Ikigai: If You’d Find Them, Keep Them.

A few days ago, a good friend of mine came to me to share his story about his relationship. He just landed a new job and he’s been hanging out with his coworkers often that his girlfriend feels neglected. As he lounged around in his chair with a somber look on his face, I asked him when was the last time he spends time with his girlfriend. He told me that just yesterday, he went out with his girlfriend in a coffee shop and I asked did they talk about anything important or did they update themselves about their daily life so his girlfriend would feel that he actually cares a lot about her. He then answered my question with a bright smile, his smile was so bright that I felt like I just experienced a swift changing of season from a sultry winter to a warm spring. After he answered, he asked me a question.

“Do you know why I really admire my girlfriend?”

I shrugged my shoulders in confusion. 

“A woman like her is one of a kind, my relationship with her has reached a stage where I could spend time with her in complete silent and yet I feel like I’m in the safest place. Her presence alone is a powerful cure to my boredom.”

“So you don’t actually talk when you’re with her?” I asked.

“Talking isn’t necessarily communicating,” he answered me back.

“What do you mean?” 

“There’s a point in your life and relationship where you find someone in whom you could spend hours with them just minding your own business. When I spent time with her, she’ll be with her laptop, doing her own business and I’ll just read my book or do whatever works that I have. Sometimes I would steal an occasional glance at her and even a tiny moment like that feels incredibly beautiful for me.”

“That’s strange, you know? No wonder your girlfriend feel neglected. Yes indeed you think highly of her but how are you going to let her know if you never tell her about it?”

He laughed, but his laugh sounds bitter and sorrowful. 

“Exactly. I’m so lousy with communicating how I really feel.”

“Well if you couldn’t tell it to her, tell it to me then. You’ve been together for a  long time and yet sometimes I questioned your love for her. If you couldn’t convince her, perhaps you could practice in convincing me about your feeling to her.”

He pondered for a while, his eyes gazed into an aimless direction as if he’s looking for words to come and poured on him from the sky. 

After a while, he finally talked.

“She’s my superstar. Not as a literal definition, more like a metaphor. She’s the superstar of my life. I admire everything about her, even the quality of her which makes me annoyed, like how stubborn she is about her opinion and how she frequently refused my offers to help her. I admire her because she’s a hardworker, and she’s smart, and she has a wide variety of knowledges about everything. We’ll never run out of topics even when we spent hours and hours together. It’s a hard quality to find, don’t you think?”

I nodded, he got a point. His girlfriend is indeed an incredible character and sometimes I feel like he’s way too lucky to be together with a girl like that. Cruelly speaking, I’ve always thought that she’s too good for him and often I feel like she deserves to be with someone better and yet there she is, still by his side, his source of life, his superstar or so he says.

“You guys have a common interest and that’s hard to find?” I asked him again.

“Yes, we do have a common interest but common interest itself is not enough. I guess I’ve stay this long with her because she constantly become a source of gratitude in each day of my life. She’s the constant reminder of all good things that happen in my life. Each night when I ended our online conversation, I would sleep with a smile in my face, calmly waiting for the sun to rise so I could wake up and say good morning to her and thank her for my peaceful sleep and for being a a wonderful companion.”

I noticed his eyes seems to be blurry with tears, he took a deep breath and then paused for a moment before he continued his monologue. 

“All I want to say to her is thank you for staying around this long and for keeping up with me although I’ve been extremely distracted with my new friends and job. Yes I do have fun with new friends, my colleagues, and the job that I have now but in the end, she will always be my first thought in the morning and my last thought before I closed my eyes to sleep.”

I sipped the last liquid in my cup of coffee and pondered about the superstar in my life. Have I find him yet? Someone who becomes the vital source of my life? Someone who keeps me going through the lethal boredom of urban life? I then thought about a Japanese word, ikigai, a noun, a noun with a meaning ‘a reason for being, the thing that gets you up in the morning’. 

And so it goes.

Ikigai.

If you’d find them.

Keep them.

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