Happy EVERYTHING IN JAPAN IS CLOSED Day! Otherwise known as New Year’s Day. Yes, I’m writing this on January first (and editing it 4 days later because I’ve been MAD BUSY!). Earlier this morning, I waited 45 minutes in the cold to enter a shrine, throw money at it, and then pray this year won’t suck ass. And y’know what? It was WORTH it. It really was. Because I made it, guys… I’m LIVING in Japan.
Today is officially the start of my first full calendar year here in Japan. And that’s exciting. Actually, more astonishing than exciting. Because this exact day last year, I was still living in America, back home in San Francisco. Working at Facebook. Miserable. Depressed. Wondering what the hell I was doing with my life. I had just returned from a 2 week trip to Hong Kong and Shanghai. That trip was AWESOME. Man, I miss Shanghai street food. Those soup-filled, pan-fried pork dumplings? OMFG! Sooooooo goddamn good. And stupid cheap. Ugh. All I got here is Japanese food. Wait… Japanese food is good, too. I LOVE JAPANESE FOOD! CURRY! OKONOMIYAKI! TAKOYAKI! TAIYAKI! TEMPURA! SUSHI! SOBA! OK, fine – I can live without those dumplings. But do I miss them? Hell to the duh-yeah!
But y’know what I don’t miss? America. AT ALL. Because 2017 was the year I took my life into my own hands and started FOLLOWING my dreams. And that dream led me here to Tokyo. Where I’m writing this at a FAMILY MART 2 minutes from my apartment because EVERYTHING is closed and I’m too CHEAP to stay in my apartment and waste energy using my A/C as a heater. Plus, I like hanging out in weird places alone. Because I’m WEIRD. And ALONE. But, more importantly, I’m DEDICATED…
Y’see, when I made up my mind that I wanted to move to Japan shortly after 2017 started, I wasn’t joking around. It wasn’t some fleeting, “Oh… Wouldn’t it be nice?” thought. Oh, no, no – I was serious. And when I’m serious about something, I don’t FUCK around (excuse my sailor mouth, but I needed that EXTRA FUCKING emphasis). Did I think I’d get here to Japan so quick? Nah. It’s actually the opposite – I thought I’d get here quicker! But I quickly learned uprooting yourself and moving to a foreign country takes a bit of time (and kinda a LOT of paperwork). For the full story, go back and read my Becoming the Nihon Nerd series.
So why am I writing this? To talk about my goals/resolutions for 2018. And how they relate to my 2017 goals. I had just one goal last year: make it here to Japan. And I accomplished that. Like I said earlier, the theme of last year was FOLLOWING my dream. I knew what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be, so I just had to make it happen. And it wasn’t easy. But it shouldn’t be. You gotta want it. You gotta be willing to give up everything. You gotta be willing to FAIL. And look like a total goofball while doing that. Who wants to sign up for that? Me! Me! Me!
Because I’m not afraid to give up everything (I sold practically EVERYTHING I owned when I moved here). I’m not afraid to fail (you should see some of my Japanese language tests!). And I’m not afraid to look like a total goofball while failing (basically every time I attempt to speak Japanese in public). What I WAS afraid of? NOT taking this risk. I’d rather DIE here in Japan a complete and utter FAILURE than LIVE a BORING, DEPRESSED life back home. Luckily, I’m not dead yet (yay for living!), nor am I a complete and utter failure (yet!), so I still got time to make this work. Phew!
Which leads me to my 2018 goals. Now that 2017 is over, I can successfully say I followed my dream here to Japan. And now with 2018 started, it’s time for me to LIVE that dream. That means I gotta make it work here. But unlike last year, accomplishing this goal isn’t as simple as packing everything up and hopping on a plane. And there’s serval parts, too. Some of which are longer-than-long term goals that can’t be accomplished in one year. So let’s get into them:
Goal 1: Grow my business.
This is the obvious goal. Last year, I came up with the idea for Tokyo Kawaii Club. Then I turned that idea into a reality. Now this reality is my sole means of survival here in Japan. Holy crap! That’s crazy. Can I make it work? God, I hope so! Otherwise, I’ll be living in a cardboard fortress under a Shibuya underpass. Actually… A cardboard fortress sounds pretty rad! No, Michael, no – you’re not going to live in a cardboard fortress (damn!). Instead, I’m going to continue living in my AWESOME (and totally small) apartment in Naka-Meguro. Because I’m going to make my business work.
Even though I’ve only been in business 2 full months, I’ve already learned A LOT. Have I made mistakes? Uh, duh! Remember the part about not being afraid to fail? You can’t take the risks I’m taking and expect everything to go perfectly. But I’m used to this. I roll with the punches. I make adjustments. That’s part of the fun of running your own business… YOU CAN DO WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT!
Since I’ve started, I’ve already tweaked so many things. And I’m constantly thinking of new things to do. While I’m SUPER happy to know I’ve already made several people happy with my business, I’m NO WHERE near where I want to be. And I won’t stop until I get there, even if that means continuing to live a SUPER meager lifestyle. I knew what I was getting myself into when I signed up for this. I knew I’d be making WAAAAAAY less money this year (and possibly next year, too!). But I also knew the life experiences and emotional fulfillment of living here would TOTALLY outweigh the monetary loss. So far, that’s been the case. But that doesn’t mean I can just get by making chump change. It’s NOT cheap living here. And if I don’t hustle, I’ll blow through my savings STUPID quick. Ahhh!!
I scream (Ahhh!! x 2), but I’m not too worried… Yet. Because I’m confident in myself. I’m confident I can make this work. I’ve had so many people tell me my business is a great idea. And it’s super flattering (and humbling) to hear that every time. But it’s one thing for someone to say it’s a good idea, and it’s another thing for me to PROVE to them that it’s a good idea. And I’m dedicated to do just that. It may take a while. I may screw up along the way (already have!), but I will do everything I can to make this work. By the end of the year, I want to reach the subscriber/order goal I set out for myself. It’s ambitious. But I need to push myself. I want to look back on these early days and remember how I kept to a ¥1,000 daily food budget for 100+ days and walked around with a cracked iPhone because I couldn’t afford to buy a new one (nor fix it). These sacrifices are ingredients in the humble pie I need to eat to make it work here. Or humble melon bread. Because that’s my new favorite. OMG! MELON BREAD IS THE BEST.
Goal 2: Learn Japanese.
Speaking of humble… I can’t even BEGIN to tell you how hard it is to learn a new language, let alone one of the most challenging languages in the world. So, instead, I’ll just say it’s “hard” and emphasize how hard it actually is by spamming a CRAPTON of “d’s” at the end… Like this: JAPANESE IS SO HARDDDDDDDDDD!!!!!!
And I knew this going in. But every time I wanna quit, I think about this lyric from a Promise Ring song:
THIS IS SO GODDAMN TRUE. Because I know the reward at the end of this struggle tunnel is gonna be so GODDAMN delicious, I’m gonna nom the SHIT out of it. Presuming the reward is editable, that is. And hopefully it’s under a ¥1,000, too. Discounted wouldn’t hurt either! I LOVE DISCOUNTS. See? This is what my life has become. HOPING EVERYTHING IS CHEAP AND DISCOUNTED.
Well, learning Japanese isn’t cheap (nor discounted). And I’ve learned that firsthand. Even though I took an INTENSIVE 3 month course where I went to class MONDAY THROUGH FIRDAY for THREE HOURS a day, I still feel like I know NEXT-TO-NOTHING. And that’s hard to accept that. When I meet with my Japanese friends and I struggle to even string together a couple of sentences without resorting to English, I feel like a FAILURE. I want to QUIT. I want to throw up my hands and let Google translate everything for me.
But screw that! Quitting is for people who have unlimited data (I don’t!). I want to make this work. I want to talk to people SO BAD. You have NO IDEA how much I want this. Even more so than my growing my business. All I want right now is TO TALK to people in their own language. I’m FUCKING CRYING RIGHT NOW writing this. That’s how much this means to me. And I’m not afraid to say I’m crying, because I’m an EMOTIONAL WRECK. What do you expect? I GAVE UP EVERYTHING TO LIVE MY DREAM. I left America because I was DEPRESSED that I wasn’t able to live the AMERICAN DREAM. But here in Japan? I can live MY OWN dream. And right now, my dream involves me rebuilding myself is EVERY GODDAMN WAY possible. If I’m going to be forever alone, I want to be FOREVER ALONE knowing I’m trying my HARDEST to be someone who contributes to this crazy world in a POSITIVE way.
That’s why learning Japanese is so important to me. I want to SHOW PEOPLE I’m a good person. That I’m not a failure. That I can CONTRIBUTE to this world we live in. That I can show RESPECT to the people who live here. Because those rare moments where I can communicate with the people here gives me SO MUCH JOY. And that JOY is the emotional fulfillment that cures the depression that brought me here. I don’t know where I’m going to be 5-10 years from now. I don’t know if I’ll ever get married. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a father. And that’s SUPER scary to me. But I do know that I have something to look forward to that I CAN control. And that’s learning to communicate with the people here. In their own native language. Who knows if I’ll ever fully get there. But I’m going to try. In fact, the poem I got at shrine on New Year’s is all too fitting. It reads:
“No success will come to him who delays just because what he has to do is difficult. ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’ as the prove has it.”
This couldn’t be truer to how I feel about learning Japanese. I know I’m just going to have to try, try, and TRY EVEN MORE after the last 2 tries totally tank. That’s why I’ve accepted this goal is not a goal I’ll accomplish this year. And I’m cool with that. I know by the end of this year, I still won’t be where I want to be. Because I can’t expect to magically learn the language in a year. Or even 2 years. I see this as a LONGER-than-LONG-term goal. That doesn’t mean I can’t make progress. And I hope to do that. By the end of year, I hope to be able to have basic conversations with people with LIMITED English.
You may think, “Oh! That’s totally doable.” Because it is. But it ain’t gonna be easy. Oh, no. Especially when you couple it with my first goal. AHHH! WHAT AM I DOING HERE?
Easy: Living the (STUPIDLY HARD AND SEEMINGLY IMPOSSIBLE) dream. And I wouldn’t give up this opportunity for ANYTHING.
That’s it. Thanks for reading. I hope this rambling has inspired YOU to work towards a goal of your own. Big or small, think of something YOU want to do and figure out how you can ACCOMPLISH it. Because nothing feels better than looking back at and saying to yourself, “I can’t believe I did that… Unless I’m Michael, which in that case, I TOTALLY knew I was gonna do that, because Michael never fails (excepts when he tries to remember which particles to use when speaking Japanese).”
Stay tuned for an upcoming blog where I talk about my ALONE ADDICTION. If you don’t see it soon, bug me to write it. I need the encouragement!