My eyes quickly opened up as I felt knives digging into my knees again. Looking down my bed, my knees were propped up on pillows and wrapped in ice like they had been after work for the past few weeks. I had recently torn my patella tendons in both knees. The pain was so great that I constantly was becoming ill in the middle of the night and could not sustain a consistent sleep. Stairs were challenges for the first time ever, and walking was like I was out running a marathon. I stared at a blank wall for hours, feeling an emotion I couldn't shake besides the pain. Running was everything to me; I was questioning why I even began to run in the first place. Whatever it was, it drove me to insane levels of competitiveness and allowed me to run times that even the most conditioned athletes would jaw drop at an average build individual. I was in the middle of my month hiatus from writing the blog and had just discovered some rather crushing news that my mother had cancer.
I needed something to jumpstart me. Something.
Someone followed me on my Twitter page for the blog and I did my usual followback and greeted them with a kind message thanking them. We exchanged a messages for a while when I was asked an interesting question:
“Do you watch anime?”
I laughed out loud to this. Anime was something I loved dearly most of my life until a few years ago and I started running and didn't watch it anymore. There was one show in particular that came to mind. I was kind of ashamed I couldn't fully remember it. Events recently in my life made the previous few years a blur. There was a lot of traumatic bullying that happened, and I equated that it was the reason for what drove me.
“I used to, but I haven't really anymore.”
“You remind me a lot of a character from one of my favorites. The way you have a vivid imagination and a lot of heart. ” She told me.
“Really? Who?” I laughed to myself. This would be interesting.
“Haruhi Suzumiya from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya.” She explained.
They say there are certain things that trigger an absolute rush of memories. I really hope I replied to that kind girl right away because what I had just heard threw me into a super deep thought. The last time I heard of that show-
“Dillon, you know you remind me a lot of a character from this newer anime. You should watch The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya sometime.”
“Brian, c'mon buddy. I looked that up already and I don't think I'd be into that kind of show.”
“What do you mean?”
“One about school kids” I laughed.
“Okay but I really think you'd relate to the characters.”
“Alright Brian, maybe I will.”
Brian was my best friend I had met online from Taiwan. He was always thinking up games and shows for us to talk about and was so much like myself. He secretly loved soccer more than anything else and dreamed of playing for his school. I would joke with him I wanted to play basketball just like my brother did, whom was the coach for my grade at that time. He was like a legend at our school; people would ask me why I wasn't playing like him. Truth be told I was very overweight and had a plethora of other health problems that made my body....awkward. In a very similar situation halfway across the world, Brian had such heart in him that nothing mattered to him and he would succeed. All that heart was contagious to my plight. I wanted to half heart like him and I thought I would get it by trying out for my brother's basketball team.
Little did I know, my teammates were not as fond of me being a member of their squad as my brother was. My backpack was constantly scattered across the locker room and pages of my manga were ripped out and thrown at me in paper wads. My brother was still in the gym so he never knew about any of this, and I feel stupid for never telling him. I would be beaten to a pulp every day and I would put on a brave face and kept my dreams alive. I had a bad tendency to let my wild imagination out and when I was baited into questions like “So do you think you're some kind of ninja or something?” replying with a definite “Yes.” I looked up to ninjas because they were so strong to me and you never saw them lose in all the anime and games. Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden and Kakashi Hatake from Naruto always came to mind for me. I would be asked “Well try to hold us back with one of your ninja moves and we won't do anything to you today.” and I would dumbly oblige. I was nothing more than a pet.
“How's the soccer team going?”
“Not great Dillon....I'm not really sure I can make it.”
“Sure you can, I know you can!”
I went to school that next day worrying about Brian. I didn't realize I was going to have the worst day of my life. A day so bad that it took me years just to remember the repressed memories of what happened.
I forget why but we were in the locker room while my brother and the other coaches were looking for something. The boys were playing around with a new item I had never seen before. I kept doing my Algebra homework and slowly moving through my things to prevent even the slightest invite for pestering. One blonde haired boy came by and threw my folder on the ground and flipped my book over. Papers were flying everywhere and he was rubbing his shoes all over them. I hastily tried to pick them up until he eventually stomped on the paper as I was pulling. I flew back from the rip so hard I hit my head on the brick wall behind me. Everyone began laughing hysterically.
I darted up real fast and got in the boy's face. I was tired of getting pushed around.
“What are you going to do, ninja boy?” He taunted.
The unknown object came out and it ended up being a very thick triangle of tape. Trying to get up, two boys held me down on the ground and I began to hyperventilate. Taking turns, the boys threw the tape at me repeatedly. They hit me in ways that actually have permanently damaged me as physically as mentally. After about a half an hour of it, they got bored and returned into the gym. Crying, I didn't even tell my brother what happened and collected what was left of my belongings and walked all the way back home. It was a 3 mile walk.
Logging on to my computer, I expected to get some motivation from Brian, but my day only got worse from the message I had received.
“Dillon, I didn't make the soccer team. It was a mistake for me to try to do right in this world. I'm going to jump from the roof of my apartment complex. Thank you for being my friend.”
There was a grey circle next to his name, indicating he was offline. I had never seen that circle go green ever again.
Absolutely defeated, I kept to myself about everything that had happened to me that day. The bullies, my best friend allegedly killing himself, everything. The following few months were terrible, too. I failed most of my studies and I didn't play video games. My family dog passed away and Brian's words really rattled in my head whenever the going got tough. If the most heartfelt individual I had ever met could not overcome life how could I? I needed an escape from reality and I needed my bold imagination back to actually escape. One day I looked over our messages we had and found a link he had sent me before. Clicking it, it took me to a place I could watch that anime he wanted me to watch.
I can not begin to explain how much one show did for me all that time ago and still managed to do the same for me in rather recent times.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is by no means a perfect show; it has it's flaws that people tend to love to point out, and the titular character really tends to polarize people from watching the anime. She says what she feels and does precisely what she wants to do based off of her vivid imagination she stubbornly doesn't want to falter. Trying to explain the show to someone without spoiling what happens is basically impossible, however the actual product is still just as powerful. Any time I tried to pitch the show to someone I was just as unsuccessful as when I was recruited into watching it. While it might not seem like there is much depth to it, it has some of the most depth I have ever experienced.
Straight from the jump, the catchy theme song (which is done by the Japanese voice actress for Haruhi, Aya Hirano) perfectly captures the spirit of the show with colors and characters every which direction. Most lyrics are rather forgettable in anime, and it's not very hard to agree with that one. Amazing shows have manilla lyrics and they don't really come off as a bullet point in a show. Like most translations, the lyrics change from person to person who is subbing it, but the general idea still remains the same: your dreams are what make you a strong person and that all of the world tells you to be reality (or I suppose “truth”) is nothing more than a lie that holds back your true self. Bold, isn't it?
While I don't really want to go into an in-depth anime review (reviews aren't really my thing regardless of what I'm talking about), I find it supplemental to my story to explain just what the show is. I by no means am trying to get anyone to stop what they're doing and go watch this. A young boy named Kyon starts school with a very close-minded outlook on everything that happens to him. Life is boring, and everything is the way it is supposed to be. Everything in his world changes when he meets Haruhi Suzumiya, whom is the most outspoken and out there girl in all of their school. She proclaims things like “Ordinary human beings are boring” and only wishes to find extraordinary happenings in the world. Together, the duo create a club called the SOS Brigade and Haruhi recruits people she deems to be essential for the agenda she has. As the show goes on, secrets about the few members of Haruhi's crackpot scheme surface to Kyon, and he finds a huge enigma about the fiery Suzumiya that she is the only person who doesn't know of it.
The most powerful part of all of the show still to me sticks out as when Haruhi saw that members of the rock club were in a pinch so she decided to try to help them on the fly without ever playing with them. As they made their way out on the stage, the student body booed and made a fuss (I always remember the girl saying “Why are you on the stage?). At this point I almost turned the video off, I was too hurt from what happened to Brian and I to continue. I'm so glad I didn't, because what happened next was incredible, and to this day when I hear it I start to cry uncontrollably. Brian wanted me to watch this show for this one moment. The moment Haruhi followed her heart and helped people in need and didn't care what anyone said, and did it well. It was the catalyst for the man I am today.
In a time where I was close to giving up on everything I was because the world was pushing down hard on me, this show stimulated me and gave me hope to keep being myself. I dedicated my life to helping people like my best friend and myself through their walks of life and promised I would not let something like that happen again. I didn't ever make my basketball team, but I did play soccer and played the position Brian dreamed of playing. Whenever I ran, I pushed myself to an extreme speed and intensity that was unmatched, blasting by all of those bullies from my school. As of today, my mother beat her cancer, and while my knees haven't really healed, through diet and therapy I have been able to walk and run again.
Most importantly, anyone who ever meets me anymore says the same thing of me: I have the most heart of all the people they have ever seen and that I am breathtakingly stubborn to achieve my dreams. All shaped by my close friend who gave me the push to become my true self and not to give up by his dearest work.