As 2015 ended, I half-expected the world to end and to have everything come crashing down around me. Needless to say it didn’t. A few seconds later I was still alive, still conscious and still walking up the steps to Andy’s apartment where I was spending the night. Still the same old me.
Except I wasn’t. Sometime during the last six months I had become a new person entirely – either that or I was still in the process of doing so. It didn’t matter. This was 2016 and doing less than my absolute best for myself and the world would be no less than blasphemy against the Eternal. The warriors of Eden would raise their arms no longer. In this new world there would be no strife, no more fear – not if I could do anything about it.
My New Year’s resolution was to start using Facebook, and start using it I did. Which caused about fifteen minutes of shakes, headaches, chills and stomach pains. It was patently obvious to me why they had occurred. I was opening up to the world again, to everyone, to everything.
I came clean with all that had happened to be so many years ago. I didn’t give details but I did talk about my long history of mental illness, the abuse, and the envy that I had always felt. I felt vulnerable and naked and worried but…good. After all, what did I have to hide? I wasn’t in the least ashamed of any aspect of my life. I had nothing to lose but everything to gain.
I started going out to meet them again – my friends from the cosplay scene, my cousins, aunts and uncles, other people that I knew from years ago that didn’t make the book for various reasons. I searched and found them one by one. I resolved to look for everyone who had ever done my sister and I wrong and forgive them. Washed clean of all sin, to be clad in heaven without blemish.
From Year Zero to Year Thirty-Three – that’s a lot of people. Whether in Singapore, America, Japan, Vanadiel or whatever other worlds I had travelled to – I wanted to meet them all again in whatever ways I could.
It was amazing – so amazing that I could probably write another book about that journey alone. It’s not even over yet, but here are some highlights.
Jason offered me a partnership of sorts in his gaming shop – go to Japan and help him buy and sell merchandise. It was another of the ideas that I had considered on and off in those long, dreary years – the dream of ten years ago. Was it still relevant now? I had no idea.
I found Jeremy Blaustein and asked him why he fired me so abruptly so many years ago. It wasn’t an easy thing to do – I got the all-too familiar nausea and headaches again. But I had resolved to forgive and I was prepared to do just that no matter what he said.
I didn’t get the answer I was looking for…it turned out that he couldn’t remember. He just couldn’t remember. He told me that at that time he was dealing with more than one team and probably something like twenty translators and at once and one wet-behind-the-ears youngster probably just slipped through the cracks somehow. I searched my memory and I did recall that he was seemed more than a little distracted and preoccupied…maybe that was it. Just simple overwork that ended a lifetime’s dream.
He apologized profusely and I was more than a little moved. He shared a little bit of his own story and he didn’t seem like a demon at all…just a normal human being with his own life and his own problems. It was a conversation between two translators…very American, but also very Japanese. I have no doubt that if we were having it in person I would be bowing up a storm. I told him that it was ok and that I bore him no ill will.
I shared what I was going through and how for so long Japanese game translation had been a sort of Holy Grail for me, especially when younger, but that it maybe wasn’t that anymore. He replied that nothing should be the Holy Grail. Wise words indeed…the true Holy Grail was in your heart.
My final words of the conversation were “Juusan-nen no urami wa zembu harashita. Makoto ni arigatou gozaimasu.” (The grudge of thirteen years has been cleared completely. Thank you very, very much.)
As you might expect I thought about it more than a few times in the weeks to come. What a team we could have made! I could have used a mentor like that. I remembered his frank, no-nonsense manner and also his great skill and expertise. Here was a man who really knew what he was doing – you only have to Google his name and you’ll know that he’s a fucking legend of localization. Together we could have swept the coast from Tokyo to New York. I shed a few tears for that reality that could never have been.
But on to other friends. Yuri told me that if I wanted to compare I should compare constructively. Lawrence explained his current conception of the cosmos – that God was a gamer and that he was just playing the Best Game Ever (I could get behind this theology, that was for sure) Everything that had happened had happened because it was the best possible result in an infinite amount of possibilities. A cousin told me not to worry so much – to just be in the world and things would sort themselves out.
Derrick’s advice was that if you can’t let it go, then let it be. Sometimes we need to stay the course. Don’t blame yourself for what you couldn’t see. If you fight now, you lose – they don’t even need to send soldiers anymore.
I met Yun Mei after a long time spent apart and I saw that the seeds that I sowed so many years ago had come to fruition. Her family had more than their own share of issues (and abuse) and she had borne a lot in the intervening years as well. I saw and felt her iron will – no less strong than mine – and knew that whatever happened in the future she would do just fine.
I received advice ranging from business to personal to spiritual. I told them about my options and dreams and experiences and each weighed in with their own points of view. It was like seeing many lives reflected in front of me – all the roads that I didn’t take and all the ones that I had yet to embark on.
Hock would let me stay rent-free at an apartment he had for a while. An uncle that I know who had struggled with depression offered his place in Indonesia for an indefinite stay. People let me know that if there was anything they could do they would help.
I found Zhen Xun again. He had actually contacted me a while earlier while I was in my “I don’t use Facebook because it’s for losers” phase but I wasn’t ready to talk then. This time I was and we talked for six hours…just like old times. Except some things were reversed – instead of him considering to become a priest, I was. And instead of him asking me to come to his church I told him straight out to go to mine. Like I said, I’ve always been the more active one.
We prayed together via webcam (try it, it’s kind of cool) and he was beside himself in amazement at the change in his formerly hyper-rational friend. (His actual words were “I feel like I’m living with Jennifer Lawrence in a castle in France”) After seventeen years, he could sing the opening song of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and I could sing hymns. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried when I realized that.
I contacted Yui again and asked her to proofread this book. In the intervening years a lot had happened to her as well. She said yes – it would be just like old times. She signed off with Yui and remarked how she hadn’t used that nick in a long time. I stared at the screen, stupefied. The last time we met in real life she had told me not to call her that and to use her real name instead…but Yui, you’ll always be the only Yui to me. You may not know it, but that’s what your name means! (In Japanese, Yui is the first part of the word “yui-itsu” meaning sole, or unique.)
I met Mr Sim and told him that I forgave him for everything he did all those years back when I was an angry teenager and couldn’t understand his good intentions. He told me that every teacher tried to help…did they? Could they really have not been that bad? As the light of absolution continued to illuminate each shadow in my life, it certainly seemed that it might be the case.
I decided to revisit my old school for an event it was having. I spoke to all the teachers and learnt that they had all meant well so many years ago – the darkness within and the cultural barriers without had twisted my vision of reality so much that I only saw enemies where there might have been friends. My old Chinese teacher (whom I didn’t even recognize at first) stopped me and told me that my Chinese had improved. Why, so it had…if only she knew what a struggle it had been.
At every bench and corridor where I had once contemplated suicide now there was only sunshine. Where I had once stood with my shirt bloody from picking my fingers to bits there were now some students messing around with electric guitars. I saw where I had once stood with Zhen Xun, discussing God, martial arts, anime and who knows what else. Some of my old classmates were there too and they asked after me…I discovered they had been trying to find me to invite me to reunions for ten years after I had left, without the help of Facebook or any means of contact. To say I was touched would have been an understatement.
The Internet is a powerful tool indeed and I managed to track down almost everyone who appears in this book and some more besides. Some couldn’t be found and some didn’t want to talk. That was ok too. No expectations, just freedom, acceptance and love. That was all I had to give and that was what came back to me as well.
I was confused but also exhilarated. I didn’t know what to do. Perhaps the point was not to go forwards but to go back to go forwards. Or perhaps the point was just to do whatever came and see what stuck. How should I know?
Ten years before I had two fabulous choices – stay home and be abused, or go to my father’s house and be abused. Now suddenly there was the entire world before me. As Florence said, miracles do happen.
I realized that I had so many friends, real friends, true friends. And they had always been there, all over the world. Waiting for my heart to heal enough to meet them again.
It was one night in my new place where I was still getting used to things – Facebook, the new world, my new house and life. I saw everyone that had made such a difference to my life at the right side of the screen. My vision blurred with tears. How could I ever have been jealous or envious or any of them? In what way did my life lack for anything? They were – are – all my friends, and I wished and still wish them in best in every way possible.
My heart expanded and broke and was made whole once again, and I felt depths of emotions that I had never conceived possible. Such sadness and compassion welled up in me that I began to cry. And to write.
We were all young once
and we sang and laughed and danced and played
and life was good under the trees
Beneath the shade
and everyone held hands with each other.
then life came and broke us apart
we moved houses, beyond countries, between languages
all arrows shot on different paths
our trajectories carrying us to many places
none of which were the same.
and in our time apart I have sorrowed and laughed in my own way
with new friends
and old acquaintances both
and if we did not exactly have the best of times
still, life had to go on
and go on it did.
now we are back together
for reasons that I cannot fathom and that I don’t even care to know
and everyone is so different
(which given the time spent apart is perhaps to be expected)
but everyone is still the same
with the same habits
the same motions
the same things that I know and loved so well.
but the years have taken their toll
I thought I was the only one who had taken such heavy blows
and maybe I was but it is not like everyone else
escaped unscathed either.
depression, brain tumors, affairs, divorces, almost going insane
having it all and losing it all
shutting off from and shutting down the world
when I knew and when I heard
I almost cried
and then I did.
it wasn’t supposed to be this way!
we danced in all our innocence when younger
and it was supposed to lead on to better things
yes, we could not stay in that sunlit garden forever
why did everything have to go so wrong?
or maybe despite the wrong
things went right as well
there were recoveries
better things than ever among the old
life went on and in doing so
it renewed itself
until we were able to meet again
in this place both old and new.
I am standing here looking out on
what seems like Eternity and
I know some of you won’t even remember me
or even know that I am looking at you, or
But even so I will still remember those glorious days
of gold and sepia tones
where the gardens went on forever
and time seemed to stop as we played.
As for the now
everyone made it!
in their own way
despite everything that happened
sorrows and laughter both were there
perhaps not in equal measure
but we walked onwards anyway.
the arrows flew true upon their paths
trajectories splitting only to join together somewhere
far beyond where the eye could have seen from those gardens of old
and some disappeared beyond the horizon
never to be seen again.
to those who are with me now
I say congratulations!
because we made it together
even when we weren’t all there
even when we didn’t know who we were or what we were doing
something connected us then and still does so now
so medals for everyone
even those that don’t know me and
for those that don’t remember.
where are we going?
who knows, but we’re still bound
by things we cannot see or feel
we will still laugh and sing and dance
in gardens that have yet to bloom.
My sister came out of her room to see what the matter was. She laid a gentle hand on my shoulder and that was when I realized I was living in the new world – where there was no need to suppress my emotions or to keep my tears hidden. I had no fear that if I cried Meimei would not be able to take it and I would have to keep it in again. I could cry freely – for myself and for others, with no holding back or pretense.
It’s a beautiful world out there.
I’m still updating to 2016, to a reality which has existed for some time. Where there is no true evil and no one really needs to be at fault for anything.
The journey continues, in more ways than one. I still haven’t reconnected with everyone yet, but I’m not waiting till the end of the book to get there. But in the meetings that I’ve already had so far there has been more than a fair share of synchronicity, a tying together of threads past and present that defies simple rational explanation. Perhaps there really IS such a thing as destiny.
The past gets smaller and the present gets bigger. And the future? That’s the biggest thing of them all.