“You still like this stuff?”
I would never know the intent behind this question until I was eighteen, after being caught reading manga in between classes. Had my new copy of Hellsing whipped out and was speed reading like a crazed demon; Father Anderson just came into the scene for the first time and was causing trouble for my favorite duo. If I was not able to find out what happened to KO’d Alucard and the wounded Seras before lunch period, then my dramatic little self would implode. Usually, I save my reading until I’m in the safety of my own room, but I was too excited and decided to sneak in a few pages before class started, that’s when my teacher came in and noticed the opened manga in my hands.
“You still like this stuff?” The question came suddenly enough to catch me off guard and all I did was stare at them with a confused look. Why wouldn’t I? Everyone, staff and fellow students, knew that I loved to read more than anything so the idea of me reading in between classes shouldn’t be bizarre. “That’s for little kids.” That’s when the realization hit me. Reading wasn’t the faux pas here; it was the manga that caught my teacher’s eye. Something that is described as a Japanese cartoon but a cartoon none the less that is filled with dramatic story lines and even more dramatic, campy dialogue. I still watched it on Toonami when I could because hey, Sailor Moon and YuYu Hakusho were still ongoing and I wasn’t going to miss those shows for anything. When I managed to mumble something along the lines of ‘it’s just what I like..’ back at the teacher, they simply shrugged and answered, “don’t worry, you’ll grow out of it sooner or later.”
In short? I didn’t. I’m thirty now and still on that nerd shit, proudly if I might add. Things do change though as you shimmy yourself into the older bracket aside from just selecting the 25+ option when taking random YouTube surveys. Not all the changes are glamorous and sometimes you will quietly wish that you can stay up all night and eat Fruit Loops for dinner but honestly, I wouldn’t prefer to be anywhere else in life.
With that said there are a few things in your life you’ll have to adapt to…
Being unable to live life (mostly) chaotically irresponsible for starters. Staying up past midnight eating junk food and playing video games are usually out of the question, even on a weekend, considering just how much my body regrets it the next morning. Your health becomes something you’ll have to pay special attention to as around 28-30, you’ll start noticing some changes that weren’t there before. Suddenly the food Link makes in Breath of the Wild looks very appealing as compared to ramen bowls and cheeseburgers…
If you happen to be in a position where you are living without parental units, you’ll have to consider daily house chores: washing your dishes, eating moderately okay, mowing your lawn, cleaning up after your pets, and keeping up with your electric bill. These are important things to keep up with! Unless you’re going with a Howl’s Moving Castle live-action aesthetic .. in which case, good luck with the weird smells and bugs. Unfortunately, the critters you’ll get in your place won’t look as cute as the ones drawn by Studio Ghibli.
Now with having a healthy diet and clean-living space, let’s talk about making adult friends! You all remember the awkward tension you felt when making your first friends, right? Let’s amplify that by 100 then add a permanent status effect How-About-That-Weather-We’re-Having?! afflicting every new conversation you’ll have with a stranger. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a few friends, though long distant, to geek out about the newest anime or video game but I don’t seem to have much luck in person. COVID surely is not helping but even before the pandemic it just wasn’t easy to find other nerds. All of us stay inside for the most part and those I’ve met at a “gamer” bar were looking to build alliances that were more of the ah.. ahem… S+ rank if you know what I mean.
I’ll be honest with you guys, around two years ago I was pretty terrified of these changes. I used to stay in my room all day and ask myself every dreaded question that came with getting older — is my hair going to gray? Will I wrinkle like Yubaba? Do I have to stop watching Saturday cartoons now? Suddenly standing in line at Hot Topic holding anime merch of my favorite character made me feel creepy and crusty. That maybe anime and video games weren’t appropriate for me anymore.
It took a lot of self reflecting to realize that there was nothing wrong with me enjoying these things and the reason why I was feeling this way was because I struggled with self-esteem. In order to love the things I do as a hobby, I had to love myself first and I’m still working on that but now I don’t feel anxious when my birthday is coming up and embrace the fact that different doesn’t mean bad. It just means change. Was it all scary, though? Not at all. There were plenty of benefits I felt that came with getting older – for example..
Not giving a crap, for one. That anxiety I used to feel while being teased or the ridicule I faced for being a “fake gamer” because of my gender or interests in the gaming community- it completely vanished. Over time I figured out that we’ve only so long on this Earth and we might as well live as ourselves instead of wasting time playing pretend. How would Persona say it, become your true self? No, I didn’t have to rip a mask off my face or undergo some badass transformation scene, but I decided to wear some old anime shirts I packed away on a regular basis and it felt awesome. My entire room is being redecorated with the anime merch I bought over the years and it is looking snazzy! Even added two body pillows to add that extra dash of weeb.
I throw the fear of judgment to the wind now is because I hate wasting time, especially with something that doesn’t fulfill me in any way, and that applies to the bonds I build with others or what I decide to do for work. Similarly, I’m able to confess what I like and don’t like without having to pretend otherwise. I wish I can say this bad habit disappeared after the early 00’s but unfortunately that’s not the case, you’ll still meet a lot of people who’ll side-eye you because you didn’t agree with someone’s opinion about a character/show and you know what? Let them. You don’t need that negative energy in your personal space. No matter how many people disagree (or even agree) with you, your opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s.
I have to say though that my favorite aspect of getting older is that you get to pass the torch to newer generations. Listen, I know I sound some sentimental old codger right now but I’m completely serious here! At first, I didn’t understand until I experienced this first-hand when I went to Indy Comic-Con with some friends. It was the first time and wanted to look cool so decided to arrive in my newly bought Bakugo shirt, where I was noticed by a little boy cosplaying as the same character. He immediately noticed me and started to geek out, “he’s my favorite! Yours too?” I smiled right back at him and said he looked even cooler than the real Bakugo because of how well-made his costume was and my gosh, seeing that little gleam of excitement and pride in his eyes instantly melted my heart! Whether he only remembers for the duration of the convention or carries my words with him during his own future nerdy adventures, I’ll be happy regardless.
Twenty years have come and went. I’ve bid my farewells to space cowboys, gave my energy to the citizens of the universe, blasted through challenges like a spirit gun, and went plus ultra to get where I am today. Hopefully, I’ve still got the knees to fly (hiiiiighhh~! ASE TO CHI TO NAMIDA-..oops..) and achieve my dream to write but I’m not in any rush. After all, there’s a lot of things left to accomplish still and plenty of time to enjoy myself along the way! I hope anyone reading this will remember that, too.