Kasuga Taisha
Photo: Ema (Shinto prayer plaques) at Kasuga Shrine in Nara—or my future in-box.

I already know what my dad would say, so I’m not asking him. When you start a new job search, you just don’t take the first job you are offered. True, I haven’t been offered the job yet, but let’s be real, at the interview they were selling the job to me. I’m not sure I want the job. But there are considerations.

I’m a healthy adult and I have no kids to raise. It’s just me, unemployed and wishing we had a bit more disposable income. This job is not in book publishing, my normal gig; it’s something completely different, but in an industry that is somewhat recession, hell, depression proof. It will pay fairly well (compared to publishing) and I would be doing work that comes naturally to me, organizing, finding ways to be efficient, finding niches to fill. They want a “self-starter.” I’m a self-compulsive. It could work just fine.

I haven’t heard back from any of the other places to which I’ve applied. I don’t expect to hear for weeks because that’s just how it works. Send in résumé, hear nothing, try to bug them, hear nothing, then get one or two bites for interviews. I haven’t seen an ad for my dream job, but there are a few good leads.

I want to make books. I love making books. It was the classic What Color Is Your Parachute? quiz that told me I like to be around books and perhaps I should work as an editor. So I did. But we all know the old story, I thought I’d like to be a writer, so I became a production editor. Still, there have been moments of real achievement and happiness in some of the books I have shepherded along to publication: the first translation of a fifteenth-century recipe book from Mandu in Central India (with four-color illustrations, scans of the original handpainted miniatures); an encyclopedia of marine mammals; a science textbook and video about HIV. I have lists of every book I have worked on. Almost all academic books: many in university classrooms, cracked open, written in, cited in papers. I don’t know exactly how many books have arrived from the printer for my approval, for me to send to the author, but I remember the collective smell of the ink and the feel of the paper. It’s a good job, making books.

Book publishing has been having serious financial difficulties for longer than I’ve worked in the field (since 1994), but somehow I always scraped up a good job, found a way in. Why do I lack confidence this time? Why am I so eager to jump ship?

For one, it seems churlish and childish to hold out for a dream job this year of all years. My job would help pay the bills. Since we bought our first house three months ago, I’ve become aware of money in way I’ve never been before. Sure, for a few years in Japan I tried to make studying Japanese and teaching English seem like I was fully occupied, but come on, have you seen all those posts about sake on this blog? It was a decadent break after some good jobs in San Diego and London. My best dude churns out his work year after year, and keeps us flush with wine and cheese and laundry soap and toilet paper and trips to New York City. Time for me to pony up some cash. Frankly, it feels immoral to pass up employment when offered. My question: will anyone else offer some to me in the near future? I just don’t know.

A little ema offered for my fellow job seekers this year. Ganbatte kudasai!

ETA: I took the job.

ETA2: I quit six months later to return to book publishing.

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