What Is My Why?

While tossing a salad today my mind started asking questions, as it's wont to do while the body is operating on auto-pilot. The plan for this past weekend was to rest and do zero work, including the weekly cleaning1, and it couldn't have gone better. The ultimate goal was to watch baseball, read thoughtful books, and answer a single question: What is my "why?"

We all need a Why. This is the reason we get out of bed in the morning. This is the reason we work. This is the reason we don't hop on the next midnight train going anywhere. For the longest time my answer to this question was simple: I will provide for my family any way I can.

This answer probably seems over-simplistic given its vagueness, but it conveys the ultimate purpose of every action I have performed since the summer of 2007. As a foreigner in a foreign land, I needed to be flexible enough and responsible enough to ensure everyone had what they needed. At first "the family" was just Reiko and I. Then it expanded to include Nozomi. Many years later the boy came along. However, as I went around the house this evening to close the blinds and mindlessly talk to the few remaining stuffed animals, this answer no longer seemed valid. There's nobody here to provide for. Suffice it to say, I need a new Why. Ideally one that is more challenging.

Providing for a family is no simple matter. A remarkable amount of commitment is required and people are often better off as a result. However, with the prospect of being denied access to my son until his 18th birthday (or longer), there is a giant question in front of me that is demanding an answer: If I am unable to see my son for at least the next thirteen years, does it make sense to stay in Japan? As one would expect, this is the question that requires an answer. Everything else is secondary.

Will I continue to work for my employer or move to another? Will I start a business? Will I stay in my home or sell it and live in something smaller? Will I buy a car? Will I replace some furniture? Will I seek companionship? Will I adopt a dog? All of these questions will change drastically if I decide to leave the country.

And, if I were to leave Japan, would I return to Ontario? Would I consider moving to another country in order to further broaden my knowledge of the world? Regardless of where I go, economic security will be paramount as the boy will need financial support. Backpacking across Western Europe will not pay the bills.

As important as these questions might seem, though, a very pragmatic statement rose out the subconscious within seconds of the salad being set on the table: These aren't the right questions.

Indeed. These are the questions that a person can ask when they've fulfilled all of their responsibilities, including the ones that have seemed too large to address properly. These are the questions that a person can ask when there is nothing left to do where they are; when the frayed ends on their tapestry of life have been sufficiently mended. I have a long way to go before this claim can be made. There's a divorce to finalise. Paperwork to file. Weight to be lost. Relationships to repair. Leaving is not an option. These dragons2 need to be faced.

So where does this leave me in the search for an answer to the ultimate question of Why? Believe it or not, it answers the question. What is my "Why"? It's the conquering of these new challenges; these responsibilities. I will need to stand up straight with my shoulders back. I will need to look after myself better. It will be necessary to meet new people and, ideally, make friends with those who can help me grow. Do the meaningful things. Listen carefully. Speak clearly and truthfully. And to be mindful before critiquing things that I may not fully understand. There is very much a theme here; one that I've been on for several years now. There is still much to do and learn, but this is to be the new answer to Why for the near future.

I'm lead to believe that overcoming the obstacles before me will open golden doors of opportunity; ones that are completely invisible to me today. To open those doors, though, I need the golden keys. And those keys, for all intents and purposes, are currently under guard by dragons that become larger and stronger the more I avoid them.


  1. Rather than compress all the effort of cleaning the house into a single day, I spread it out over the weekdays, allowing for an actual day of rest on Sunday.

  2. The dragon is not literal, of course.