As I get set to return to the United States this month, almost a year since I left, I remember my birthday, where I received a copy of Anne of Green Gables. After that, I never managed to read the whole way through, which is something I’m trying to correct now, but rather than feeling any sort of guilt over not reading it all, it makes me reflect on how my habits have changed from being in a different environment.
In New York, I have the most convenient reason in the world to read a ton: the subway. Commuting to Manhattan takes up a good half-hour to an hour (or more) depending on where you come from, and it’s the perfect opportunity to catch up on manga, to read a novel, to draw, and in my younger days, to do homework. Had I still been living in New York City, I know that I would’ve definitely finished Anne of Green Gables. Same thing with my Pokemon games. I’m a long-time fan of the series, but I haven’t even touched my copy of Pokemon Black yet because of how I never finished Heart Gold, and I refuse to leave a Pokemon game unbeaten. This would’ve been a lot quicker if I had that hour or so to and from Manhattan every day, but alas.
So I ask myself a question, “What do you think of your interests when they can be swayed so easily by circumstance?” To that, I answer myself with “Who the hell is keeping count? I’m the person I always was!” Yes, I’ve taken on certain hobbies and pursued them in ways that are in line with where I was living and where I came from. In New York, I have Japanese bookstores to fuel my collection and a commute to utilize them. In Japan, due to the distances of things, I rode my bike extensively and I watched anime on TV. Here in the Netherlands, I’ve got super-powered internet and a short walk to work. Had I grown up in a mountainous region, maybe I would’ve developed a fondness for rock-climbing. All I know is that these things influence how I function as a person and as a passionate fan of media, and I’m fine with that.
A good analogy for how I’m feeling might be how manga has developed as a black and white comics medium. Manga was originally printed in black and white out of necessity. It’s cheaper than full color and thus easier to mass-produce. From that practical limitation, manga grew out, with artists figuring out ways to best utilize their monochrome palette, including strong usages of negative space and creative application of screentones. Yes, if they had the money to afford full color back then, none of this might have ever happened. But it did, and even if manga were to change to full color now, we at least have that background and history to show us that path
Circumstances exist, but what we make of them is part of what makes life wonderful.