Do you know Samuel Ullman’s poem, “Youth”?
The poem starts off with “Youth is not a time of life – it is a state of mind”. I’ve heard that famous people often quote from it. So, what do I want to say about it?
I hate the poem.
That’s right, ever since I was young, I’ve hated it.
Why? Because at that time, I had already lost the “youth” the poem was talking about.
To be honest, the first time I saw the poem I thought, “Is this poem trying to make fun of me?”
Wouldn’t it be annoying if someone pointed out the thing you were self-conscious about?
This is the same as that. I’m not faulting the poem itself. No, it’s what the poem makes me want to say. “I already know I’ve lost my youth, you don’t need to remind me.”
Young people reading the poem probably wouldn’t ponder too much about it.
You know, when I was in elementary school, I naively thought that I could become anything – an athlete or maybe a pilot. That everything was possible.
Later when I became a middle schooler, I gradually realized that I couldn’t become a professional athlete. Some time later, I also realized that becoming a performer wasn’t an option for me. It became increasingly obvious that it was impossible for me to obtain the kind of showy life everyone vied for. But there were still plenty of things I could do, I thought. If I found that one thing I could do, I would then live happily.
Once I entered high school, I came face to face with reality. With my academic ability I couldn’t enter a first-class university. I was never going to be someone who could influence society in a substantial manner – for example, those politicians and those CEOs who own giant corporations. Nevertheless, there had to be something I could do. Everything would be okay once I found that, I thought.
However, I also felt that I needed a guarantee. I attempted to solidify my position in life by going to a university. My major was in something I didn’t particularly like. All because I wanted to secure a job.
I majored in engineering at a local public university. Nevertheless, I somehow ended up focusing on having fun instead of my concentrating on my studies, completely forgetting my dreams.
Only on the year before my graduation did I start thinking helplessly about my career. Even at that point, I tried in vain to make sure I would have a job.
Companies are organizations whose main focus is avoiding collapse. However, the company I decided to work for after graduating collapsed despite its attempts at restructuring. No longer able to dream, I became convinced that I had no choice but to accept reality.
After that, I succeeded in marrying someone and then somehow also managed to divorce them, becoming single once again at the age of thirty-five. Nevertheless, my body was still in good shape. I believed that there was still a future for myself.
At the age of forty, where half of my life had already ended, there weren’t many options left. It’s said that after forty years, making decisions is easy because there aren’t any decisions left to make. I finally understood the meaning behind that. The possibility of me starting over had long since passed away.
When I turned forty-five, I began to feel my physical strength declining. I didn’t even consider starting over anymore.
I looked back on my life many times. Day after day, I thought, how did I end up living this dull life? What would it be like if I was given the chance to start over?
Do you know what humans consume in order to live?
Humans live by consuming “dreams”, in other words, “opportunities”.
When they’re children, these “dreams” are endless. Humans live by devouring on such things.
Those who are successful in life are probably those who have the ability to skillfully make use of these types of vanishing opportunities.
I was the type of person who had decided to live an easy life and didn’t really have what you would call an “adventurous” spirit. It was definitely impossible for me to have possessed what Ullman called “youth”.
I ended up completely discarding the “dreams” I believed would be granted to me when I grew up.
This is a tale about the dream life of a man who was given the chance to make a fresh start. He was a man who had easily given up his dreams and ended up living an aimless ordinary life.
◆ ◆ ◆
My name is Kawasaki Yatarou. A dull middle aged man who’s turning forty-five this year.
I’m currently working for a company that maintains a power plant. The plant is located in a port city in the Kansai region.
I have a colleague who entered the company at the same time as me. While I’m still stuck with the position of assistant management chief, he’s become my boss. Well, it’s not like I can fault anyone since I never really bothered with getting promoted.
If you changed one of the Japanese characters in my first name it would change from Kawasaki Yatarou to Iwasaki Yatarou. Iwasaki is the founder of the Mitsubishi corporation. However, my first name is also the same as the Kawasaki corporation. Since my name is related to two competing companies, the people in town often tease me for it.
The teasing has never caused any problems for me though.
Today was as usual. I ate dinner at a cheap bar and then returned home to my apartment. The mortgage for my apartment has still been lingering for more than ten years. It would probably be fine for me to sell the apartment off since I get relocated by my company frequently. However, since selling it off is a chore, the apartment has somehow become the actual “home” I live in.
Even if I come home, it’s not like there’s anyone there. The things I can do at home are limited to aimlessly surfing the web or maybe skimming through some web novels.
My television usually remains unused. I don’t even know how long it’s been since I’ve watched a drama. I’m not saying that dramas no longer excite me, it’s different. There’s so many dramas out there that have no happy endings. I always end up depressed after watching one. It’s the main reason why I’ve stopped watching dramas.
As of this moment, I’m currently skimming through some web novels.
Even though I rarely find any interesting novels these days, for some reason, I felt like trying out a reincarnation novel. It would be nice to fantasize about the things I can’t do. To run away from the grayness of reality. Even if you try to tell me that a man who’s halfway past his forties shouldn’t be doing such things – that’s already something I’m fully aware of.
I enter “reincarnation”, “different world” and “fantasy” into the search box like I usually do. More than three-thousand novels are displayed upon the screen. I hardheartedly click on a few of them.
I’ve already skimmed through quite a few bad novels today. I give the ten novels I had selected a glance, and walk away to get a canned beer.
With my canned beer in hand, I begin reading the novels. These days, I don’t even bother drinking from a mug.
Yup, this one’s also no good. I can’t really relate with a novel that has a girl in high school as the protagonist . . .
My hand reaches out for the mouse and I try to search for a different novel. Suddenly, a sharp pain throbs in my chest. My vision rapidly grows darker. Collapsing face down upon my desk, the canned beer falls from my hand and soaks my arm.
Aah, I spilled it.
There was no tension or urgency. Those were my final memories before my consciousness floated away from the world.
Right before I fully lost consciousness, I vaguely saw the title of a novel appear on the computer screen. The title seemed to be “Trinitas Mundus”.