This is the question that haunts my sleep and dreams each day.
December 15th is the deadline. The deadline for making the decision to stay at NIS for another year, or to get out of town like a bat out of Hell.
And, what better place to post my answer than on my blog (I mean, it might take me just too much time to call you all personally)? Of course, I won't actually post that decision for another month, but it's worth mentioning that it is omnipresent in my mind each day, and probably worth writing about.
So, to spice up this decision making process a little, I thought I'd give an inside look into my mind, and show you what it is like to be me and make this choice. You can see how my fickle thoughts have, and will continue to be, and how they will likely change over and over. The factors that have influenced me are the great questions that you, my friends and family have asked during our long conversations, as well as the considerations that have to be made from both administrative and personal sides.
Before I start, though, I have to say thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has helped begin to shape my choice. Friends afar, and near, have listened patiently, asked amazing questions to get me thinking, and responded thoughtfully. My family, especially, have been amazing in understanding that these decisions are not easy, and that either way, they understand that I am doing what I love, living my dreams, and am incredibly happy.
I appreciate, also, anybody who takes the time to read through this crap. For those of you who enjoy reading my blog, my deepest gratitude to you. Your comments ALWAYS make me smile (except for the anonymous sad guy who negatively responded to my decision to vote for Obama...) and I think so incredibly highly of your opinions that it IS you who I hope reads this and comments on my behalf. I can thank my mother for the disease of indecision that I am plagued with, and in having said that, would appreciate any comments, ideas, considerations, or questions from those of you whom I love most. This is a decision that would be foolish to make alone.
Let's start with the pros and cons. It would seem that making a pro and con list would be an easy way to make a decision, right? But actually, I think most of us have weights in our mind that make some decisions heavier than others, thus making the balancing scale of a pro/con list, from a numbers standpoint, an ineffective way to make a decision. My pro list, for example, is hella long:
Financial security: The yen is very strong and I can buy a lot of dollars with it. Another year also includes a significant signing bonus and huge pension allowance that increases significantly from the second to third years, and then beyond. I have side jobs and am respected as a tutor. I make enough money each month to live a bit frivolously, and I have no debt to pay off.
Professional growth: I would be able to continue towards the completion of PYP training which is a must-have for international schools, as well as a strong desire of mine. Along with that, the opportunity to meet and learn from amazing authors (whom I absolutely ADORE - I heart Debbie Miller!!) who will be visiting our school (and I helped bring them!) for professional development next spring. In the area of literacy, I will continue to be a respected leader. My class sizes are small, my room is comfortable, well furnished, and my school budget is virtually limitless. I will continue towards tenure and receive my yearly pay increase. And, as this year's lower elementary is new but strong, it will be the same group next year (by default of all of the new teachers' 2-year contracts), which could really be a great learning experience as well.
Comfort: I know the area and am familiar with everything I need to get around. My apartment is amazing, cozy, and well furnished. I've decorated well and am happy coming home each night. I have a car that is paid off and a driver's license that is good until the 86th year of the next emperor (or at least I think that's what it says). My Japanese is wicked good and can only get better with a bit more practice.
Socially: I can't even begin to explain how great my friends and colleagues are. If I had one huge reason to stay, it would be them. They are my world, the pieces of the puzzle of my life. They, by default, are the most close-nit group of friends I have ever had. More recently as well, and also on my mind, is the small but possible opportunity I've had lately with a new guy who I could really be quite fond of.
No recruiting: Leaving would mean that I had to start applying to schools overseas, most of which do not post their openings until spring. I would have to take days off and pay to fly to London or San Fransisco to attend recruiting fairs and hope that the positions that I want are available at schools that I am interested in. It would mean presenting resume packages and paying shipping fees to get them out to the schools that I'd like, as well as online research, and a crap shoot, that the school I would be going to would be a good one that could challenge me as much as I am at NIS.
No hassle: Leaving would also mean that I would have to start thinking, now, about selling my belongings, shipping my stuff, culling my classroom, saving money, starting new visa processes for new countries, figuring out new housing, planning for leaving, and saying goodbye. And to be honest, I just don't know if I can be bothered.
Lastly, something has to be said for the effort that my administrators, namely Paul, have made to keep me here. The professional development planning for the authors was a collaboration between the two of us with Paul knowing that I adored literacy and authors who have inspired me. He has been patient and eager to let me work my magic in my own way, and is incredibly complimentative to my teaching style. New and younger teachers were hired, I like to think, partially on my behalf, and that has improved the quality of my overall (professional and personal) life by a million.
My con list? There are only a few things, but they are just as heavy if not more 'con' than anything on my pro list could make up for:
I do not love Japan. There is nothing in this country that, in itself, that thrills me. The great things I love to do are only fun because my friends are there. I'm not interested in traveling, learning more about the culture, or seeing more and more places, as I find this country to be a bit boring, incredibly expensive, backwardly homogeneous, and somewhat offensive. The weather in the summer and winter sucks, and Nagoya is about the most uninteresting huge city in the world.
I miss, miss, miss dating. (I know, I know, everyone give a big sigh for the sad girl). The opportunity for it here is just not available. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
Next, of course, I am not getting younger. My goal is to see as much of the world as I can before I decide to stop traveling. Staying here would make that goal a bit harder to attain. I can satiate it a bit by (with friends - Jen too!) continuing to see exotic parts of Asia. The real fact is, though, that exotic parts of Asia, although probably amazing, also don't thrill me as much as the idea of seeing other parts of the world, such as Africa, and most especially Europe.
Lastly, it is my friends and relationships here who make me want to stay the most. But, were to something unbalance and upset that relationship (God forbid it would happen), I would hate to have made the decision to stay, only to find myself in an unhappy environment. I don't even like to write this because it makes me think I am thinking too much about the 'what if' instead of the 'what is', but it is something that I do think about.
In closing, this won't be the last I think about this. I look forward to hearing opinions, ideas, thoughts from anyone who cares to take a minute. To be honest, I do actually rest well at night knowing that this decision is truly a win:win. Either way I choose I will be happy for the opportunity, because I know that life is too short not to be. Each, if chosen, will present challenges, and I will embrace it with the passion of somebody who has been given the challenges for a reason.
"Hey life: bring it on."