A reader sent me an e-mail asking me some pretty heavy questions. I considered writing back but instead decided to post it here: She asked three questions:
1) What’s life like at your age?
This is a very subjective question, regardless of how general it sounds. Life at my age is different for everyone. But for me, it is both satisfying and frustrating. It is satisfying because I have been able to do what I have always wanted to do. I went to high school and performed poorly–I couldn’t even get into a third tier university with my grades. But was able to pull myself together and ultimately went to college, grad school and finally a Ph.D. I developed a love for Japan and Japanese and was lucky enough to live in Japan for almost seven years during the 90s–All told, I have been in Japan about ten years including extended visits and study abroad. I got a job in a profession I wanted, and given the competitiveness of the field, I was lucky to get it on my first try. I have been lucky to work with great colleagues and the kids I teach–especially the majors–have been a Godsend: They study hard, don’t bitch too much, and remain–for the most part–successful after graduating. I’m currently married and own a modest but comfortable home and, of course, cable Internet and sattelite TV. Haha…
There are and have been, of course, many frustrating aspects of my life. But these have mostly been self-inflicted, so please don’t think that I am trying to blame anyone else. Since I was a goof off for many years before returning to college with a serious attitude, I fell far behind the “success curve” that many of my friends were following. They had cars, houses, money, something that I too wanted to enjoy but did not have the job, money, or career to accomplish what they did. Of course, I have been told by more than a couple of old friends that they envy my path, that they would rather have taken life at a slower pace, making career choices that please the soul rather than the pocket book. I will tell them that I am pleased, that I am doing exactly what I want to do. But my life is certainly simpler than theirs. I have no stock portfolio, I don’t vacation in Europe, I can’t lavish my wife with jewelry or fancy dinners, I don’t own two cars–damn, the car I have, I inherited. So I do tell them I often wonder what it would have been had I been a glob (Good little Oriental boy; read NLUTE on the JA Journal for more… what a plug!). As a glob, I would have studied hard in HS, gone straight to college and started working right away or right after grad school, like most of my classmates. But I had to take my own path; to some it seems the harder path, but to me it was the easier path as I have been able to do what I wanted.
There have been other frustrating events: divorce, living away from my daughter, and of course the current circumstances at work. These porblems are self-inflicted as I stated and so cannot bitch about them too loudly… just loud enough.
So now that I’m here, two years shy of the half century mark, I have to say that life is fine for me at my age. I have a job that I love, a mortgage, a family, household responsibilities (electricity, water, phone, shoveling snow!). I am satisfied with what I have done and what I have accomplished. And in fact I still have things to look forward to. Maybe someday publishing the book that is keeping me from getting promoted at work, or becoming a chef… That would be fun, too.
2) Has your perception of life changed?
Tomorrow, time permiting…
3) Whats important to you now?
Day after tomorrow…