Have you ever heard of the word “IKIGAI”? Well, it’s a Japanese word, and I wasn’t familiar with it either until I watched a video on YouTube about Japanese people’s life philosophy. The video was not only talking about Japanese lifestyle but rather about the key to a long life. There’s one place in Japan, Okinawa, where people use this word “IKIGAI” as life philosophy. They have a lot of elders who are older than 90 years old and still actively working. One of the reasons they still work can be explained best by the meaning of the word “IKIGAI.”
Ikigai (生き甲斐) is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being,” for Okinawa’s people it means “a reason to wake up in the morning.” It can also mean “a reason for being alive” and “a meaning for life” or “what makes life worth living.”
After I watched that video, that word kept ringing in my ears and made me question myself over and over again. What do I live for? What makes my life worth living? What’s the reason for me to get up in the morning? My job; of course I have to go to work on time, otherwise I’ll get salary cut. But, is that it? Only for job, for money? I mean, I’m not naïve that we need money to buy our needs but, do we live only to get money and spend it later? I don’t know, because I want my life to have a deeper meaning than just chasing money.
We work so hard to collect money and dream of a wonderful retire time to spend all this money. What if you love your work? Then you won’t feel like it’s work at all and won’t feel like you need to retire. Hayao Mizayaki from Studio Ghibli, Japan, who made a lot of excellence, wonderful, amazing movies, also said that he will retire so many times—which came true after many years of him saying so. But then, just this year, I heard news that he is still working as a supervisor for an animation movie. How can you retire from something you love, right?
So that’s what haunts me. Am I doing something that I’d like to do for the rest of my life? Does what I’m working on right now give any essential meaning to this life? Am I giving great or even a good impact to people around me through the things that I’m doing? I kept asking myself question after I watched that video and read about “Ikigai.” And after a year of contemplation, the answer is no. Not at all. I’m dragging myself to the office sometimes, even though I was working as a graphic designer which is the thing that I can do and I kind of like doing. But my passion is to make stories, animation movie, which can inspire and impact people’s lives. Also, I’m working in a retail company which makes luxurious things for rich people. Because of this I don’t think my graphics give any impact in term of changing people’s lives.
At that time, I still wasn’t sure I wanted to get a master’s degree in Japan, because the preparation is long. I needed to save more money, take tests and many other things related to the admission preparation. That’s when I got the newsletter from InternationalStudent.com about the Student Travel Video competition. But the deadline is tight and I’m busy working 8am-5pm in the office, exhausted at night, so I was only able to make the video on the weekends.
I wasted my time thinking about what kind of video I should make and what kind of storyline I should deliver, because the other previous winners’ video were so great. One thing in common though: they each show who they are and their passion. So, I thought about what would be the best way to identify me. The first thing that came into my mind was my drawing. My hand-drawing is my signature. I challenged myself to make an animation video, even though I’m still an amateur, because I want to show my passion and I’m willing to put a lot of effort into studying it even deeper.
The deadline was coming closer and my old laptop slowed me down. It was the day of the deadline and I hadn’t finish yet. I wasn’t satisfied enough with the result and tried to fix it, but ended up finishing it at 1am the day after, so out of panic I thought that I already missed the deadline. But the video is already finished, so I decided to post it anyway. Thankfully the link was still available for upload. After upload, I got no immediate notification about whether my submission was successful or not. I really thought that I missed my shot. Well, maybe for the best…. until the morning came and I got the notification that my submission was still valid! Yes! It was because of the time difference, which I forgot about because I was in such a panic. I then made a gambling with myself: if I can win this (because it seemed impossible for me) then I will take it as a sign that I need to go study animation in Japan.
The chance to vote came and I guessed I wouldn’t win it since I thought all the other videos were better than mine. So I contacted a lot of my friends to make a vote, and hoped to at least get the $1000 Viewers’ Choice prize. No, I didn’t get it, but I was still thankful that I became a finalist.
Final judgment. The day of the final announcement is a one day gap with Indonesian time, so I had to wait for another day. I had an event to organize that day so I didn’t check my email until later and I became speechless because my name was mentioned as the 2017 Travel Video Contest winner in the email subject. WHAT!?! I was speechless. For a few hours I still could not believe it. I didn’t tell anyone because I just couldn’t believe it. So I waited until further follow up from the International Student team.
This is the beginning of a dream come true. Careful of what you wish for. I really must prepare myself for the master degree tests like the TOEFL, IESLTS, Japanese course, and others document that need to be prepared. I still must look for a university and take their test there as well. I still need to look for more scholarships though, because a master’s degree will take two years and cost more. In the mean time I have contacted the university and they were welcoming in their email. So I’m looking for a professor right now and working on my study/ research proposal.
Currently my plans are: first, to learn about TOEFL and IELTS, and try to take the test on February next year. The Japanese scholarship opens its admission in April, so I guess it’s enough time for me to prepare everything. My heart still trembles every time I tell this to my family and friends. For now, I will contemplate about what kind of research or study that I will take, obviously it will be animation, but I mean specifically. I will need to contact my professor in my university to help me. So maybe that means I will go to Bandung, to the university where I got my bachelor’s degree.
Now, I feel like what one of my mentors said is true: “Don’t follow money, have a vision from God and follow it. He design you with unique character and talents to be used for giving good impact to people around you and even the world. Be passionate in doing things you love, committed, and money will follow.”
Well, at least for now I don’t need to worry about the money I will use to prepare my study abroad plan. Wishing you the best, from your friend Dini Restyanti, the 2017 InternationalStudent.com Travel Video Contest winner!