The big, bad future
By Kazuya Muto
"What are you going to do after you graduate?" I've been asked this question so often, and yet I still find I don't have a ready answer. One of the reasons is: I don't have any concrete plans. The future is still vague. And another reason is: The few ideas I do have about what I will do I'd prefer to keep a secret.
Unfortunately, all my friends have asked me this question, and not just once, but many times. I understand why they ask me this, though. It's good to find out what other people want to do with their lives and to compare their plans with yours. So I'm curious, but I hate asking.
I hate asking because I hate answering this question. I usually say something like, "Maybe I'll get a job, work a bit first, and then maybe get a masters ..." Vague, right? It's about 30 percent the truth, 70 percent a lie. I only say it because I feel I have to say something. Otherwise people might end up thinking I had no ambitions at all.
Unfortunately, most of my friends are dissatisfied with the answer. They want to know specifics. "What kind of job were you thinking of?" "Would it be in Japan or some other country?" "If in Japan, why?" The barrage of questions is unrelenting.
Truth be told, I have to think about these questions seriously because I'm already 20 years old and in a couple of years I have to make some kind of decision about what I am going to do. Thinking back, I've always avoided dealing with this. I'm not sure why. Fear, perhaps.
As for whether I want to work in Japan, when I was first asked that question, I said, "I want to work ... well, no, I think I should work in Japan because I'm an only child, and you know, I should take care of my parents when they're older."
My Chinese friends had asked me this and contrary to all my expectations, they were very sympathetic. They are all "only children" because of the one-child policy in China, and they are all worried about who will take care of their parents once they are older. I was even more surprised when I discovered that most study-abroad students were worried about the same thing.
One night, I was chatting about this with some friends over a beer. Jack, who was the oldest person there, said he'd graduated from Macquarie University a couple of years ago and worked as an accountant and a kitchen hand to earn his way. Now he's quit his jobs and he's back at university, studying again. After graduating, he says he's going to go back to his hometown in China to see if he can get a job there. "I reckon I have to take care of my parents. I owe more than I can possibly say," he said.
The room was deathly quiet as he said this. You could have heard a pin drop. His words had struck a chord in us all.
Shukan ST: Nov. 24, 2006
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