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Ponder Away, Little Philosopher – 8 January 2013

When I began this blog, it was with the knowledge that I would use this time in Japan to its fullest potential, that I would find things about myself that I had never known before. This is why it has its peculiar-sounding name (not so much if you’ve read my first post). I call these discoveries wubs, and for good reason (again, read my first post). Wubs are those things, big and small, that lead us to make important inferences about ourselves and others. They provide clarity – tiny insights into how and why the world works, and they run the gamut from why we happen to straddle this blue-green marble in the first place to what we should have for lunch tomorrow. And though it may not seem like much it’s those tiny discoveries that make breathing worthwhile – at least to me. Of course, not everyone takes the time to wax philosophical on the meaning of mankind’s existence here but, if that’s what makes living worth living, then by all means ponder away, little philosopher.

Perhaps the best (and to some perhaps the most uncomfortable) thing about a wub is that it strikes without warning; the inspiration for some major life-changing event could come while watching a baseball game just as easily as it could while you’re shitting yourself senseless on the john. Something happens in your brain, and something just… clicks, slides into place, and then you know exactly what it is you should do and how to get it done. That is perhaps the best feeling in life, better than a thousand of the best orgasms you could ever have (… yes, I do mean this), better than the filet mignon you had at the Tavern on the Green that one time before it closed. It feels like supreme satisfaction, as if everything you had been through, good and bad, led you to this one moment of insight, of sure-footedness to the n-th degree – you know exactly where you’re going and how you’re gonna get there. But what’s most intimidating is the thought of afterward, of what comes next after we reach that singularity of insight and sure-footedness, and we think to ourselves What’s next? 

Well, shouldn’t that be the impetus for the next wub you find?

A couple days ago I came across my most recent wub while I was sick with a cold, and it was a big one (the wub, not the cold). What was it, you ask?

I can’t leave Japan empty-handed. And I don’t mean loaded down with souvenirs, either.

I realized that if I didn’t leave this place prepared for life afterward there would have been no point in coming here at all. The entire time I’ve been here it’s been under the guise of a big vacation, when it is nothing of the sort at all. Sure, there’re classes and all, but that’s not the only reason I’m here. It’s an entire year to plan out my next step and I should never have forgotten that. Just think – a year to polish my resume, maybe send out a few feelers for scholarship opportunities and internships in the States, time to write a few short stories and smooth out the rough edges in the ones I have… So much time to prepare, and so much to do.

When I return to Clemson I’ll have only a semester of study left most likely, and afterward there lies a huge blank space. Space that needs to be filled with some sort of plan. Now. What will I fill it with? At present I’m not sure. I’m tossing around a few options in my head at the moment, from graduate school to coming back here to teach English to uprooting myself from home and branching out somewhere else once I get stateside. I peruse Facebook quite often (as most of us do), and when I see so many of my friends that have established themselves so far away from where they began it makes me want to do the same. What matters to me most is doing something stable, something that I’d be willing to suffer for, something that would establish my being here. Success isn’t only measured in fame or power or riches, and that’s not the type of success that interests me anyway.

As I write, something that my creative writing professor at Clemson told me has come to mind. She told me about how she started fresh out of college, moving to New York without much in order to accept an unpaid internship with a publishing company, about how she maxed out a few credit cards to make her vision a solid reality. Could I do the same? Uproot my life from most of what I’ve known to do what I want to do somewhere else?

Damn straight I can. I’ll have to. You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, as the maxim tells us.

I can’t leave Japan empty-handed. This is what I’m supposed to take away from this experience. This isn’t a trip. It’s not a pleasure cruise.

So much of college is an attempt at suspending adulthood, and studying abroad is a major extension of that. A year without thinking about GPAs and paper deadlines, substituting them with excessive drinking and wasteful spending on stuff you don’t really need, and are just now reasoning out how to bring back home with you. Sure, if you apply yourself long enough you’ll end up with some sort of degree applicable in some career path, but any degree is worthless if you don’t know how you’re gonna market yourself with it.

Such common sense. And I’m just seeing it for the first time, really understanding it. But better late than never, right?

Ponder away, little philosopher. Ponder away.

As it stands, there’s six months left here, and six months after that before I graduate, one year wherein I have to come up with some sort of plan to fill that blank after. For the longest time I’ve resisted looking ahead further than six months, but that’s no longer going to work, and no longer is it acceptable. The way I see it this year’s gonna make me, or it’s gonna break me. Shortlisted – a sharper resume (made sharper just by being here); a few rough short stories during this break from classes; some research into internships, and graduate schools; opportunities that lead back to Japan; better ways to budget my money and my time, both of which are as precious to me as the air I breathe.

Whaddyaknow, my first real New Year’s resolution.

But before all that, I should clean my filthy room. Really, it’s a disgrace – you’d be ashamed of me to see it. And I’m not showing it to you, either.

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