The age-old question that all human beings ponder from time to time, is especially common in the minds of young people as they near the end of their education and prepare to enter the “working world” or become a “SHAKAIJIN” as it is called in Japan when a person leaves school and starts working. I recently asked one of my students what to her was important in life and she wrote a short essay about it. That was great practice for her and I am sure that it helped her to improve her English. Being a university student and nearing the end of that period of her life, she said that “having and working to realize a dream” is the most important thing. She said that she feels that she is spending a lot of time now searching for what she wants to do with her life, in other words searching for her dream. She said that she felt she was wasting a lot of time looking for it that should be used to work toward realizing it. She explained that there are so many possibilities that she sometimes becomes confused and also, being a woman, she knows that between the ages of 25 and 30 she will most likely be getting married and this could severely limit her ability to realize her dream. To this I said that women do have a lot of pressure related to age and child-bearing that men do not feel as strongly. Most women feel the need to have a child by age 30 and this puts some pressure on them to get married early. To that she said that getting married is also a dream of most women so it does not have to be a hindrance but instead could be a major part of a woman’s dream. Of course she is correct but I could see that she was still not convinced by her own argument.
Her discussion made me think of my own life. I started out wanting to be an architect and was inspired by many world class architects like Frank Lloyd Wright, Kenzo Tange, Eero Saarinen, Tadao Ando and Antonio Gaudi among many others. I had wanted to become an architect ever since I read The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Ayn Rand is a very inspirational writer and a firm believer in staunch individualism. In this book her main character, Howard Roark, struggled to put forward and defend his own designs and refused to compromise and include or accept the ideas of others only to have his designs changed without his permission. Sticking to his convictions and taking actions actually got him arrested and prevented him from becoming a prominent and well paid architect. But in the end he finally succeeds to build a building that is entirely of his design. Ayn Rand’s belief in selfishness over altruism could be considered a little extreme but novels such as The Fountainhead, do make a powerful case for defending the rights of individual creativity.
Perhaps I was not strong enough to follow my dream through, after graduation, I worked for two architectural firms in Hawaii and Colorado, but in the end I didn’t go on get my masters in architecture at the University of Colorado, despite moving there nor did I become a licensed architect. Instead I came to Japan with my wife, taught English at Berlitz for a while and then went to work as an engineer and technical translator in Japan for Mitsubishi Electric for five years and as an industrial engineer for three and a half years in the U.S. I then worked as an engineer and manager for OKI Electric in the U.S. for 9 years and as a development program manager for automotive navigation and entertainment systems and as an OEM Operations manager for Alpine Electronics in the US for 8 years. So I too could not follow my original dream when my wife became pregnant with our first child, but I don’t regret it at all. We had two fine children in Japan and my experiences in Japan and working for Japanese companies in the Japan and the U.S. will always be a big part of the treasure of my life.
I began a new chapter of my life when I decided to buy the Okamoto school in 2006. It has been a fun and challenging experience so far and I am sure that it will continue to be so. There are so many interesting Japanese students who want to work to master English for so many reasons, there is never a dull moment. Helping students to work toward realizing their dreams is not a bad job, wouldn’t you agree?
Oh, I should explain the pictures. The young long-haired guy at the top is me at age 21. And the other one is me now a few years older and enjoying bowling with my students and fellow school owner-teachers a few weeks ago. Seven strikes in one game is not bad! I surprised myself and many of my students too.