Young Taeko from the film, “Only Yesterday”

Once I was a child, full of hope and impossible dreams. It isn’t exactly a bad thing, neither is it a good thing because what it lacks is balance.

For the longest time I was also a cynic, disguised as being practical. It’s inevitable as one gets to experience more of what the world really is: a big, dark place. However, it isn’t exactly a good thing, neither is it a bad thing.

The secret to life is all in the balance (easier said than done, I know).

Society has led us to believe that if we didn’t toughen up, we’d crumble; that if we didn’t wise up, we’d lose. While all of that may be true in some way, an important distinction should be noted: to toughen up doesn’t mean to be hard of heart; to wise up doesn’t mean to shed your youthful spirit.

Society made us believe that we can only be one of two things: callow youth or world weary, but that couldn’t be any more false. We can take the best of both and then proceed to live a meaningful life.

Take your youthful spirit and your practical knowledge and you’d have balance.

The movie, Only Yesterday, captures this important life lesson so beautifully and so accurately. It follows the story of Taeko, a career woman from Tokyo, who takes her annual month-long leave to spend farming in a rural province.

An adult Taeko spending her 10-day vacation to farm in Yamagata, Japan

This journey allows her to reminisce childhood experiences, sparking memories that made her happy, sad, embarrassed. It makes her remember forgotten dreams and at the same time, makes her realize new ones.

Like any conflicted twenty-something, Taeko was unsure what to do with all these realizations. Does she quit her job and find a new one? Does she stay at the farm permanently?

Taeko stubbornly refused to make a decision until the very last minute. It was on the train ride back to Tokyo where she finally reconciled her conflicted thoughts. And ultimately, it was her younger self who stepped up and made the decision her adult self could not make.

Young Taeko drags adult Taeko to come back to Yamagata and stay there permanently.

This movie couldn’t have come at such a perfect time for me. Just like Taeko, I’m turning 27 in a few days and have been contemplating on making changes in my future plans. Watching this felt like a spur in taking the direction I’ve been thinking about for a while now.

Life has more lessons in store for me, for all of us, but so far what I have learned is that sometimes we get too caught up in growing up, in work, and the world in general that we forget to take the time to breathe, to think and to assess where in life we have arrived and if it was the destination we truly wanted.

So do what you have to do–revisit your childhood like Taeko and borrow some long forgotten wisdom from it; take a vacation or simply write in your journal. Do anything that gets you to ponder and gets you to take action, and then take the path that leads to your purpose.