When I lived in Japan, I thought I was adventurous. Didn’t I just pack up and fly across an ocean to live in a foreign land with no support network, no knowledge of the language and a plan to live on all four major islands in 3 years? Wasn’t I trying new foods every time I ate out? Wasn’t I out there walking, exploring, seeing new vistas, touching history?
I came to Japan on a sponsored work visa, so that was my support. My employer took care of my housing. When I wanted to move from Tokyo to Osaka, then facilitated that with a new position and apartment. When I later left that job, I depended on friends for couch surfing. When that was starting to wear thin – moreso on my friends – I spent exactly 4 hours looking for apartments before deciding the easy thing would be to ship most of my belongings back to the US and live out of coin lockers and Internet cafés.
There’s also the no-so-secret that you can navigate around major Japanese cities with absolutely no knowledge of Japanese. Signs are in Japanese and English (and sometimes Korean!). There’s the basic education all schoolchildren receive in English that can get through short conversations or ordering at restaurants. And to be honest with myself I had studied Japanese poorly for years, on and off, unfocused and lazy.
After moving from Tokyo to Osaka, I settled in and forgot about my plan to move around every six months. So I managed to see eastern and western Honshu, and that’s it. No Kyushu, no Hokkaido, no Shikoku. Nothing more than day trips out of Tokyo and Osaka, aside from an overnight trip up to Nikko. Almost all of my “exploring” was to other major cities or ‘tourist sites’ – Kyoto, Kobe, Nagoya, Kamakura – or my “big trip” to the World Expo in Aichi. No Fuji, no small towns.
Even my food explorations were constrained. Stick with the major groups, donburi, curry, sushi, ramen and soba. Nabemono or shabu-shabu if a group ordered it. I ate more Cobb salads at Friendly’s then I ate okonomiyaki or takoyaki.
This traveling homebody attitude affected my personal relationships. Hang out with co-workers. Establish a favorite bar, only go there – to the exclusion of going anywhere else. Talk only to regulars. Be confident! – around people I know. Be bold! – in carefully controlled situations.
My time in Japan wasn’t a waste, but it was full of wasted opportunities. What kept me so boxed in and unable to take advantage of the chances heaped up and presented to me on a plate? Fear. Fear of failure, specifically. What if I don’t enjoy this food? What if the place I travel to is a bust? What if this person doesn’t want to talk? What if my Japanese is too terrible and it’s embarrassing?
Amazing how such inconsequential things, when viewed with hindsight, could be so showstopping at the time. If visiting some temple in Shikoku turned out to be more expensive and less thrilling than I thought, so what? If it was a bust it was a bust. Why build it in my mind as some must-be-fantasical event that will change the entire course of my life. If it does, great! If not, well, it’s still an experience.
Thus, this blog. I have a fear of failing in public regarding my hobbies, namely writing, web design and RPGs. The few times I’ve posted online about web design I’ve felt like a rank amateur. Which is fine! I am a rank amateur. As for RPGs, when I talk about those online, I used to feel the need to have “an impact”, so say something important about hot-button issues in gaming. But rather than post my own opinions and conclusions, I would ape whichever side I was more heavily influenced by in my shut-off-brain-blogreading. And I wasn’t even talking about the games I was playing in!
Of course this is all underpinned by my writing, which is fine and workmanlike. The fear of my words not being fit for public consumption led me to not write. Well, it’s time to get over it. I’m just scared of getting better, improving, putting in the work, and comparing myself to others. Let’s do three of the four; let others compare themselves to me.
Some introduction, right? Welcome to Dice Cascade, where I will talk about how I game and why I like it. Failing be damned.