The day I made my friend cry (WDS2015)

The inaugural World Domination Summit(WDS) took place in Portland, OR in June 2011, and this year we celebrated its 5th birthday. I have gone to all of them. Someone mentioned that only 2 % of this year’s attendees have gone to all five. I am not sure what this fact makes me, but I’ve had a wonderful experience every time I went back for WDS. This time, WDS team wanted to highlight the Japanese community – a handful of us have gone back to WDS year after year, and they wanted us to talk about why we come all the way from Japan. I liked the idea of doing something different this year, as I had the feeling that this might be my last WDS when I was planning my trip to Portland. When my Japanese friends and I were discussing what we could do, at some point I suggested us doing a skit to tell our story, but after some back and forth, we decided that I would be the main speaker on stage (and no, no skit… just talking).

So I prepared the speech, sent out the presentation slides, and practiced it on my way to Portland. Once I got there, the speech evolved with the help from WDS “magician” Michelle Jones, and we decided that fellow Japanese attendees will be on stage while I talk. We were called for rehearsal on Saturday afternoon during the long lunch break. (Yujiro snapped this great shot!)

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My speech was focused on three things: what WDS does for us, community & friendship, and remembering who I am.

DSC06992What does WDS do for us? WDS helps us to feel free(er) to do things we would be more self-conscious doing in Japan. For my friend Hori, it was Bolleywood dancing. For me, it was giving a hug to my Japanese friends or calling each other by their first name.In my speech, I shared about my realization that hugging is not a part of Japanese culture, and I often let that notion stop me from hugging my Japanese friends when I see them. hugs But I do want to hug them, so I went ahead and started a hug-chain on stage. This act earned me at least a hundred hugs once I got off the stage, and someone even said “you are the hug lady!” Also, one guy said to me “you know, a Muslim guy was sitting next to me, and while watching you guys hug each other on stage, he said he wants to hug his people too ”. This made me smile.

I then talked about community where I put my friend Oliver’s picture on a slide, because I think he is someone who embodies the idea of WDS community. Oliver is kind, fun-loving, adventurous, and super supportive. DSC06996I still talk to him regularly via Facebook chat every now and then. He is always there for his friends and I can count on his encouragement and support whenever I need it. I aspire to be Oliver for whatever community I’ll enter or create (later I learned that this part had him in tears)…. I was lucky to have lived in San Diego because we have a great WDS community. Connecting with them after WDS 2012 was one of the most significant events of my 12 year stay in San Diego. They taught me what it feels like to be surrounded by loving and supportive friends, who see you as someone who could do anything. They hold your vision for you, even when you can’t see it for yourself.DSC07007

While I was away in Portland, I left our three kids in my husband’s capable hands. The night before I left, I mentioned to him that this might be the last WDS for me, because I saw that he was playing this scenario of “what if kids get sick or I get into a car accident?” in his head. It wasn’t that he was overly anxious or worried, but he wanted to mentally prepare himself for emergency as he would be left in a foreign country where he didn’t speak much of the language. When he heard me say that this might be the last WDS, he initially said “that’s cool (so I don’t have to do this again)”. But after a while, he continued;

You know, I am not sure if your not going to this kind of thing is the best decision for our family. After all, you are just trying to be the best person you can be. Self-exploration is necessary for that.

DSC07009This caught me by surprise and I felt deeply grateful for our partnership. This was when I realized what WDS means to me. It helps me remember who I am. People say “wow, you came all the way from Japan? That’s so far!” Yes, going to Portland from Japan is quite a bit of travel. But it’s an important journey to go back to who I really am underneath of all the “roles” we were supposed to play on daily basis. Taking away those labels, masks and armors, I become just “me” again.

At the end of the speech, we had everyone stand up and hug each other, and we left the stage. I felt relieved that it was over, and I didn’t fall on stage or anything like that. I also remember feeling deliriously happy when I first walked on that WDS stage – yes, I was nervous before I got there but once I started seeing some friendly faces, I couldn’t wait to start connecting with them. This is not to say that I am an experienced public speaker; I had never given a speech in English to an audience bigger than 60-70 people before that. But on Saturday, I was watching how engaging the audience was, laughing and responding to keynote speakers on stage, and I knew that it was very warm and kind crowd. I had this trust that even if I fell on stage, it would have been ok, they would be supportive and cheer me up. So I knew that giving my best was the only thing I needed to do.
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OliverEtsukoAt the closing party, I felt a bit melancholic and bitter sweet, because at that point I knew that I was not going to come back next year. WDS team announced that the size of the participants for next WDS will be reduced to 1000, and 500 tickets had been already sold at that point. That means only 500 more tickets will be sold in future ticket sales. I had the honor and privileges to come to all 5 WDS, and it is time to let someone new experience it. But I knew I was going to miss a super fun party with my dear friends next year, so I made the most of the little time we had left together.

And then it was over.

Everything good will come to an end, and that’s ok. This is by life’s design, so that we can put ourselves in a new environment and grow some more. 4 years between the first and the last WDS gave me tremendous gift. Being in WDS community propelled me to take action, and brought me to where I am now. Connections and friendships I made through this community will continue to grow and so will I. So, I will say good bye for now, with gratitude.

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(images: Armosa Studios)