Sparks of pain fly through my chest, making me cough and squeeze my eyes. I’m trembling, because I have no idea what is happening. I’m sitting at my desk in the staffroom of a Japanese high school, with frigid air blowing freely inside from a wide open window to my right. My hands are trembling and I look outside at the blue sky and rolling clouds, wishing I was out there. As icy needles of pain hit my chest again and again, I could feel the coldness of my environment literally absorb me, and I was frightened.
Shortly after, I went to see a cardiologist. He was a short Japanese man with an excellent command of English. As I did my chest scans to see what was happening to me, I smiled as pale, slim nurses listened in on our dialogue. It was obvious they had never heard him speak English before, or they had no idea he spoke it so well.
“Here you can see that your lungs are clear and the heart is a normal size and shape.” He said to me. I sat to attention, listening carefully as he explained a set of complicated numbers on a piece of paper that summarized the series of extensive heart-based tests I went through. “There is nothing wrong.” He said. “You are under stress, and that needs to be fixed.” I sighed at my predicament, wondering why I, at only twenty-seven years old, would find myself in the office of a cardiologist complaining of chest pains. Little did I know it was the intensity of my inner conflict that was driving me to that point, a frantic mental battle that had become physical as my lines between reality and my mind proverbially crossed.
The next day, trying to stay warm in the cold high school (most Japanese high schools have no central heating system), I hopped on the blog of a famous designer I had heard about. It was the blog of Simone Legno, of TokiDoki fame. I had never visited his website, nor did I really know why I went to it that day. I clicked on the web page, and as it barely loaded, I saw the words:
“I give Paris an early birthday present” written as the title of the blog post.
This I assumed, was a reference to uber-Party girl Paris Hilton. On the blog, I saw what looked like an opulent room with the poster of an attractive blond woman hanging on the wall. Lush curtains decorated this room, and on a small table, a silver effigy of Karl Lagerfield stood proudly. Then, something happened.
Blood rushed to my head and I squirmed in my seat. Excitement pulsed through my veins and an immense pull towards the lifestyle projected in the grainy pixels of that small room tugged at my insides. In that moment, I had a flash vision; a barrage of images with me living the life of a successful designer. I could smell the perfume of upscale after parties, see myself in a spacious office and feel the icy metal touch of my professional work station. These images all hit me at once. Something about the picture sent a signal to my brain, igniting a passionate connection with the implications of that which I wanted. Only after calming down a few minutes later, did I realize, I had heard the Siren’s Song.
But it wasn’t the first time.
Sometime in late 2005 I went to a store in the states called Commander Salamander. They specialize in selling interesting t-shirts and paraphernalia for a more artistic crowd. At the time, walking in there, I noticed a line of clothing and accessories by a designer whose name is Paul Frank. His main character, a monkey named Julius, is plastered over anything that can hold its adorable face. There are shorts, slippers, watches, handbags, towels and anything you can think of with the character on it. I looked at the products and I felt a thick, tangible connection to everything there. A thought came to me: I was supposed to be in this industry. This was me. My energy was high for the rest of the day, and I openly fantasized about walking into a store at some point in the future and seeing my products on display in the same way. This I realized, was the first real whisper into my ears of the Siren’s song
The call of the Sirens mythically refers to sailors unable to resist the haunting songs of what appear to be beautiful women marooned on an island as they pass by in their boats. Unbeknownst to them, these creatures are actually malevolent, and use the song to lure the poor chaps onto the island to eat them. In this context, the Siren’s Song refers only to the irresistible nature of that call within us, that creative fire in our minds, scalding us each time our mind chooses to press play. You become like a dog in heat; the heat of ideas and your inner potential.
My unrest at not trying to actively pursue my goals of being a graphic designer, fear of dislocating myself from what seemed “safe” (an O-K job teaching English in a small town in Japan) culture shock, lack of sleep and authority issues had put me under immense pressure. Regardless of the factors that preceded this, at some point, if you are reading this, then you too have heard the Siren’s Song.
Have you heard the siren’s song?
There is always a moment when you visualize something you want, and it feels so real, you break out in sweat with excitement and feel a surge of energy from this thought. Often, this feeling, this rhythm, is fleeting and goes away, and when you start to think of “reality” you ignore it. But frequently in life when you are in a situation that doesn’t align with your true purpose, you will sense it immediately in your body; stress, fatigue, unrest and constant thoughts of what you want to do will forever churn in your head like a massive whirlpool.
I’ve heard the song before, screaming at me from the vacuous hallways of my mind, shouting to me that my purpose lay within something else. I knew there was more to my existence than merely peeking out office windows and wanting to bask in the sun; watching a myriad reality TV shows wishing that my life was more interesting. The song, I could see, was the harmony my mind desired, screaming from a megaphone deep within my subconscious. As time passed and I ignored the song when it would play occasionally, the backlash of not listening only made me miserable and restless. My body and mind slapped me in the face each time I didn’t take a step towards that harmonious desire within me; the song.
How many times have you been “slapped”?
This song reverberates through us all, telling us to be artisans, engineers and architects; singers, dancers and travelers, journalists, poets and politicians, businessmen, clergymen and healers. It is always there, playing softly with a nagging tone, like an album of elevator music on repeat. For many of us who desire a different life; a dynamic, fluid existence that doesn’t leave us pasted to our desks in a soulless room for seventy hours a week then you’ve heard this before.
The song called to me when I was stuck in a lonely apartment, almost dropping out of school then decided to finish my degree with a more creative focus. The tune rang through my ears in the fall of 2007, when I decided to go to France to see the Cannes Film Festival with nothing but a fund raising campaign scrawled on a scrap of paper. It echoed in my mind when an inkling of a feeling made me apply for Comedy Central’s most exclusive internship, which I was accepted to. It also was in the distance, barely audible, when I felt the need to go to the Far East to pursue my dreams, galaxies away from anything I’ve ever known.
The trip to the doctor was enough. A few days later, I quit my job, packed the few belongings I had, and moved to Tokyo.
Where will your song lead you?