Edited by Emily Guo
It’s December, which on JET, invariably means that re-contracting decisions are upon us. And how are we supposed to make a decision that will impact our life a year-and-a-half from the day we make the decision? Your guess is as good as mine.
I’ve personally never found making decisions like these easy or straightforward. In contrast, it often seems like some people know right from the start their plan and larger goals. Emphasis on seems here, because in reality, none of us really do. So, I wanted to make some space for the tricky headspace of being in this re-contracting season, for both recent arrivals and second-year-and-upwards JETs.
As I was digging through the blog archives, I came across some old articles on the blog written by folks coming to terms with their own re-contracting decisions. Whether you’re deciding to stay or to move on to the next chapter, hopefully, this can ease whatever anxiety spiral you’re in a little bit. At the very least, you’ll be in good company with your re-contracting woes :’)
Something to note, all of these articles were resulting in decisions to leave – it seems that leaving makes people feel more of a need to put their decision into words. However, I wanted to make some space for the deciding-to-stay side of things. At the end of this article, I also included some thoughts I wrote down last year around this time after deciding to stay on another year.
I hope you find some encouragement from any of these words. And a small reminder that it’ll all work out as it needs to :’)
All Kinds of Goodbyes: Deciding Whether to Stay or to Go
By Bennett Pérez
Time froze as I stared at the recontracting paperwork lying in front of me. I was flanked by my BOE supervisor and Carolyn, a fellow ALT, who had only just confirmed that she was not recontracting. What was taking me so long? I had walked into the Board of Education with my mind already made. I had spent all of Christmas break discussing whether I should recontract, and why, and why not, with my loved ones (in Japan and back home). It felt like I had had the same conversation a million times. I was trying my utter best to ensure that I wasn’t making a hasty or irrational choice. When there seemed to be nothing left unsaid, I was finally satisfied that the choice that made me happiest was to return home.
And yet as I stared at that document, along with my supervisor and Carolyn, doubt hit me like a tram. I couldn’t think of anything other than all the love I was agreeing to leave behind, and all that it would mean…”
Re-sign or Resign: coming to terms with my recontracting decision
By Nicole McCoy
It would happen about five times a day. A niggling feeling at the back of my mind, reminding me that there’s something I needed to do, something I’d been putting off. I’d be working at my desk, my eyes would wander to that stack of papers, and I’d lose focus.
I’d been putting off signing my recontracting papers. I waited until the last possible moment to submit them.
“Wow, I can’t believe you waited so long to decide!” you might say, but that wasn’t the problem. I had decided a month prior that I wouldn’t be recontracting, that in August I’d be heading back to the motherland (Canada) to reunite with the love of my life (Twix bars). But as long as I put off physically signing the papers, I could entertain the idea of staying.
As much as I relished the thought of moving on to the next chapter in my life, of starting an exciting new career path, of digging my fork into a hot plate of poutine again, the thought of leaving was always accompanied by a feeling of melancholy.
Some of my thoughts from last year
These are some thoughts that I wrote down as I was working through the first round of re-contracting season. While I am now really quite content with my decision to re-contract, there were a lot of doubts and uncertainties I was working through at the time. I hope you find them helpful 🙂
(Also note, I tend to use third-person plural “we” and “I” interchangeably when introspecting, so just know that I’m only really talking about myself here)
On the reasons for our decision possibly changing:
We’ve gone through some of our reasonings and thoughts as they stand now, but I don’t intend them to be as a means of persuading ourself that we have made the right decision. Because, I don’t know if I have. I just made the decision that seemed to have reasons we felt more strongly about in this moment.
We may find that those reasons change or that they are not quite as relevant as we thought them to be in the future. But, we cannot know how they might change in the future, thus we cannot fault ourself for choosing the best that we can at the time we are deciding.
On having doubts about our decision to stay:
The doubts we have about signing onto another year are not groundless – they are not things to merely be brushed aside or ignored. They are concerns that we have about our life and they can guide us in how we approach things, how we move through our next year here.
On taking breaks from future-related anxiety:
I don’t have any guarantees nor can I know what difficulties and bumps this year will bring. But I guess what I can remind myself of is that we don’t need to go through an entire year in one day. We can just look at today, maybe even venture into this week or if we really need to plan, this month. But we can also just look at the day, the evening, the hour before us.
When in doubt, we can ask ourself, ‘what do we need to do for ourself right now?’ and, when we are able to, try to heed that voice. Because thinking so far ahead really is so hard. We can give ourself a bit of a break from all that mental load every now and then, allow ourself to be preoccupied only with what we need to do in this moment.