when the anxiety started) and following but overall I hadn’t made a satisfactory amount of progress despite considerable cognitive and behavioral adaptations. And so decided to explore the medication route.

This was 100% the correct decision. It’s difficult to describe how subtle and profound the change is, but it’s like one day you wake to find the sun shines brighter, food tastes better, and the lead weight in your chest feels lighter. Not to say there aren’t still considerable difficulties, but the results are better than could’ve hoped for. I think my case is one of the successful ones but I would encourage anyone dealing with something similar to at least try medication, regardless of the stigma sometimes associated with it.

Another goal for quitting the office job was losing weight and establishing an exercise routine for both fitness and aesthetics. I gained quite bit of weight following college (60 pounds or so) and wanted to lose about 50 of it back. Dieting relatively casually, I’ve thus far lost about 30. There was quite a learning curve but for anyone attempting something similar the most helpful advice I’ve found thus far is to drink tons of water and ratchet down your calorie intake slowly. My fitness efforts have been on pause for a while now while my body adapted to my new job but I’m hoping to resume very soon.

Perhaps the most obvious preparation for living in Japan is learning Japanese. The language itself is actually largely how I became interested in the country. It started as a casual exploration when my curiosity was piqued by watching anime but I quickly became fascinated with the structure of Japanese and how incredibly different it is from English. It took me until around now to figure out how to study it effectively on my own but I’m progressing reasonably quickly at the moment. For anyone who is unaware, Japanese is considered a very difficult language to learn for native speakers of Germanic languages (and most other language families) due to how different its paradigms are and how…uh…inefficient the writing system is. My time with it thus far has been at times both very frustrating and very rewarding. I hope that by the time I leave for Japan (prospectively this summer) I will have achieved at least basic conversational fluency.

Recently, I’ve also begun actual logistical preparations for my trip but I think I’ll leave that for the next post. Thanks for reading.

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