Cover of the regular edition
Cover of the “no gift” edition
Special Girls’ Talk: Love, Work, Marriage, Female Friendship…
Keiko Kitagawa answers 7 questions on these topics.
With her charming smile and her clear intentions, which seem to clarify the words coming out of her mouth, Keiko Kitagawa tackles some of the toughest questions our readers have sent in. So “More” readers around the same age, if you are going through some troubles, this article might be able to help you out with some great advice – through a serious, intense girl’s talk session!
Q1: I’m not put off by being a junior at work, but how can I act as a leader to those newer?
I’ve been with my current company for five years. I’m not put off by remaining a junior member of staff. But I have two new coworkers – one of whom is really young, and whose communication skills could use improvement. The other girl misses work a lot and doesn’t seem to take her job seriously. Whenever I try to correct them, they just brush me off and remind me that I’m “a junior too” – but I don’t understand why their behavior should be OK. I’ve tried to work on communicating with them better so they understand that I want to help them through the challenges of being new – and yes, as a leader! (27 years old. Sales/Marketing)
Keiko answers: Your juniors aren’t friends – they’re work friends! I think you should remain professional.
I know it sounds a bit cold, because everyone wants to be liked and make new friends – but these new employees don’t need to be your friends – you know what I mean? It’s sweet that your instinct is to protect them, but you’re all there to earn money – not to become close. If these two girls can’t learn to do their jobs well, then you’re enabling them. You won’t be helping them in the long run.
When I was a model with “Seventeen”, I was in charge of training a newcomer named (Mizuhara) Kiko – she was my junior. It was explained to me that without a rival, it’s hard to push yourself to be the best you can be in the magazine. So when I had to work with her 1-on-1, I couldn’t treat her as a friend. I had to remain professional about our relationship. And I had to remind myself not to get too overly involved in the lives of other people I worked with, like the management or the photography staff or the editors. Even if you get along great, there’s a boundary and your job isn’t to be their friend. I had to remind myself, “Should I really say this?” before making a joke. (laughs) But now of course, I sound so strict, haha.
Another way to think of it is to remind yourself, “how did I learn this on my own?” back when you started your job. If you like these new coworkers of yours, allow them the space to learn and make mistakes on their own.
Q2: I like my boyfriend so, so much – but I’m worried that I’m becoming possessive!
I like my boyfriend of two years so much that I think it’s making me feel bad (laughs). In the beginning of our relationship I didn’t feel so possessive. But now, if he doesn’t get on “LINE” at night, it makes me really paranoid. He’s really friendly with me whenever we’re together, but in the back of my mind I’m worried that at any moment an argument could start – and I don’t want that. (28 years old. Government worker)
Keiko answers: The important thing to remember is that we chose the people we stay with.
I understand that you seriously like this guy. In a more casual relationship, I think sending 2-3 emails or texts a day is normal. But at the point where he’s expected to check in with you more than that, your relationship isn’t like a romantic one anymore – it’s more like a parent checking in with a child. And he’ll start to wonder, “What did I do wrong?” when he talks to you.
In any event, what you don’t want is for him to think “What did I do wrong?” when he talks with you. Take an honest approach. “I’m the type of person who gets anxious when we don’t talk all the time” – maybe saying so will help alleviate some of the pressure. Every relationship has problems, but you seem really happy with this guy. Try not to come on so “heavy” and just enjoy the guy! (laughs)
The kind of problem you’re describing is one I would expect to hear from a wife who has been married for at least ten years (laughs). Anyway, try not to worry so much and enjoy the relationship.
There’s no need to invite problems into your relationship: being with the person you love is supposed to be joyful, after all.
Q3: I want to get married, but he wants to focus on his career. What should we do?
Earlier this year, we started to have this conversation. I’m 27 years old, and my boyfriend is 30. I really wanted to get married before I turn 30, and when I think about it I really only have a little over two years left. So I approached my boyfriend about this, and he said, “I’d rather wait until I’m 35 before I start to think about marriage. Until then I want to focus on my career” – and he pretty much blew me off. He has a great personality, he’s hot, and he has a great job with an income to match – I don’t want to miss out on the perfect partner because of this issue. But when I think about marriage, I just can’t see myself waiting around for this guy that long. (27 years old. Nursery teacher)
Keiko answers: I think your boyfriend has a list of “Reasons for not Getting Married”.
I’ve been asked by friends of mine with children – “Why would you want to get married?” My response – “Because it’s a human desire” – maybe that’s not a romantic answer, but there it is (laughs). But when I think about it more, the more honest answer is that “there’s no reason not to get married”.
But, his excuse that getting married would distract him from his work is bunk. I don’t believe him at all on that. When you have someone important to you that you are responsible for, I would think you’d work even harder. But I think you should have a discussion about your reasons for wanting to get married at a particular age. Is there a reason you chose 30 years old? Is it so that you’ll have time to plan for births, or is that a point in your career that you feel satisfied to put to a pause? Rather than worry about the rejection, I think it would be helpful to determine his intentions about marriage altogether. I don’t think anyone can be a “perfect boyfriend” if they can’t have a frank, honest discussion with you.
Q4: How can I turn on the “love switch”…
It’s been 5 years since I had a boyfriend back in college. My girlfriends say that I look good and there’s nothing wrong with me. But when it comes to the opposite sex…I don’t see it. I’ve stopped even trying. There’s a guy in my running group whom I think has a great sounding voice. But I think romance should involve a chance meeting, and he doesn’t seem like the right fit for me because I already know him. Is there something I can do to turn the “love switch” back on for me? (26 years old. Office worker)
Keiko answers: When you meet the man you’re destined for, the switch will turn on!
Don’t worry about fate and the way you meet people. I always thought I’d meet someone at work – but it didn’t happen, so I said to myself, “well, my 20s are for working hard – not just for catching a man!” and that got me through. In the meantime, focus on what makes you happy. If you like cooking, do it. If you like this guy, hang out with him, even if it doesn’t go anywhere. I think eventually you’ll find the man you were meant for. You don’t have to do anything to turn the switch on. Just continue to do your best at work, and be yourself. There’s no sure way to attract love – so it’s better to focus on being yourself and being happy, at least, that’s what I think.
Q5: All of my female friends are moving on to a different stage of life!
It seems like one of my friends from the group of five girlfriends I’ve had since high school is getting married just about every month! The first one got married when she was 24. The next two followed her shortly thereafter. Now, the fourth girl in our group is in the process of planning her wedding (jeez, that makes me sound lonely) – and it’s to a guy who is ten years older than she is. I really don’t know that any of us will have time to meet up anymore – should we just disband the group? (27 years old. Public Relations)
Keiko answers: Even if there’s a lot of distance, there’s a way to remain friends.
From one woman to another, I can understand how you’re feeling so estranged. Back when a lot of my friends were getting married, I remember feeling really alone – and wondering if my time had run out. My best friend from junior high stayed my best friend through high school and college, and when she got married I was worried we wouldn’t get to hang out anymore. Now when we see each other, she just asks “Where is a good place for me to bring the stroller? Do they have any places I can buy baby clothes nearby?” whenever we plan an outing. We still have lots to talk about, but the content of our conversations has changed.
Anyway, I don’t know a lot about being married, and I don’t think one can understand the troubles of someone who has children until they have one themselves. But, I think it would be a boring life if you always did the same thing with your friends – like making matching lunches or wearing school uniforms together. You’ve got to adjust. Personally, I am happy about the fact that when I do get married or have kids, I’ll have friends who have been there before and who can give me good advice. In the meantime, stay in touch with your friends through SMS text messages or by email. I think it would be a shame to throw away your friendship.
Q6: I’m not really into any hobby! Where should I start?
No matter where I am, the first thing people ask me is, “What’s your hobby?” but I don’t have a good answer…actually, when I think about it I don’t really have any hobbies. Reading? I guess I read sometimes. Cooking? Only because it’s cheaper than eating out all the time. Travel? I think I’ve gone on just one trip in the past year. I don’t really listen to much music or go out to the movies much either. Everyone else I know is into hot yoga, or bread baking, or running or something…I’m jealous! I want to be into something, but what the heck is wrong with me? (25 years old. Office worker)
Keiko answers: I think you’ve made staying at home into a fantastic hobby!
I was the same way! I wasn’t really into reading, watching movies, or listening to music either – but I would try to act interested. One time I asked someone “What is your favorite 1980s rock band?” and they started talking about all these artists and I was lost. It’s hard to go through a conversation about something you have no interest in. Everyone talks about hobbies, and I was the type that didn’t really have any. It was awkward.
But when I was 26 years old, my mother took me to a Takarazuka theater show for the first time. And I was totally blown away, even though I originally didn’t even want to leave the house. I got really into the scene, and start following the actress blogs and talking to some of them on SMS text message. Until then my hobby was just staying at home. I think it’s okay to be a stay-at-home kind of person until you find something that you are passionate about. And don’t worry, something will eventually catch your interest. In the meantime, you don’t need to force the timing – I believe something will come your way!
Q7: I am really shy, but I want to get better at speaking with strangers.
The truth is, I’ve always had a problem talking with strangers. To make things worse, my desk is right in the center of the room – so I’m always being one of the first points of contact for people new on the job. I get invited out to meetings and company parties all the time, but I have no idea how to deal with it all. Right now, I just smile through it and hate being out so much. What can I do to handle my situation and improve my communication skills? (26 years old. System engineer)
Keiko answers: Even if you’re shy, the least you can do is smile and greet people!
For the first ten years I worked, I was terribly shy. I remember one occasion when I had to spend a lot of time with new staff members – and I was a nervous wreck, tense the entire time – it was a mess (laughs).
Even though around my family I can be a braggart who pushes her luck, around strangers I can be absolutely terrified…I think I was just born with this kind of personality. And I didn’t want to be one of those people who was arrogant but hid behind the excuse of being shy. And this is one of those things that can be improved with effort. The best way to improve is to start making new friends – putting yourself out there and forcing yourself to learn how to be better in social situations. You’ll make new friends and improve your communication. I think it’s a fun way to grow.
When I was around 17 years old, I remember going to Tokyo and being surrounded by adults – I was so shy, I couldn’t even look people in the eyes and smile at the same time, my heart was so uneasy. But learning to smile and not take everything so seriously made the situation a lot easier to bear!
More magazine: After reading these questions, it’s safe to say that you’ve given us the straight talk! Your advice seems like “the type you get from a good friend”, and I’m convinced!
Keiko: “Ever since I chose the line of work that I do, I’ve had to stand on my own and learn a lot that way. And it’s been an experience that makes me think, ‘I’m so glad I was born’ – because I’ve had the experience to be one type of person and another. When I was younger, I used to listen to my friends’ troubles and consider them from different points of view. I used to stay up with them on the phone all night, without sleeping, and then trudge to work the next day and do my best. Privately I’m very easygoing, so I needed something to give me a push. The advice I got from friends really pushed me to be the person I am today.” (laughs)
But it seems you had to solve a lot of your own troubles “without consultation”, wouldn’t you say?
“When people ask me, ‘have you ever had this kind of problem?’, they’re usually asking me about clothing, so it’s not possible for me to give a clear answer because that’s such a subjective question. Usually, the answer there is to help them through their resistance to do what they really want to do anyway. A lot of people ask me about heartbreak, and I think pain is natural – I don’t think there’s any way to cope with it that’s better than another. When I was in a Protestant school, I heard the phrase, ‘bloom where God has planted you’. That phrase has since become my motto. It means no matter how hard the environment you’re in, you can still do your best to grow in that situation.”
“No matter how painful it is, I believe that it’s necessary in order to get through life.”
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Translated by Fandom Services. Paid for by this blog to the benefit of all English-speaking and English-learning Keiko fans).