The first time I went to exchange American dollars for Japanese yen I got to the second step of the form, the part about the phone number of the place I’m staying in Japan. I didn’t know the number of the hostel and couldn’t connect to WiFi, so I had to mime my way through the phrase “I’ll come back tomorrow.” As I was leaving with my tail between my legs, I realized that the bank had in fact closed just as I walked in, and everyone was waiting for the bumbling American to finish so they could go home.
Today, though, I felt prepared. I confidently strode in and took a number, and upon seeing me a teller asked “You were here yesterday, weren’t you?” Yes, indeed I was. Though, to be fair, she might not have remembered the previous day’s bungling, for I’m fairly confident I’m the only guy in this city with red hair and a beard. Yesterday’s mistakes were behind me, and today I would get it right, for I had written down the phone number and the address of the hostel—just in case. What else could I need?
Elliott. Uh. I have my license?
Teller. No. I need your passport.
Thankfully Billy had tagged along and was able to run back to the hostel to grab my passport. The alternative was to again slink out shamefully, and, like Macbeth, mutter “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow” as I left.
I hate looking unprepared and stupid, especially here in Japan, where poise and elegance are so important. There’s no way I can lie to myself and say “You didn’t look like too much of a fool,” because that’s certainly not true. Yes, those tellers will probably have a good laugh over the American, but I can’t be too bothered by that. I looked foolish, move on.
How much of the world is left unrealized or unfulfilled because people are afraid of looking foolish? If you were to weigh that silent mass of unrealized action, the scales would collapse under the immense weight. Those scales would sigh as they break, and that sigh would sound just like the one that passes your lips when you decide to do nothing, rather than take a risk and perhaps look like a fool.