01 January 2018

To rebel, to never rush

"Eating freely without being held back." Well that's the dream.

Thing is, I've learned how to do that—and have been doing that—since I landed my first job. The freedom that money and singlehood afford, I spend on gourmandizing. That quote, by the way, comes from the Japanese mini-series, Samurai gourmet, where newly retired Takeshi Kasumi embarks on a new adventure: figuring out what to do with all the free time in his hands.

"Why am I in a hurry to go home? I don't have to go to work tomorrow," is an example of Kasumi's many internal dialogues; and the focus on introspection while keeping a lighthearted tone is the show's unique charm. Its opening credits go, "This story is about an ordinary 60-year-old man"—and they mean it.

Other everyday struggles he faces are: mustering the courage to speak up to a rude store owner, asking loud diners on the next table to be quiet, and being himself, that is, eating pasta with chopsticks—and pairing it with beer—in an elegant Italian restaurant. He gets through these bouts of awkwardness (imagine that at his age) with the help of his no-nonsense Samurai alter-ego.

Samurai gourmet episode 8: Pasta the Samurai way

Since my interview with actress Cherie Gil and seeing Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and web series High road way, way earlier, I became interested in stories with middle-aged protagonists. I wish to reach my 90s—my centenary, even. So it tickled me when Kasumi blurted (in his head), "I'll never age as gracefully as him" after witnessing an older, more confident man tackle a problem. Kasumi's future is a given. He, at sixty, has a huge room for dreams.

He's living an enviable ordinariness, the price of which is loyalty to a company, or more than half of his life committed to working hard for an employer. Me, I belong to a generation that switch jobs at least three times in their career. I've had five. I'm of the "burnt out" lot. So I play Samurai Gourmet over the weekends, and over month-long stretches of freelancing-slash-vacationing in between strings of years holding a full-time job.

My point is I'm stressed out about my retirement strategy. I need to be smarter with my finances if I were to live to a hundred. Yet strangely, I've never been this excited about tomorrow.

Each year I honestly feel younger. Maybe because I know more and knowledge is a sort of liberation. Maybe because I know the way around my mind better. A couple of hours ago a push notification led me to reread a friend's letter to her 32 year old self, which I thought was eloquent. She said, "Manage time. While you are and always will be late for anything, never rush life." Thirty-four-year-old me can use the reminder.


(PS: I wrote a little sketch inspired by the beautiful setting of Samurai gourmet Pasta the Samurai way. That image of Kasumi beside the window, his table bathed in afternoon light, is stuck in my head.)

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