I’m sure you have, but I’m going to ask anyway…
Have you ever had a week where everything just seemed to go horribly wrong?
The worst week of my life was without a doubt when Grampa passed. My heart shattered into a billion pieces and I still haven’t managed to pick them all up yet – I still have days where the pain feels physical and I break down into tears. That week, I took off work, obviously, to mourn. The principal actually asked why I wasn’t coming to work. She asked why I had to take off ‘just because a grandparent died’…
Last week, though, was probably the second most stressful week of my life.
It started out okay enough. Monday was a regular Monday – extremely busy and stressful. I managed through it though. Tuesday, too. I was insanely busy despite the fact that I only had to teach for about 30 minutes.
Wednesday was when it all went crazy.
My partner took off of work because of a personal errand that she had to run. I understood. No big deal.
The kids came in and got dressed, and I went over the schedule with the substitute and the trainee in my class. (I train new teachers.)
At 9:15, like usual, I started Circle Time. It’s just a 15 minute block where we go over the calendar, sing, and talk about some things that are going on, such as events, birthdays, the daily schedule, etc.
At 9:20, though, the principal rushed in and said that a boy (let’s call him Taro) had to leave. She proceeded to grab all the things from his locker and pulled him out. We were beyond confused. Taro had just gotten there not even a half hour before and had literally just finished changing and sat down. His communication book didn’t say anything about going home early, either!
I sent the substitute to get more information while I finished Circle Time. I put the tables out for the kids and the sub came back to tell me that Taro’s grandmother tested positive for COVID and that’s why they pulled him out.
Understanding the gravity of the situation, I moved the schedule around a little bit and had the sub teach Japanese first so that I could clean the room. I wiped down all the counters and half of the lockers before she finished. The kids then had snack and we started English class at 10:50.
At 11:00, the office called me and told me that I had to take all the kids out of the room and deep clean it: the counters, lockers, tables, chairs, cots, toys, sink, and floor all had to be cleaned using a special concentrated alcohol.
“Okay…” I said. “Can it wait until after nap time? Then I can do it while they’re in gym class and they can go to the library or something until I finish.”
“No,” they demanded. “It has to be now. We will send someone up to help.”
I was beyond frustrated. Why didn’t they tell me all of this when they brought Taro out? The kids could have had snack outside because the weather was nice and then they could have gone to the park. I could have had two hours to clean. Instead, they were telling me 20 minutes before lunch was supposed to start!
I talked to my sub and had her and the trainee bring the kids across the street to the park. They’d play there until 11:30 and then come back, starting lunch a little later than usual.
11:15 rolled around and the office finally sent someone up to help me. She was there for two minutes – she literally just wiped the handles in the bathrooms across the hall – and said she had to go downstairs because… get this…. another class ‘only had three teachers’.
I was livid. Hi, Alone and Overwhelmed here. Me being ALONE in my class is okay but that other class can’t go TWENTY MORE MINUTES with THREE teachers?!
I had already cleaned the counters, chairs, half the lockers, and was working on the cots when this happened. Literally panting and dripping with sweat, I just stared at her and said, “Okay… what am I supposed to do? You’re just going to leave me here to finish alone with I can SEE my kids walking back from the park? I still have to do the lockers, toys, floor, and sink!”
“I’ll send someone else up,” she said.
My kids were crossing the street to come back and I wasn’t finished yet. My coworker in another class saw me on the verge of tears, trying to finish this impossible task, and she came to help.
The kids were upstairs and across the hall at this point, going to the bathroom and washing their hands, getting ready for lunch.
Finally, the principal came upstairs. At this point, I only had three lockers left to clean. She cleaned one and then acted like I should be so very grateful.
“Thank goodness I came, huh? We were able to finish in time!” she said to me. I nearly punched her in the face.
I put out the tables and got them ready for lunch. She left before offering to help.
As the kids ate lunch, I took my break and the sub took over. After my break, they had nap time and then I woke them up for gym class.
As I was finishing up the other cleaning I needed to do, the principal came in again, telling me that she needed to take the sub out to put her in a younger class… because they only had three teachers.
AGAIN with the “only three teachers”? What about me?! I’d be alone and training! A trainee isn’t the same as a sub or a free teacher. They don’t know what they’re doing!
I told her I’d be put in a difficult position if she took my sub. The principal started trying to make me feel guilty and like I was being selfish by not letting her go to another class.
We negotiated to 3:00. It was about 2:15 at the time. That would give enough time for the kids to come back from gym class and she could help with snack and cleanup before leaving.
They came back from gym class and the sub was flustered, telling me that the principal told her to go the younger class immediately. She was originally supposed to stay in my class all day, so this was really frustrating for both of us!
Right after that, another teacher came in and asked if they could take my trainee from me because they ‘only had three teachers’. Finally, I put my foot down and told him no. He laughed because he thought I was joking, but I actually explained to him that first of all, I can’t be in the room alone with the kids with so much work to do. Second, I was training this guy so he needed to stay with me.
I went home in an absolutely terrible mood.
The next morning, on the way to the train station, I was crossing the street after the light turned green and a van waited for the girl in front of me to get to the curb before flooring it. He came speeding toward me and I screamed. I actually thought I was going to die. He slammed on the break not one foot from me…. then glared at me like I was the one that did something wrong!
I was shaking with fear and still wound up from the events from the day before. I trembled all the way to work and actually ended up calling my dad when I got to my work’s station. I talked to him while half crying all the 15 minutes to work.
When I got to work, we had our regular morning meeting where the principal took credit for all the cleaning I did the day before. I was pretty much shut down at that point so I just imagined her losing her job (because she can’t do it anyway) and it made me feel a little better.
The day just had a bunch of little things that added up to stress me out, but then it started snowing outside. Big, fat flakes! I was so unbelievably happy. Snow is one of my favorite things in the whole world. It just makes me happy.
It snowed all afternoon, right through my special after school lessons I teach. When it finally came time for me to get off, though, I walked outside and the world was against me. Despite the fact that it was colder than it was hours earlier, the snow had stopped and it was instead raining. It rained for my whole walk to the station, and when I arrived at the station and got on to the escalator to go in, the snow suddenly decided to start again. It was like it was just teasing me and trying to make my day even more frustrating.
The next day, though, a few of my coworkers were sitting in the staff room before the morning meeting and someone asked me when my visa was up. I went to pull out my residence card only to realize that I didn’t have it. I searched through my whole wallet and bag… but it was gone. I told the office and they gave me a form to fill out.
Until my lunch, I was trying to fill out the form. When I did, I went to ask the office what I needed to do next. They told me that I had to go to the police station to file it missing and get a special paper to prove I documented it. Then, I had to take a day off to go to Mito to file for a new one.
My schedule is jam packed full of events and tests that I have to be at school for, so finding a day I could take off within this stupid time limit they gave was incredible frustrating. I managed to figure something out and work out a sub and filled out a vacation request. I was so stressed and frustrated at this point that I actually broke own into tears when they told me I needed to go to Mito.
At this point, I was exhausted and just so sick of living in Japan. I miss having a decent sized place to live, a real kitchen with real counters, trying on clothes that fit in the store, having a car where I could get places quickly while stress-singing all my problems away without being embarrassed and worried someone could hear me. I miss America. I miss my family. I miss having a dog to play with and cuddle away my stress.
Even today, three days later, I still feel this way.
I went home and started ripping apart the apartment to find the card. In the end, my husband found it. It was in our snowboarding bag from when we went to Niigata. I must have taken it out of my wallet to carry it as an ID in case someone asked for it.
Luckily, I don’t have to go to Mito now.
Taro’s grandma is okay, and Taro tested negative, too, but he’s still going to be out of school for about three weeks. This adds stress, though, because the Music Festival is at the end of February. We don’t know if he’ll be able to participate – will his quarantine be over by then? Will he remember his lines after not being in school for so long? He already missed the Eiken test and can’t make it up. It’s a national test with a predetermined amount of time for make-ups.
I had a decent weekend though. I started it out by video chatting my mom in the morning. I told her about my horrible week and broke into tears again. She used this as a chance to tell me that she finally got into contact with customs about the package she sent me. She sent it December 1st but it’s been ‘in transit to next location’ since December 5th. She has been in contact with them since the beginning of January and they called her to tell her they think the label got wet and couldn’t be read, therefore putting it in a special pile of ‘cannot read’ boxes. She had to fill out a form and they’re going to find it and return it to her – apparently it never even left America. This didn’t make me feel better, though. I still panicked at the thought of it being lost because she put my stuff from Grampa in the box. If it’s lost, so are my last items from him. She felt so bad, though, she sent me $100 via Zelle and demanded I use it on something to destress a little.
We went out for Mexican food for Shane’s birthday later. Afterward, we hit up a bookstore where I used that money from Mom to buy 4 books, one of which is by my favorite author, Leigh Bardugo. I made gumbo for dinner and Yohei and I relaxed a little.
On Sunday, I used the rest of the money she sent me to buy a new sweater from Uniqlo. Then, we had omurice for dinner. I spend a lot of the day just trying to relax a little.
Today is Monday and it has been a regular work day. I’m still tired from all the stress energy used last week but I’m hoping this week will go better. I think my gramps is looking out for me because on the way to work, it started snowing on my way to work. It stopped as I got to the station, then picked up again after I got off the train and started walking to work. It was nice to walked through the snow with my coffee in hand.
I won’t let last week’s event hold me back. This week is super busy and I can’t be distracted by remembering things that will put me in a bad mood. Today, I was greeted with hugs and “I love you!”s from my students.
Here’s to a better week. Sorry for the long post! I needed to rant, apparently!