Food for Thought

Ian and I met at Cesi Cela in the morning and stayed there most of the day. There were only a few customers sitting at the tables, so we felt no pressure to leave. I had a sandwich and gelato. Tash joined us in the afternoon.

I enjoy chatting with people who are hustling in life. They constantly bump their heads against others to find their way in life, much like the balls on a pool table. They muddle through instead of traveling the streets paved by others.

My father worked for a big Japanese corporation all his life but encouraged me to pursue a life outside of it. For whatever reason, he wanted me to open an udon noodle shop, but after studying fine arts, I got a job on Wall Street, working for several investment banks.

Because I grew up with the financial security afforded by my father’s employer, the world outside of it was foreign to me. It’s both a blessing and a curse; the level of security you take for granted becomes the shackles that severely limit your possibilities in life.

In my late 20s, I felt confident enough to walk away from the corporate world. That’s when I met Ian. I could see from a mile away that he is a complicated man. There is no way to sum up who he is. Every attempt would be contradicted by the next.

Personality traits come in socially expected packages. We imagine young people to be more energetic, women to be more emotionally sensitive, taller people to be stronger, scientists to be atheists, fashionable people to be bad at math, etc.. If you happen to fit those cultural expectations, corporate life can work fine, otherwise, you have to suppress the ones that do not fit the mold for the sake of group cohesion.

Ian unapologetically defies these cultural expectations, which gets him into trouble. Being a handsome white man, challenging the expectations of today’s political correctness is particularly hazardous. But at the same time, I don’t know anyone who is more tormented by being a white man. It would be much easier for him to just say the right things and enjoy whatever privileges he has, but he can’t. He is doomed to be a hustler because who he is, despite himself, defies our culture.