He called me out of the blue; I haven’t seen him in at least a year or two. He picked me up into his SUV, and said he had a craving for sushi. We drove down the street to the local sushi joint, a nicely decorated space with low-hanging ceiling lights over mahogany tables and cushioned chairs.
After ordering the Americanized sushi rolls, the ones that are either fried or contains mayonnaise or cream cheese—no doubt an affront to Japanese culinary tradition—I asked what was new with his life since we last talked. He said he was talking to a girl now.
Ah, a love interest! That’s wonderful! How’d you two meet?
Through Reddit.com. (Mind you, it’s not a dating website; it’s a news-sharing site.)
Interesting, is she local?
No, she lives in San Diego. She’s thinking of moving to Seattle for work, but I’m trying to convince her to find something here in the Bay Area.
Best of luck!
How about you?
I thought about the anxiety I felt when asked about that. I wasn’t ready for relationships. After a lengthy discussion on relationships, and why I wasn’t ready for one, the first plates of “sushi” came out. We poured our soy sauce into our dishes and took swabs of wasabi to mix in.
I asked him, How’s the company doing?
A few years ago, he introduced me to a temporary position in his company, and saved me from feeling stuck in life; the money I earned from there allowed me to travel to many, many different conferences. But it seems after I left, the company was going through restructuring. After two years, he told me that half of my department was fired, with the work moved to one of our overseas vendors in India, or simply piled on top of the fewer staff that were working there.
His greatest worry is his job security; it wouldn’t be long before he got onto the chopping block. He thought about applying for work at one of the vendors companies, although that meant he probably had to move.
And my family wants me to buy a home.
His family was living in a rented house. His salary was a little more than twice that of working as a burger flipper, but on that income, he had to support his parents, sister, and his aunt and uncle. His parents gave up working. His sister is going through her third midlife crisis. And his aunt/uncle struggle to find permanent work, mainly because of their lack of English proficiency. How would he be able to save up for a house while having to pay rent and living expenses for his family? It boggled my mind. Was it even possible?
He continues, There were days when my manager covered me when I really felt like taking off. Like, feeling really down. But now that he retired, I don’t have that luxury anymore.
I remember hanging out with him at his house years ago, and seeing his father playing online card games for virtual currency. His father simply gave up trying to be a breadwinner. And that reminded me of my father. Months ago I got a call from my father’s girlfriend telling me how my father simply plays online games all day. I mean, he tried to find work, like trying to convince me to work in a multi-level marketing firm with him, or selling cheesy website packages to Vietnamese small businesses. But a man with over 25 years experience in electronic design simply giving up was the saddest thing I had to reconcile with. He was supposed to be my father, and a role model, and a man with community leadership history. But I saw that he couldn’t even support himself. But over the years, I began to empathize with him when I got caught in the vicious cycle of career disenfranchisement.
My friend continues, I want to go back to school and brush up on my skills, but I don’t have time for that.
What kind of job would you be looking for?
I want to go into the video game industry.
I laughed. So you can make distractions for people like me? Tell ya what. I do have a friend who’s in that field. Let me connect with her so you can ask her what kind of skills those companies are looking for.
I caught myself cheating, however. I confessed to him that I don’t know why I was able to help him when I could scarcely hold myself together. But it was an easy thing to do—connect two people and let them sort things out. I worried about his future. He was a kind soul. And while at times he sounded a bit geeky, you never had to be pretentious around him. Those are the kinds of people you want to nurture.
After dinner, he dropped me off home. He said, We should do this again sometimes.
I went back to my room and peered through the countless voicemails my father left me whose calls I’ve yet to return. I’m still not ready yet to do so.
Why don’t you have a girlfriend? It was a question I was asked several times in the past month. I’m not ready. I’m not ready because I can’t even commit to something as simple as returning phone calls (and not just my father, but even my best friends), waking up on a routine basis, or anything that might be considered easy. Simply put, I stopped caring about many things. And I can’t bring myself to burden another loving soul with that abject apathy. For now, I want to be selfish, so I can rediscover the part of me that cares about something… anything.
One step at a time.
I’m thinking of joining a choir.
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