[RA:D] How Discovering The Internet Enhanced My Life

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Everyone has their own story or memories about finding their way onto humanity's vast information network. For me its been a wild ride with a lot of learning. Besides the general usefulness the internet has brought to the lives of many, my particular journey began with what I felt was an 'awakening' and lead me through several portals to adventures that taught me things and started my career.

I'm getting started on posting regularly again, and tonight I felt like writing about the first thing to come to my mind. 
Its been a while since I wrote an RA:D entry (Run Around:Diaries, a series which covers my life and general off-site things regarding myself and this website) and this is a perfect moment. 

Some people tell me I have a good memory and I like to think I do as well- besides the times I'm immediately forgetting what mum asked me to grab for her out of her purse 2 minutes ago. 
I don't know how many others do this, but throughout my life I've thought of certain memories so many times and kept journals where I've allotted said memories to certain years and times- both mentally and physically in some form of documentation, and watched home movies a hundred times to get a good mental clarity on what's happened to me when that I can recall things pretty fast. Its not just memorization either because I can remember many things from each year of my life and quote their dates down to the month (usually) and remember them in first person just like they were yesterday.
Anyways, tonight I was recounting my internet journey.

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My journey online has been a big part of my life and has taken place over half of it. How did I begin this path that has lead me to the work I do today as a social media specialist, web developer, and a general internet veteran? 
How did it all come down to the two long relationships and one marriage I had, standing on stage in front of convention attendees and interviewing/announcing special guests of honor from one of my favorite industries? 
What lead me on the path to meeting comrades I'll always remember and times of great pain and growth, to this very website? 

The Early Years 

I'm from Sacramento, California. I grew up in North Highlands, a suburb north of the state capitol with about 42k residents spread over 8.8 square miles (23 km2) of land with a high crime rate for an area of its size, and a homicide rate four times the city itself. The town is mostly suburbs, supermarkets, and elementary schools, with Highlands High as the High School. As North Highlands is a little spread out, along its western border is the remains of a very long, old, air force base that has since been re-purposed into a park for events, housing, and historic elements. 
The whole town isn't known for much besides being less than mediocre, a few well-known sports figures, and the popular adult entertainer Sasha Grey hailing from it. Woop-dee-doo. 
Better and more interesting accolades can be said for Sacramento and other neighboring towns however, like being the home of Trading Card Game World Champions, several huge YouTubers (ex: Smosh), and many others. It was in this pool of various demographics and culture that the Rio Linda Union School District (of which I am a veteran student of many years) held what seemed to be few concerns for it's students, one at least being computers. I can proudly say with some cringe that I got to know the RLUSD well if not better than many- we moved a lot for varying life reasons and I sampled time at nearly every school in the town. 

If RLUSD cared about not much else, Computer and Library time were handled very well for us kids. It was in those early days that I witnessed Google's launch, was taught basic Microsoft Paint (had already played around with it a lot on my grandfather's computer), Power Point, Microsoft Word, and typing.

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Alongside the basics of what the public school system offered, I had both my grandfather's and my father's computers to play on from the age of 8 and up. 
My parents split up when I was 7, and every weekend that I visited my father who lived with his parents I had an opportunity to play around on Windows 95! 

Everything about computers amazed me, and after Solitaire (never learned how to play it the right way) and Minesweeper got old I got some early Lucas Arts games suggested by a school friend of mine who ended up becoming my best friend throughout my childhood. I met said friend when I was 6, he was a few years older than I was and also loved video games. When not on Nintendo 64 I'd find him playing on an old computer in his garage. I never got to play, just watched, but I always soaked up everything I saw. 
Before I knew it I was playing classics like Star Wars X-Wing, TIE Fighter, Rebel Assault, and fell in love with Full Throttle. Through these games and spending time with computers as a child I developed familiarity with Windows very early and the day came that another friend told me about Shockwave.com, a place where you could play flash games and download games for the old Shockwave Player program. (Think Steam of the mid to late 90's). 
Websites? Downloading? My father and school friend gave me some assistance and by the time I was 8 1/2 to 9 years old I was great at checking websites, obtaining, and playing PC games, including some very simple online ones. 

The next few years that followed lead to some life changes like my father getting remarried and leaving his parents house, and I saw him a lot less due to drama and abuse. At home with mum we never saw a great need to own a home PC yet, we were making ends meet and decided to look into one in the future. Mum ended up getting one for business purposes, and I lost a great deal of interest in PC's due to my love of gaming on consoles, and the fact that I felt I had 'been there, done that' with what PC games I cared about. 
Websites for anything else didn't interest me for a while, except for checking on dragonballz.com for fun and the very early eBay to look at Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh cards. 

The Middle Years 

After the year 2000, e-commerce and social media began to pick up more heavily than in the 90's. 
By the time I was entering High School in 2004, popular social phenomena like Myspace began to emerge into my range of knowledge, and I began to carry a slight interest in checking out what PC's and the Internet of that time had to offer. The time leading up to 2004 I had spent only brief moments checking online for music and funny pictures. 
When I was 14 my life consisted of PlayStation 2, school, and being heavily involved in trading card games like Yu-Gi-Oh! and Magic: The Gathering. 
TCG's have been a hobby of mine since I was about 10 years old starting with Poke'mon. As a child my parents helped me collect sets of movie trading cards and other collectibles, so when Poke'mon first blew up here in the west, it was a no-brainer for me to instantly become obsessed with. I didn't learn to actually play the game for a while longer than when I first began collecting at age 8. 
Anywho, back on topic!

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Towards the end of the following year in 2005 would be a moment I'll never forget. 2005 was mostly a rough year for me and my family after losing my grandmother in March, but that year in November my grandfather I called 'Pop' (my mother's side) surprised me by getting me my very own personal computer. It was a dream come true for me as I had spent time telling my family that I wanted one, and I was really excited to get back into PC's again and wanted to join my friends on Myspace. 

I'll never forget staying up all night and setting up my first PC. I was almost 16, I got to have it in my own bedroom, and the entire world outside of North Highlands, awaited me on the Internet.

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Immediately my very first thought was to look up something related to my hobbies- Japanese Pop Culture. 
I had spent a couple years depending on using my father's PC for research on Japanese bands and anime I was into, having to wait weeks or months for one session, but no more. I found forums of communities with similar interests as me, suddenly I didn't feel as alone. I even discovered there were others nearby that had the same hobbies too. I felt like I was in heaven with my first PC.
J-music forums, fan-sites, early streaming sites, gaming forums and websites, instant messaging of my own! I even remember finding Square Enix's site when it was still pretty young and pouring over the Japanese site for Kingdom Hearts II details! The list of fun carried on and on.

It wasn't long until I joined my first incarnation of social media- Myspace. I never truly knew what Myspace was altogether at that time, I was still learning what different kind of websites there were. Myspace was on fire in popularity, almost everyone had one like Facebook today but a little different. Those who remember may know what I mean.
Myspace was on the news a lot, and regardless of the warnings or dangers being spread around I grew more and more curious. Without anyone telling me I already had it in me to refuse giving any personal information to people, and if anyone was creepy I'd block them or ignore them. 
I felt I had a pretty good chance at being safe as a minor online, and I always was. 

What got me to truly register an account on Myspace was the day a neighborhood friend of mine told me you could look up girls in a search, you could even sort through lists by the distance. Being nearly 16 and with raging hormones I quickly registered and had fun being what some might call a creep in those first hours. As time passed I spent a considerable amount of time after school and on weekends on Myspace and Japanese music forums. It didn't become a problem because I was actually responsible, but as I had free time to do so I would be nearly nowhere else but at my desk if I wasn't playing PlayStation 2. 
Those were glorious days, I amassed a large list of online friends, learned everything I could about Japan, studied, and one very fateful day I discovered Myspace's "safe mode". 
Safe Mode on Myspace was a page that allowed you to enter whatever coding you wished. Myspace let it's users customize their own profiles from the basic layout with whatever skin or theme you wanted to create. This lead to endless Myspace Theme websites where all you had to do was copy and paste code. If you were good or professional, you could code your very own. 

I have a knack for standing out generally. Its not a condition of attention seeking, but more of something that makes me happy when I feel I have the power to be different or create a good image of myself, to represent myself in the style I choose to add to my character and the way others perceive me. I've almost never not been that way, and I'm happy when I find myself in an arena where I can express myself, because I am a creative mind. 
Thus came the days I desired to learn coding tricks from Myspace friends who had cool themes and layouts. Everyone seemed to have unique profiles that were vastly different from the next whether they coded them or copied the code for them. I eventually wanted to make my very own, one that no one had. And when I did come into the skill very quickly, I made many. 
Every couple months and throughout each month I'd customize, add, or completely change my layout. 
I recall one memory where I finished a whole day of coding one of my first big Myspace layouts and didn't notice that the night had come and the lights had gone out around me, I just sunk off of my chair onto the floor feeling victorious as my cat laid next to me. "Ah, another victory Sofia!" I said while stretching. 

Coding became a drive for me that made me excited to see what I could do with what I had learned. I was interested enough to take Computers as an elective in High School, and later on I earned college credits in online courses and programs through my High School. 
As time passed I got to experiment with coding and craft unique layouts that others would comment on. It helped me define my profile into a website that was all about me and my hobbies. I could use it to share my passions for anime, games, and Japanese Pop Culture to others via my big Myspace profile. 
It was a high I'll never forget, and I'll never know how much time passed as I enjoyed myself soaking it all in and utilizing it. 

After I turned 16 my layouts lead me to yet another fateful day when I met someone special who initially approached me because of my skill with customizing layouts. 

A girl had asked me for help with her layout and I helped her with what I knew. Afterward we kept talking, and it lead to long talks on Yahoo and AOL Instant Messanger or AIM for short. 
Down the road this girl became the love of my life, and I found myself with great bravery and courage in those days to do things I've never done since we were together. I traveled alone across the country to see her hometown and visit Chicago, I faced several paralyzing fears, and I fought to keep our long distance relationship alive despite many naysayers. 
It was something magical, meeting someone online who was across the country and falling in love- and I had some time in the first few months of my Internet usage where I met another I had liked- but this turned out to be much more. 4 years we were together, and I could go on about how great those years felt and how much I learned in them. Moving forward for now I'll just say that in 2009 things unfortunately and regrettably ended between us, and a fierce sorrow took hold of me. 
I had staked years into the relationship, and made many future plans- some close to realization before everything about it crashed and burned.
I wondered blindly if it was the internet's fault that I felt such pain.
In those dark weeks of recovery another online friend- a girl- messaged me. It just so happened that she was a friend I had added years ago when making friends in my home area who liked going to anime conventions, and we had met twice before at some. I continued to get to know her and to make a very long story short- she became my wife years later. We were together nearly 6 years until it ended as well.

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All of the events mentioned above had effects on my life and my internet experience in varying degrees. 
In 2009 in the months before my cherished relationship ended, I had decided to continue with a blog made on blogger.com that was a new version of my old Myspace Blog called "The Run Around". It was a place that I had spent some time sharing posts about my hobbies and it was beginning to grow in popularity. 

Along with some inspiration from bloggers I looked up to, I created the blogger.com blog, Run Around:Kazu, and thus the birth of what became this site began. As the days in 2009 rolled forward I had clung heavily to my passions and hobbies while facing a great deal of pain from the breakup that I mentioned above. There is no words in any language to described my feelings, even now, nearly 10 years later I am at a loss in describing such fierce love. But I soldiered on, and I put my all into my blog and anything to do with my interests. 
When I later me the girl I eventually married, she became my partner and side-kick at conventions as well. As time passed I did everything I could to invest time into my next relationship and my hobbies with an intense drive similar to when I first hooked up my very own PC and began my personal exploration of the internet at age 15.

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By the time I was 21 I was engaged, and had amassed a nice list of affiliates and contacts. 
This site and my ordeals and ventures surrounding it had lead me into places deep within the convention industry of California- which I famously call the largest hot-spot of Japanese Pop Culture outside of Japan due to our staggering number of conventions, events, and more- and beyond, and I had become somewhat of a local public figure with plans to expand my network and began work to improve my content worldwide. Through the years I made friends and enemies, most enemies were fake friends I've now long forgotten, or haters who we technically need for fuel to do our best and kill with kindness and our success and happiness.

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The internet lead me to discovering tools that allowed me to grow as a person and in knowledge, to pick up what 'weapons' or 'tools' I needed to fight with, and build my dreams into reality- and I'm still doing it today. Its lead me through 2 long relationships that have taken me through what feels now like a trial by fire and has strengthened me greatly, and the internet has given me a platform for my voice and creativity like none I've had before. 

In Kindergarten, I was known to either take over another kid's presentation of show-and-tell and begin spouting facts about whatever they were presenting, and giving my full review, or I'd be up front telling the class everything about whatever it was I brought for show-and-tell and sometimes I'd force them to stay minutes after the final bell to keep listening to me because I felt like I had to tell others everything I could about why I thought whatever was awesome. 
I guess thats why I'm into journalism today and spreading the things I love. 
The internet allows me to do this and always innovate and evolve my ways of doing so.

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Present Time 

As I mentioned above I am still on the internet today, always learning new things and open to them. 
At this time in my life some things have become more casual- like the mass-excitement and hunger for information I experienced when I was younger has now become a daily or semi-daily casual scroll through my Feedly and Facebook pages or Reddit sections. 
The days of custom social media profiles are pretty much gone, which is why I believe its important to host an About Page somewhere. There are people who believe too many folks are too into themselves these days and I don't care if they are or aren't or if anyone thinks that about me. I will always support having a stable and dedicated webpage somewhere that completely details your interests and background as there's nothing wrong with that in my eyes. I don't believe that everyone can truly get to know you by just reading shares and statuses. 
See my About Page if you like. 

Its especially important for public figures and content creators to be able to stand out and provide readers/viewers/fans/followers/etc with necessary information and fun facts about the person they like. In business it can be just as important. There are many news outlets these days as well, and with sites like Feedly you can compile what types of news you'd like to see. I like to catch headlines and read the most interesting posts on mine. 
These days I also find myself discovering new things more often because services like Spotify, Netflix, and even YouTube use tag systems and algorithms to introduce you to related content all the time. 
The need for MP3's these days have dwindled greatly with the dawn of music streaming with ease. 

In other posts and on my About Page there's a little information as to why my life took a sudden shift from before and became a little more relaxed in some areas for the time being. I've taken less time for press and have began other web projects and web development work to further increase my skill and I'm traveling a path that will lead to obtaining some nice web development certificates. 

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The advancement of Online Gaming has also been a large part of my life in the last few years. Besides how some online games have lead me to making great friends I've learned from and introducing me to games I love, I've taken to assisting large communities and gaming clans with websites, leadership mentoring, and e-commerce strategies to monetize their brands and build their content. 

My contacts have also lead me to several advertising management projects and liaison work. 
All of this means a slightly different direction of work and other experience for the time being, but has greatly contributed to my experience versus prior. 

Its also no secret that I've been in recovery from building up a lot of depression and anxiety over a chain-reaction of situations in my life began by my ex-wife. 
Taking less time for public events and building my experience in other avenues has been key to keeping me moving along the past couple years. 

Nevertheless, the internet and my presence here is as vibrant as ever and I have so many plans in the works. 
In fact its been during the recovery from the drama and blows I've taken that the internet has made it possible for friends, comrades, and more to give me strength and comfort through what has now become one of the more challenging stages in my life, which isn't because of any work, but the overcoming of anxiety and depression, and state of things I've had to deal with. 
I'm also incredibly thankful for God, my mother, and my best friend who I met 8 years ago thanks to my time hosting an Opening Ceremonies at a convention, something else my internet path lead me to. 

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These are now the days my family (except for my mother) are all gone, and thanks to the internet I feel less alone and am continuing to strive forward with the tools and platforms I need to carry on. 
Even though I absorb information and news about my hobbies more casually at this time, the information is also easier to get which reduces the time needed to hunt for some things. 

I said at the start of this post that I planned to really begin posting on RA:N again more frequently, and I apologize to all who read my content and look forward to it but haven't seen anything new very often. This is because I slowed down to a very casual posting state while handling other work and life situations. 
Things are may be mildly hectic at times but I will be posting a lot more regularly now, my goal is to post news each day and if there isn't something on this site for some reason, the party will keep going on my social media which you can find links to at the bottom of this post. 

In 2018 I am almost 28 years old. Because I started using the internet alongside manifesting my hobbies and passions into a lifestyle that the internet has endlessly improved and connected me with, I have found myself with priceless experience, wisdom, skills, and have walked many paths I otherwise would not have for the past 13 years. 
I cannot imagine how things would have been otherwise and overall I'm happy for how things turned out. I have too many stories to tell and met too many faces to remember. 
I can try to imagine that if it weren't for my love of computers and the internet I probably would have found another passion- whether it involved electronics or not- I know my personality pretty well and that I always find myself giving my all to things I get fired up about. I can't say that I wouldn't be successful in some other area, and I can't say the internet is the only reason I've found and walked the paths I have, but its one big one that has enhanced my life. I use the word enhanced because the internet has allowed me to take what I love and apply its use to learning and skills gained to open up new doors.

I've done nearly everything I've wanted to do but know full well that everything is only just beginning and that I have a long road ahead full of more priceless moments. 
I'm proud to say that I was part of the first generation of children and teens on the internet as we know it, and I've watched it grow while growing with it. 

As for whats next and how the internet will continue (and probably forever) enhance my life I can only imagine. I do know that my hobbies and interests have played a large part of keeping my fire kindled, and usage of the internet for such topics and all that relates to my career stem mostly from the things I love. 
I'm not sure how much of the internet I would care about using if it were not for my passion of Japanese Pop Culture, Anime, Gaming, and Collectibles. Maybe I'd watch cat videos. Maybe I'd be into something else. Who knows. In this light I could write another post detailing how I discovered the things I love and how they've driven me in life to many places. We'll save that for another time, as today I'm highlighting the internet as the biggest tool that has connected me with the paths I've taken. 

I continue to thank God for what I have, where I've been, and lessons learned. 
As I said I've got a lot of plans, and I continue to pray for the tools to summon those plans into reality. 
I'm sure the internet and my journey online will continue to play a large part in it. 
Its been a special experience so far, I'm honestly not sure how many people have some kind of 'awakening' like I felt I had, and then carried on into a slew of things that led them to very special moments and enhanced their life and career. 

Please share below in the comments what your experience and life online has been like. What are your online origins?  How long have you been active on the internet and have you seen it grow since? Has it effected you positively or negatively? 
I'm interested to know and would love for you all to share. 
Thanks for reading and continuing to run around with me here at RA:N! 

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About Hikaru Kazushime

Hikaru Kazushime is an American entrepreneur from the USA who lives in California and is the creator of Run Around:Network, a brand that brings Visual Culture to life. Kazu (called for short) is an active personality in the anime and gaming industries and sub-culture scenes. Kazu resides in his hometown of Sacramento, California where he manages RA:N from his home office. Learn more about Kazu by clicking the "About Hikaru Kazushime" link at the top under the "About" tab.

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