Failure — A Narration

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your interest in the JET Programme (ALT Position).

After a careful review of all the applications, we are very sorry to inform you that you have not been shortlisted for an interview.

Thank you for your interest in the JET Programme and we wish you every success in the pursuit of your future career goals and objectives.

Best regards,

Embassy of Japan

This email was sent to me four days ago. I was on the bus, heading home. My earphones were plugged in, and I had a seat to myself; it was going to be a comfortable journey, I thought. Barely a minute later, my phone buzzed, and the email came through. After a careful review… that was all I read, before I began to feel that familiar sinking feeling in my stomach — it was the equally familiar beginning of a standard PR-filtered rejection notice. As much as I wished it wasn’t so, I did not make it to the interview. All my life, I have always approached opportunities such that while I hope for the best, I am also prepared for the worst. Yet, no amount of pragmatism could thaw the cold, hard touch of disappointment that seeped into my system. At least I had a comfortable journey ahead to brood over what I just read.

Cue a messy wooden desk filled with crumpled pieces of paper detailing information about Japan in unglamorous handwriting. Cue a computer screen saddled with the weight of multiple tabs on Japanese culture, videos of expats living there, and second-year tax rates. Cue the heavy heart that tugged at me as I closed each tab and shredded each sheet, stealing a glance at now-empty drawing board before shutting the metaphorical lights off for the last time.

I haven’t been as devastated as I thought I would be — a reaction fuelled by defiance rather than acceptance. A barrage of voices echo in my head; well-wishers queuing to give pre-programmed words of encouragement. When one door shuts, another opens. God has better things in store for you. Well, God knows how low-maintenance He’s made me; I don’t need better things, just things I love.

My first bitter thoughts, post-digestion — How did I lose out to these bastards? I already knew the answer: Japanese proficiency and teaching experience, circumstances beyond my control. I naively thought that effort alone could make up for my shortcomings. If I blew hard enough, I could blow the brick house down. Alas, I find myself sitting by the front door sulking while cheers erupt from within as successful applicants rejoice. Thinking about it as I write this still irks me.

Tabs of Japan are now tabs of local jobs. Things to look forward to no longer include a move to Japan, but rather, my next job interview in an environment I barely want to hang around. Yet, as this chapter threatens to reach its end, I refuse to let it. Instead, I return to a particular sentence I wrote some time back:

but dreams are dreams, and dreams are worth chasing,
until her legs give up and her lungs are empty.

Tokyo, Japan

Amidst the throng of people parading down the streets in coats and jackets, all uniformly black or navy blue, stood a rather unassuming ramen joint that was just as old and creaky as any other ramen joint in the neighbourhood, in the city, heck, in the country. It was empty inside but for one cook, but it was extremely cramped, with room for barely ten diners. By the entrance was a white contraption resembling a vending machine, which it essentially was. Tiny pictures of different varieties of ramen were featured on each panel. I inserted a 1,000 yen note, and out came a ticket to be given to the cook, who would then serve me my meal. The ramen wasn’t spectacular, but I was warm and satisfied, and on a chilly autumn night, when my mind and body were running on empty, that was all I needed. 


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