We’re in the dog days of summer and the grind can get to be a bit much for any of us. I’ve long advocated that people need to keep their sights on their goals as these unforgivably hot days rage on. A mentor of mine once taught me to write down exactly what it is I am working towards so when things got a little shaky, I could open the notes back up and remember those goals. It is so simple you could almost laugh it off as being something fit for children instead of adults.

When I left my job to start my education for a different line of work, however, I thought more about advice like that. So around fall of two years ago, I decided to start writing down my goals. I spent a lot of time looking around at the people in my life, what they aspired for and/or achieved and what they felt happiest about. I asked some of my new co-workers what sort of things bring them happiness, too. I still wanted to take time to think about it, so I didn’t rush into writing down my answer just yet.

Not to long after this, I went to the library to pick up a batch of movies and games to kill some free time with. One anime in the stack caught the eye of a woman working at the desk and she smiled. She looked at the back cover and said “This looks so cute. Is this for your daughter?”

Yes, yes. I know you already know where I am going with this story. It was Non Non Biyori and I played it off with a nod and was off on my way. I didn’t know much about this show besides hearing from friends they thought I would love it. I am a fan of slice of life more than most genres so they were probably on to something before I ever knew what it was.

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Chances are at some point in your childhood you were the new kid in town (or maybe you grew up in the same community and made friends with the new kid). This premise, as simple as it is, carries well throughout the show as we follow fifth grader Hotaru Ichijou in her transition from busy Tokyo to a quiet rural town. We see the daily lives of the people in a small town and, more importantly, get to see friendships bud and the growth of a community. It is the slow, easygoing nature of this show that allows for such rewarding experience to be had in following along and it makes this show oh-so memorable for me even nearly two years later.

My memories of this show were almost ruined by a guy I came across at a premiere for a Fate movie being a little too...excited...about one of the Koshigaya sisters. I have had trouble returning to anime after negative fan experiences in the past, and I was concerned this would be the case here. Then, one day, the library had a new anime in stock: Non Non Biyori Repeat. I obviously was hesitant to get into it because of the memory of Creepy Guy but my friends convinced me it was more of the same, innocent fun the first one provided.

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Indeed, it was more of the same fun the first season provided, and I really look forward to the third season. There is something that happened to me as I watched this show, however, that I did not have an answer for. I couldn’t explain it with words because I didn’t know what feelings it brought me. This brings me back to the goals I was trying to write down.

Before the DVDs were due back, I watched a few episodes that made me cry quite a bit again to see if I could get a better understanding of what was going on. A few that really stick out to me are ones that follow Kaede Kagayama, a young small shop owner that the main characters often visit. In one, she thinks back on her teenage years of babysitting the youngest of the main characters, Renge. Renge was only a baby at this time, and Kaede struggles for a good portion of the episode to try to take care of the infant. Despite her initial cold attitude about the matter, she eventually ends up getting a hang for it and starts to show happiness in taking care of the child.

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Another episode has the young adult spending her off day teaching Renge how to ride a bicycle until a beautiful sunset scene celebrates the new rider finally being able to do it without being guided. I’m crying right now thinking of the scene and I haven’t even looked it up for the thumbnail yet.

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So what is the meaning for bringing this up? Well, after I watched that last episode I referenced, I sat in the room and thought for a while after I turned off the player and just reflected on my emotions. What was it that moved me so much? Maybe it can be stated simply that watching the joy in youth spending their days free of threats from the outside world really struck a cord with me. Maybe I’m reminded of how much my parents sacrificed to preserve a similar life free of threats that were omnipresent behind the curtain. I thought for a long time about it.

And today, I am happy to share what I wrote down as one of my future goals. I looked at it this morning as I drank my coffee in preparation for the week and was reminded that Non Non Biyori helped me put a heartfelt wish I had into words. It is a wish that is worth digging deep for in times of turmoil and even now as my immediate future feels like it is on thin ice, I know where I am going because I have my goal in mind. Some men simply want money, others want recognition. One of the key things that lights the everlasting flame of will in my heart?

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I want to be able to give my children a life filled with joy and be able to be there for every smile they have because of it.