Damn real: conclusion

I had no real idea where the story was going to go when I first started writing it, other than the fact that I wanted there to be a strong female protagonist to contrast the last main female protagonist, Dakota, who was a bit too much of a follower for her own good. Namie is very independent, and while she might be a little aimless, she is still capable of sticking up for herself.

I even titled it “Fashionably Late” to reference Namie being supposedly late in life with her relationship status, but decided that it was not only anti-progressive to the feminist beliefs I was raised on, but does not send a good message that I want my stories to convey to my readers by making the focus about fashion and dating

I decided to title it Damn Real after the Koda Kumi song, and I wanted to make the themes focus on being realistic or practical with your decisions in life

I wanted Namie to be a very practical and decisive person to better reflect the title

Before, I wanted her to be more of a wanderluster, although aspects of that character do reflect in when Namie is testing the waters with her suitors, as well as in the end, when she decides to forgo everything in her life up until that point

Originally, Namie was going to receive a huge amount of money from her mother, but I changed that to being just a plane ticket. To explain her wealth, I wanted Namie to come off as more self-made, hence why I opted for her to have a mini fortune in stocks and investments, just to showcase her intelligence that much more.

Emiri was not a main focus when I began writing this. I decided that she could be a very good gateway for the reader to better empathize with a Mormon character and understand what she was taught to believe versus how she actually is as a person.

It was not decided until I started writing Chapter 2 that Melissa Chen was going to be the dance instructor. She was previously in my other work, How it is, as a college student who comedically destroyed tables with her krav maga skills.

I knew I wanted there to be two strong female supporting characters who were both driving Namie forward. Neither of them were from terribly realistic backgrounds, with Wei being a famous idol, while Claire is a famous beauty guru. But putting them next to Namie made her seem plain at first, but much more relatable by default.

A lot of who Namie was, it was based directly on my own experiences working in hotel finance. I became friends with the people working in the Front Desk, so that’s a huge reason why I made Namie, a general cashier like myself, friends with Claire the Front Desk Supervisor. It was just a natural fit, given their roles.

I do envy Namie to a degree, because she is a lot smarter, more driven, and more capable than I am, but I wanted her to have those qualities so that she could be a unique and admirable character. The fact that she is so multitalented, you cannot help but root for her when she chose to make a life changing decision to become a dancer. You know that somebody that committed to being the best will always succeed, no matter what route she chooses to take.

Overall, I hope that the takeaway of this story is to do what is right for you. You can just throw away your life and dive into a career just to get ahead, or throw away your career and dive into your passion. Either way, there really is no wrong answer, and that is what makes the ending of this story hopefully hit a real place for all of you guys reading this. No matter what choices you make in life, you may feel second thoughts and even regrets, but so long as your work ethic shines through, you will be successful no matter what. That is an even bigger truth and takeaway that I hope you all come to understand from reading this story.

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Damn real: chapter 25

“Don’t do it, Namie.” Emiri’s voice could be heard from the other side of the phone call. She was talking to Namie about making this decision. “Well, you said that so quickly-” “Because it’s a dumb decision. You’ve been working your butt off just to get to this point, and to throw it all away? Both of us have made that mistake so many times already. Why bother repeating the same thing? You’re going to listen to whatever misguided instinct that nags at you, and that’s what will make taking that offer this much worse. You will know exactly what you have walked away from, and you won’t be able to ever feel like you made the 100% correct decision.” The engineer pointed out. She made a strong point there. Both of them had made countless sacrifices, in time, career opportunities, and educational opportunities, just because they thought that they were doing the right thing. Granted, this situation was slightly different. It was not another person who really was influencing Namie to make this decision. She could be happy being in finance, but she just felt that much happier when she was dancing. And to make that into a career and income, it would be a dream come true for her. It was not like her father or some sort of other figure was telling her to give up on finance to become a housewife. Even though Emiri saw taking the dancing job as a downgrade, for Namie, she saw this as a chance to make her occupation something she actually wanted to do and look forward to each and every day. It is a rare thing for people to be able to say that about their jobs. “Thanks, Emiri.” She hung up, still thinking about what Emiri had said. But at the same time, she was still thinking about whether or not the initial cut in pay would be worth it down the line.

“Can I get a glass of merlot?” Claire looked at their waiter. “I’d like the pinot griggio.” Namie answered, handing over her menu as well. “Very well. I will come back with your drink orders first.” The waiter bowed before leaving. “So you’re fine if I take the offer?” The two were undergoing their usual wine Wednesday routine after another mutually taxing day of work. “I mean, would I be sad that you’re all leaving me for Japan? Yeah. But at the end of the day, that’s how life is. People come and go.” Claire shrugged. She looked like she was trying her best not to cry. It was understandable too; Namie was one of her first close friends she made after breaking up with Frankie, and to see somebody she had relied on emotionally for so long leave, it was tough. But at the same time, the Director of Front Office wanted her best friend to follow her dreams. This time, they were at Blue Duck Tavern, which was actually a rather nice establishment given the not as elegant rituals they typically partook on these days. However, this day was different. It might be one of the last wine Wednesdays that the two could ever have together. “Look, it’s okay to cry, alright?” Namie sighed, as she felt tears welling around her eyes as well. She would be lying to herself if she said leaving Claire behind was hard. They were closer than family at this point. Every struggle, every moment Namie experienced since she started working at the Ritz Carlton, Claire had an impact. She was the overzealous front desk agent, while Namie was the withdrawn and untrusting general cashier, accusing people of stealing money. And now both of them have progressed so far in their respective paths. “Okay, I will then. I’m sorry.” Claire burst into tears as Namie joined her, hand in hand. “I just don’t want to say goodbye!” “Me neither, Claire!” They continued to cry as the waiter awkwardly placed their glasses on the table before nervously inching away. “Hey, where do you think you’re going?! We’re starving over here!” Claire barked at him while Namie started laughing. “Oh my god, I swear, we’re not lesbians.” The accountant began. “I mean, if you were, I wasn’t judging, but….” He started. “We’re not. This bitch is just leaving me for Japan is all.” Claire rolled her eyes, catching her breath. The two managed to quickly regain their composures. Hunger took precedence to them feeling sad.

“But yeah, no matter what happens, we’ll always be in touch, and we’ll always be friends. You better not forget that.” Claire smiled at Namie as they finished up their meal. “And I can’t wait to see you in Koda Kumi’s videos. I won’t necessarily understand what you guys are saying or doing, but I’ll still root for you.” “Thanks, Claire.” They hugged before going their separate ways for the night. It felt so final, even though Namie still had not fully committed to her decision yet. Nights like these, they were already sparse after Wei had left for her tour and both of them had been promoted. But even then, a part of her was not ready to let the happiness from being an accountant in D.C. go just quite yet. Shrugging to herself, Namie continued to wonder what exactly was the right choice for her in the Uber ride home. But she knew she needed to talk to a couple other people first. While she was leaning towards leaving for Japan, between Emiri’s doubts and not wanting to leave Claire behind, despite her insistence, it was hard to give that opportunity a resounding yes. And she wanted to make a resolute decision.

“Hey! Can you hear and see me okay?” Wei’s face appeared on Namie’s computer screen. “Yeah, I can see and hear you loud and clear.” She smiled in amusement as the idol continued to fumble around with her own monitor. “Wei, move back a little. You’re hogging up the camera.” Niall sighed, as he pulled her away just enough so that he could be seen as well. “Long time, no see.” He grinned at her. “Yeah, it’s a been a while. How was the tour been?” “Well, it’s been a lot of fun, but it turns out I won’t be going back to the states just quite yet.” Wei sighed. “Oh?” The accountant frowned in confusion. “What’s wrong? Did something happen with your visa?” “Oh, no. Not that. It turns out that this one… he got famous after just one follow-up performance to one of my shows.” She laughed, pointing to Niall. “Wait, what?!” “Yeah. I let him perform after one of my concerts, and the crowd went wild. And now he’s performing regularly on his own, and he’s just racking up a huge, huge, huge following.” She giggled. “Honestly, I think it was just because you used your fanbase to get me famous. I swear to god, my entire career is going to be based on gold-digging rumors now. People telling me that I was lucky to be dating a famous girlfriend, and how I used her fame to my advantage.” Niall sighed. “But at least you’re already a third as famous as I am on Instagram.” She nudged his shoulder playfully. “And so many girls like you. Aren’t I the lucky one here?” “Hey, shut up.” “Hey, can you guys just not do that right now? I mean, as much as I clearly love seeing this…” Namie frowned. “Okay, we’ll stop now. But anyways, what’s up?”

“Well, the point of this call was because I just wanted to get your input on whether or not I should take the job for Koda Kumi-” “You should. You absolutely should. Follow your dreams, Nams. You are smart and capable, and yes, that makes you a good accountant, but I’ve seen your dancing. You have the potential to be an even greater performer. Why throw that away?” Wei pointed out. “I agree with her, and trust me, that’s really rare.” Niall chimed in. “I followed my dreams, and tried my best to make them happen, and while yes, Wei’s influence had something to do with it, but now I’m a renowned violoncellist in Japan. Follow your passion, Namie, not just what pays the bills. Make your passion the thing that does pay the bills. Live for your work, you know?” Hearing this from him, it struck a cord with the accountant. Niall had a point. She would much rather be doing a job where she could look forward to it, and not just tolerate it. Seeing how happy Wei and Niall were, with their careers specifically, that was something she wanted for herself. “Thanks, both of you. Hearing that, it gives me a lot to think about, but I feel like seeing the two of you so successful, it does give me a lot more hope that if I do choose to become a dancer for Koda Kumi, then it would be a not as dumb decision as Emiri and my own conscious make it out to be.” She smiled as they ended their chat. Putting away her laptop, the accountant really started to think long and hard about this. It felt like hours of just sitting there, deep in thought. But in reality, the choice took about five seconds to make. She had already decided for herself to what she wanted to do.

“Hi, David. I just submitted my two weeks notice.” She popped her head into her Director of Finance’s office. “Oh?” It was an awkward talk and while it did not end well, Namie had finally quitted her job. Even after explaining how she felt to David, she knew he would not be fully supportive of losing her. But she did not care at that point. She was following her heart. Those last two weeks working at the Ritz Carlton, it was an awkward feeling. Namie felt as though she was disconnected from her workplace. Even her day to day responsibilities, like handling the cash or invoices, it felt like menial tasks that she did without even any real thought. In her head, she was thinking about the logistics. Packing her things, needing to return her keys, when to book her flight, finding an apartment in Tokyo. It was a laundry list of things to do, on top of needing to buy a new cellphone when she lands. Luckily, she knew that once more, she could live with Wei for a little bit, so that did ease the stress of the actual coming-to-Japan portion of her transition. But stepping out of the Ritz Carlton that last time, she could not help but feel sad. Even though a lot of her friends no longer worked there, she had come to see this workplace as a home. Shaking off her feelings of sadness, the now-former accountant had to remind herself that this place will always have a special place in her heart, whether or not she worked there anymore. It was the embodiment of her entire professional experience in both the finance and hospitality industries, and she also made a ton of friends along the way by being a part of it. Calling her Uber to here one last time, Namie smiled to herself. There was really no point to feel sad. All of those good memories at this hotel, she can live with them forever.

“Alright, I think that’s the last box!” Claire shouted out from the window. “Okay. You guys can leave now!” Namie smiled at the moving men. “Awesome! These boxes will see you in Japan then!” They called back as the truck drove away from her complex. It was her last day in D.C. Claire had helped her pack up the last of her things before she needed to head out to the airport. “Are you ready to head out?” Claire asked, walking out from the entrance. “Yeah, I think I am.” Namie sighed to herself, grabbing her luggage. Waving goodbye to Sky House one last time, she headed into Claire’s car. “Well, at least I finally got to use this damn thing.” The Director laughed, referring to the fact that she would normally walk to and from work every day. “Next stop, the airport.” The engine revved and the two took off. They drove past the waterfront and all of the beautiful modern buildings overlooking the river, as they made their way to Dulles International Airport. Parking in the structure, the two got off and headed towards the departures. How fitting. Namie thought to herself with a bittersweet smile. She was leaving behind this entire life. It almost felt unreal. But at the same time, it was anything but. This was the reality she chose to accept and walk down. She was about to transition from being an accountant in Washington, D.C. to being a full time dancer for one of the biggest names in Japan. This was actually what her life was about to be. No more simple hangouts or complaining about her father or even just hanging out with Claire and Wei, just the three of them. Accepting that was definitely the hardest part. “Well, it looks like this is it.” She sighed as the two hugged. “I’ll miss you.” “I promise we’ll always keep in touch.” “If we don’t, I’m going to start visiting Japan every single year, just to hunt you and Wei down.” Claire laughed, tears streaming down both of their cheeks. Wiping away at their own faces, the two girls smiled. “This is what is great about life though. Sometimes, dreams come true. And when they do, we get to live the dream.” Those words that Claire said to her, Namie continued to remember, throughout her career as a dancer in Japan. She was living her dream, and doing her best to let it be damn real.

Damn real: chapter 24

“I can’t believe this is goodbye. Well, for now.” Wei shrugged. She was standing with Niall and Kimmy at Dulles Airport, the three were about the head off into security and then their gate. “You guys better rock it. Ft. Hana is such a huge group. I’m super excited for you.” Namie beamed at her cousin. “Ft. Hana and Wei Ishigo performing together! This is a dream come true!” Kimmy giggled eagerly as Niall shushed her, not wanting to ruin the moment for the two cousins. “Thanks for being so supportive of me and helping me move to D.C. You’re honestly more family to me than my immediate family, and I have only known you for four years of my life.” “You’re the sister I never had, Namie. Thank you.” The two hugged before they had to go their separate ways. “I’ll be sure to Facebook spam you like crazy! You better respond to my messages!” Wei screamed from the security line. “I will! We better at least talk once a week or I’m going to forget who you are!” Namie shouted back. And just like that, Wei, Niall, and Kimmy disappeared into the crowd of people. Feeling a little lonely, Namie began to leave the airport. It was a somber experience. Her cousin and one of her best friends, she was off to Japan to further her career as a singer and idol. It was a reminder to Namie that she could be doing the same with her life. What she had always admired about Wei was that she was persistent and followed her dreams, putting them first. Maybe it was time for her to do the same. Shaking off the thought, Namie reminded herself of her career. She was a Finance Generalist, on track to become an Assistant Director of Finance. Yes, she is a part of Yukickz, but realistically, she would not be a full-time dancer anytime soon.

It was the end of another performance, this time, for the Sakura Matsuri Street Festival. The crowd cheered loudly as Namie finished her act. “Thank you, everyone! Thank you for having us at the Festival!” Taiki bellowed. Getting off stage, Namie smiled to herself. It was unbelievable that Yukickz got to perform for them, but it was also a great feeling, being met with so much applause and praise. “You were so cool up there!” A bystander shouted to her. “Mom! I want to learn how to dance, just like her!” Another little girl pointed at Namie as she walked past her. “Hi. I would just like to say that I was really impressed by your dancing. What was the name of the last song you performed to?” A young woman wearing thick sunglasses approached her. “It was Koda Kumi’s Taboo. It’s one of my favorites, just because of the beat, and how it shares a message about embracing the unusual, unaccepted, and unorthodox.” Namie smiled. “I’m glad to hear that you like the song. And that you understand the message of it.” The young woman lowered her sunglasses, revealing her face to Namie. She was none other than Koda Kumi herself. “Holy shit!” She gasped, trying not to draw too much attention to them. “What is your name?” “I’m Namie Merrimen. You have no idea how big of a fan of your work I am. Your songs, they’re all super progressive and just have a catchy beat. For my showcase in my dance class, I even performed to Damn Real because of how much the strong inspired me.” She admitted. “I need somebody with your poise and agility. Namie, would you like to become one of my backup dancers?” The accountant could not believe her ears. In fact, she was convinced that she was hallucinating at that very point in time, and that she was actually talking to a random Japanese woman. However, a couple blinks later, she realized that it was not a lie. That really was Koda Kumi standing in front of her.

“Here, I’ll give you my number. Keep in mind this is my assistant’s cell, and that the number won’t work after a week or two, since that’s when I’ll be coming back to Japan.” “Thank you so much. I wasn’t expecting to see you here.” Namie smiled. “The cherry blossoms in D.C., I heard that they are the only ones to rival Japan’s. I wanted to see those flowers for myself. I am glad I was able to, and I was glad that they helped me meet you as well.” She waved as she disappeared back into the crowd discreetly. Namie was still stunned. She had just met her hero and had been given her number. She had a very hard decision to make now. Did she want to pursue her dreams of becoming a dancer, or continue down her path in accounting? In the past, Namie had always turned down a better opportunity to make somebody else happier. But in this case, she was given two equally valid choices, both just as good as the other. “Crap.” She muttered to herself as she continued to think it over on the walk back. “Well the plus side to taking this could be that I would be working for Koda Kumi and that could make my dance career. The downside, I am giving up my entire life here. But another plus is that this could be the first dancing related job I can put on my resume.” She began. “But it does not pay nearly as much as my current position. And it is not a stable career. I would only be needed whenever Koda is filming or choreographing for a music video or live performance.” She was starting to see some of the major flaws to taking this offer.

Pacing back and forth in her room, Namie continued to ponder what would happen should she take this offer. Her apartment, her family, her entire lifestyle, it would be different. But would that be a bad thing? Right now, her accounting job offers her stability, a decent income, a promise for a promotion, but she had little to any emotional investment in the work. To be a dancer, Namie would take a major pay cut, would have very little autonomy with her day to day lifestyle, having to drop whatever it is that she is doing if she is needed for recording, and while she would have a huge celebrity in Japan on her resume, she could be in the background, not the spotlight, and there was no promise that her dancing career would take off right away, or there would be no knowing when her career would even become a real thing. It was a tough call to make. She started to think about the aspect of needing to be in the spotlight. While she was really used to it between her performances in Yukickz and Melissa’s showcase, did she need to be in it to be happy? No. Dancing makes her smile. Being able to let loose and forget about the other horrible aspects of her daily life, that was what dancing did for her. To make that her life, it was beginning to sound more and more like what she wanted to do, despite the cons that would come with it. Suddenly, becoming a backup dancer was not sounding so bad. If anything, it was sounding better than having to deal with yet another arduous month end. Namie pulled out her cellphone, began to dial, her heart race, and her conscious begging her to reconsider what could be the biggest risk she could ever make. She might be throwing away her career in finance.