All I Need is a Miracle

Most people don’t know this, but I was actually born in San Francisco, not Hawaii. I was raised in Hawaii, and I never lived in California at all, so when people ask where I was born, I usually say Hawaii since it’s more convenient in passing conversation, and it spares me the explanation. But I’ll tell you the story now.

My parents were planning to visit my dad’s family who lived in the Bay area. I wasn’t supposed to be born for a while yet, so they and the doctor decided it would be safe for them to travel. They figured they’d return to Hawaii and still have ample time left before I was due.

But while they were there my mom realized I was going to be born early. Too early. She was a first-time mother in an unfamiliar place, going into labor far sooner than she was supposed to, nothing was going as planned, so I can imagine she was pretty scared. She remembers the story vividly, and frequently tells me the song playing on the radio in the taxi on their way to the hospital was, “All I Need is a Miracle,” by Mike & the Mechanics.

The main part of the song goes like this:

 

“All I need is a miracle,

 All I need is you.” 

 

My mom says she was praying to God for a miracle, so that I’d be born safely.

I was born prematurely. The doctors were unsure of how long I’d live, so I was baptized on the spot in the hospital. I don’t know how small I was, but they tell me I was pretty tiny. Even when it became apparent I would survive, there was still concern as to how healthy I would be.

I guess I shouldn’t say I never lived in San Francisco, because from what I understand I had to stay in the hospital for a month, followed by another month at a relative’s house before I was able to “return” to Hawaii. Even then I had to use a ventilator (or some type of machine), so I’m told, and there was an alarm of some sort that would sound when something would go wrong. There were plenty of false alarms, and my relatives were constantly running to see if I was okay.

Something must have gone right, because here I am, 24 years later, healthy as can be. People constantly remark about how tiny I was when I was a baby, and how big I am now. “I carried him in one hand!” says my grandpa, when telling the story. “Now look at him!” I’m 6’3”, 190 pounds, and I’ve always been active in sports and things, so yeah, I’d say something went right.

My mom often tells me the story, with the song and everything, and the implication is that it was a miracle I was born healthy. It’s a good story, but I think they might be exaggerating a bit. Not only was I my parents first child, but I was the first grandchild to my grandparents on both sides, and the first nephew to my uncles and aunts. There were a lot of people hoping and pulling for me, so perhaps they were just a little overly worked up.

I don’t mean to sound unappreciative of the care that so many people took for me, but I can’t help but feel like I was never in any real danger. A lot of babies are born prematurely, right? Some more premature than I was. And anyway, my mom says that I’ve always been impatient and curious, saying I “just wanted to see San Francisco.”

Babies usually get a lot of care and attention, but I think I got more than most because of all the commotion surrounding my birth. This continued throughout my childhood, and I guess it never really went away. I’ve always been spoiled. I think I have a tendency to take the little things people do for me for granted.

My mom has always told me I have guardian angels. My first guardian angel is my Uncle Robert, who was my dad’s oldest sibling. He died of an illness before I was born. I don’t know how old he was, but I guess he was in his late thirties / early forties. I don’t know much about him, but I think he worked as a mechanic. I’m told he was a good older brother who took care of my dad and his siblings after their alcoholic father left the family. So when my parents found out they were having a baby boy, they made the easy decision to name me after him. He and I are both the oldest child in large families, we’re both hapa* (he was Filipino/Latino), and I carry on his given name, so even though I never met him, I feel as if we have a lot in common. My mom says he was the guardian angel who made sure I was born safely.

* hapa: Mixed ethnicity, with partial Asian/Pacific Islander roots. 

Next is my other uncle, who I’m not actually related to, but was a close friend of the family. He’s my godfather. He got sick and died when I was really young. I think he was also in his thirties or forties. I don’t remember much about him, mostly just vague images. But I do remember him taking me driving around the North Shore of Oahu, passing Rabbit Island, and then taking me to lunch at Jack in the Box. People say he was a good public speaker, and an all-around nice guy. He was one of the many people who cared for me as a baby.

Then comes one of my great-uncles, who died in a fire in 2006. He did his tour in the military, and then worked various odd jobs as janitors, handi-cap bus drivers, and such. He did a lot for me and my family. He was not rich, but he and my grandpa bought us our first mini-van when our family was growing, and he would regularly give us money for our savings, which over time added up to quite a lot. He helped us when we moved to Seattle. My dad actually got teary-eyed at his funeral, which I think is the first and only time I’ve seen him cry.

Then comes another great-uncle, who died in 2009 after complications from breaking his back. He was in the navy “pumping gas” for planes, before working as a mechanic and craftsman. He used to pick my sister and I up from preschool and babysit us until my mom and dad got home from work. He would also give us quite a bit of money, food, and anything else he had, and he never wanted anything in return. Seriously. You practically had to force him to accept if you wanted to give him something.

My mom also includes her brother, who died when he was 3 years old, also in a fire, decades before I was born.

I include my dog, Rex, who died of cancer in 2007. He died in his prime, but had long guarded us and our home. Some of the surrounding blocks of our neighborhood had experienced burglaries and shady characters, but we never did, and my mom largely credits Rex for protecting us and our immediate neighbors.

So there you have it. My guardian angels. All died tragically. But all had a profound impact on me.

I’ve never had anything close to a near-death experience, but there have been times when things could have easily gone wrong, and somehow I got off scotch-free.

After I graduated high school I went to an acting school in Seattle for a little while. It was a bit of a drive, so one of the girls in my class and I would carpool to save gas. Usually I insisted on driving (it’s a guy thing), but she wanted to this time, so I let her.

After class we were driving at night through downtown Seattle, when she turned the wrong way down a one-way street. We found ourselves heading straight toward a bus, and it wasn’t slowing down at all. She drove up onto the sidewalk, and somehow we missed all of the signs, poles, and pedestrians, and we ended up safely on another street.

She was in shock. “I can’t believe what just happened!” she said.

“You’re never driving again,” was my reply.

It’s kind of amazing how we got out of that situation without hurting anyone, and without even a scratch on the car. We were able to drive away as if nothing had happened. I couldn’t help but wonder if someone up there was looking out for me…

While in Washington my car had broken down, so I took to biking. I was riding home one foggy night during the winter. I had a flashlight attached to my bike, but as I rode, the battery died. I tried to play around with it to make it come back on, but it was no use. As I rode down a hill, a car was approaching, and I thought, “Oh man, this guy probably can’t see me at all.” But as the car got closer my flashlight flickered on long enough to let the driver know I was there. After that the flashlight died, and never came on again. “What a strange coincidence,” I thought. I couldn’t help but wonder…

One morning I was driving to work on Martin Luther King Jr. Way where the speed limit is 50. Someidiot who doesn’t know how to drive terribly mistaken person had stopped in the middle of this busy highway trying to make a left turn across a double yellow line, which, of course, is never supposed to be crossed. (There are even signs explaining this.) It was around a corner, so it was difficult for approaching cars to see. The car in front of me slammed on his breaks, and I slammed on mine, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop in time, so I swerved into the next lane.

Had the roads been wet (as they often are in Seattle) or had there been a car in the lane beside me, the outcome could have been much different. But instead I went to work as if nothing had happened.

There are other examples that I won’t share here. But it’s moments like these, when things could have easily gone terribly wrong, and instead I got off without a scratch, that make me wonder if my guardian angels really are pulling some strings for me. Is it all in my head? Perhaps. Maybe I was never in any real danger, but even so there comes with it a strange sense of reassurance. Society forces us to think practically. But that’s the nice thing about having an imagination. There’s always a small portion of you that can believe in these unseen things. You just never really know what could be up there, or what could be happening around you.

When I was in Washington I had my own apartment. After a year I could no longer afford it, so I had to move back in with my parents. I really didn’t want to, because my mom and I argue all the time, mostly about my career path. She thinks it’s getting me nowhere, and that I’m wasting my time. Almost every night she’d threaten to kick me out if I didn’t change my ways. Not being able to keep my big mouth shut, I had to argue back. But one night the argument was more heated than usual, and finally, I was actually kicked out. My dad is bigger than me, and he literally shoved me and all my belongings out the door.

I had no money, and nowhere to go. “This sucks,” I thought. “It doesn’t get much more pitiful than this.” It was just laughably bad. So I threw all my things in my car, and slept in the back seat.

That night I had a dream. All of my guardian angels were there. They didn’t really say anything, but I knew they were there to cheer me up and say, “Don’t worry about it.” The next day I swallowed my pride, apologized to my folks, agreed to certain terms, and I was reinstated back into the household.

I don’t know if my guardian angels really have pulled some invisible strings to help steer me out of tough situations, or if it’s just a nice thought, but there is a tremendous amount of confidence and reassurance that comes from believing that there are a lot of people out there pulling for you.

I’ve lived a very easy life so far. Seeing how I’ve been blessed with so much, and how nothing truly bad has ever happened to me personally, I can’t help but feel I’m meant to achieve something more here.

There are many definitions as to what constitutes a miracle. Like the word “love,” everyone seems to have their own idea of what it is. Some think it’s an act of God – perhaps carried out by angels – some think it’s just a fortunate coincidence, and some say any wonderful occurrence is a miracle.

I do not pretend to know God’s thoughts, or what unseen forces may be working among us. It is not my place to try and define what is or isn’t a miracle, and I’m certainly not going to go around proclaiming I can perform them. There is nothing special about me. But whether or not you believe in miracles, angels, religion, God, or the like, I think almost everyone wants someone to remember nice things about them after they die.

You can live life as if there are no such things as miracles, looking around you to see nothing but ordinary people and ordinary things taking up space. Or you could live as if everything is a miracle.

See, my guardian angels are called so because of the impact they had on me and my family during their lifetimes. None of them were rich by any means, at least not by material standards. None of them had families of their own, so they might not be remembered by many. But they are remembered by me and my family, and hopefully I in turn can use the gifts they’ve given me to make a difference. They were ordinary people who did little things with care, and it went a long way. So even now that they’re gone, we can’t help but feel they are still with us, continuing to exercise love in seemingly simple ways, just as they always did.

Could this be what miracles are? Simple love and care that results in something greater, something that makes a lasting impact, something that makes you feel a person’s love is with you wherever you go?

I’ve always thought that I had to do big things to make a difference. And maybe someday I will. But when we take the time and effort to do little things for people, not just towards family and friends, but towards anyone we come across, regardless of whether we like that person, dislike them, or have no opinion of them, we are able to make a difference, even if it’s only in a small way. It might sometimes look like your effort goes unnoticed or unappreciated. But you never know how far the little things you do will really go. It all adds up. You might not think you’re doing much, but you might one day realize that you made more of a difference than you ever thought you could.

A lot of times we think there is nothing special we can do for others. But I think doing things with love makes quite a profound impact. It’s about taking a little bit of time for someone, even when you’ve got a busy schedule. It’s about going just a little bit out of your way to help someone even if you’re tired and you’ve had a long day. It’s about not ignoring the little things, and looking for ways you can help others, instead of simply going through your daily routine concerned only with yourself and the challenges that you face.

We should never think that we can’t help, that we have nothing to give, or that things we do are not important. We should seek to do more than just get by. When we act with love towards people, when we take just a bit of time and effort to do something for them, in this way, little by little, we are making a difference. We should not overlook the little things, or ignore opportunities, even when it doesn’t benefit ourselves. And we should make the effort to do the ordinary things in life with greater care.

Because that is how miracles can happen.

 

I’m Rob Kajiwara, believer in miracles. Thanks for reading.

 

 

Breakfast

(To the tune of “Breathless” by the Corrs)

 

(Parodies are best when you read along while listening to the music.)

 

 

 

The sun is rising slowly

But time, it seems, is standing still

I’m waiting for you only

To save me from this hungry ill

 

I cannot lie

I’m starving deep inside

I’m losing will to survive

Can’t hide it

Can’t fight it

 

So go on, go on

Come on and make me breakfast

Orange juice, pancakes too, I just can’t deny this

Hungry feeling, make me long for seconds

Go on, go on

Yeah, come on

 

And if there’s no cereal

And all we have is a piece of toast

I’m happy just to eat it

I’m not complaining to the host

 

It’s in my dreams

Whenever I’m asleep

My favorite part is to wake up

Don’t lose it, just eat it

 

So go on, go on

Come on and make me breakfast

Grapefruit, bacon too, I just can’t deny this

Hungry feeling, make me long for seconds

Go on, go on

Yeah, come on

 

I cannot lie

I’m starving deep inside

I’m losing will to survive

Can’t hide it

Can’t fight it

 

So go on, go on

Come on and make me breakfast

Orange juice, pancakes too, I just can’t deny this

Hungry feeling, make me long for seconds

Go on, go on

 

Come on and make me breakfast

Go on, go on

Come on and make me breakfast

Go on, go on

Come on and make me breakfast

Go on, go on

Love Will Find a Way

When I was in high school there was a girl I had a few classes with. We’d known each other since middle school, but had never really gotten to know each other until the later years of high school. We became friends, and after a while she started doing things for me. She’d cook for me, bake for me, buy things for me, ask me to hang out, ect.

She’s tall and thin. I think she must be at least 5’8”. She has a heart-shaped face that I always thought reminded me of Kristen Dunst. (She hated it whenever I said that.) She’s half-Japanese, so she has a certain exotic look to her. People say she looks like she could be one of those Japanese models or something.

Eventually people started talking as if we were either going out, or were about to go out, and they weren’t subtle about it. I shrugged it off.

Her friends began asking me things like, “Do you like her?”

“I like her as a friend,” was my reply.

They’d say, “But do you like her, like her?”

At that point I’d say something like, “She’s a good friend, and blah blah blah.” I didn’t like her as anything more, but I was trying to be nice/subtle/diplomatic/Asian* about it.

*Asian culture has this thing where you’re not supposed to be direct about things. More about that some other time.

This went on for a while. She’d continue to do things for me, and her friends would continue to say things like:

– “She’s pretty, don’t you think?”

– “You guys are friends, so why not something more?”

– “You should ask her to homecoming/prom/whatever.”

– Or simply, “She wants you to ask her out.”

Even my parents liked her. My mom would say –

Wait. When you imagine my mom’s voice, you have to imagine a high-pitched, shrilly, squeaky voice. (“I do not talk like that!” says my mom whenever my siblings and I make fun of her. But she does.)  Ready? Let’s try this again.

My mom would say, “She’s a nice girl, and she’s gorgeous! Don’t you like her?”

To me, “gorgeous” is synonymous with “beautiful.” Is she pretty? Sure. But beautiful? Hold on there.

My mom is the last person I’d talk to about girls, so I shrugged and murmured my usual, “I like her as a friend.” (This was getting really old.) She continued. “Stop being so picky. Someday a girl is going to come along and break your heart!”

Thanks, mom. Something to look forward to!

Apparently my mom thought I was a big jerk for not going out with this girl. But it’s not like I led her on. I gave her no indication that I was at all interested. I did nothing intentional to try to get her to like me. How am I supposed to go out with someone I don’t like?

This went on for a while. I’d be nice to her, she’d do things for me, people would continue to talk to me about her, we’d hang out as friends, but nothing more, and her and her friends kept wondering why I wasn’t interested.

One day I saw her in the hallway holding hands with a guy we were friends with. I thought it was strange, since he never seemed like the type of guy she’d go for. In fact, I knew she didn’t like him, and I thought they were holding hands as part of some weird game or something. Later I realized it was an attempt to get me jealous, but at the moment I thought, “Well that’s strange,” and went on with my day. You can’t make someone jealous when there’s nothing to be jealous about.

Her and her friends really pulled out all the stops to try to get me to ask her out. They tried every trick in the book. I admire her tenacity. I was flattered by the extent she went to. I’ve never had any other girl do so much just to try to get my attention. A lot of guys would give a lot to be with a girl like her. I felt kind of bad in a way. She picked the one guy – the one weird guy – who just wasn’t interested. I didn’t feel too bad though, since I knew she would have no problem finding someone else.

Her and her friends kept trying to figure out why I didn’t like her.

They thought, “Maybe he doesn’t want to have a girlfriend right now so he can focus on school.”

Nope. Never cared much about school. Besides, I don’t see any reason why you can’t focus on something and do other things at the same time.

“Maybe his parents don’t want him to be distracted from school and baseball and things.”

Like I said, they actually wanted me to go out with her, so that wasn’t it.

“Maybe he likes someone else.”

That really had nothing to do with it.

And finally, after they had exhausted the other possibilities, they thought, “Maybe he’s gay.”

They never figured out the real reason why I was never interested.

Finally one of her guy friends came to talk to me.

“She likes you,” he said. “She just wants to give it a try.”

Try? What is there to try? I don’t need to stick my hand in a fire to know that it’s hot. Sometimes you need to try something to see if it’ll work. But other times you just know when it isn’t right.

“You don’t like her as more than a friend?”

“No,” I replied.

“Not even a little?”

“Not even a little.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. I just don’t.”

Back then I knew I didn’t like her, I just didn’t know how to explain it. But I’m older now, so it’s easier to understand.

You see, her and I have nothing in common. We went to the same high school, we’re both kinda tall, and we’re both part Japanese (and there were only around 5 Japanese people in our entire school) so people thought we’d be a good match. But those things are trivial.

Her idea of a good time is going to a bar or party or club or something. I don’t drink. I think alcohol tastes terrible. It smells terrible. It isn’t appealing to me in any way, and neither are girls who drink. So what was I supposed to do while she’s doing those things? Did she really expect me to follow her around to those places?

She likes drinking. I like chasing dreams. She likes going to parties. I like making plans to change the world. She likes getting wasted. I have so many hobbies, interests, and ambitions that I don’t think I could ever get wasted, because I’d never want to waste my time.

One time I said to her, “Look at that cloud! It looks like a turtle.”

Her reply was, “You’re stupid.”

The fact that she called me stupid didn’t offend me at all. Friends can do that. What she said wasn’t important. I didn’t care if she had thought it looked like a dragon, or a penguin, if she had called it a visible mass of H2O, or if she had thought it was simply a beautiful cloud. She didn’t have to say anything at all. I’m not insensible enough to put much stock into any one thing a person says, but after having known her for a while, it confirmed what I already knew: that we are different in every possible way. It was a perfect example of why I could never be with her. I look up and see amazing things. She looks up and sees nothing but clouds. I look at the world around me and feel an insatiable desire to make a difference. She looks at the world and sees just a place to live.

It’s been years since then. We’re still friends, she has a boyfriend, but I never talk about other girls around her. If I so much as mention another girl in any context, she gets moody and will make some kind of comment, like…

“I think you like ugly girls. Don’t you?”

…What!?

“Well not really ugly, but plain girls. You like plain girls. Right?”

Woah. Wait. You can call me ugly or plain. But you can’t say that about the girls I like. I take offense on their behalf.

“Not plain…but you don’t like pretty girls, right? You don’t like girly-girls?”

She was trying to figure out why I never liked her. To this day, she doesn’t know the real reason. It has nothing to do with the way she looks.

People say she’s pretty, but she doesn’t look too pretty to me when she drinks or swears, and I don’t think she’s pretty at all when she’s inebriated. It seems like every picture I see of her includes alcohol in some way. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that was the most important thing in her life.

She was right about one thing though. I don’t like pretty girls. I like beautiful girls.

There’s no such thing as a girl who isn’t pretty. You could show me any given girl and I bet I could identify at least one trait about her that I think is pretty.

Beauty, on the other hand, is entirely different. Some people call model girls “beautiful.” But I don’t see it. I never have. Beautiful is not a word I toss around carelessly. People who look with just their eyes miss out on some of the best things the world has to offer. Beauty is felt with the heart. It comes from the soul.

That girl did a lot of nice things for me. I appreciate the effort, but ultimately it didn’t matter. It isn’t about what I can do for someone, or what someone can do for me. It’s about what we can do together. That’s what I think a relationship is supposed to be.

Do opposites attract? Or is it better to have a lot in common? I say both. It has to be a mix of the two. If you’re too similar you won’t be able to support each other in your weaker areas, and in the long run you might just be too similar to get along. But if you’re too different, you won’t have enough in common to want to do things together.

I think it’s important to have a common passion. You don’t have to like all the same things – actually, it’d be weird if you did – you just have common values.

The one thing your common passion shouldn’t be, though, is each other. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be passionate about one another, but if that’s your only common passion, eventually you’ll find something wrong with each other, something you just don’t like, and all of a sudden the passion subsides. But when you are passionate about common values you are able to work through your differences not for the sake of maintaining your relationship, but because there’s no one else you’d rather be with.

It isn’t that this girl I knew in high school wasn’t good enough for me. It’s just that she wasn’t meant for me. And I wasn’t meant for her. I guess I’m the only person to have seen that.

My mom said I was being too picky. But I’d rather be alone than be with someone if it means taking me away from the things I was meant to do. It’s not that I expect to be with someone who is really great. Just someone who is great for me. And if I’m great for her, then perhaps we might achieve great things together. And if it can’t be like that, I might be better off on my own. I can’t let anyone or anything get in the way of the things I was meant to do.

Let’s pretend for a moment that I had gone out with that girl. Putting aside the fact that I would have been unhappy, it would have been unfruitful. I would have been tied down to things I was not meant to do, in places I was not meant to be, with people I was not meant to be with. She would’ve been unhappy that I was unhappy, and it just never could have worked. The way I see it, I saved the both of us a lot of trouble.

I don’t think this girl put much thought into it before deciding she liked me. I think she decided she wanted a boyfriend, thought, “Hey, here’s this guy I know at school,” decided I met her criteria, and boom, she liked me. She didn’t think about whether we had a connection or not, whether we were similar at all, whether we’d be a good fit, and most importantly, whether we were meant to be.

She is still a good friend of mine. But we were never meant to be anything more.

Would you rather travel down a road you weren’t meant to take, or travel alone? When you travel alone, someone might just join you when you least expect it. But if you’re on a different path entirely, you might be missing out.

I’m not saying you have to wait for the one person you are going to spend the rest of your life with. Let’s face it: you could be waiting a long time. All I’m saying is the best things are not always what’s right in front of you.

Our minds can play tricks on us. Our hearts can mislead us. You can convince yourself to like someone you really don’t belong with. But if you ask yourselves why you want to be with them – Is it because of their looks or things they do for you? Is it because of some sort of prestige you have associated with them? Is it because other people think you should? Or is it because you don’t want to be alone? – and if you’re unafraid to admit to the possibility that maybe this person really isn’t meant for you, then the answers become quite clear.

If something is meant to be it can never really be lost, just postponed, meaning, even if you make mistakes and travel down other paths, you will eventually find yourself with whoever you’re meant to be with. But when you do that you put yourself through a lot of trouble, you waste a lot of time, and you might postpone the very things that you were looking for in the first place. I’d rather be with someone who was meant for me, even if it means waiting a little longer, than be with someone I’m not meant for.

Patience is not one of my strong points, and I’m not always so insightful. Like everyone, sometimes I travel down roads I’m not meant to take. It just so happened that with that girl the signs were lined up so clearly that I saw there was no point in a potential relationship.

You should never worry about ending up alone, because if you desire companionship, it will come to you someday. I think people who stay single their entire lives are people who never cared about it much to begin with, so it doesn’t really matter to them. When you want something for the right reasons, love will find a way. It may not be with the person you thought it would be with, it may come from unforeseen sources in unexpected times, but it will come to you, someday. I truly believe that for every heart there is a heart out there waiting for you, even if they haven’t met you yet. But if you jump at the first available opportunity, the first person who comes along you think you might like, then the right person for you might walk right on by, and you may never even notice.

So if you’re alone today, don’t worry about it. Be glad that you aren’t traveling down a road not meant for you. Instead of being in a meaningless relationship, you have the opportunity to find someone that you were really meant to share things with.

And if you’re not alone, well… forget you! Just kidding. If you’re with someone you were meant to be with, then good for you.

 

I’m Rob Kajiwara. Happy Valentine’s Day. Thanks for reading.

Even if we’re just dancing in the dark

Not long before I left Seattle my ipod died. I was about to head to Hawaii for what I thought would be a short visit. I bought a new ipod, but since I thought I’d only be gone for a little while I didn’t bother putting much music on it. I put a few CD’s on it without really paying attention to what they were, just enough to keep me occupied for a little while. I figured I’d download the rest when I got back.

Of course I get to Hawaii and realize I’m staying. It may have been a poorly planned move, and it may have been a rash decision, but Hawaii is where I’ve always wanted to be anyway. Had I gone back to Seattle as planned, who knows when I’d be able to return again. But had I known I was going to move permanently I would have prepared a lot better, and I would have put a lot more music on my ipod.

I’ve always wanted to make a difference in the world. For years now I’ve been working on ways I can do that. I always thought, “After I become successful, that’s when I can make an impact.”

A lot of people have dreams and aspirations, and a lot of people say they want to make a difference. But many people also say they can’t do it because they are lacking something. They seem to think, “When __ happens, that’s when I can make a difference.”

“- when I have more money”

“- when I finish school”

“- when I get a better job”

“- when I get married, or at least find someone”

“- when I figure out what I want”

For me it was, “After I become successful.”

There’s a song called “Dancing in the Dark,” by Bruce Springsteen. It happens to be one of the few songs on my ipod. It was one of those songs that I had never previously paid much attention to. Who cares about dancing in the dark anyway? What’s the point?

But when you have a limited amount of music on your ipod, you end up listening to the same songs over and over. The more I listened to it the more it grew on me. Songs have different meanings to different people, but I’ll tell you what it means to me.

Bruce Springsteen sings:

 

“I’m sick of sitting around here trying to write this book…”

 

Woah. That’s definitely something I can relate to. I’ve been working on my book for over two years now. Sometimes I haven’t felt compelled to work on it, and sometimes it just hasn’t been fun. There have been stretches of time when I’ve completely ignored it.

When I started working on it in 2009 I pretty much kept myself away from most other things, distancing myself even from family and friends, thinking that focusing on my book would expedite the writing process. I wanted to get it done right away so I could move on to the next step. I was thinking, “I’ll have it finished in a few months.” But a few months passed, and it still wasn’t done. I kept thinking, “A few more months, just a few more months. It won’t be much longer.”

I had a job at that time, or what you might call a “real” job, so my days went more or less like this: job – work out – writing – sleep – repeat. There were other things, of course, but, in a nutshell, that’s kind of how it was.

I didn’t ignore people completely. But I also wasn’t there for them when I probably should have been. I neglected certain people I wish I hadn’t. I let my own ambitions get in the way of people who are important to me.

 

“I need a little reaction,

Come on, give me just one look”

 

Humans are social by nature. Even introverts like and need social interaction when it’s comfortable for them. I think people need reaction, we need encouragement and reinforcement, we need solid family and friends to support us in the things we do. And by support, I don’t mean it because we are not strong on our own, but because we are stronger with the backing of others.

It’s okay to be introverted. But if you live a life like a Kermit… I mean… like a hermit, what good will you do? It might be a nice way of getting away from society, but ultimately you will achieve nothing. You won’t be contributing to the world around you in any way, though I suppose it’s better than contributing negatively. I think some people hide from society because of all the cruel things in the world. Then why not be the change you want to see? That’s the only way progress can be made. Yeah, people suck sometimes. Nobody said it was easy being green.

In my case, I wasn’t trying to get away from society, I was just looking for ways to be more productive. I thought that by focusing more on my task I could get more work done. I’ve never been a hermit by any means, but when you’re so involved in your own things that you miss out on the rest of the world, you might as well be.

 

“You can’t start a fire

 You can’t start a fire without a spark”

 

To me, “starting a fire” is a metaphor for making an impact, being a good influence, making a change in the world. And you can’t do that without some kind of ignition. You have to start somewhere.

 

“This gun’s for hire”

 

You can hope someone comes and “hires” you, and you can hope opportunities show up at your door. But if you wait for things to come to you, you might end up waiting a while.

 

“Even if we’re just dancing in the dark”

 

Sometimes you may not know what to do. Sometimes you may feel like making a change, but you don’t know how to go about it. Or, if you’re like me, you might know what you want, but you think you have to achieve a certain status before you can do it.

I think of “dancing in the dark” as a metaphor, meaning we may not be doing much, we might not be able to do the things we want to, we might not know what else we can do, but if it’s all we have right now, we should do it. It’s better than doing nothing.

But perhaps it isn’t just a metaphor. You can take it literally if you want. Dancing in the dark may not be useful in any way. It doesn’t help anyone, so why do it? But if it gets you to stand up and maybe take the next step, I think it’s worth doing.

Some people say they just don’t know what they can do. I think doing something – anything – is better than nothing, as long as you aren’t hurting anyone. It might not be the right thing for you. But it might lead you to the right opportunity, it might open your eyes to new possibilities.

 

“There’s something happening somewhere,

I just know that there is.”

 

 There’s always something going on somewhere. Most people don’t like to feel left out. For a while I purposefully kept myself away from things so I could focus on being successful. But I think I missed out on some things that I wanted to be a part of.

 

“You can’t start a fire

Sitting around crying over a broken heart,”

 

Everyone is unhappy sometimes. It’s easy to feel sorry for yourself when things don’t work out the way you thought or hoped they would. But it’s also easy to forget a broken heart when your heart is set on somehow making a difference in the world. You can’t start a fire sitting around wallowing in self-pity. So if you put your attention on finding ways to help someone besides yourself, not only is it easier to forget the things that have been making you unhappy, but you might find a way to make a new start.

 

“You can’t start a fire

 Worrying about your little world falling apart,”

 

Sometimes people get so consumed in their own lives that they forget about the rest of the world. Me included.

But what happens when your little world crumbles? Does anyone care? It doesn’t affect them in any way, so why should they? You can think it selfish of people not to care, or you can think it selfish of yourself for expecting people to care about your tiny world that involves no one but you. Even the people who genuinely care about you can only do so much to help. It isn’t your little world that matters, but the world that you bring to others.

When I started writing my book two years ago I wasn’t concerned with anything besides finishing it. Not only did I miss out on some things, but it made me kind of miserable, it just wasn’t fun, and it was counter productive. Sure, I got a lot of work done during that time. But it still isn’t finished. Could I have made significant progress on it while still being more involved in other things? Probably.

Yeah, I could have handled things differently. But I try not have any regrets. Things happened the way it happened for a good reason, whatever that reason may be. I may have missed out on some things during that time. But ultimately I think I was where I needed to be, at the time I needed to be, so I don’t think I missed anything I was supposed to be a part of, even if I’m not too happy about it. However, I’ve resolved not to put things off anymore, and to never ignore people, especially those who mean a lot to me.

You might not be consciously taking yourself away from things, but if you are putting off things that you want to do, things that you know are right, because of a lack of money, or time, or for other reasons, then maybe you should ask yourself if you are being too concerned with your own little world.

It’s great to have dreams and goals, and it’s great to be working towards them. But you can’t ignore the present. It’s not enough to think, “Someday. Someday I’ll be in position to make a difference.” The difference you can and should make is today. Right now. Whatever your situation may be.

“I’ll do those things after I finish school. Oh, but now I have a load of student loans to pay off, and I want to travel and have some fun before I really grow up so I better find a job to get some money. But now I’m starting a family, so I better find a decent house. I better start saving so my kids can go to college, no time to do anything else. Wow, now I’m old. Where did all that time go? Oh well, I’ll leave it to the next generation to make a difference.”

Excuses will always be readily at hand, so we shouldn’t let them get in the way. Obviously money is necessary for certain things. But if you keep thinking, “Someday I’ll have more money, that’s when I’ll start,” you might find that a lot of time has passed you by. If you’re reading this, you are wealthier than the vast majority of people in the world, so let money be no excuse.

I’m not saying you should deviate from your chosen path, and I’m not saying you should run yourself into debt. What I’m saying is the difference you want to make can start now. Doing so might actually help you get to where you want to be.

You might not have all the money you need to do certain things, but when there’s a will there’s a way. You’ll just have to be a little more creative in your endeavors. And anyway, sometimes the best things you can do require no money at all.

It’s great to be working towards big dreams, but there’s no reason why you can’t start making little dreams come true today. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you, create opportunities. It may not feel right at first, but it might lead you to where you’re meant to be. Besides, sometimes the most important difference you can make is by doing little things for the people closest to you.

We are human. We are meant to achieve great things. Each and every one of us has the power to do so. But you can’t expect anything to be handed to you. You have to start somewhere, at some point. We should all be doing something. Even if we’re just dancing in the dark.

 

I’m Rob Kajiwara, and I’ve danced in the dark. Thanks for reading.