A thousand feet in the air, tethered to the spire of the CN Tower by a thick braided rope, the late afternoon summer sun beating down on my back, I leaned over the edge of the steel grate platform with my arms outstretched and looked straight down at beautiful Toronto. The light breeze slipped through my fingers. The air was calm. The world below looked dangerously far and, at the same time, perfectly clear. Serene elation.
Pokemon has taught me the exhilaration of exploration and the life affirming joy of wandering through cities and buildings, grass and ruins, hopping over ledges, walking through every door and opening, talking to every person, and reading every sign and flyer and open book for insights, clues, or plain fun.
As a ten year old stuck at home in Brooklyn I was totally immersed in Pokemon Blue. I played it on my Gameboy Color first thing in the morning and last thing before bed. I remember the playful melody of Celadon City. I remember vicariously living through the hands-free luxury of Cycling Road because I didn’t know how to ride a bike in real life. It seemed more real than it was. It left a lasting impression.
So I promised myself that when I got older, I’d go out and explore. I’d see things and do things and feel things I haven’t felt before. I’d lead with my heart and trust my gut.
Years later, with just a backpack, I traveled to San Francisco with two friends. The top of Coit Tower in Telegraph Hill, which looks like a giant concrete column, opens to the heavens. I looked up at the endless blue and recalled the scene in Pokemon Emerald where Rayquaza tore through the sky into existence. Magnificent.
While crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, the clouds descended on us and temporarily shielded the blinding sun. I looked out at the Pacific and wondered, what islands are waiting to be discovered? What mysteries lie in the secret caves and waterfalls and strong currents and whirlpools and sunken ships out there?
Pokemon speaks to the eternal child inside us all – that small voice yearning for adventure, that impulse to say yes, yes, yes to discovery. I spent my youth happily lost in Pokemon, and now Pokemon keeps the spirit of youth alive in me.
Life, according to Pokemon, must be lived through action, with sincerity and generosity and purpose, with friends and loved ones, through valiant triumphs and terrible defeats and, most importantly, all the quiet moments in between. Nothing is dull, not with good intentions and good companions.
I’ve learned to see the world with a sense of wonder, to recognize the spectacular in the mundane and the familiar in the extraordinary. Nothing is too small to appreciate or too large to grasp. Nothing is taken for granted. There is a clarity that comes from indulging in all the side quests of life. The world seems not smaller, but closer – tighter and more cohesive. You start seeing how everything is connected. You see yourself in others and others in yourself. Walls collapse. Bonds are forged. Progress is made.
The narrative of Pokemon instills a powerful yet simple message that I try not to forget: keep moving forward and don’t go home until you’ve done all you set out to do.
Pokémon Gold was the first handheld game I ever owned, but my journey with Pokémon began with my best friend, Jacob, and his Blue and Yellow versions. Like most 10 year olds, I thought Charizard was the coolest, and Jacob had a holographic version of the Pokémon card, which added a lot of jealousy, but also admiration, to our friendship. He had two gameboys so we could both play, but when Gold and Silver came out, I bought my own gameboy and Pokémon Gold, while Jacob bought Pokémon Silver. Time went on, and when we reached middle school we had a falling out, and went our separate ways. Pokémon was so ingrained as part of our friendship, I felt forced to sell my copy in an attempt to help get over the broken friendship. As a typical 13 year old, I tried to convince myself I was just growing up. It wasn't until I was a junior in high school that I started eyeing Pokémon again. It began with a few chuckles at Pokémemes, but I also began to realize just how strategic the game had become. Pokémon is unbelievably hard to stay away from, and soon I was back, buying a DS for the soul purpose of playing Black/White. I soon realized that growing up doesn't require you to sacrifice enjoyment from games, no matter what the kind. More importantly though, I discovered just how effective time is at healing wounds, with a little help from Nurse Joy.
Pokemon has helped me with something that is very important in everyone's lives: communication. I'm a shy person who tends to not talk to people unless they talk to me first, and I don't have many friends as a result. Pokemon has taught me that it's okay to talk to someone new once in a while. But what's helped me more than the games with this is actually this site, Marriland. The forums have helped me connect to other people around the world that share an interest in Pokemon, and that has helped me in real life because now I can express my thoughts to other people easier. So, thanks to Pokemon and to Marriland Forums for changing the way I talk to others! (For the better, of course! :) )
When I was a lot younger, my mother used to be very, very protective. It was to the point that I wasn't even allowed to watch the Pokémon anime because it was "too violent". As a result, I admit, with great shame, that I had claimed Pokémon to be "stupid" during my 6-8 years. Ignorance at its worst: Don't know anything about it? Just say it's stupid and call it a day!
During my 8-9 years, I lost my two best friends that I had known since kindergarten. We were torn apart by being separated into different classes. The two of them were placed together whereas I was left alone, a trend that would follow into my later school years. Naturally, they grew closer as I became that person whom you have to haul around out of decency, but you don't actually want to spend time with him. Perhaps this unfortunate separation was actually a blessing, as I soon befriended a fellow kid who I shall refer to as "Justin". I was hanging out with him as his place one day, when decided to introduce me to what has become one of my biggest passions-- Pokémon.Starting up Pokémon Ruby version started up on the GameCube via the Game Boy Player, in all its stretched-out-on-the-TV pixelated beauty. Being the generous friend he was, he allowed me to start a new game of my own. I started with a Mudkip. Choosing the water-type starter has been a thing for me ever since. When the time finally came to venture out onto the first route, I was greeted by a wonderful Wurmple. Justin told me to knock it out, as I didn't have Pokéballs at the time. With great regret, I delivered the "fatal" blow to the innocent Wurmple, with tears literally in my eyes as I did so, being reassured that there would be more Wurmples to catch when I had some Pokéballs.
Upon my return, armed with numerous Pokéballs and determined to catch a Wurmple, I was greeted by none other than a Ralts. Justin told me it was rare, so I knew I absolutely had to capture it. There were no other options. Using the spin-the-direction-pad-and-hold-a technique, which I still use today despite not knowing if it actually helps (but it can't hurt), I managed to catch my second Pokémon.
Justin let me keep the game.
I was hooked. Pokémon became my life. 600 hours put into one game. It wasn't a waste of time, and I won't ever believe it was. Back at school, Justin and I spent many recesses fantasizing about own version of Pokémon. We drew out our own monsters, and used our imaginations (do kids still do that anymore?) as we fought at captured hundreds of them before the bell went off. That may be the most memorable time of my life.
As the years passed, I became closer to my older friends again, as did Justin. We all started hanging out more often, and can you guess how that happened? I introduced them to Pokémon. Like me, they couldn't resist its charms. Our nights were now spent huddled in the dark together training our Pokémon, trying to be the most masterful Pokémon master that has ever lived. Eventually, I was even able to beat Justin a battle. The student becomes the teacher. I can't tell you how proud I was of myself at that moment.
Today, I still have that Ralts, in the form of a gorgeous Gardevoir. It's been with me through Ruby, Fire Red, Pearl, Platinum, Soul Silver, White, and White 2. That original Gardevoir, as with the fond memories that come with it, have never left my side.
Though I may not have started with the classics, I made sure to play through and enjoy them as well. I will never forget the tears and shouts of joy I had with the capture of each legendary. I will never forget the amazing friendships that formed around it. I grew up with Pokémon inside of me, and you have a better chance of digging out the Earth's core than you have of digging the adoration of Pokémon out of me.