At the start of quarantine last spring, I found myself browsing the product website for an incredibly pretentious designer mechanical keyboard called the “Tokyo 60.” While trying to analyze both the functionality and aesthetics of this overpriced hunk of aluminum, I stumbled upon a digital masterpiece: a photoshoot titled “Corporate Kawaii,” with the keyboard as the primary accessory. The main shot featured a model with 4-inch neon nails, a pageboy bob haircut, and an acid trip-inspired sash and bowtie surrounded by three impeccably styled keyboards.
The source of this magic turned out to be The Comm, short for The Community, an internet-based Japanese fashion (“j-fashion”) magazine. Their pieces range from critical analyses of why Victorian-era outfits were in trend among Japan’s youth to “listicles” of the top 15 e-girl hangouts in Tokyo. My personal style can probably be described as “lost at sea,” but when I noticed an ad at the bottom asking for writers, something spoke to me.
As I filled out the application, I wrote: “As a person who loves individuality, the personality that each person pours into Japanese street fashion, one often missing here in the West, is the main pull for me.”
Translation: “Please, for the love of God, give me something—anything—to do.”
But while boredom was a major factor, I do know a fair bit about Japan; I lived there for six weeks, and my childhood babysitter was extremely into j-fashion. Also, I love to write—even if nonsensically at times—and I have always had a fascination with fashion, something that has often felt just out of reach (see: “lost at sea”). Even then, I had the slightest feeling that I may not be the most qualified for the position, but I still applied. A few days and one entertaining interview with the editor-in- chief later, I had miraculously gotten the gig. Part of me couldn’t shake the sense that this was all a big mistake, but I put my self-doubt aside (yeah, right) and marched onward.
My first assignment was to write a “listicle” of the best stores in Tokyo for goth fashion. Highly pertinent, right? Initially, I met all the deadlines with days to spare and edited my pieces three times over; part of it was cabin fever, but, honestly, I was thrilled to be contributing to something real. Yet as the articles kept coming and my assignments became more complicated and involved, I submitted closer and closer to the deadlines, and my original reasons for wanting to join became hazier.
I especially remember writing an extremely long piece about using critical film theory to analyze cinematic Neo-Orientalism and its fashion implications; I’m still not sure I know what any of that means. However, I powered on and kept hoping that once I learned more about j-fashion, the process would become easier and a blended interest in fashion and writing would take glorious form. It never did.
One thing I’ve noticed is that what we think we are passionate about can often have very little to do with the actual, day-to-day energies that delving into them entails. I was enamored with fashion, but when it came down to it, describing the reality of its building blocks did not come easily or joyfully to me.
When to trust your gut feeling on whether or not you enjoy something is a hard-to-walk line; it’s important to push ourselves past our comfort zones, but my experience has been that if you have to ask yourself many times if you enjoy something, it’s likely a no. Authentically exploring your interests is key, but I’ve found that your intuition still knows a lot about what energies you belong in. And when my intuition told me something was off as I spent my weekends writing about Hello Kitty hair clips, I should have listened. What kept me going, as I’m sure many who’ve ended up in similar situations can relate to, was the people. My teammates at The Comm were among the more talented and creative people I’ve ever met; at every team meeting, they exuded imagination in their thoughts at a level that I could only dream of matching. And while it would be unfair to say I didn’t enjoy my time there at all, when I saw how much genuine joy it brought them, I knew it was time to let go as the thrd issue I was on came and went.
I look back fondly on that experience because I think it’s important to learn both what we don’t like and what we do. The realities of a “passion gone wrong” are much more valuable than they feel in the dissonance of the moment. If I had never tried, I would never have known. My friend Charles Bukowski (troubled as he is) may have said it best:
unless it comes out of your soul like a rocket, […] don’t do it.