I was having a crappy day a bit ago, and a friend made a comment about how I am going to my “homeland” tomorrow, so I should cheer up.
She was actually very spot on. Actually, Japan and LA are the 2 places I feel I can call “home.”
I lived in Japan longer than I’ve been in LA so far, but I’m about to pass that mark soon.
What is “home?” Is it just somewhere where you’ve been for a long time? Somewhere where you really felt like you belonged? I think I tried very hard to belong in both Japan and LA, and was successful in some ways in both places.
Living in Japan was a great experience for me, and while I was there, I made a lot of friends, had insane adventures I had never dreamed of, and brushed up a lot on my Sherlock Holmes skills. I was extremely happy with my social life, but after 3 years, I decided to move to Los Angeles. When I left, I did feel like it was about time to go, to search for my “career” in a way that was impossible for me to do in Japan. While there, I was only able to be an English teacher, an easy enough job, if a little frustrating, but with short hours, great pay, and flexible schedule. I didn’t enjoy the job itself that much, as I felt that my real skills lay more in the creative and editorial field. So I left, with the promise of a job working for the Gothic & Lolita Bible in Los Angeles.
Photo from the Gothic & Lolita Bible blog on Tokyopop’s website.
My work there was definitely more substantial, and I felt like I was building a real skill set, finally, other than prancing around a room saying “REPEAT AFTER ME! BANANA! BANANA!” to 3 year olds. However, we all know how that ended up. Tokyopop folded and laid off over 90% of its employees, including myself, though keeping me on for one more issue as freelance before they finally ended the magazine.
I went on to other jobs that didn’t quite suit me, and which I eventually got laid off from anyway. I felt that I had moved away from Japan in vain. There was no “career” to pursue after all. I felt like I had no real skills, and was floundering in the job market here for quite a while. Ironically, it is not my full time jobs that gave me the most satisfaction, but my interests and hobbies which turned into paying gigs towards the summer of last year.
It’s funny, but all along it turns out that it wasn’t that I was failing in my job skills, it was simply that I needed to create the perfect position for myself. There isn’t an “entrepreneur” nor “coordinating wizard” section on Craigslist or anything like that. Rather, by carving out these 2 businesses, I’ve been able to get real footing in this city for the first time since I’ve moved here.
Starting Chubby Bunny Accessories has been extremely rewarding, and has really shown me that I am not “talentless” after all. The concept for the bows started around spring of last year, and really came to a head during my collaboration with Sanrio for their Three Apples event in October of 2009. To my complete surprise, my red Hello Kitty bows were the best selling item of the entire 3-week event! I’ve continued a solid working relationship with Sanrio and have plans to come out with more collaboration products with them later this year.
Also, co-leading Bubble Punch with Yume Ninja has been hugely successful. We had been helping movers and shakers around LA add whimsy and fun to their events for over a year. Our reputation for outrageous outfits proceeded us, as we challenged ourselves to create even more glamorous and fun garments for every event we attended.
A short rundown of the outfits I’ve created/coordinated in the past 2 years since moving to LA:
“The Red Admiral.” Photographed by William Bradley, retouching by True Mee Lee. This was the first photoshoot I’d ever styled for myself. This was for the MaruiOne photocontest, in which I placed 2nd.
Snow Queen outfit for Rococo Rendezvous, hosted by Zippercut.
For JapanLA’s “Shiny Party” event at Royal/T. This also marks the 2nd time I’d assisted in retail display or their pop-up shop.
Circus Tent outfit for Zippercut’s “Cirque du So Lame” party at Royal/T. This is one of my favorites. Mot photos don’t show it, but the outfit has lights through the hat, “stage” area, and around the circular “tent” itself.
Battling True Mee at zippercut’s Crusaders and Haters party. I took inspiration from villains from Japanese Sentai shows for this one. The little white circles are actually LED lights I installed on the costume.
After multiple appearances such as these, True Mee and I decided to buckle down and make a name for ourselves… literally. With the creation of Bubble Punch, we were able to put a name and organization affiliation to our unique projects, and give a reference point to anyone who wanted us to help at their events. Right after creating Bubble Punch, we found we had no lack of projects to keep us busy.
Bubble Punch’s first “official” gig under our new company name. Helping Mandy of Zippercut at Japanology at Royal/T
Easily Bubble Punch’s most successful event, Hello Kitty’s Bats & Cats Masquerade boasted over 1,500 attendees. Photo of me fixing Kitty-chan’s goth outfit, which I handmade.
Despite the insane amount of projects I am constantly juggling, there are 2 factors that are essential to my success:
1) My higher (if not sometimes floundering ) sense of self confidence I have gained over the years. Something found with age, I suppose, I am definitely a stronger woman now than I was 5, or even 2 years ago. I see some people who complain of their lack of success in a certain area, but there is a lot to be said for keeping a positive outlook and simply trying your best with the knowledge that it will work out. Losing that sense of positivity was something I had to cope with when I bounced from job to job after my layoff at Tokyopop.
2) The incredible support and love from my friends. This sounds like a cheesy Oscar’s speech, but without the support of my friends, I would have no one to critique me on my work, no one to cheer me up when I was in despair, no one to yell at me when I began to give up, no one to help me finish projects when there was one too many tasks. The incredible friends I have found across my travels have helped me grow into who I am today, and I am forever grateful for that.
Tomorrow I leave for Japan for a 10 day visit to my old homeland, where I will be able see my old friends, visit my old haunts, and dust off my Japanese skills. I’m incredibly happy to go back and be able to tell my friends there that I didn’t move away in vain, and that eventually, everything has worked out for me in the end.
I’ve been able to put away my shame at not being able to find a job that’s a “good fit” for me. Instead, I am proud to say that my skills are better suited to being my own boss.
And I am happy.