I’m going to be completely honest, lay everything out, and then listen to any and all advice you guys can give me.
I’ve been living in Japan since 2011. I arrived three days before the big quake, and decided to stay to marry my wife and get a life started over here. Over the last 6 years I’ve gotten married, become the proud father of a wonderful kid, and spent the whole time working in English teaching at two international schools. I hit the head teacher ceiling at my first job and was invited by a long-time friend to work for his wife and direct a new school which we opened last year and is performing very well.
I left school at 16, went to college and studied art and design, attended university and got a 3-year BA Degree with honours in Graphic Communication, specializing in interactive design - which was basically building projects in Flash, Java, Processing etc. Graduated in 2009, and spent the following year saving money to visit Japan and training to get a CELTA. My entire life I’ve been interested in tech. I built my first PC when I was 9, around the time of DOS 6,22. I’ve setup and tweaked PCs, Macs, Linux boxes, played with Arduino and Raspberry Pi, iPhones, Android devices etc. I like to learn how things work. The most complex coding project I’ve undertaken was building a Haiku generator that parsed eBooks from Project Gutenberg and made themed Haiku. It involved me figuring out how to teach a computer to parse the number of syllables in words and I had to create a flash front-end for the project so that it was visually appealing for my exhibition project at university. I’ve taken a few courses through Coursera, such as Python and some HTML stuff to refresh my memory. I’m currently studying full stack development through Hong Kong University of Science and Technology via Coursera,
I’m a good English teacher. Enough coworkers and customers have complimented me that it’s one of the only things I’m sure of. It feels rewarding when I look back on each year of preschool / kindergarten / afternoon classes and see what I’ve done for the kids. I enjoy the gifts and compliments from the customers and the chance to be physically active every day at work, but I’m miserable.
I’m not getting paid overtime because I’m contracted as manager of my school and therefore am not eligible for overtime payment. I’m working around 50 hours a week, so my boss gets an extra 40+ hours of work out of me every month. I’m exhausted, I miss spending time with my family, and I’m bored of teaching English. I live and work in what I call “English Bubbles” - places where I don’t have the option to listen to or speak Japanese, although over 6 years I’ve picked up enough that I can chat with my in-laws, konbini staff, neighbors etc about mundane things.
The exhaustion started to affect my mental well-being, and I began to feel severely depressed last month. So upset about what my working life had become, so tired, and feeling so hopeless that I could barely stagger home or get out of bed in the mornings. This was totally unusual for me. Something was very wrong. I had to do something - anything.
I began to log my working hours and presented them to my boss, along with my contract which promised many things that were impossible to deliver. After a long discussion it became clear that my well-being and job satisfaction were a very low priority for both her and her husband (a long-time friend). The following week I made the decision to tell her that I will be leaving, and gave her four months notice, to give her the time to hire replacement teachers and for me to train them according to the methods and curriculum I have developed, thus minimizing impact on the business and customers.
I have three months left to find a job that isn’t English teaching. I just can’t do it any more. I need to wake up and feel invested and interested in the work I do. I need to design or create something. I need to improve my Japanese. I need to figure out where my niche is in tech / development. I feel like speaking and playing with children in broken English all day has somehow affected my ability to communicate with others, and I want to socialize either at work or elsewhere so that I can “get back on the bike” so to speak.
My resume basically reads: high school -> art college -> design degree -> teaching certificate -> head teacher with some Coursera elementary tech certificates.
Should I be looking for junior developer positions? If so, where?
Should I be going to meetups? If so, which ones? I checked the Doorkeeper site and a lot of the meetups beside the HackerNews one seem very specific.
Where can I get experience? Reading job postings on LinkedIn is freaking me out. Many of them expect native or near-native Japanese, 3-5 years experience in directing projects, or 3-5 programming languages with commercial samples of your work. I’m nowhere near any of that!
Having graduated 8 years ago and being 31 years old now, did I screw up? Have I missed the boat?
I’m worried about how I’m going to pay the rent in September, but if I stay in the English-teaching career-hole any longer I’m going to have a mental collapse. I need to challenge myself and steer myself towards a career in something I love.
If you’ve read this far, thank you, I sincerely appreciate your time.
Even a reply like “I’ve been there” or “I know the feeling” would mean the world to me.