Life in Review: The Rising Sun Years
Things started to turn around for me in Texas. I started working while in Texas—thanks to my parents—and made friends at work. Getting paid to do work I was good at and getting to hang out with nice people was a great emotional boost. Within a few months, I was already competing with veteran members of my group. A coworker introduced a song by a group named Dragonforce. They later became my favorite band. I built my first computer, saved money, paid rent to my parents, and made my first pizza from scratch. I got ambitious: I started writing a fiction book. Didn’t get very far, but I gave it a go.
I continued to study to become a rabbi. I studied online with some other people, but in real life, I and my parents were still largely isolated. We couldn’t connect with the broader Jewish community, and the members of our group were spread across the world. Real life relationships with people interested in what we were doing were usually short and shallow. No nice Jewish girlfriends in sight. However, I worked with people I considered friends, so I didn’t notice the lack of Jewish connections.
I’m a technology nerd. In Texas, I was regularly checking out websites that talked about technology. Staying up-to-date on the latest technology trends and advancements was and still is important to me. On one tech website, in the comments section, I read someone talk about an “anime” called “Naruto”. Didn’t really know anything about anime or Naruto, but that was a seed planted in my mind.
Later, I a new friend introduced some anime to me. I think he showed me some Ghibli stuff, as well as Ghost in the Shell. It was mind blowing to me. American cartoons are usually simple, low-budget, low-production value kid’s shows. 3D animation films like Toy Story and Shrek were cool, too, but there was something special about the 2D anime coming out of Japan.
Then, one day while watching TV, I came across an anime I had heard of on the internet. I watched Naruto, a story about ninjas, for the first time. I watched Naruto’s teacher get stabbed in the back by a giant shuriken and live. I watched him and his friend Sasuke struggle against powerful and interesting enemies. The climax and ending of the first major story arch in the show sent chills down my spine. I needed to have more, so I went and downloaded every episode of the show. I spent every single minute of my free time over the next week or two watching Naruto. I was in love.
Naruto introduced me to a whole world of entertainment I hadn’t known about. I started watching One Piece, a very long-running and popular anime. Again, I binged on that for about two or three weeks.
I watched both Naruto and One Piece with English subtitles and Japanese voices. That was the first time I had been exposed to the Japanese language in a major way. I decided to learn Japanese because of anime. I bought some books and started studying on my own.
At the same time, my interest in politics was rekindled. An unusual American politician said some very interesting things that motivated me to start learning some completely new subjects on my own (economics and philosophy). What I learned began a revolution in my mind that reverberates within me to this day. I learned about freedom and my enslavement. I realized I wanted to be free and that we’re all supposed to be free, but we’re not. Freedom became the highest ideal for me. Nothing is more important, energizing, and beautiful than freedom.
Then, my father lost his job again. After some months of searching, he found a job in Washington. For the first time in my life, I had to make a major life decision: Stay in Texas with my job and friends, or move with my parents? Become independent, or follow my parents and hope that someday I can find a nice Jewish girl? I felt like, for the first time, I had a choice.