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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Society doesn't rob your freedom

Rika Kayama

I'm in charge of a seminar course where third and fourth-year students at the university where I teach engage in research together. The other day I had the senior students advise the third-year students, who would remain in the course, what kind of things they should do.

    There was some constructive advice, like, "Study is important. Actively participate in the lessons," and "You should properly acquire languages." But it was also interesting to see some fourth-year students telling the younger ones to enjoy life freely, saying, "Go on lots of trips," "Wear the clothes you want to wear," and, "See all the movies and shows you want to see."

    Forcing a smile, I responded, "It's as if when you go into society you have no freedom at all, and can't dress up or go on trips." The senior students, who had gone through the tough process of hunting for jobs, answered, "That's right, when you go out into society, you have to wear a suit, right?" "You have no long holidays. I don't think you can go anywhere."

    Sure, as an adult member of society, you can't have things exactly the way they were during your student days. There are restrictions on your time and freedom, and I think there are times when you are bound to certain positions. But that doesn't mean you change completely as a person. You still should be able to continue the hobbies you had as a student and enjoy wearing your favorite clothes on weekends. In fact, wouldn't it be rather unnatural for you stop being able to do any of those things, having to ditch your identity and become a so-called "company-first person"?

    I told the students, "Since I started working, I've had more money to use freely compared with my student days, and I often go traveling, trying to use my limited time off work efficiently. And it's also since I've become a working adult that I've been able to firmly state my opinions toward society." The students looked at me with wide eyes, saying "Wow," and seemed somehow relieved.

    The end of student life isn't the end of freedom. When you try too hard to fit into a mold as a member of society, the stress can harm your physical and mental health.

    As students venture into the working world, I want them to adopt the attitude, "Of course my life will change quite a bit, but essentially, I'm still me." And this doesn't just apply to those who have just graduated, but also to people who are returning to work after some time or who are reentering society after a period of shutting themselves off in their homes. Society isn't something that robs you of your freedom or changes you completely. I want to tell people, don't be afraid of society. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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