This is a piece I wrote for Kanto Nation‘s website earlier this month. I wrote it not too long after Worlds last month and thought you guys would enjoy it.
For me, Pokemon isn’t so much a hobby as much as it is a part of my life. An essential part of my origin story.
It all started when I was 5. I’m an only child, and my two cousins were my some of my closest friends. When we were rounded up for some family get together, they showed me some Pokemon cards, specifically Doduo and Abra. From there, I was hooked. I had to have Pokemon everything. Cards, blankets, TV shows, even food. I was obsessed. Thankfully, at my school, everyone shared my obsession and I was able to overcome my shy nature and naturally make friends.
Unfortunately, this happiness was short lived. Due to my dad’s layoff, we ended up moving halfway across the country in August 2000. The new school wasn’t a good fit for my know-it-all attitude ( It was a public school and I had been in private school previously), so I ended up at the local religious private school. Here, I quickly learned, Pokemon and various other things I enjoyed, such as Harry Potter, were considered ungodly and therefore sinful. There was actually a specific instance with Pokemon cards when I was in third grade. I distinctly remember our teacher holding a holo Chansey card in her hand and preaching for what felt like forever about why Pokemon was so bad for us.
So, I just didn’t mention it at school, but I remained as enthralled as ever. Fortunately, I had parents who were supportive of my Pokemon interest, even if they didn’t completely understand it and were worried I didn’t have friends because I stayed up in my room playing Pokemon. My parents actually pre-ordered Ruby and Sapphire for me at one point as early birthday gifts. Even after my private school turned too provincial for my parents taste (I often wonder whether they didn’t pull me out sooner for fear of how I would adjust), I switched back to public school for middle and high school. Even with transitioning back into the secular world, I still didn’t share my love of Pokemon with my new peers. Middle school is hard enough, and the obsession had long faded in my peers. So again, I just never mentioned it, playing on weekends whenever I felt like it.
There was one time I slowed my roll with Pokemon. It was after FRLG and before Diamond and Pearl came out. This was about the time I went through a personal depression in my life as well, which I think ties into my disinterest with Pokemon. However, just before the release of Diamond and Pearl, I looked up what the starters looked like on Bulbapedia. Once I saw Turtwig, I knew I had to get this game. So I figured out how much I would have to save for a DS and the game and kept to it. Eventually, in the summer, I had enough and I started the game right away. I was back.
Diamond and Pearl brought online play and brought me into online communities I was previously lurking in. Though I never made any personal connections, I felt that I was not alone. Through high school and college, I continued to meet other Pokemon fans. Mostly casual players, which I considered myself to be at the time. Some became close friends. Overall, the more accepting my friends were, the less I tried to hide my love of Pokemon. I wasn’t overt about it, but I wasn’t super secretive either. I think upon graduating college, getting married, and slowly transitioning into whatever adulthood is, I realized something: I don’t want to hide my love of Pokemon anymore. I’ve been a fan for 17 years now; it’s obviously not going away.
To put it into perspective that nearly longer than I’ve been in school, longer than I lived in this section of the country, and longer than the lives of most cats. Oddly enough, this has allowed me to dive even more into communities. As my husband has started to get into Pokemon (no pressure from me, completely of his own devices) it has been so fun to watch him learn and have this become something we can share and do together. Pokemon means so much to me and has become a part of my life.