“Maybe it’s time for me to leave Japan,” my friend says. “I feel like maybe it’s now or never.”
He, like me, would like to be a standup comedian with more success than doing shows here and there in the cultural backwater of English comedy in Japan. He’s considering going to LA, one of the comedy Meccas, because there’s actual opportunity and reward there, if you can navigate all the significant challenges. As opposed to where we are now, where no matter how funny you are in front of an audience, ultimately, the most you’ll really get out of it is the satisfaction of making a room full of people laugh. There are no agents in the crowd scouting to see if there’s someone they can use, there are no auditions being held looking for breakout talents, the community isn’t big enough to be an ecosystem that cultivates entrepreneurial entertainment projects.
But why now?
“I feel my body decaying,” he says both truthfully and ironically. “I mean, I feel like any later than this, I might be too old to go for it.”
He’s younger than me by just a little bit, so if anything, I feel the same decay, and maybe a little more. The thing is, though, that I’ve felt the same decay all my life. “Decay” might be the wrong word. Something more like “already late”. When I was twenty five it felt like I had already taken a few wrong turns at age twenty and maybe I had missed some key moments that were supposed to shape my life. At thirty, I looked back at twenty five and lamented how I missed the boat then, too. At thirty five, forty, and now, same deal.
It’s taken me this long to realize that part of the reason I kept missing the boat at whatever milestone I look back at was precisely because I felt a constant pressure to have already done some essential groundwork to make whatever next opportunity immediately accessible. It always felt like I was not in the place I already wanted to be to even start on the path to my goals, so I had to make up for lost time by pushing harder. If I didn’t, I’d be too old to do it.
Was I? Am I? How old is too old to aspire, and when did I cross the line?
Culture, by which I mean a sort of globalized capitalist culture that I don’t quite know where the bounds are, exalts this idea that aspiration is bound with youth, and youth itself is a narrowly defined…