Why I Did It

Stream of Conciseness Rant- Why I Did It

I'm 21, female, and the younger of two in my family. I grew in up in typical Jersey suburbia. Taking a quick look at my family reveals little out of the ordinary. Older brother in the military, parents own a printing business- nothing strange at all.

However, when I was born September 20, 1987, something was up. Doctors and family quickly realized I couldn't track a penlight, let alone anything else with my eyes. And that's when they noticed my eyes were translucent.

I was sent to a specialist, where they deduced I had ocular albinism and was legally blind It’s a disease on the X chromosome so it hits men much more often than women. With my brown hair and eyes, it was impossible to tell that I was albino. Since I was not fully blind, my parents were ecstatic, and became more so when, by two years old, I had started squinting down at the newspaper, actually able to read it.

That’s about the time that they noticed something else was “wrong” with me. I hated dolls, and Barbies collected dust in the corner while I sat reading a copy of Gulliver’s Travels, one I had hidden in the bathroom so that I could escape having to do normal things, like ‘get dressed’ or ‘go outside’. My parents made me play sports like soccer, only to pull me out after people thought they were abusing me from all the bruises I had received from the game. I became overweight, having little outdoor activity, and spent all my time reading. I never watched TV as a child, either, because, even though I couldn’t admit it to my parents, I couldn’t (and still can’t) recognize faces, even theirs.

I started growing up. In middle school, I got my brother’s Game Boy as a gift, a clip-on magnifying lens, and a copy of Pokemon. It was amazing, and I became absorbed in it. It never took over my life or anything, but I became enamored with it and sought out other things like it. I started reading X-Men and Cardcaptors. At the distaste of my parents, I asked to take Japanese in high school. They made me stay in Spanish, because I was going to enter high school Spanish at the junior level. By the end of eighth grade, I had also learned to sew in secret, feeling the stitches with my hands, to make my first cosplay.

I can’t say what exactly stared my craze at all. I thin it was some form of compensation for my disability, being able to do all the things a sighted person might do. I did illustration and wrote fantasy stories with them, the images and drafts from as early as fourth grade collecting dust in my drawer, to sewing cosplay, reading both comics and manga, and finally, in high school, listening to the audio of anime, my first being Fullmetal Alchemist.

I burned the sound clips into MP3 and listened to them like audiobooks, and it was something of an uplifting experience. I had one friend in all of elementary who later abandoned me in middle school, so the only way I could interact with society was by standing on the outside of it and just putting my ear to the door, hearing snippets of information, but never seeing or hearing what I should do and how I should behave. By high school I became perfectly happy with whom I was, to my parents’ dismay at my fandom. And that’s when I realized there were plenty of others like me.

In high school, for the first time, I had not just friends, but a group of them large enough to petition for the addition of an anime club added to our high school. We didn’t ask for funding, just a place to watch (or listen). Fifty people joined. We sketched, watched, discussed… an incredible experience.

Just before graduation, as something of a good-bye present to the club, I took any member who was interested into New York City to go to the New York Comic Con. It was my first convention, and my first time ever going somewhere alone. You can only imagine how fearful my parents are, even now, of me traversing by myself, let alone leading about fifteen classmates across midtown. I sewed my entire costume by hand, Edward Elric from Fullmetal, as homage to my very first audio-anime experience.

A few months later, I was on a plane headed for Japan, leaving the continent for the first time. It wouldn’t be the last. I became a major in East Asian Studies and traversed not just Japan, but the world. I’ve made friends through animation and cosplay, and love what I do.

Anime saved me. I continued to close myself off from the world because I felt I had no place in it. I can’t drive, recognize faces, read the menus at fast food restaurants, see cars coming, and so much more that regular people take for granted every day of their life. Even more, I felt strangled by my parents' desire to keep me safe. Anime, Japanese culture, and comic books as a whole gave me something to look up to, a hero for the first time in my life. It gave me a hobby and a passion I could pursue and share with others, and a community of like-minded people.

People say that comics shut people away, out of society. They set me free.