It is incredible how one tradition can mean so many different things for one person over time. Maybe it is having the same festival, maybe it is throwing a party. For one man, he started a tradition of watching a simple anime movie to keep his heart in the right place during the lowest moments of his life. As time went on, he was at different points of a long and difficult metamorphosis to become the exact kind of person all of his raw emotion felt like he could be...even just last year, the meaning of this tradition took a different form in the wake of him desperately trying to change the course of his life only to realize how much he needed to stay on the current path he was on. Mere weeks before, he almost lost one of the closest things to him in his life after his best friend was almost killed in an automobile accident. It was during his friend’s recovery that she wanted to become part of the tradition that meant so much to her friend. She saw him cry at the same parts of the film he cried at for years, and kept it all secret. She didn’t laugh at him like she usually would in a playful way, but rather smiled and told him how much he has grown on his journey.

I can never make an article as articulate or with the degree of grammatical perfection that many of our aces here at AniTAY can. Within the walls of our own community, I often grappled with the idea that I might have been a bit of a nuisance. Rather than question what might bring this feeling up, I just scolded myself for thinking that in the first place.

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For everything that I share in my writing and messaging my friends, there was (and still is) a lot of my life and what I have (and still do) go through I kept sealed tight. It was through my annual watching of The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya that I realized that, in that given year, I could connect with the development that Yuki Nagato and her desires to change the course of life after keeping so many heavy things to herself. I promised myself and my friends after that watching last year that I would make a change.

There is nothing that comes directly from this time around watching the film that changed much, besides a pondering on the impetus of why I started watching. You see, for the longest time I was told to “suck it up” with the punches life threw at me- I was told by my family and support system that everyone went through hardship and that being upset about/claiming that my circumstances were “special” was an insult to others that were worse off than me. Whenever I would feel down or upset about things, my feelings simply amplified because I would kick myself harder for thinking that way. I bring this up because on the Christmas DilKokoro Podcast going up tomorrow (from when I am writing this), Umi shares a story about how her and I met and how much of an anger issue I had. We had since talked about it, but she phrased it as though I still had one. You see, a lot of the perceptions of who I used to be before leaving Ohio still find their way into the character assessment of those in my life, no matter how trivial it may seem to others. Hers was an innocent mistake, however, many people in my life still remember me as someone I am no longer, which leads them to often question who I am. Old friends gossip that “he has changed” and even my own family says they’re not really sure who I am anymore. This saddens me as I often do not have anyone to talk to as a result.

I passed a milestone a few months ago I wanted to keep quiet about until this kind of article- I started writing for AniTAY three years ago. I will always remember when I started writing for AniTAY as something completely different. I have all but told people this in direct name, but I almost made a decision I could not have undone a mere month before writing that Monogatari article. I felt so alone from having no one to talk to and being abused so heavily at my workplace in the few years leading into this (2014-2015) so when I arrived to the deployed area in 2016, I was not fit to fight. What is worse, I didn’t even realize this. This meant when the going got tough, I relied on the same unhealthy “dig deeper and deeper, beat yourself up” tendencies that I had to do to simply survive in my abusive environment I was a part of. I would start crying when I was reprimanded even in the deployed area, and, of course, I had no clear explanation for why I was feeling that way. When I was given a few weeks to go home that summer, I sought help however I could to absolutely no avail. One night, I couldn’t handle it anymore. I’m glad I still got up the next day, despite my family being unsure of how to even communicate with me. I returned to where I was working with no answers.

Then, I saw something. It was a tiny corner of the Internet. It was full of silly banter about anime and even had a couple drunken guys shouting about sports. By this point, I had surrendered my dreams of becoming a writer because my depression had kept me from having much more motivation than to get healthier and get out of where I was at before my deployment. I decided to share a story about how I showed “a friend” (hint: Umi) Monogatari and my overall thoughts about the show (in a rather comical side note: she loved Bakemonogatari but I absolutely ruined it by showing her Nisemonogatari’s dreaded toothbrush scene). Writing for AniTAY became my very own SOS Brigade. You can all fight about who was who in the club, but it is no exaggeration to say that I felt saved by this small little club room.

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Maybe this is one half an apology and another half a thank you, but you need to realize that I had hit the absolute bottom of my life. I used every bit of life force I had to get out of where I was in an abusive situation and didn’t stop to tend to my wounds- both physical and mental- and it meant reconstructing the very person I was on the fly given the nature of my work. The Dil you were all meeting for the first time was, in no exaggeration, the first time I was meeting them too. Everything in my life had changed and I had to start piecing together the adult I would become at the rubble of what used to be who I was. This might be a weird tangent, but this is probably why the fourth Garden of Sinners movie means so much to me too (the one where Shiki accepts who she is “now”).

The rest is basically history even to my readers- I got better after taking the time I needed to get somewhere good in my life mentally. I found my calling and inspiration to help others who are in binds like the one I was in. Even now, my employer is making strides to remove the fear and negative outcomes of mental health services for individuals under great amounts of stress because of not only the occupation but also because of unspeakable abuse of power. It shook me to my core at the time that there were no options to go to that would not negatively impact my career (not even filing a report of the abuse). I’m trying to calm down from episodes I get from time to time, but my new leadership is aware of the abuse I used to have (and, further, my current stressful living situation) and have given me resources that I did not have at the time of my abuse. It is a lot easier for me to look back on the night I almost made that decision, as well as process the loss that both myself and those I care about have felt as a result of individuals making that same irreversible decision. I want to apologize to my readers and my friends at AniTAY if I come off too defensive about mental health- you have to understand it isn’t always something that I can fully contain my passion for. I don’t mean to come off as righteous, but when you hit the very bottom and feel alive for the purpose of bettering mental health for others, it naturally charges me up quite a bit and I have a lot more energy than I mean to convey. I’ve butted heads with a few community members even in the past month, but after talking it out, some of them are even my good friends now.

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Bringing it back full circle- I don’t feel the same guilt for not doing well enough for those I have lost that this film used to serve as a means of reminding me about. I celebrate this film because it reminds me of how far I have come and where I have yet to go. It reminds me of the fire that one Haruhi has that is needed to move both time and space for a more exciting future. Seeing this along with the episode of the main series “Live Alive” where Haruhi performs in front of the booing crowd reminds me that the waters will not always be easy, but I need to pour my heart and soul into what I’m doing. Seeing the lesson I learned last year with Nagato reminds me not to keep it all to myself. Finally, the biggest takeaway from this time through? The very last scene where Kyon approaches the club room gave me the exact thing I needed to hear as I feel uneasy about the challenges ahead of me:

It’s weird, but I feel a sort of satisfaction. I’m sure though that there will be more trouble before I know it. I still need to return to the past and help change the world back to this one....Well...I still got some time. I’m not saying I have a lot, but I’m not saying I have to go back there right now, either. You got that world? You’re okay for a bit there, right? You don’t mind if I don’t take a little break before going back in time and fixing you, do you? Oh well...at least wait until I after I have a bit of Haruhi’s hot pot cooking, okay?

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