Sigh, well... it's a topic that really I'm not too embarrassed to bring up, clearly. But it is one that comes up enough times that perhaps it'd help to have a blog link to head to for reference when it does come up.
See, how this story begins...
I was, and still am, trying to find my place in the world at the time. I couldn't afford my own place so I was living at my sister's while working my first big job. At the time, my sister had to temporarily move out of state so I was left on my own to watch her place and... and well, that's not all. See, as I'm sure most of you can attest that working as a Bagger (Courtesy Clerk, if you want to get all snobby about it and you know that I do!) in the Service Industry field of jobs is quite taxing and stressful. Especially if your an introvert that already gets overwhelmed when you don't have to literally spend your entire day sprinting around and praying that your superiors will notice you enough to not keep cutting your hours down to Nil. That's sort of why I couldn't handle that too... didn't have enough voice in me to speak up and ask for more hours or find yet more stores to work at in the area... but... but even that aside...
It's one thing to not have anyone to come home to cry about your long day. But technically, I did. The dog I was taking care of at the time. And part of that latter part, if you've caught on to a bit of what I have said before, should have a few of you knowingly wincing already.
Blaze was a good dog. His bark was directly proportional to the thickness of the fence he was behind. Outside of that fence, however... the poor pup was afraid of garbage cans, of all things! At the time though... His father, a purebreed, had already taken a very long, wasting death that had kind of taken its toll on me. Never mind the close to twenty dogs I had lost before that point. In turn, it was also quite obvious that his mother was in poor shape as well to her long age causing her health to fade, but being a mutt, she was hanging in there on last l- *wince* ...okay... very poor choice of words there...
Father dead, Mother dying, and only the two boys left didn't bode well. His brother's legs had mysteriously gone out for reasons we're still not sure of. My sister, in her wisdom, had decided that in the time she was gone, she'd take the two sicker dogs with her to leave me the healthier one and, hopefully, less for me to be responsible for.
...that was... uh... not to be true. Let's say.
I blame myself, really. A phrase I'm sure you've all seen coming. Perhaps he had his brittle purebreed father's genes; maybe I was the cause of it. I think I might have lost my temper once and pushed the poor pit bull pup wrong. ...Blaze somehow got himself a Bone Tumor in his back, right leg. A problem that blew up rather quickly. L-like... literally. His leg literally blew up underneath him. At one point he was literally chewing off his own toes and flesh... I could see... an... an actual hole rotting into the side of his leg...
...So here I am. In a job I can't keep up with, one that's causing me to bust into weeping fits late at night in the parking lot when there's no human around to witness my weakness...
and a teen puppy at home that getting slowly eaten away by something I don't understand... where I had frequently just bought armloads of gauze and tape in a desperate attempt to keep him from chewing off his bloody stump of a leg, only to seal it so tight that it couldn't breathe and have i-it moldering out from under him as he's still alive... and all the while my p-puppy just looking up at me with his big eyes like he's already far past being aware of what's happening to him... and accepting it more then I am...
...Blaze knew he was dying... I... I could see that in his expression.
I'm sorry... PTSD getting to me again...
My, uh, point being... I wasn't in a very healthy place, emotionally at the time. A rather dark place.
I've... never been really one to speak up. Even if I had somebody to confide in... I probably wouldn't of. Up to that point, something like Hope was merely a concept to me. ...but I wanted to learn it. Desperately.
So... what I told myself, Is that I needed a goal, something to aim for. A new Pokemon game was coming out at the time. Really wanting some form of escape, I had thought it a good idea, albeit not all that confident in the idea. I honestly didn't care what new land we were going to or what sparkly-doodad-gimmick-sellpoint they had. But... one of the pokemon they started you off with was a pretty cute little fox. Foxes are cute. I'd like to play with a cute little fox pup. I wasn't going to get invested in that because, surely, it was just some fictional character and spot of data. Not something else I had to be responsible for, more stress to shoulder, j-just something cute n' pretty to come home t-to. S-something th-that wouldn't die on me. P-please... not again...
That... that little fox was something I could live for. That Fennekin was something at the perfect level. It's just a game after all that had no bearing after all, something I could put down at any time, maybe even have the whole contraption break on me like it had done before and be able to walk away just appreciative of the experience. And above that, It would be what I spent my very first paycheck on. It was my decision. My feelings. Something concrete, yet unimportant enough to walk away from. The game itself & its console, not the Fennekin itself, served as a symbol that I could accomplish things on my own, no matter how things went. That I didn't need my monster of a Mother breathing down my neck at every turn. That I can always find something else to strive & live for even if I fail at some other points in my life... even if some things went sour, there was still room to travel on and continue with my life.
So that was my plan. A simple task to accomplish. Just buy a video game & gameboy with my very first check. I... I did what I could with Blaze... my life as a whole. And this, this served as a direct, physical proof of what I can accomplish. A sort of landmark for a stage of my life. And that's what I did. Bought the game, and went out of my way to start the game off with a male Fennekin.
(Yeah. If you know Pokemon any, you'll know that even before the game actually came out it was made clear the little fox kinda became rather "girly" as it evolved, aged and progressed through the game. Internet Ensues. I wanted to counter that a little bit with a male Fennekin, if but make it a little bit silly at the same time. Besides, I already kind of knew that I'd get just a teensy, smidgen bit dependent on it and I didn't want to give those feelings too much room to go down a rather weird... "sonic fandom-y" route, if you get me. ...Fat lotta good that did me. Lol.)
I named my Fennekin Spark. Because... that's what he was. The last remaining spark of hope that I still had in me. That while I couldn't see any light anywhere's else in my life & world... I had this game to prove that I could accomplish things. That I could still feel happy looking at something cute. That... that I could even still feel happiness or appreciation.
It was a world that I had a control over how I connected to it. A sort of self-reassuring glint of madness I'm sure is becoming clearer the more times I bring it up here. I could pet that little fox and make it happy and on the flip side of that coin, I could shut it off and walk away comfortable in knowing that I did what I could. That it wasn't something I needed to focus so hard on that it would be such a devastating loss as so often seemed to be the case with the things that did stress me.
It's just a game after all. But it's my game. It didn't matter, but it mattered to me.
My journey with Spark was as uneventful as it tended to be in these games I had played for most of my life. I never really did get all that invested with the pokemon they started you off with. Sure, I named them, gave them little personalities when I felt lonely, but they were still just data and tools to use during the game. Until that one eventful day.
We were travelling through some ice cavern at the time. Yadda, yadda, pretty deep in there we were. There was some other trainer; a hiker or fighting type specialist or something, I dunno. Got in a fight with some dude's Scrafty.
Scrafty, for those of you uninitiated with the Pokemon Franchise, has this combat ability called Moxie. If it knocks out one pokemon in a battle, it gains a boost to its stats that only makes it stronger for any immediately following battles.
For many of the preceding factors, I truly did not care and was just proverbially farting around in those Ice caverns. There was very little stakes if I screwed up. Worst come to worst, I'd lose the battle, get knocked out of the level to heal up, and have to spend another, what, fifteen minutes to a half hour going through the cave again to get back tot he same area. Besides, I was kind of overleveled for the area anyhow. I wasn't really bothering to keep my team healed up or watching what I was doing.
So, by the time I got to that Scrafty, I slipped up a bit. I had six party members ready for battle. Perhaps my first were low on health, or at a disadvantage. The first of my team went down pretty fast. Moxie activates, Scrafty gets a boost. I do not care in the least. Second and third pokemons in my team go down and by this point, while my pokemon are getting progressively higher in level, Scrafty is now at a point where just any move they do knocks out a quarter health. Things are snowballing out of control, but hey, Spark has a ten level headway and a resistance to this guys moves anyhow.
Scrafty, however, is also partly immune to half of Spark's attacks. And by the time Spark is sent out with his smug little Delphox smirk on his spoiled little face, Scrafty is so far boosted that whatever attack they could pull off is going to ram for half health anyway.
I sit there and notice: "Huh. I only have two options to do here." I tell Spark to spit out a piddly bit of fire and Scrafty goes down to two-thirds health. And, The Hammer Drops. Half of Spark is gone in one blow. "Great." I say to myself. "I've once more dug myself into a hole. Now I just need to wait for the pain to be over. Again."
Next turn: Spark spits out another trifling bit of Mystical Fire that brings Scrafty down to Half health, and I prepare myself for the inevitable. Once more, the Hammer Drops and the bar jolts violently to the left as I await for the screen to black out, signifying me once more shooting myself in the foot and my cherished gamelong companion to go down with his long, wailing hoot of a cry that foxes have.
"Spark holds on to his last bit of health because he doesn't want his trainer to cry."
"Well... that's fine, Spark. That's admirable, but it won't help us here. You're at one health, my last option, and we're looking down the barrel of a gun here. Do what you want, it's not going to help us here."
Next turn: I am still resigned to my fate. I flick the same button again without bothering to look anymore. Once more, Spark does his fire thing to knock Scrafty to quarter health. And I wait for the Hammer to once again Drop, killing me for far more damage than is really needed at the one point of health Spark had somehow chosen to hold on to.
"Spark holds on to his last bit of health because he doesn't want his trainer to cry."
.... I am immediately in tears.
Now... Now here I stand. Having somehow lasted three turns of annihilation against the be-mohawked, saggy-pantsed lizard that's been sneering down after its plowed through the team I'd spent so much time into, just one failure after another. And now, only by virtue of having the turn priority because I had the level headway on him, I am given free reign to deal out my last, measured blow and finally end this.
I... I had given up. In so very many ways. And this... this piece of data, this representation of merely finding things cute and earning my own way through life.... by some roll of the dice... and some cutely chosen choice of words from the programmers.... has stuck in there..... because i-... it didn't want me to b-be s-sad...
I-i'm... quivering so b-bad right now as I type this, even now. In a way that I feel somehow has nothing to do with the temperature.
I understand the situation a bit more now. Turns out, from taking the time to pet your pokemon in another little minigame in that video game you get small little bonus battle effects like that. Small little, unimportant messages and helpful things like that that only make you a small percentage better at the game. Little did I know at the time that I was doing that. I just wanted to spend time with Spark, because he was cute & I was scared & lonely. I didn't want him to be strong. I just wanted a friend. I just wanted to see something be happy that we were together.
And that's the thing too. Whatever effect or code of programming that is... i have never gotten that to happen twice in a row like that ever again. By some... minuscule number game of programming in what goes on in the ingame battles, the appearently random choice of words they put in to serve that small role, what I chose to find cute, endearing and a source of light-hearted comfort in a time where I could not put the energy into caring... by so, so very many tiny, unimportant things coming together... is what taught me what Hope is.
Hope is, by its definition, Undying.
Much like the fear I am so acquainted with, Hope requires no reason. No real need to have any logic or direct, discernible evidence to it. You can be thrashed far, far past any point you should be able to withstand it. You can be praying for the blackness just for the end to things.... and there still is Hope there that things, out of your control, can change on a dime. You can spend years in a situation you see no end of, no way to be aware of any incoming change and yet the walls can still tumble down at any moment as the serendipity of fate carries you off to start a new, brighter life. You can be staring down the barrel of a smoking gun with everything in reality telling there will be only one outcome.... a-and still... you can have so much to live for.
And that's not to say you shouldn't be proactive either in finding your own way. That's what got me down that path, is that I just took a shot in the dark. I grabbed for what I could, for what meant what it did in a time I needed something, anything to have any meaning to it.
Y-you can take the punches. You can have things blow up in your face. That's the adventure of life! You might not be able to tell, but the sparks of Hope still burn under all the ashes you may find yourself buried under! Hope Cannot Die! Life is for the Living! Take chances, get messy!
Not being able to see the way out is a common occurrence in life. Just because you can't see out of the darkness doesn't mean that it's leaching you apart, and making you lesser. YOU are the spark that can still always grow into a blinding light! Just as every seed must first be buried, there will always be room to grow!
N-never let your spark die out!