2016 Was the Year of Changes


Below is the letter that I enclosed in this year’s Christmas cards.  今年のクリスマスカードに同封した以下の手紙の和文はここでご覧いただけます。

With the holiday season fast approaching, I hope this letter finds you well.

If I were to pick one phrase to describe the past year, it would be “The Year of Changes.”

On the professional front, I left Shearman & Sterling in May after seven and a half years at the firm in order to join Amazon in Japan.  The jump from being an experienced lawyer at a mega law firm to a first-time in-house lawyer at an IT company has brought major changes to my life, the most obvious manifestation of which is an improved work-life balance.  On the personal front, I lost a family member when my grandmother died at the age of 92 in October, but I will soon have two family members living much closer to me as my mother and sister decided to move back to Japan after all the years living in the U.S.

As I look back on the eventful past year, I’m reminded of the old saying, “All good things must come to an end.”

I do not handle such “ends” well.  My personality is such that I easily find satisfaction and happiness in the present and have a strong desire to retain the status quo.  It’s not an understatement to say that I feel a great sense of fear towards change.

Having gone through a lot of changes in 2016, some voluntary and others not, the one way in which I feel I’ve personally grown is how I’ve come to realize that changes are often an indispensable element of a meaningful life.

I’ve felt this in particular through a change in my career.  I had heard Amazon described as a start-up that never grew up, and it’s a truly apt description.  In my new workplace, I’m constantly pushed to exhibit skills that I’d never before had to show while supporting blockbuster growth in a business and an industry that remain mostly foreign to me.  At Amazon, I’m always stimulated and my worldview is constantly expanding.

Leaving Shearman was a difficult choice because of the comfort I’d developed with the colleagues there, but a little more than half a year since the move, I’m glad I was able to make the big decision. My greatest discovery this year has been in learning that getting out of the comfort zone and jumping into the unknown could be a scary but deeply rewarding experience.

Because this past year was such an upheaval, I’m hoping that the upcoming year would be a little calmer.  Yet there is a strong part of me that is desiring to have equally stimulating moments next year, a feeling that is no doubt influenced by the experiences of the past year.  Now that I have more time to pursue interests outside of work, I’m thinking, perhaps, that I can finally seek stimulation in the world of politics (albeit not as a politician).

Despite all that had happened in 2016, the one thing that didn’t change was my ability in Japanese chess. The improvement in this area is the one change I’d been seeking for over two years, so I’m hoping that if there is only one notable change in 2017, it’s that I’ve gone up a skill level or two in Japanese chess.

Merry Christmas, and may your 2017 be a stimulating one.

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