“Ken Seeroi, you should write a book.” People always say that.
Well, like six people, but that’s still a lot. After my fabulous career as English-teacher-in-Japan, I’m counting on book sales to provide for retirement. I assume each person will buy at least ten thousand copies.
Of course, I could write lots of books if I wasn’t so freaking busy. Look, I’ve got mad stuff to do: shower, trim my eyebrows, study Japanese, lie on the floor surrounded by cans of beer watching YouTube. Those are 4 of the 7 habits of highly effective people. Hey, is it my fault wingsuit videos are so enthralling? I think not. The more I watch, the more I’m convinced that arial stuntman is my true destiny. Naturally, as in all things, beer helps. My potential increases exponentially by the can. At this point, the only thing I’m lacking is money. Well, that and skill. And courage. I was just born underprivileged, is all.
Anyway, I’m trying to figure out where I’d get more time. Something’s got to go. But what? Hmmm.
Studying Japanese is a pretty great candidate for the old heave-ho, since I’ve spent over five thousand hours on it, and I’m nowhere near done. Now, I know you’re thinking, “Oh, Ken Seeroi, you. You’re always exaggerating, going on about how much you study, and how you’re this tall, ruggedly-handsome guy with perfect eyebrows.” Well, that much is true. I am always exaggerating. My eyebrows aren’t even even, half the time. But when it comes to studying Japanese, I’m actually understating the numbers, just because I’m so modest.
I’m trying to remember what life used to be like, over a decade ago. As I recall, I used to do things. I had meaningful hobbies, like running, drinking, and talking to girls in bars. Okay, some things stay the same. Anyway, I never really thought about where this crazy “Let’s Learn Japanese” project would end up. Probably because, well, I never think about the future at all. Agh, my parents and teachers were right. Next you’re gonna tell me I shouldn’t have spent all my money on booze and loose women. How exactly was I supposed to know this? What am I—-Nostradamus?
I guess maybe I thought someday I’d be fluent and I’d be done. Then the Emperor’d hand me the key to Japan, give me a giant hug, and there’d be nothing left to learn. But now, years later, even though I speak Japanese in my sleep, he still hasn’t called. Probably just too busy, doing all that head of state stuff. Bowing, waving, wingsuit flying with his buddies. Royalty, fo shizzle.
The Myth of Sisyphus
Ever heard of Sisyphus? He was like this Greek dude who rolled a big rock up a hill. I don’t know why, or how that’s even relevant, but anyway Japanese is harder than that, I’m pretty sure. Who knew languages had so many components? It’s all those words—that’s the real problem. First, I only wanted to know enough Japanese to order a beer. I figured I’d be happy with one word. But then I wanted another beer, so I needed another word. See, I told you I don’t think about the future. Then I got all hungry and wanted to say, “One pickled eggplant and a savory pancake with extra fish flakes, please.” And two more beers. But even that’s not enough, is it? Because then you want to have an honest conversation with the pretty girl at the bar, so you need phrases like, “Did I mention I’m a millionaire?” and, “No? How about a rap star?” and, “Do you like yachting? I’ll ready the fleet.” Then you’re gonna want two more beers, and to chat up the homely girl in the back, so you’ll need something like, “Hello, I am Boris, vacationing cosmonaut.” But let’s just face it: no amount of Japanese is ever enough.
The Sunk Cost Fallacy
The sunk cost fallacy is where you get denied by all the women in a given bar, but believe not trying at two more bars would be a waste of a perfectly good buzz. Or such is my understanding. Anyway, it’s apparent that Japanese girls don’t recognize a man of true quality. Whatever. When it comes to studying Japanese, this fallacy means that once you’ve learned ten thousand words, the only sensible thing is to learn ten thousand more. How could that not be a good idea?
So here’s the fear I live with—-and this should be familiar to anorexics, obsessive-compulsives, and triathletes worldwide—-that if I miss a day, I’ll get worse. Because every day you study, you reinforce what you know, and every day you don’t, you forget.
Stop Studying Japanese
And thus, a couple of months ago, I staged an intervention. First I locked the door, so I couldn’t get out, then I sat myself down on the couch and said, Seeroi, that’s it. No more beer, no more potato chips, no more YouTube, and no more talking to yourself. Oh, and no more damn Japanese. It’s time to get your life back on track. And that was hard to hear, you know? I cried and pleaded. I bargained. And finally, because I’m a man of great compassion, I compromised with me a bit. I said, Okay Ken, you can have a little beer on weekends, and a small bag of chips, and one hour of wingsuit videos, but stay away from Japanese. And because I was so grateful with myself for my generosity, I agreed, and quit, cold turkey.
I suppose I did get a little more writing done. And I finally washed my dishes. Turns out they weren’t decorated with a lacy green pattern after all. I even went running. I raced all the way to the bar, chatted up a few girls, had a bunch of beer, then jogged to a couple more bars, and finally to the convenience store for one last malt liquor and a giant bag of chips, to celebrate my return to health. I felt fantastic, like Rocky, despite having been turned down by several very homely chicks. I really wanted to buy some cold turkey too, just because, but I had to settle for a lousy fish. Anyway, it turns out my optimism was overly, um, optimistic, because after five days, I relapsed.
Addicted to Japanese
Finally, I figured there must be some sort of support group, like
so I googled that. But instead of finding a circle of quasi-religious guys in their 50’s sitting around on folding chairs talking about their ruined lives, all I found was a bunch of weirdos. So that was no help at all.
At this point, I have to concede I have a problem. If I don’t study at least a hundred flash cards a day, my hands get all shaky. I sweat at night, and have nightmares that I’m speaking English. More and more, I find myself studying in the morning. I even took to hiding “A Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar” in the overhead lamp, and the advanced version in my toilet tank. That’s not a good sign, especially considering I live alone.
If I’m ever going to get this book written, I know I need to quit. And I really will, after just a few thousand more words, I promise. I admit that I am powerless over Japanese, and that my life has become unmanageable. My name is Ken, and I am a Japaholic.