Since I was asked to write for my Pearl City High School's 50th Anniversary Book (1971-2021) by my former teacher, Mrs. Arlene Aranita who I reconnected at a funeral for a close family friend, Mr. Eric Kanemoto who was my soccer coach, Cub Scout Master, and Pearl City Highlands Intermediate School teacher, and my dad's really close friend, I thought I could hit two goals in one strike by writing about it in this blog. For those of you unfamiliar with Hawaii, Pearl City High School is located in Pearl City on the island of Oahu, State of Hawaii. The draft of my article is as follows:
The fundamentals and life skills taught by our teachers in our public grade schools are extremely valuable. High School is the last phase for us before we enter the "real world." In the Fall of 1989, at thirteen years old, I entered Pearl City High School, home of the mighty Chargers. I was excited to be a part of an institution that has helped to develop productive citizens in the professional sectors, trades, and non-profit arena. Our school has also produced politicians, entrepreneurs, Hollywood stars, musicians, and influencers in other creative fields.
Many of my childhood friends from soccer, scouting, and other community organizations that I was involved attended Pearl City High School, a number of whom I still keep in touch today. While a Charger, I played for the varsity soccer team for four years, played the trumpet in the marching band for four years, volunteered as a member of the Interact Club, served as a member of the Computer Club, participated in an after-school math group led by a math teacher, and was a participant of the Homecoming Court in 1989 and Senior Prom Court in 1992. I expanded my friendship with students of different backgrounds and interests: athletes, nerds, band geeks, rock band members, skaters, bad kids, good kids, and others. Public school gave us this great opportunity to learn from different personalities who faced different challenges in their lives, which helped me tremendously years laters when I became a lawyer in 2001 and a politician and businessperson in 2002.
Besides building relationships with people, I learned about many subjects such as social studies, history, English, math, science, computers, music, and Japanese language. My best grades were in social studies, followed by English. I was average in math and science. My worse grades were some Ds and Fs from band and my last year in Japanese language, which caused me some worries in regards to my chances of getting accepted into the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the only college I applied for. Fortunately, I got accepted, where I received my bachelor's degree in political science, and then continued on with my education at Gonzaga University School of Law where I attained my law degree. I sincerely wanted to learn the language of my ancestors. As for band and marching band, well, I kind of joined them because that's where all the cute girls hung out.
Some of my teachers in high school were extremely influential in my life. During my first semester in my Freshman year, my social studies teacher, Mr. Wagner had us read portions of U.S. Senator and World War II veteran Daniel K. Inouye's biography, which sparked my interest in equal rights and politics. All of my English teachers such as Mrs. Aranita, Mrs. Chun, and Mrs. Abe were strict in a good way and very inspiring. They truly wanted the best in us. English teacher, Mrs. Abe recommended that I audition for the Honolulu Theatre for Youth, which I did and was chosen to perform in plays with my fellow cast members before Intermediate public schools around Oahu, Hawaii. I ended up acting in theatre at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a few local television commercials and programs.
Through the inspiration of my English teachers, I continue to read and write to improve my writing skills, a lifelong process that's still occurring. Besides writing for my work in law and government affairs, I wrote two unpublished novels. The first story is a paranormal romance that takes us on a spiritual journey of a young politician, Ken whose spirit leaves his body while he sleeps to travel to a realm of the dead where souls are trapped because they were unable to accomplish things while they were alive. He falls in love with a young woman, Kaylee and helps her by connecting her poems with her mother back in the realm of the living, and as a result of her mother sharing a very moving poem with her father, they decide to become friends again after a bitter divorce split them up years before, thus, bringing great joy to Kaylee, enabling her to cross over to the next spiritual realm. My second unpublished novel is a historical suspense story that occurred during the U.S. occupation of Iraq. In the story, Mustafa, an Iraqi boy befriends a well-to-do Iraqi girl, Amira while they were recovering in a hospital after nearly being killed by a suicide bomb. Later, Amira gets pulled out of the hospital by her family to flee Iraq to the U.K. Meanwhile, Mustafa gets placed in an abusive orphanage. Years later, Mustafa and Amira accidentally bump into each other in Baghdad, Iraq as teens while Amira was back home to visit a dying uncle. They fall in love, however, Mustafa hides from Amira the fact that he's a part of a militia rebelling against the United States of America and Iraq government. Creative writing and storytelling really began with my English teachers. It has played a huge role in comforting my soul.
I really enjoyed playing for the Pearl City High School Chargers' varsity soccer team. We were lucky to always be one of the top teams in the State of Hawaii, winning the Oahu Interscholastic Association title numerous times and continuously playing in the semifinals for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association's state championship tournament, even coming in second place in one championship match.
An important life lesson that classes and sports taught me is how to handle losing, a much more valuable lesson than all the wins I achieved. In life, you'll get knocked down but you have to get back up and keep going. My Pearl City High School soccer coach Ron Mata told us to be tenacious like bulldogs that bite and never let go. If you have a vision of what you want in your life and in the world, you have to put in a lot of work, thousands of hours of work. Every day, attack your small goals, which will add up over time. Big goals take years, in my experience, at least seven hard-fought years with many failures between those bigger wins. There will be periods in your life when you feel unsure of your future, a time when you're reinventing yourself. Don't beat yourself up. Many of us experience this at different stages of our lives. In fact, I'm going through this as I write this article.
Happiness is what I wish for my fellow Pearl City High School classmates, alumni, teachers, and staff of the past and present. The following are some practices I use to boost my happiness and counter any stress, anxiety, or sadness I may face from time to time. As best as you can, don't be fixated on things you can't control. Rather, focus on what you can control. Most issues aren't worth getting upset about. Always be grateful for all the good things in your life. Spend time with positive people who lift you up. Cherish your time with your loved ones. If you have visions of what you want, go for them now!
With Warmest Aloha,
Jon Riki Karamatsu