Happy Birthday indeed. I’m 22 now and still young and yet sometimes I feel so old and weathered. But what makes me feel old are the worries and concerns made all the more worrisome due to my youth. Like what to do with the rest of my life. Or at least the next year. This will be full of tangents by the way.
I saw Kyungbung today. It made me realize how much I must cherish these fleeting moments these times, Mizuki’s blog posts, the sun coming through the window this morning, all these things, so precious. Kyungbun and I got lost on the Nambokusen today, and while my head pounded with fever and I wanted to go home, I was also really glad to have the extra time to share hugs and smiles and squeezes of the hand with my dear friend.
I was reading Mizuki’s blog the other day, and once again I was struck by the naked honesty of her words. Often she translates conversations she has straight into English, and while I do that too (to a minor degree, due to my limited skills), I usually adapt the English words to more standardized way of speaking. But in that, some of the meaning, no something deeper than that, the spirit, fades in translation. But Miichan, she stays true to the word. This amused me at first, because, and this is hard to capture, but the meaning of the words are just different here. Words have a meaning apart from culture and untainted by time and sometimes that honesty seems awkward when translated. Still Miichan, she keeps it. She stays true.
In her recounting of childhood memories, long embedded in the walls of these harried lives we lead, I found myself sitting with her in the back of the car, looking out the window together, tears welling in my eyes. I wondered if her eyes welled up too. I was struck, slapped in the face by the urgency of the past. I have to remember what happens, I have to be present to every moment, because this pain of forgetting, it stings with the desperation of regret. I also realize I don’t say thank you enough, out loud at least.
Every month or so my host mom and I sit down and have a spontaneous heart to heart. They are always exactly what I needed but didn’t realize I wanted kind of things. In that sense, all moms are the same even if they aren’t your own. It started off with a discussion about the concert she held earlier in the day. I started feeling sick last night and by the intermission of the early afternoon concert I had to go home. When I finally came down this evening, she apologized for making me sick with her bad performance. I assured her the concert definitely wasn’t the cause but she insisted. Our harshest critics are always ourselves. The concert was much better than the first concert of hers I attended, and I am no classical music expert, but I could see where things could be improved. But still, I enjoyed what I saw and wished I could have stay for more. She mused about aging and how it was affecting her technique, how she’s being outsung by younger people, how she needs to practice more, but then she ended with, “These are only excuses. At least I’m doing what makes me happy, even if I’m not good at it.” Then she turned to me and said, make sure you don’t do what’s expected of you. Find out what you want to do with your life and make sure you do it. It’s important that you figure that part out first before you fulfill all the things you’re “supposed” to do with your life, like get married, be a housewife and have kids (remember we’re still in Japan).
We talked about her husband and her daughters, all extremely driven and successful people in their own ways who are yet unfulfilled. Arisa is an event planner at a very prestigious firm, but she really wants to be a photographer. Haya is a PhD candidate in agricultural chemistry, but the work is boring. Toshio started his own consulting firm, but he misses the camaraderie of his old company. Compared to them, Mamasan is the least successful, but she is by far the happiest. And because of the kind of work she does, the kind that makes her happy, she is so driven and disciplined. The woman easily spends ten hours a day in her performance hall, practicing and perfecting her technique, of her own accord. The rest of us, we drag our feet out the door to face another day.
She looked at me with tear glinted eyes and said, “We have this house, we have so much money, but what do we have in our hearts? If you don’t find out what makes you happy, you will never be able to make others happy and you will never enjoy what you have. It is meaningless.”
When I blew out the candles on my mango birthday cake, I wished that everyone gets what they want. I didn’t mean myself. But I’m thinking I should have.
I have my final itinerary for the rest of my days til April: Japan until March, then Korea for three days, and then two weeks in Europe, visiting Zach in Belgium, Kristen in Spain, and Alex in London. After that, Boston for a couple days, then Cali for a week, and then back to Seattle. I will be back in the states on March 23rd, back in Seattle by the first day of classes.
I’ve been so stressed out I’ve made myself sick, thinking about the final tests I haven’t studied for and papers I haven’t started, what to do for the rest of my life, thinking about how to do the things I should do for the rest of my life (i.e, pay off credit card, DC or Jersey, dating, return to Japan, family, whatever), damning my proletariat background, and I just realized: fuck it. To hell with money, and decisions, and shoulds and should nots, I’m going to be happy.
Thank god for January birthdays, my wishes join the resolutions I could never keep, save for the weight of hope.