Don't laugh; I didn't realize Ireland was a nation of its own until I went there and learned that I had to go through immigration control when I got off the ferry at Rosslare. (Nobody was manning it, but let's ignore that for now.)
I wouldn't have gone to Ireland if the rail pass I had bought for a visit to UK didn't cover Ireland. In those days when I thought about Ireland all I could think of was U2 and Bob Geldof and something about a potato famine. Not much else.
I bumped along the east coast of Ireland and eventually I entered Northern Ireland and I ended up in Londonderry. I noticed union jacks were displayed in certain neighborhoods but not others; I also noticed some signs said "Londonderry" while others said "Derry." Why? Later in the day I came across a big sign that said "You are now entering Free Derry" in huge letters. What was that supposed to mean? Suddenly I had all these questions in my head I wanted answered.
When I got back to London I went to the big book stores and bought a pile of books about Ireland and shipped them home. When I got back to Tokyo I read them and bought more. I was hooked. Ireland was a nation with History and a land of incredible poets. Today I can tell you a thing or two about de Valera and Collins. And Yeats. I can now tell you a whole lot of things about Free Derry, though I'll never know more than the people who lived through the Troubles. I now understand a little more of what makes U2 so special. And surprisingly, I think I understand America a lot more now, why so many people decided to seek new life there. I now see JFK in a completely different light.
I never thought I'd become an Ireland-lover, but I did. When I get the chance, I'm going back.
2. Speaking before a group
I hated giving speeches and presentations when I was in school. I hated it so much that I wouldn't sleep for weeks before I had to stand in front of the class to read a paper on the Panama Canal or something. Standing in front of my fellow students my hands would shake and my throat would tighten up. Just thinking about it would ruin my day.
Years later I became a designer for an IT company. When you work for an IT company, you make a lot of presentations. I now love presentations. No, I'm nowhere as good as Steve Jobs, but I enjoy getting up in front an audience to explain something and maybe make a difference. I may have begun to enjoy doing this when I realized that all those eyeballs aren't things to be feared, that they belonged to -- people. It may have taken a quarter-century or so, but I finally realized that I needn't fear others.
3. Being touched by others
For a long time I hated being touched by others. This may have been related to the fact that as a kid I had a problem with tic disorder -- I was not in control of my own body. I would jump up if anybody even laid a finger on me, much less give me a hug. I didn't want anyone with six feet of me. This made me a very socially awkward young person.
This would change when the ticks ended. (Physical maturity does things like this.) I no longer fear being touched, and I now love it; being touched is fun.
Around the time I began to enjoy being touched by others, I started loving hospitals. I loved having doctors and nurses touch me, stick probes in me (but not in that hole, Cranky-san), pull at my limbs, straighten my spine, stick big needles in my arms, etc., etc., etc. I used to buy piles of over-the-counter drugs to avoid going to the doctor. Now I rush to the hospital at the first sign of a cold to make sure it doesn't get any worse -- and I am told I always come back with a great big smile on my face.
5. Genre-intensive entertainment
The four years I spent totally immersed in the reimagined Battlestar Galactica may have something to do it, but I now love genre-intensive forms of entertainment. I think I realized that the little details that make up genres are supported by need, and began to appreciate that. I used to think the really genre-intensive forms of entertainment -- think opera, country music, westerns, detective novels, sci-fi, samurai films, Hawaiian music, horror films, etc., etc. -- were campy. Not anymore. These days I spend weekends listening to Willie Nelson while writing short stories about vampires.
In the 80's I hated Journey. Nothing about them was cool -- even though I thought Steve Perry was the best singer on "We Are the World," he looked like a total dork surrounded by people like Michael, Stevie, Cyndi and Huey.
Fast forward to 2011; the glory days of AOR kings filling stadiums are long gone and in a world ruled by people like Gaga, Jay-Z and Kanye I keep playing "Don't Stop Believin'." (God, how I hate that apostrophe.) Journey's song has real instruments, real riffs, and vocals that sounds like they went straight from a microphone to tape without any of that Pro Tools business. Yes, Gaga, Jay-Z and Kanye are cool and I love the music that they make; however, Journey fulfills my ever-growing need for music that doesn't sound like it was put together on somebody's laptop.
I think I was one of the last people in Japan to not use a cell phone. Then I heard that Apple was going to come out with one and -- total addiction. I sleep with with mine next to the pillow; it wakes me up in the morning I always keep it nearby. I always thought the Mac was the machine in my life, but I was wrong.
I pray that Steve didn't unleash the iPhone on the world with cynical motives.