So I started an Emerald Nuzlocke Run today. I never thought Playing Pokémon could actually be this fun--or intense... And it's got me thinking, as I experience this game anew.. I never thought before to fill in the blanks of the menial, pointless running-around, leveling up hundreds of monsters and beating a group of high-and-mighty Pokémon trainers even more hundreds of times because frankly there was nothing else to do back when Yellow was the new thing.....
[cue fancy flashback effects]
See, as a kid, I loved Pokémon. A lot. It's actually what first inspired me to actually begin drawing. I had copied whatever my brother did for a good number of years, but I remember getting the Official Pokémon Handbook and, starting with Bulbasaur, proceeded to draw each one and copy all their information as if I was the one writing the book.
To say the least, Pokémon meant a lot to me.
I collected the cards, I played Yellow and after that Silver almost constantly. I never enjoyed playing the card game, though; reorganizing the cards into their sleeved pages was a terrific hassle and I only did it once before I decided I'd rather just quietly collect them. Game Boy-wise, I was a collector in the days of Link Cables, which made it kind of a hassle, and I was just barely in the age bracket of kids-who-enjoyed-that-stuff, and so trading was difficult since it was tough to find someone else who openly liked the game. I managed to legitimately collect all 150 of the gen-ones, though I had to cheat to get Mew. 6_6
I was still very proud of the 150+ hours I'd logged in Yellow and I'm sure 75+ into Silver..
I stopped being into it for a couple of terribly disappointing reasons. The first great tragedy happened in eighth grade, when somebody stole my entire collection of Pokémon cards. It was heartbreaking--the money aside, it represented hours and hours of my life and care and love. I recall having an anonymous announcement made over the paging system--a small monetary award for whoever would return it. I'm sure the five or ten dollars I was offering wouldn't have been enough for anyone, but it was a decent amount for me--I'd never been given an allowance, and my paper route was my only income. This was the end of my card collecting. I could never bring myself to start over.
The second thing was when my dad grew tired of my gaming. He was never fond of video games and fantasy in general--a very Discovery Channel sort of person. I don't remember the exact circumstances, but one day I had retired to my room, playing Silver. he yelled at me to bring my Game Boy down. My heart sunk--I knew what he intended, and fearing Hades to pay if I tried outsmarting him by not having a game in the device, I found myself torn choosing whether to sacrifice Yellow or Silver--as if he'd even be able to tell it was there in the first place.
He handed me a hammer, loudly commanding me to destroy it. Of course I couldn't bring myself to do it, so he took it from me and battered the thing to bits right in front of me. The hours I had spent escaping into that fascinating world shattered in a moment, never to be recovered or relived.
After this, I gradually faded away from my passion for Pokémon in the sense of enjoying the games which had been so dear to me. I don't accuse him of it, but to be honest I would not be surprised if he had at some point taken and destroyed my cards earlier on, as well. I'll never know.
Whatever the case, there was something I had gained from it that he could never take away from me, or demolish, although there were times it felt like he tried--Pokémon had inspired me to pick up a pencil and create entirely of my own desire.
Dragonball Z taught me the basics of human form. Even though my dad basically banned us from cartoons altogether, kids will be kids, and friends have televisions, too. Better ones, usually. Heh. I would stand outside my friend's house watching DBZ through his window (He knew I was there; I just wasn't allowed inside because his parents weren't home. haha.) But I would print my favorite DBZ pictures at the library, take them home/school, and copy them as best as I could. I got pretty good at it, too. Eventually I didn't even need a source anymore...
Over the years I found my own style, and it blows me away to look at my old junk from way back then.. So crude, so awful, but so beautiful that this was mine.</u> This was Progress. My dad often told me to look into getting a "real job" and that cartoonists didn't make any real money, couldn't support a family, etc., etc.
Eventually I believed him. I never stopped drawing, but my ambitions downgraded. After dreaming of the stars, I looked to the moon, then to the mountain, then decided I'd be happy if I could hit the foothills. Still, on the back burner was the idea that "Someday, I'll go to Japan and become a mangaka. Someday I'll make art and people will love it and I'll change the world and if I inspire even one person, that will be enough."
But I settled. I fell for the idea that "you can't be happy and rich at the same time." I gave in to my sister's and my dad's pressure to be "reasonable" and I decided to major in graphic design. I learned that I hated it. I hated having to deal with whiny clients who have no idea what they want. I hated dealing with bosses who hadn't an artistic bone in their body, and could say nothing more than "I hate it. Change it" (that actually happened). Still, I pressed on. My sister changed to pressuring me to become a computer scientist, but by then I wasn't going to have any more of it. I was already unhappy enough; there was no way I was going to sacrifice another massive chunk of my happiness just so I could be financially secure doing something I knew I would despise.
I was on the high road to hating my life, but that didn't really register until a couple of years ago, when I was tinkering with a nephew's Nintendo DS' Flipnote. I was just poking about making a ball bounce a bit, then tried something more complex--a hand opening and shooting a glob of something. That was pretty cool, I guessed.
That week, in church, I started out of nowhere storyboarding some ultra-intensified rendering of Mario laying waste to some Goombas and Piranha Plants. Something about the idea of making it moveabsolutely fascinated me; when church let out I went home and downloaded a demo of Adobe Flash and began drawing picture after picture.. I never finished that project, but moved on to this and this and then this because stuff like this was too boring and I couldn't stop. It was fulfilling and fascinating and FUN. So much fun.
I decided it would be kinda cool to do on the side, and began poking around, looking for schools that might affordably teach Animation along with graphic design (I was pretty stuck on being "responsible" or whatever). Then a girl who lived in the apartment above me told that her brother was trying to get into BYU Utah's animation program; she had heard it was pretty good, and that she'd tell him about me. The next time he visited, she introduced us, and I showed him my stuff, asked him some questions, thanked him, and as he left I basically flipped out with both fear and excitement.
See... The idea of going to BYU initially terrified me. Now, I am LDS/Mormon, and I believe in the church, but the culture in concentration can be an awful thing to endure, and the thought of surrounding myself with a supersaturation of it was not exactly on my bucket list. That aside, I didn't have confidence that with my ever-declining grades would meet the requirements (BYU's pretty intense, guys), but I figured hey. Why not. Let's try it out.
After lots of prayer, lots of fear, lots of self-convincing, I submitted the application. I was accepted.
My life as I knew it was about to end abruptly.
And it wasn't easy. I was dismissing myself from the presence of years' worth of few-but-deep friends, my brother, to whom I'd grown very close (he was my roommate for a couple of years, helping me adjust to a decent college life). I procrastinated a bit with moving out, and the people who came to claim the apartment were putting my stuff on the ground outside when I got back from class that day. I had my stuff packed in my car for a few weeks before I made the long haul to Provo (the summer heat proved the death of my guitar), and it really felt like people just didn't get how much it felt I was leaving behind. It was frustrating. Scary. Sad. Very sad.
I became roommates with the one girl's brother. At first I distanced myself; Living with two strangers with whom I had nothing in common (or so I thought) was daunting, lonely, depressing, but I managed, and we quickly became friends. They were every bit the nerd I was, but in all the right, non-obsessive ways. I began at the end of that year (2012) to actually take my dreams off the back burner and start boiling them on high.
There's a lot of history in between then and now, and I'm already writing a novel, but to be somewhat shorter, I'm realizing that before here, I was never truly living. Yes, I have friends back in Cache Valley who I dearly miss from time to time, but I was headed fast into a dead end in life. If I had graduated on time, I would be so nowhere right now. I would not be prepared. I would not have been skilled enough, I would not be happy. Very likely not happy at all.
Like I said, BYU is intense. But I'm learning, little by little, to cope with it and the disappointments life throws my way--I have made friends whose value I cannot express. I have learned about myself in ways I could never have had I continued that sorry course. I have loved and lost and really I'm still hurting from it, but even the tiniest hope I have found burns brightly in dark places, and I don't know that I could rightly ask for more.
Thanks, Pokémon. More or less.