In the last year or so my dad’s perspective and philosophical tangents about my life and my decisions have become more encouraging than outlandish and I look forward to each new conversation.
It might be because I’m choosing to listen (instead of assume he doesn’t know what he’s talking about), or I’m just more receptive in general, or I realize I’m more like him than I ever thought or possibly, probably, a combination of things – all leading me to want his input and insight.
Last week, in an email, I asked him to dinner and shared:
“I know you’ve known that I’ve been unsettled in my life – it’s just taken until now for me to realize why. I think the path I’ve been on (the education + career then marriage, kids, settling down, etc. – the traditional, expected path) is not the one that is making me happy. I like coming to work but I don’t love it – I don’t have the desire to advance in this arena. I do want a family in the future and, of course, a healthy, productive relationship, but I think I’ve been looking to fit things into a box – society’s box – that isn’t necessarily the one that fits me. I’m slowly figuring out what box will fit.”
Happy to share a meal and the discussion, he responded:
“I am sure you know that you are the only person can make changes/differences.
So yes, it is very very important to make plans and move according to it. Of course, you have to adjust plans here and there, depending on situations.
You are still young and have lots of possibilities.
Why not explore them while you can.”
When we got to the restaurant I reiterated the things I’ve been struggling with (work, meaning, values) and that I know change is imminent but I’m not sure exactly what it will look like.
He asked if I had a plan or if I know what I want to do or what path I want to be on. I told him I didn’t know the exact path – yet – but I’m getting a better sense of the direction. I told him I know creativity and creation are huge factors – even though I’ve resisted them for so long – and I know nature – being in/around/with nature will also be a big (possibly biggest) factor in deciding what to do next. I said my only plan at this point is focusing my energy in those directions – and hopefully a real plan will become clear.
He seemed to accept my non-plan then offered many of the things he’s said to me before but today, I listened.
He said (as he has many times) that I need to do something “extreme” with my life. Most of the time, “extreme” is attached to leaving the country and trying to live somewhere else – somewhere foreign – and struggling (in a developmentally healthy, taking chances, ‘figuring yourself out’ kind of way). “Foreign” to him, for his kids, is usually Japan or occasionally, Europe.
“Extreme” for him is also tied to solitude. Solitude in the way you can quiet all the noise, all the other voices and let your own voice grown and develop. He said sometimes it’s necessary to be alone – then you figure out who you are and what you really want. He said when you’re too close with friends or other people – there can be greater risk to lose your own values and you can forget what you want for yourself.
He talks about “extreme” because it’s the path he took – leaving Japan alone, living in Europe then coming to the US and establishing himself here. He said he left Japan because he knew it didn’t have the path he wanted to follow and he always wanted to work in England – so he did. Then, he wanted to come to the US – so he did. He did the things he wanted to do and he has no regrets about that. He had plans and followed them until they needed to change. He said, “Life only happens once. You have to do things.”
I told him I’m not sure about leaving the country but I did find a lot of quiet moments in the desert this summer. Moments that let me reconnect with myself, my creativity and the simplicity I crave – moments I felt inspired and at peace. I said it was the first time I felt that in a long time – maybe ever. He said it’s probably because it’s so far from what I’ve been doing – and far from other influences – it’s such an “extreme” way of life in the desert that it feels right.
He said as his daughter, I should expect to need such “extreme” things to feel fulfilled. He said those are the places I need to go – literally and figuratively.
He talked about creation and having proof of what he’s done in life- something to physically hold in his hands that shows his efforts and energy. For him, he points to his taiko drums, the concerts he has and us, his family, as the proof of things he’s created. He said maybe some of my conflict – from resisting my creativity – is I don’t have any proof of what I’ve done and that is what I’m looking for now. He said the “extreme” places will probably give me that.
He said no matter what I do, it’s most important to be flexible. To have a plan to get to the next place but always be willing to change. He said, “Ambiguity is a specialty of Japanese culture. We don’t need such specific plans. We do what we can do.”
So today, I decided to write this. Tomorrow I will write more. And the next day more. That’s the plan.