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thinking about living life


I’ve been thinking about existing. About how to be productive, but not too overworked; about how to relax, but not to be too lax.


It’s been three weeks since I’ve moved back home to northern California after graduating from college in sunny San Diego. It’s been five and a half years of self-discovery through making new friends and overcoming academic challenges; it is time for me to move on. I have left everything I loved there -- my job as an audiovisual technician, my role as a student, my friends, and the communities I had joined.


Time has slowed significantly down for me now. College had provided an external schedule scaffolding that gave me social and academic roles. I was always focused on getting good grades. When I was lonely, I had friends I could hang out with. To take my mind off classes, I could throw myself into work shifts while enjoying the company of my coworkers.


Now, I have to readapt to communicating and compromising with my parents, decide on my own future, and make do with not having many friends who live in my area. Towards the end of my college career, I realized that I was no longer interested in pursuing careers in my majors (linguistics and cognitive science), which made me feel lost. Some nights I have had trouble sleeping, with my heart aching from yearning for that same level of social connection I had in college. I even cleaned my room at least five times in the first week I was home. I started panicking at the thought of living at home for a few years. I felt trapped because I didn't want to be reliant on my parents, but I also knew living with them would provide me with the financial stability I would need while I figured out my next steps.

今、私は親とコミュニケーションを取ったり歩み寄ることに慣れなおしたり、自分の将来を決めたり、周りに友達がいない所に住むことを我慢しなければならない。大学生活が終わりに近づくにつれ、自分の専攻分野(言語学と認知科学)に関わるキャリアに興味がなくなっていることに気づき、私は迷いを感じた。 大学時代と同じレベルの社会的なつながりを求めて、心が痛くて眠れない夜もあった。 実家に帰った最初の週には、少なくとも5回は部屋を掃除した。あと数年間、実家で暮らさなきゃいけないかもしれないことを考えると、パニックにもなる。親に頼りたくなかったから追い詰められた気持ちだったけれど、親と暮すことで経済的な安定が得られることもわかっていたから、私はただ自分の次のステップは何だろうと考えていた。

In a way, I felt I had lost the freedom and purpose that I had built my life around in college. But at one point, I started getting tired of feeling sorry for myself, and I didn’t want to feel upset anymore. I just wanted to do something with my life. To move onto the next part of my life, I needed to make a plan, I needed to tell myself what to do, and I needed to do it. No one else could.

ある意味、大学生活で自分の人生を築いてきた自由と目的を失ったような気がした。でも、ある時から自分をかわいそうだと思うことが嫌になってきて、もうこれ以上動揺したくなかった。 私はただ、自分の人生で何かをしたいと思ってた。人生の次のステップに進むためには 計画を立てたり、 何をすべきか自分に言い聞かせる必要があり、それを実行する必要があった。だって、私のことは他の誰にもできないんだから。

Reflecting back on all this, I thought about what I learned from college. In college, I briefly had a job as an audio/visual technician. I realized that living life was like learning to use a mixing board there. The goal of sound mixing is to make sure each instrument, speaker, or singer can be heard clearly by the audience. As sound engineers, we figure out what's important and we learn how to make these sounds heard. We can apply this principle to our own lives, where we are the sound mixing engineers in our life, and the sounds we produce are the actions we take. I learned that different instruments could occupy similar or different frequencies, which made it hard to distinguish signals from different instruments in similar frequencies. Every instrument or microphone would be sent to a channel on the mixing board, and together, all of these signals would be combined and sent out to the speakers. As such, I had to learn to use my ears and my knowledge of the mixing board to filter these signals in a way that allowed the audience to hear each and every instrument.


* ミキシング・ボード = ミキシング・コンソール。複数の音声信号を回路における演算によって様々な音声トラック形式へ出力させるためのミキシング用音響機器

** サウンドミキシング = 多チャンネルの音源をもとに、ミキシング・コンソールを用いて音声トラックのバランス、音色、定位などをつくりだす作業

My life operates under similar principles. Each channel in this mixing board corresponded to different parts of needs that I have: social, physical, and emotional, to say the least. I’ve noticed that when I neglect one of those parts, I feel imbalanced and it affects the other parts of my life. For example, if things get stressful and I start becoming socially withdrawn, it hurts me, because I draw so much strength from how my friends and I emotionally support each other. This new phase of my life seemed like another concert that I had to learn to balance. I just needed to learn to play life by ear to set the dials for this one.

私の人生も、似たような原理で動いている。ミキシング・ボードのそれぞれのチャンネルは、私が持つ様々な欲求に相当する。控えめに言っても、社会的、身体的、精神的といった欲求だ。これらのうち一つでもおろそかになると、バランスが悪くなり、他の部分にも影響が出てくることに気づいた。例えば、ストレスの多い状況の中で社会から距離を取らなければならないとき、私と友人はお互いが感情的に支え合えているかから、とても大きな力を得ているけれど、それがなくなることで私はさらに落ち込んでしまう。 私の人生の新しい局面は、音のバランスをとることを学ばなければならないコンサートのように思えた。私は耳を使って一つ一つのチャンネルを合わせ、バランスの取れた人生を生きていくための方法を学ぶ必要があった。


Socially, I have three channels: friends through messaging, my immediate social situation, and social media sites. This social aspect of my life is like a signal I am learning to balance against the time and energy I have for myself.



After going through a panic spiral at 4 am, I forced myself to reconnect with long lost friends, and asked them about how their life was going. Some responded after a few days, and some eventually stopped responding, but that’s life. I cast my net wide, knowing that it was the effort that counted and not the end result.

午前4時にパニックスパイラルに陥った私は、長年の友人たちと無理やりまた繋がって、彼らの人生はどんな感じなのかを聞いてみた。数日後に反応してくれた人もいれば、次第に返事をしなくなった人もいるけど、それが人生。 私は、最終的な結果ではなく、努力が重要であることを知っていたから、色んな方法をとってみることにした。

In real life, I’ve still got my parents and sibling around me. Depending on the situation, I sometimes have to listen closely to what they’re saying, or tune them out when I don’t have the energy.


There’s also another aspect of socialization that didn’t exist twenty years ago -- social media. It’s also easy to feel connected to others when we log onto social media, whether or not we actually message anyone. The purpose of a social media site is to entice us into feeling that the content is relevant to our lives, and to present as much content as possible that we might feel a connection to. When I’m feeling drained and distracted, I have started making it a habit to log out of social media to signal to myself that it’s time for me to take a break.



On the physical side, I must balance my physical need with my physical capabilities. I listen to my body to make sure I don’t push myself too hard or too little.



I used to be obsessed with swimming from a young age, but I quit in high school. Exercise helps me feel better, and I knew filling this vacuum in my life would be a good place to start. So I dusted off my old bicycle and started biking. After all, my parents didn’t let me drive their cars, and I had only started to ask my brother to help me get reacquainted with driving so it would help me get around as well. In the past, I had been scared to bike among the cars, and I still felt scared. Nonetheless, I made myself bike to different libraries and get familiar with the area, I calmed myself when I started freaking out, and I forced myself to focus on what was in front of me. Additionally, exercise releases endorphins, which likewise made me feel better emotionally.

幼い頃からスイミングに通っていたけれど、高校時代にやめてしまった。運動すると気持ちよくなるし、この空虚感を埋めることが人生の良いスタートになると思い、古い自転車の埃を払って、自転車に乗り始めてみた。結局、親は彼らの車を私に運転させてくれなかったし、弟に運転を教え直してほしいと頼み、自分の移動にも都合がよかった。昔は車の間を自転車で走るのが怖かったし、今でもまだ怖さを感じてる。 それでも、自転車で色んな図書館に行くことで、その土地に馴染みがでてきた。パニックになった時は自分を落ち着かせ、目の前のことに集中するようにしてる。さらに、運動はエンドルフィン*を分泌し、私は感情的に気分がよくなった。

* エンドルフィン = 脳内で機能する神経伝達物質のひとつである。内在性鎮痛系にかかわり、また多幸感をもたらすと考えられている。


Mentally, I’m working on my future career goals, shifting my perspective about my current situation, and keeping myself mentally aware of my needs.



To alleviate my anxiety, I made a plan to start tutoring and to start getting certifications for teaching. I set new goals for myself in learning pedagogy (the method and practice of teaching), and will see how this goes.


I knew I didn’t want to stop growing yet, emotionally, mentally, and physically. I want to help others, I want to learn to take care of myself, and I want to advocate for social change. Once I get my mental health under control, I know that I’ll be able to take on more challenges. Every new bike ride I take, every new book I read, and every time I step out of my comfort zone is a conscious effort for me to put distance behind me and my pre-college self. To supplement my needs, I have checked out more than enough books to read and movies to watch. In time, I hope that this freedom and care I am using to cultivate myself will make me more comfortable with adapting to change.


Besides this, I check in with myself by journaling every day, or almost every day. I write about what I’ve done, about what I’m planning to do, and how I feel about things. This has allowed me to understand my own patterns of behavior and the ways I respond to different situations, and allowed me to reflect on how I can change.


Although it’s only been three weeks, I think I’ve learned a lot about myself in that time, and I hope to learn more. It’s highly unlikely I’ll have another chance to get the hang of live sound mixing, but I hope I’ll get the hang of the live sound mixing of life one day.


Images by Karen

Japanese Translated by Kanaco and Hikari

Edited by Eli, Hikari and Kiara

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