Your thirty-first birthday marked a turning point of sorts for you. Care to elaborate?

I am often impressed by the young Japanese women I meet. Some of them can be so level-headed when discussing their future. They’ll tell me that they’re going to start saving for marriage as soon as they have graduated from college and have found employment. They say they’ll work for a company for five or six years, get married by the time they’re twenty-seven or eight, and have the first of two or three children when they are thirty. They will resign from their job shortly before giving birth and dedicate themselves to raising the children. And, I’ll be damned if they don’t do exactly what they planned to do. In my own experience, so little has ever gone according to plan that I have had to resign myself to playing life by ear. Listen: less than a month before I was to depart for Japan, my mother and I were in a grocery store . . .

Grocery store? Do people still use that word?

Jesus Christ, you can be so annoying! A supermarket, we were at a supermarket! My mother asked me what my plans for the future were. And I said, “Oh, Ma, I really don’t know. I guess I’ll spend a year or two in Japan, then travel on to Barcelona, stay there a year or so to study architecture, and return to the States and go to graduate school . . .

And your poor mother sighed: “Peadar, by the time I was your age, I’d already had five children!”

Ma would never be crowned Miss Congeniality.

When you were struggling to find a job after college and you went to your mother to whine about the injustice of the world, what was it, again, that she said to you?

She said, “Do you know where you can find sympathy, Peadar? In a dictionary.”

I’ve always loved that story.

Well, you would . . . Anyways, back to what I was saying: despite my original “plans”, I have now been in Japan for far longer than I ever imagined, still have not been to Barcelona and may never go, and I ended up getting my masters here in Japan rather than back in the States. So, how do you like them apples?

The long and winding road . . .

Anyways, pressure from friends and family to settle down first started to build when I turned thirty, but I was so focused on getting into the graduate program at Geikōdai[1] I didn’t really have the time to think about it. Besides, I was eager to put off the inevitable as long as possible.

The inevitable?

Choosing one woman to propose to; another to bid farewell to.

Were those really your only two options, Peadar?

Looking back on it now, I realize that no they weren’t, but at the time I didn’t know better.

I could have told you . . . Then again, would you have listened?


[1] Geikōdai (芸工大) is the abbreviation of Kyūshū Geijutsu Kōka Daigaku (九州芸術工科大学), or Kyūshū Institute of Design. In 2003, the school became Kyūshū University’s Graduate School of Design.