By JOEY FURUTANI
(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on July 28, 2010.)
It was an unexpectedly warm afternoon in June, confirmed by the lengthy line at the shave ice booth as I made my way into an energetic crowd of the JCI Carnival. Bingo announcements resonated throughout the stretch of food stalls and game booths. Suddenly, I was overcome with nostalgia as the sweet and oily smell of freshly fried dango furiously invaded my lungs. I saw myself running around with the other kids and asking my mom for more ticket vouchers to play the pachinko machines. I felt the dimes between my fingers as I tossed them towards the tower of dishes at the dime-pitch booth, excited about the new set of dish and glassware that would be added to previous years’ winnings (or what was left of them). Then, in one fell swoop, I rushed back to reality, fully aware that things sure had changed.
Somewhat mercilessly, I realized that I was not a young boy anymore and that my sole purpose at the JCI Carnival had evolved from winning the most live goldfish prizes to figuring out how much dango to buy (with raffle ticket vouchers that I had personally purchased) to distribute to my family.
“Who am I,” I thought to myself.
This once normal, annual experience had now become a surreal, reflective moment. Right there, at a Japanese American (JA) carnival, at the epicenter of JA culture. The food, smells, sounds, and faces were a comforting reminder of who I was. PHEW.
I still know who I am. I am JA. But the important question now becomes, “What have I done?”
I recently surpassed the quarter century mark, an event that induces immediate self-reflection. What have I done? Where am I going? I had a discussion with my most trusted advisors soon after my 25th birthday had passed and after a deep, lengthy debate, I came away with one particular revelation: Quantum Leap, taking my life to the next level.
Was my transformation from goldfish collector to raffle ticket purchaser my first quantum leap? I began searching through my past in hopes of discovering how to proceed with this commencement to the next level.
Shortsightedly however, I began by reflecting only on every individual step I’ve taken up the “stairway of life,” rather than taking a look at the progression as a whole
Through my initial self-reflection, I proved that I was still a few flights of stairs away from taking a quantum leap in life.
So, how do I climb up further, faster?
To start the process, I decided to analyze how others have addressed this issue. The first person I came across was someone who was in desperate need of taking a quantum leap. Her name is Lindsey Lohan, child star turned wild child. Her life has led her to the “Big House” and she will soon exceed the quarter century mark. It’s definitely her time for a quantum leap.
The second person has taught me where not to land after my quantum leap. His name is Mel Gibson. Whether it was too much fame and fortune or the whole experience of taking that momentous next step (in his case, becoming a movie star), I do not want to end up angry at the world. This was a quantum leap gone bad.
The last person I analyzed is a perfect example of whose quantum leap I should model mine after. The greatest part about this example is that I’m related to this individual. He is my brother. My brother recently married his high school sweetheart and was offered his dream job with the coronation of his own family looming in the wings. That, in my opinion, is a quantum leap that I’d take any day of the week.
The first twenty-five years of my life included formal education and socialization. The next twenty-five years hopefully includes solidifying my career, starting a family, and owning a home.
Little did I know that I am about to embark on a journey, one where I will utilize everything that I have learned in my first twenty-five years of life to guide myself through the next quarter century.
Remember…flights of stairs, not individual steps.
Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.