Gaijin

In Japanese, there is a word “gaijin”. It means outsider. It is a somewhat insulting word. I use it for myself quite often.

I have never found the same things fun that others do. I find it fun to accomplish some kind of an intellectual challenge. I find discovery fun. I find learning a new language fun (when it’s achievable). Most intellectual pursuits are very interesting to me.

So pardon me for the fact that in the rest of this post I’m not going to mince words.

When I was a child, my parents got the bright idea to drag me to an amusement park. I did not find this either fun nor interesting. Quite frankly, I found it boring, and to some point, even offensive. The reason I found it so was that these were people who were supposed to know me better than anyone, and they didn’t give two craps at all that they were forcing me into something that I did not find fun, interesting, or useful in any conceivable way. But they either didn’t, or they didn’t care. Of course, sometimes you have to make children do things they don’t want to do, but I remain convinced that forcing a child to have fun against their wishes is not only impossible but that the attempt is traumatic.

From that experience and similar ones, some of them WCG events, I became very good at ruining everyone else’s good time. If they were to force me into a place where they expected me to have fun when I would not, then by golly, I was going to ruin their day as well.

And I did. Because for some reason, they cared that I pretend. Long story short, I didn’t. I didn’t crack a smile. I did not do anything that they did not specifically force me to do, and in most cases, I didn’t even do those things. They could make me go through the motions, but I made sure they were aware that I was royally pissed off, and that there was nothing that they would do to change my mind. It got to the point where if they could cause me to crack a smile they’d consider it a victory. It was rare. I stayed pissed off throughout the entire trip.

They tried it a couple more times before they gave up. I never gave an inch.

I’m older and a little wiser now. I still am required to go to some of these events. I hide it quite a bit better and still manage to even pretend to have some fun, because that’s what’s expected of me, but to be quite frank, I’d still rather not.

Tomorrow there is a sports outing at work. I understand and appreciate their intentions, but I still find it incredibly boring and the only redeeming thing at all about the whole proposition is that they’ve rented an air conditioned conference room where there is a lot of food. So I can camp out in the conference room, eat, and read a book if I choose. Honestly, though, I don’t want to go. I’d rather stay back and work. I actually do have that option but too much of that kind of thing and it could hurt me politically.

For no matter how much I pretend, nearly everyone else in the world still has so little respect or thought for me that it never even occurs to them that people like me might find this nothing more than an utter waste of time. And the only reason that I’m prepared to make even the token effort that I do is that I’ve resigned myself to this fact. For the people who organize these events, unlike my parents, don’t know me and I can’t expect them to. My parents were selfish and unthinking. Everyone else, well, they just don’t realize or care that I, and the few people like me, are strangers in our own world. We are gaijin. And no one else realizes that there are gaijin amongst them, masquerading as those that belong.

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Japanese

I have been studying Japanese for a little over a year. Or, should I say, 私は一年から日本語を勉強しました。Over that year, I’ve learned a lot about the Japanese language and culture, and the more I learn about it, the more I’m suffused with a sense of profound sadness.

The Japanese are about as different from the US culture as one can get and still be developed humans. Their language is backwards from English, their religion is entirely different (in fact, they have two, bolted on to each other), their way of looking at the world is completely foreign to us, and, well, it’s not an easy language or culture to crack. I often wonder whether it’s worth the battle, but I forge ahead anyway, somehow.

But the honest truth is, American culture and Japanese culture are, to me, very similar in how foreign they are. The only real difference is, I’m fluent in English. I’ve learned a lot by immersion, I suppose, but at the end of the day, I don’t understand Americans either.

In some ways, though, Japanese is more appealing. In Japan, I am a 外人, or gaijin, which means “outsider”. I will always be an outsider. They may be outwardly accepting, they may welcome my money, they may appreciate the fact that I am making an effort to understand their culture, but at the end of the day, I am and always will be an outsider. As has been pointed out, this has some serious drawbacks in Japanese culture – but it has some rather cool perks, too. That’s neither here nor there.

In American culture, I am, as well, an outsider. I always have been. But the difference is, I have white skin, I speak the language, I was born here. So people expect me to understand and integrate with the culture, in the same way that the Japanese would hold a native Japanese to a different standard than a “gaijin” like me.

But I don’t. I’m an outsider.

I wonder often if I would be better off trying to move to Japan. At least there people don’t expect more out of me than I am capable of giving.

The thing the WCG took away from me that I can’t get back, and there are only a few things that fit into that category, is the ability to integrate with the culture amongst which I was born. I can’t. I never will be able to.

And then the WCG destroyed its culture, leaving me homeless.

Sure, I can go through the motions, I can pretend, I can try to act like I’ve integrated. But it’s exhausting, and that’s all it is. Pretending.

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