I’ve been learning lately. That I can’t go on like this, because it’s hurting me. That I’ve been lazy and selfish. That people can’t be expected to care, when I’ve been wallowing in my anxiety for over a decade. As hopeless as it’s made me feel, I’ve had to regress to move forward, find a place where I can let go of the years and relearn how to interact with the world. How to speak and not stare at my feet. How to care for others, because that’s what being an adult means.
That place, for me, has been anime; a medium that honours the high school years as the last chance saloon of purity, where a few bad habits are fine as long as you’re starting to be responsible. As soon as you leave, you’re plunged into the adult world of choices. To get a job, or delay the inevitable by going to college. To drop the lackadaisical attitude, or live as a recluse while everyone leaves you behind, without a lasting achievement to your name, without a dream or an equal to share it. That’s where I find myself now. And while I’ve had to be cruel to myself, this singular style of animation has been a kind mentor.
Over the summer, as much a child as I’ve ever been with no real commitments, I started watching Amanchu! – a show about one girl, Futaba, lost and alone in a new town and a new school, who meets the zany Pikari, self-confident and unshakeable. Pikari’s calling is scuba diving, and until now, Futaba hasn’t seen so much determination in anyone, even herself. She’s been too scared to do anything beyond shrug things off or leave things behind. Even when she’s felt angry or hurt, standing up for her own pride was a terrifying, impossible prospect. She’s fragile, lonely, hopeful and pathetic. She’s just like me.
It’s the easiest and most difficult thing to go back to that time, in my imagination or in my memory. Going to that place is acknowledging where I’ve been stuck all this time. Back by the school’s side door having my head beaten against the drainpipe, sitting in silence and letting everything happen. Letting it all slip past me even now, when I risk losing the one person I can share this despair with. It’s not even that I don’t want to try. I just can’t find the one thing inside me to change, because it isn’t one thing, it’s everything. There are no simple steps, it’s having it all or having nothing. Being everything to someone, or being nothing to everyone.