24 June 2010


The problem with finishing my probationary review/mini-viva on Monday is the sense of listlessness that has overcome me again as I try to do worthwhile things. It is 24 June and I leave for my week of travels on Sunday night, so I expect that to help me reset my academic clock. If it doesn't, however, I'm not quite sure what I can do. My mind has wandered several times to the lost summer of 2008, and I have been wanting to make penitence for my wasting of time and resources, by writing about it.

In 2007, you may recall, I applied for the studentship at the OU and came in second. After failing to win it (and resigning myself to a life of teaching English in Japan, which I was warming to), I decided to go full on to find a good job to support myself and my small family. I got the job I wanted at a small university near where we were living and, although it was in the back of my mind that I was going to apply for and might win the studentship in 2008, it seemed quite unlikely. I did apply for it and did win it, leaving me in the awkward position of having to resign from a teaching post about two months after I had started. Really, a disaster of being spoiled for choice. My boss at the university assumed that I had lied to her and planned on quitting all along, leading to a very uncomfortable situation in which she was essentially trying to get me evicted from the university apartment a month early and taking a month's pay from me. The OU was doing a very shitty job of making me feel like I was actually going to be a student in the autumn leaving me feeling it might not end up working out and I would be completely stuck. Added to that, Yoko was suffering from an awful skin problem that was only being made worse by the heat. Terrible pressure from all sides, really.

As the summer wore on, it got hotter and although I finished my classes in July, I was still feeling the weight of having let this little university down and just wanting to leave. I managed to keep my apartment and pay, but only by putting my foot down, further pissing off my boss. Summer holiday finally came, but Naomi was going to day school and Yoko was working, so I spent the days at home all day, waiting for the night to come and another day to pass. I wasted the whole summer, sitting in front of the computer, terrified that I had made the wrong choice and worried that the move was going to pull our young family apart.

When we left Niigata on the last day of August, I felt free suddenly. We rode on the ferry (I've written about this before) and we looked back at Niigata as the boat pushed away. I remember bits and snatches from those three months: I remember riding my bike a lot, getting lunch at the supermarket, doing research about moving. I remember how melancholy Yoko was from the skin problem and the inevitable coming end of  our life in Japan. I remember how hot it was, but I remember it raining very hard a couple of times. I remember what it was like when everything had finally been taken out of the apartment. I remember wanting so badly to go into my bosses' office and beg her to understand why I did what I did. It was understandable, right? You would have done the same thing, wouldn't you?

All that is done now. I have finished my first year of my PhD and am thinking that a career in British academia is not only possible, but likely. My family has survived the move: Yoko hasn't left me to go back to Japan. It seems to be working out. I'm nervous saying that — who knows what will happen in the next year, month, day. But it seems to be working.