Soul Searching

Allow me to rant a bit.

I’m at my quarter-life crisis.  I first heard the word mentioned while reading a review of Solanin.

A midlife crisis occurs when a person begins to judge how their life has gone, brought on by the realization that most of their life is over.  A quarter-life crisis, on the other hand, is the uncertainty caused by the transition to adulthood.

The characters in Solanin face their uncertain futures and resolve to take life one step at a time.  In Katawa Shoujo, Rin’s good end comes to the same conclusion: both Rin and Hisao decide to enjoy the present as much as they can.

My crisis could not be more different from Hisao’s, and I’m not sure whether my predicament could even be called a quarter-life crisis.  While Hisao struggles to find a goal in life, my goal is fixed and specific to a fault.  I’ll earn a Bachelor’s degree in Physics, spend six years in graduate school studying an area of physics, move on to a post-doc for two or three years, and end up teaching physics at a university.  I will spend seven years or so struggling to earn tenure, and by the time I do, I’ll be almost forty years old.

It’s scary.  And Katawa Shoujo has come at an important step in this process.  You see, tomorrow I’ll head back to college.  And the day after, spring semester classes start.  This isn’t your average semester – it’s my first taste of upper division classes.  So today and tomorrow are quite literally my last chance to change my plans for the future.  Is this what I really want to do for the next twenty years?

Rin says no.  Shizune says yes.  Lilly tells me to enjoy it while it lasts.

Don’t get me wrong.  I like what I study.  I’m good at it, it’s interesting, and the very notion of “explaining the mysteries of the universe” is so romantic and appealing, who wouldn’t want to do it?  It’s just that I’ve been playing an on-rails shooter my entire life.  I hit all the marks and get a perfect score, but in the end I can’t venture past what I see.

To clear that up: My entire life has been planned out.  My family’s expectations of me, my peers’ opinions of me.  They all point to success.  I’m not going to be humble, and I’m not trying to brag, but I’m smart.  When you hit the books for twenty years, something’s gotta come out of it, and academic success is my end result.  But that only steers me further into academia.  I like doing what I’m good at, and I’m good at studying and researching because I’ve been doing it well my whole life.  A vicious cycle, though not an entirely bad one.

So this is why I like anime, manga, and gaming.  Something as ordinary as walking home from school with a couple of friends is something that I’ve never experienced.  Running late to class with a piece of bread in my mouth?  That could never happen.  (Though I did run late to band with a baritone in hand, so maybe that counts for something)  In the end, my hobbies are a window into a life that I will never lead.

And this explains a lot.

I don’t actually love Rin or love Mikoto.  I admire their outward personalities because everything about them is so foreign to me.  (Think Death the Kid and the Thompson sisters)

This is why I like Nichijou.  Because my life is so predictable, I search for unpredictability in my anime.  So even if the joke’s confusing or you don’t laugh, I still laugh.

This is why I like Katawa Shoujo.  A visual novel that plops me straight into the shoes of Mr. Arrhythmia, giving me a taste of uncertainty?  Fantastic.

Originally, I was going to write a post about my personal connections to Katawa Shoujo.

And then I realized that I have almost none.  I do have my share of experiences with solitude, but Inushinde hit all the points already.  I had a panic attack-ish thing before, but it was at my home when I was trying to sleep.  Hell, the guy in the ER room never told me what happened, probably because nobody knew what happened.  It was during summer vacation and it was annoying.

But aside from that, I don’t even share the inner conflicts that Hisao has about the future.  A big part of any route in Katawa Shoujo deals with what Hisao wants to do in the future.  And in general, there’s a theme in anime about career choices.  The “future career plans” form always comes up in school life anime (95% of all shows), and usually the conclusion is to take life one step at a time, waiting for the answer to appear.

Unfortunately, that was never an option for me.  I fear that my lack of a quarter-life crisis will end up in a severe midlife crisis.

Or not.

A couple of years ago, I was at a banquet for National Merit Finalists from my high school.  We each had to go up to the podium, fake a smile to the camera, and say something into the microphone.

Alphabetical order again?  Ugh.  I went first.

I got up to the mic, and leaned in way too close, testing it.  Several people in the audience nervously laughed as I asked if the mic was working.  The principal was standing behind me, and he urged me to hurry up.  We had thirty or so people waiting behind me.

So I said my name, then said that I’d do physics in the future, and the crowd clapped politely.  They were all waiting for their own children to go up, anyway.

As the principal was taking the mic out of my hand to give to the next Asian student (oh no the racism), I grabbed it.  I didn’t hesitate when I said, “I’m going to change the world.”

And that I will.

I have resolved to keep on going and see where life takes me.  I know that if I try hard and try harder, I will accomplish whatever I want to accomplish.

As long as games like Katawa Shoujo are a thorn in my side, I will continue to think deep and hard about myself, and why I do what I do.

Sorry for the depressing (?) ending.  I don’t have a satisfying conclusion to whatever I’m brooding over, so you don’t get one either.

Also I hope that what you take away from this post is not “flomu is an arrogant bastard.”  You should have known that beforehand.

And yes, I am typing all of this right now in order for there to be a lot of text at the bottom.  I hate seeing small amounts of text between pictures.

P.S.: Play Katawa Shoujo.  I did.


21 Comments on “Soul Searching”

  1. drmchsr0 says:

    Change the world, eh?

    Well, you can start by getting yourself discredited for proving that radiowaves are dangerous to human health. With your applied Math skills, it’ll be a snap.

    …What? You don’t have to follow what I said. It’s just a suggestion :V

  2. seinime says:

    Damn gaming killing all my blogging time. This season isn’t that spectacular for now to begin with.

    People need engineers. Whereas I’m completely unsure about how useful a Japanese major would be. I go through everyday worrying/regretting whether I should’ve went for that business degree after all, or whether or not I can even land a job. Nonetheless, I have to finish this degree anyway before I can do anything else, what with the looking down upon by engineering students in my university (“You’re going to be working in Starbucks once you grad hahaha”). At least I haven’t forgotten to enjoy life.

    You shouldn’t be worrying about a quarter-life crisis or anything because we as Asians tend to overworry a lot. “Oh no, I failed -> 86%” or “Oh crap, I’m so dead in that exam qqqq -> 9x%” in darn university. Hell, I want those scores. But engineering and physics are tough. So when you make it out, give yourself a pat on the back. Your career stability and salary are probably much more set than the average arts student.

    I bid you the best of luck in changing the world. The people crazy enough to think they can change it are usually the ones who do.

    • Reiseng says:

      Nonetheless, I have to finish this degree anyway before I can do anything else, what with the looking down upon by engineering students in my university (“You’re going to be working in Starbucks once you grad hahaha”). At least I haven’t forgotten to enjoy life.

      Bleh, ignore those annoying jerks. From what I have observed the only people who go around sprouting such nonsense are the ones who need excuses to finish their own degree.

      As in, they only went in thinking of job prospects, did not expect it to be so difficult, and must come up with a “reasonable” excuse to continue working.

      And while we are talking stereotypes: Engineers only whine and complain, CS kids only game and boast, Bio kids uhh do {stereotype}, chemists don’t exist, physicists are all crazy, math people circle jerk (About Math obviously), business kids are good at pretending to do stuff, and art kids supposedly spend their days and nights drunk.

      Also, it’s good you care about the here and now, the “hardworkers” might die before they can do anything useful (I guess, I am also a cynical asshole).

      You should become a professional translator for some company like Funimation, Viz, CruncyRoll, etc… :P
      Or you know, you could learn a few more languages, and become a translator for the UN. THAT WOULD BE SO COOL! I could see you on TV. :P

    • flomu says:

      Engineering finds no jobs? BULLSHIT, I say. Engineers are wanted everywhere!

      Going physics means that I have to go to graduate school to get a job. So there goes the next eight years of my life!

      Though my views are pretty biased. At my school, the engineers make fun of me, saying that I won’t get a job.

      EDIT: WAIT NEVERMIND I TAKE IT BACK
      YOUR COMMENT CONFUSED ME

      Japanese degree, eh? You could go into teaching. Or something else, I don’t know. Though I’m sure that whatever you do is going to be much less BORING than whatever engineers do. My father is an engineer, and he told me to forget it. It’s a lot of work, and very tedious stuff!

      See, you’re the kind of guy I sometimes wish I could be. I care too much about studies that I can’t think outside my one-track goal. Even now, my immediate goal is to get into a good graduate school, and then into a good university to teach/research, and then tenure. Oh man, I’m scared all over again.

      But yeah. Japanese may not be as practical as engineering (I know physics isn’t), but it’s doing what you love. I feel that that kind of satisfaction could not be replaced by however high your salary may be with an engineering or business degree.

      You shouldn’t be worrying about a quarter-life crisis or anything because we as Asians tend to overworry a lot. “Oh no, I failed -> 86%” or “Oh crap, I’m so dead in that exam qqqq -> 9x%” in darn university. Hell, I want those scores. But engineering and physics are tough. So when you make it out, give yourself a pat on the back.

      Haha, it’s true. Though my issue isn’t with studies – I’m doing pretty well on that. Unfortunately, that also means that I have much less time for everything else. I have forgotten to enjoy life.

      I practically disappear from Twitter and the internet during the school year. Eventually, I’ll make it to a SCCSAV meeting. But until then, I’m going to go at my own pace (which is more or less running, but I could always sprint).

      And you too. Once we get out into the real world, we’ll be ready for anything. Maybe.

      I bid you the best of luck in changing the world. The people crazy enough to think they can change it are usually the ones who do.

      Well, I figured that out of all the sciences, physics had the best shot of changing the world.

      Haven’t given it much thought, but hey, I’ll make it happen!

      • seinime says:

        Japanese -> language studies -> salary -> oh man can I even make one asdjhajdgahfg

        Nothing left to do but to just finish it and get this sheet of paper everyone is raving about.

        “Though my issue isn’t with studies – I’m doing pretty well on that. Unfortunately, that also means that I have much less time for everything else. I have forgotten to enjoy life.”
        I’ve forgotten how to study. Lack of motivation = why am I doing this every day

      • flomu says:

        One week of the new semester down and where has my free time gone oh man.

        I’ve forgotten how to study. Lack of motivation = why am I doing this every day

        Neither side of the spectrum is good, tbh. In your case, wouldn't motivation come from love of Japanese? Though I guess if you take too many classes, it gets tough. Plus the salary issue. Reality…

  3. Reiseng says:

    Forgive the cliche spambot comment, but that was a great post.

    You hit me pretty close to home. I am in pretty much same situation. I often ponder what am I going to do in the future. Sometimes I have these grand visions of finishing my bachelors, getting a Ph.D or two, and then doing stuff to change the world. But then sometimes the stress gets to me. The stress of homework, combined with a “what’s the point” feeling lead to me to my routine quarter life crisis. Sometimes, I just want to finish my damn degree, and open a bakery.

    It’s funny, but I don’t know a thing about baking, and I suck at cooking, but baking seems peaceful and relaxing, or so Clannad will have me believe.

    I watch anime/read manga for a similar reason as you. To experience things that I did not get the chance to experience in real life (this is why certain High School anime like School Ruble really hit close to home).

    It’s also nice to be able to look at life and say “screw it, I am going to go watch something instead and in the process experience something I will never be able to in real life.”

    My parents and other people also piled on the notion of success from a young age. If I dropped out of university, I would probably break all their hearts.

    I guess, one big difference is that you are actually smart and willing to work, whereas I am quite stupid and quite lazy to (I am procrastinating on work right now, in case you didn’t know).

    It’s just that I’ve been playing an on-rails shooter my entire life. I hit all the marks and get a perfect score, but in the end I can’t venture past what I see.

    I love that line. The perfect score part is only semi-applicable to me, but I to, cannot see that far ahead, and sometimes, I think, that is probably a good thing. Can’t have life being too predictable, can we?:P

    Sigh, it seems like every blogger is either a misunderstood or understood genius. WHAT ON EARTH CAN AVERAGE PEOPLE LIKE ME DO!?

    • flomu says:

      Sometimes, I just want to finish my damn degree, and open a bakery.

      Haha, it gets to you, yeah. But (un-?)fortunately, reality hasn’t hit me yet. My view on graduate school and achieving dreams: keep the momentum going. As long as you don’t stop halfway, it’s doable. It gets exponentially harder the more slack you give yourself.

      But then again, you could burn out. Which would be even worse.

      I watch anime/read manga for a similar reason as you. To experience things that I did not get the chance to experience in real life (this is why certain High School anime like School Ruble really hit close to home).

      Definitely.

      Personally, I’m not sure if I have a shell to crack, or not. I want to go out and experience new things, but I end up never doing so. SCCSAV is a good example of this. I tried doing stuff with them last summer, but I ended up not doing anything.

      I’m not sure if I just don’t like experiencing new things, or if I’m hesitant. Either way, I like watching anime where new things pop up on screen all the time…

      I guess, one big difference is that you are actually smart and willing to work, whereas I am quite stupid and quite lazy to (I am procrastinating on work right now, in case you didn’t know).

      After coming to college, I’ve realized that there are truly geniuses in the world (I’m not one of them). They radiate intelligence from their pores, and you feel smarter just by talking to them. On the other hand, there are no truly stupid people… in a given college. If you can get past the entrance, you can get to the finish line.

      It just matters how hard you try and how much you want something. Laziness… that’s something you have to fix yourself. I have a problem with procrastination as well. It takes me eons to write a research paper because I’d rather surf the internet than write more than a paragraph. It’s annoying. But eventually you’re pressured so much that you have to write it.

      My school advocates pressuring students until their breaking points. If I didn’t procrastinate, I would have no free time because I just have so much work to do. But on the other hand, because I’m always pressured to do a ton of work, I end up doing some of the work, little by little.

      /rant

      Sigh, it seems like every blogger is either a misunderstood or understood genius. WHAT ON EARTH CAN AVERAGE PEOPLE LIKE ME DO!?

      Reminds me of Sakuraba to Shin in Eyeshield 21.

  4. Anya says:

    I routinely go through quarter-life crises all the time LOL. I used to think about going into Physics since I like it, but then I wasn’t sure I want to spend most of my life studying. Being absolutely shit in Calculus doesn’t help either. Then I decided to go into computer science, but found myself not taking that many CS classes and trying out a variety of things. So now I don’t even know what I want to do with my life. Not being a US citizen and having to deal with student visas and work visas make it even worse.

    And here’s why I watch anime with similar reasons to you, my life was boring. I had very few experiences – it felt like high school was centered around classes and getting into college, and now college is centered around classes and getting a job, and once I graduate it’ll be all about work.

    Anime and its related mediums are my only glimpses at a different life, though I wish I’d be able to experience some of them first hand.

    • flomu says:

      I was between CS and Physics for a while. I like CS a bit more than physics. But physics feels… more important. Like the impact will be bigger. And to change the world, I need a meteor’s worth of impact.

      Anime and its related mediums are my only glimpses at a different life, though I wish I’d be able to experience some of them first hand.

      After writing this post, I realized how stereotypical my explanation was. It’s kind of depressing..

  5. TRazor says:

    As a fellow Asian, I can feel where you’re coming from. Our paths are chosen before we’re born: Engineer, Doctor or Accountant. Or if the parents are lawyers, then lawyer.

    “Dad, I don’t want to be any of those. I want to do something different! I want to follow my dream, I want to discover my pas–”
    “Hahahahahahahhaha, good one, son! What’s next, you want to be a comedian?”

    I took the Commerce/Fine Arts stream because I just didn’t want to be an engineer. I don’t have a passion for Commerce in any special way…it was just default. But y’know, all this “fixed path” thing might not all be bad, because it’s not like my life sucks and school sucks and my parents are hateful. Plus, it’s a guaranteed good job, so it’s worth it. I guess.

    Well, see ya around. Don’t die.

    P:S That misunderstood genius comment reminds me:
    “Calvin: I’m a genius, but I’m a misunderstood genius.
    Hobbes: What’s misunderstood about you?
    Calvin: Nobody thinks I’m a genius.”

    • flomu says:

      There are a lot of business and economist people in the Asian community. Seems like a popular choice.

      I wouldn’t be able to walk down that path, tbh. Climbing the corporate ladder is not something I can imagine myself doing. While “following your dreams” may not be viable as far as job hunting, I urge you to consider it anyway, if not only as a hobby or something.

      My greatest fear in life is to come out the other end and realize that I haven’t accomplished anything. So the “fixed path” problem isn’t so much a problem as what I want to do versus what I want to accomplish.

  6. SPIRAL says:

    Engineering is the future of all jobs – you heard it hear first.
    For me, I’m a music/law major so either way, I’ll find a way to make the dough I need to survive. If I didn’t have any worries, I’d be in the present living like a boss with my girlfriend and not giving a damn about the future.

    But now, I’m wondering how I’ll lose interest in the things that I love right now (girls, gaming, anime, manga, etc) as I become older and older. What a sad post. =/

    Fuck life. Let’s just get the half the cynical aniblogsphere, meet up, shit talk in a Starbucks, and party around whatever city and game til we die or get arrested.

    • flomu says:

      Music/Law, wow!

      You see the theme of “living in the present” in all kinds of media, and in anime especially. They urge you to make the most out of your high school life (TOO LATE OOPS) and to make every day interesting.

      I can’t pass much judgment on this, but I’d say one thing does lead to another. Planning for the future leads to a better future. I got into the college I’m in by trying hard in high school. I’m going to get into a grad school based on my effort in college, and I’m going to get a postdoc, and then a job based on my effort in grad school. So when do you have time to smell the flowers? After you retire? As you work your ass off? Life is a strange thing…

  7. FoundOnWeb says:

    Always have a Plan B. Always. A not-uncommon career track in Physics is eight years to the Ph.D., two to four years of postdoc work at CERN or somewhere, followed by getting hired by a Wall Street firm to design newer and more complex financial derivatives, because there weren’t any job openings for Ph.D. physicists. Remember, higher ed is not a growth industry, so in order for a job to open up, some tenured full professor will have to step in front of a bus.

    That said, we are coming to the end of the Baby Boomer Bulge, and six to eight years from now, a lot of the dinosaurs will have died off, and there will be a better chance of getting hired.

    But working on a Plan B, and developing a new skill set as a hobby, will let you channel your angsty moments.

    • flomu says:

      Pretty much. I’m hoping for a university position, but I realize that my computer science skills may bring me to that field in the future. Or maybe Phynance (bad pun-ish thing).

      But the thing is, I didn’t go physics to get a job. I like the subject, and my dream is to get a Nobel Prize for research in physics. Reality hasn’t quite hit me yet. But I am building up coding skills as a plan B. :)

      • FoundOnWeb says:

        I think you are going about this the right way. An old professor of mine once told me to decide on what I wanted to do, and then decide on what I was willing to do if that didn’t work out. It’s a poor sort of life if you have to settle for ‘just a job’, but the path to a Nobel in physics involves first hiring on with somebody who has a LHC on the back lot, and in any given year, there’s not a lot of those jobs opening up. It can be done, _if_ you can arrange to be the next Freeman Dyson, but there’s a lot of competition. Even the first fallback position is a tough one: getting a job teaching theoretical physics at a university that will fund all the paper and pencils you will need. But as someone, possibly Ghengis Khan, once said. “Man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
        I’m not sure I’d settle for coding as a final fallback. It’s fun, it’s rewarding (in a psychic sense, at least), but it’s outsourcable, offshorable, and even automatable. Follow your heart, by all means, but start thinking higher up the mangerial food chain.

        PS: I like your avatar, Tezuka.

      • flomu says:

        With big projects like the LHC, only the head of all the thousand physicists and the top engineer who built the thing get any recognition. And maybe the spokesperson for the group.

        “Just a job” is a terrible way to live a life, but I can settle for coding because I like it very much. You get to create things, which I think is very cool. Besides, it’s good training for computational physics if I decide to do that.

        P.S.: Dyson never got a Nobel Prize…

  8. Yi says:

    “As the principal was taking the mic out of my hand to give to the next Asian student (oh no the racism), I grabbed it. I didn’t hesitate when I said, ‘I’m going to change the world.'”

    That you will. ^ ^

    I’ll spare the usual good luck on your future thing, but just agree with Lilly–enjoy life.


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