What Lost in Translation Told Me About My Life


Last night I was flipping through some DVDs trying to decide which movie to watch. I put Lost in Translation starring Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray into my Macbook Pro and hit play. The film opens with a lingering shot of Johansson’s shapely ass. I immediately decide to keep watching.

Johansson plays Charlotte, a recent Yale graduate who followed her husband to Tokyo for his photography gig. Alone and unable to speak Japanese in an unfamiliar metropolis, Charlotte wanders into a Buddhist temple, is affected by the monks’ chanting, and starts listening to a CD titled A Soul’s Search. Frustrated by her husband’s busy schedule that prevents him from spending more time with her, she begins wondering about her life’s goals and path. She meets Bob (Murray), a movie star who’s just as frustrated about having to spend a week in Tokyo shooting whiskey ads, albeit compensated by $2 million.

While lying awake on Bob’s hotel bed after watching Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and musing about her life Charlotte asks Bob, “I’m stuck. Does it get easier?”

“No,” says Bob. Charlotte turns to look at him. “Yes,” he reverses. “It gets easier…The more you know who you are and what you want, the less you let things upset you.”

“I just don’t know what I’m supposed to be…What about marriage? Does that get easier?”

“That’s hard. And it gets a whole lot more complicated when you have kids…It’s the most terrifying day of your life the day the first one is born…Your life as you know it is gone, never to return.”1.

I’ve known for a while that at this stage of my life I have the most independence and the least responsibilities, but watching Lost in Translation threw this fact into stark relief. I’m (almost) nonreliant on my parents’ generous financial support; free of student loans; and unburdened by a mortgage, spouse, or children. I’m free to do whatever I want outside of my job as long as it’s legal. My parents and older coworkers told me to take advantage of my freedom and take risks. I intend to follow through on that advice.

  1. Bob does add, “But they learn how to walk, and they learn how to talk. And you want to be with them. And they turn out to be the most delightful people you will ever meet in your life.” I totally agree, but I’ll have time to meet these wonderful people later.