B-day Blues

今日は誕生日です。厄年ですから多分お寺に行こうね。

Fair Warning: this entry is quite likely the most bloggish, pseudo-teenage-angst-ridden, self-indulgent, boring, piece of navel-gazing ever written on this blog (and a quick look at the rest should convince you this is no small feat).

My cat, who is usually my most patient reader, fell asleep halfway through: you probably won’t fare any better. I’m mostly writing this because it’s more considerate than hogging a friend’s ear for a whole evening of uninspired confidences. It’s also much easier to erase in the morning when I get over it.

So it’s been my birthday for about three hours now. Actually there’s still two hours to go if you account for time-zone difference. Eight, if you account for both time-zone and hour of birth. But I don’t think we give a damn. Point being: a yearly reminder of where my lowly earthly essence is coming from and where it’s heading to, is somehow currently in progress.

My birthday history is a pretty mixed bunch. Of course, having your day stuck right in the middle of summer vacation was never a ticket to the usual big birthday bashes of your childhood. Especially when most of your friends and schoolmates lived in a different city/country/continent. But honestly, we are not talking child trauma level there… Though it might be responsible for my habit not to care excessively about big celebration parties and opt for more intimate settings. Nothing too memorable, in good or bad.

Of course there were exceptions: I did get married on my birthday. Never mind the fact it was 6am and in Vegas (and with a friend playing Dixie jazz on the chapel’s organ). It was also on the morning of my birthday, on my way back from the club, that I once realized I needed an immediate and lasting change of scenery, kissed my ever-understanding Abi good-bye and headed straight for the airport (gawd, was that a smart move… ‘should have seen the look on the face of the US immigration officer when that guy with blue hair, silver vinyl pants and a handful of change clothes thrown in a carry-on bag, showed up at immigration, claiming he was coming for vacation).

This year is probably even better than usual: what with the mails and postcards pouring from far away, impromptu calls from nearly lost — but not forgotten — important people in my life, the kickass bday party my awesome friends have put much energy in planning for this week-end… Really, I feel loved.

What am I whining about then?

Well, you know, that old fucking existential thing…

No, no: don’t worry, nothing of the I’m-afraid-to-die, what-have-I-done-with-my-life or even damn-where’s-my-youth variety. Growing old is not an issue, given the utmost care and dedication that were — still are — brought to the methodic annihilation of my liver and brain cells on a daily basis. A quick, timely and painless exit should stand between me and such all-too-common apprehensions.

Actually, my dilemmas are many levels closer to the ground, in appearance. They mostly connect with what I should be doing in the very near future, and how I should go about doing it.

It seems I won’t be able to stay much longer in Japan. Even if I get that visa in London next month, I would still have to come back and make a living.

Problem is: Japanese branch of corporation X, that employs me as a consultant here, is going through massive changes, one of them include a new MD who still thinks computers are only meant to be used for nuclear research and have no reason to be in his line of business. Since I’m really no good at writing environmental impact proposals (can’t know everything), it would seem I have very little to offer in guise of service to his company and my year-long stint with them is close to an end.

Ironically, Corporation Z, that does pay me a rather disproportionate amount of money on a regular basis to know what I think of their bugs, expressed a strong interest in getting me onboard full-time. in the US. Even more ironically, the fact that I will refuse without an hesitation (corporate life just isn’t anywhere on the long list of things that might ever happen to me again), will likely mean I will lose this comfy consulting gig too.

In theory, that’s only half a problem, since, after all, code monkey is only one of my occupations, and not my favorite one by a stretch.

I could probably earn my living with full-time sound tweaking; or at least: I could try, until I get sick of remastering endless hours of crappy teenage pop music for alimentary purposes (you don’t think one makes any real money with house tracks, now do you?)… not to mention, whore myself out to every club owner that will care to give me a few bucks to play commercial dance for the B&T crowds.

Except the most expensive city in the world is probably not the best place to re-embark on a full-time occupation as starving artist.

I must rectify my original statement: my staying in Japan is not a matter of ability, it is a matter of will. As is pretty much any matter. Don’t ever hope to get my sympathy by telling me, for example, that you absolutely want to live in Tokyo (or wherever) more than anything else in the world, but cannot do it because of work/university/whatever else obligations.

You do not want it more than anything else. otherwise you’d do it. period.

Whatever your good reason… You do not do it because there is something else you want more: a good job, a future, a nice TV, money for your kids, the certainty you won’t ever be sleeping in Ueno park… Good for you. But don’t come saying you want but can’t.

Likewise, if I leave Japan, it shall be because I want to go, not because I cannot stay.

And still, I don’t think I want to leave Japan yet. It doesn’t feel like the right time. There are too many things I do not feel ready to leave behind.

Friends and the people I care for, of course, but also my half-baked Japanese, which nowhere near fluent has still finally gotten to a level where I can interact with people and talk about more than weather and my favourite Japanese food.
Leaving all that now would feel like a waste.

On the other hand, I am notoriously incapable of making important decisions in my life without a kick in the ass and a blind impulse (even if I am the one giving the kick in the ass in the first place)…

One of my roommate in SF had a pet dragon, one of these big lizard that are basically one level up from Pet Rocks in terms of pet companionship (except Pet Rocks do not fucking die if you forget their heating lamp for 24 hours and probably hold a better chance at recognizing your face from one time to the next). Anyway, the thing was essentially happy not moving an inch for hours on end, wherever you’d put it. Its whole body being one giant velcro, in addition to its claws, meant you could put it on your sweatshirt as an accessory and forget about it until a few hours later where it would finally get tired of it.

And how would it manage to get off you in order to head for the safety of its terrarium? My roommate vainly and desperately tried to teach it to jump using all kind of methods and tricks. But it does appear these critter justs can’t skip or at least this one was too lazy to try. Well, instead of waiting for an opportunity or rely on the care of its carrier, the lizard would just let itself fall to the ground. It would pull its claw off whatever it was sticking to and crash lamentably four feet lower. It did look a bit painful, even for what was basically a glorified spiky rock with a tail. But a few seconds later, the thing would just collect itself and make a quick exit to a location presumably more to its liking.

Well, I pretty much work the same.

Which is not to say I have any clue what I should do and how I should do it.

And we are back to why I am essentially not having it tonight…

Choices would be much easier if I had some kind of specific goals for my life. But really, I cannot bring myself to care any more for those ambitions that people build their life around. And this is neither something new, nor likely to go soon. Don’t mistake me for some aging hippie or naive teenager infatuated with empty ideals. I just had the chance to run through many of these ambitions early enough to get an idea of what level of happiness they brought me and why they were not worth it… Of course, I do like having some money, of course, I do enjoy material pleasures. I am no self-possessed wise man full of strength and disdain for comfort. never claimed I was. Just know very well how far I wanna go and how much of my time and energy I want to spend to keep whatever social or material comfort I might obtain. I do not judge people who pursue their happiness this way, just know it doesn’t work for me.

Knowledge might be the closest to a true life direction I could think of. But I do not see it as a goal. There is nothing measurable about knowledge. These pieces of paper you get awarded by institutions for your acquisition of an incremental parcel of education do not have much to do with the true nature of knowledge. Surely they are useful, they do ensure the man who is opening your chest with a scalpel knows something about heart surgery. But do they mean that my professors know more about philosophy than some of the wise ignorants I have occasionally bumped into? I doubt it.

Well, all that is nothing new, there is no radical thinking in these statements, they do not mean I am running the streets naked or living in a jungle hut — though maybe I should. They merely affect my choices and make it all the harder to take these decisions.

Truth is that I should probably move, and I am just scared of change. And this is something really new to me.

Four continents and more countries than I can remember have never found me apprehending the next move… and there were times where the stakes and the potential for loss was infinitely bigger than now. Coming to Japan was maybe the first time I ever had second thoughts about what I was doing and whether I should go through with it. And upon arrival that feeling only got worse (I had good reasons, trust me). But it did not really frighten me and it certainly did not stop me.
I do not hold many serious fears (OK, I do cry like a girl at the mere sight of a needle). This time, though, leaving everything, facing the unknown, having to somewhat rebuild an everyday life (even if I end up picking a familiar place like Barcelona, I know it won’t really mean much). All that seems to be petrifying me for the first time in my life.

Fuck. Maybe I am afraid of growing old[er] after all…

This rant is over, you can reopen your eyelids and resume reading (please wake up the cat too), thanks for indulging my yearly crisis of existential navel-gazing.

Hey, btw, you know what’s a funny thing (ok: kinda funny)… This year is my Yakudoshi year: basically one of the two “critical” ages in Japan where men must be extremely careful and where bad luck is likely to hit them hard in the nuts. Maybe I should visit my local temple and get meself one of them magic amulets, huh…

7 comments

  1. *big Birthday hug*

    I think everyone goes through a similar scene – especially around the B-day which is a time for relection on many things to do with life.

    It’s not easy packing up your life and moving to live in other countries. Sometimes you just crave the familiar instead of the unknown. But I think that (using a cliche) it IS a character building thing to do.

    Of course it can really get you down too – but try and look at the good stuff (^^)

  2. thanks tracey, chris, mj and everybody else… support is always appreciated in these moments… I think I’m over it now… still no clue if I’m gonna move, and probably won’t even bother with it until next month. I don’t have the time to take care of it now anyway, and will have to come back in October, even if it’s only to pack… so I’ll see by then…

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