When I walked into the movie theater, the person checking my ticket handed me a Pokémon promo card. I was nine years old when I got my first one. Pokémon had been a huge part of my life since my parents bought me Blue for my 8th birthday. Flash forward twenty-plus years, and I stared at the promo pack in awe. I looked at my wife and said, “They’re giving us Pokémon cards!” In a moment, I was that nine-year-old seeing Pokémon: The First Movie again. I was actually there to see Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, but the connection with my childhood, which began with a promo pack, only grew stronger as the movie progressed.Pokémon: Detective Pikachu really resonated with me because it highlights this divide all of us have between what we love and what we think we should love.
The movie opens with Justice Smith’s character, Tim Goodman, reluctant to capture a Pokémon. We see glimpses of his deeply hidden desire to have a Pokémon partner, but he quickly “grows up” in the scene when he fails to catch one. He changes the conversation from Pokémon to his job in insurance. When he meets Pikachu while searching his recently deceased father’s apartment, he is standoffish and rebuffs Pikachu’s attempts to form a relationship. This imposed distance changes as Tim and Pikachu tackle the case of Tim’s dad’s death. By the end of the movie, Tim reconnects with his childhood dream of becoming a Pokémon trainer, a dream he gave up after his mother’s death. He finds who he was meant to be in his childhood dreams, and that rediscovery really resonated with me.
About three and a half years ago, I had a completely different trajectory in life. I wanted to study a particular field, attend certain schools for my Ph.D., and become an expert in my particular academic discipline. I landed a good internship after which I found a good job. Everything seemed to be going according to plan, except I was miserable. I was midway through my master’s program, deeply angry with life and somewhat with myself. I took a creative writing class to fill one of my “soft elective” requirements in my program (my words at the time), and I remember the TA said, “You are meant to do what you wanted to do when you were seven.” That really resonated with me. At seven, I had no idea that my current field of study even existed. I was into playing “make believe” with my neighborhood friends. I enjoyed video games and getting wrapped up in the world created for each story, which is why I was eventually obsessed with Pokémon. I could navigate the Kanto region in my sleep. I knew the base stats for all 151 First Generation Pokémon, including how each Pokémon evolved and when my favorites learned their best moves. But somehow, I’d relegated that level of interest to my hobbies, not my career. That wasn’t working out for me.
So, I changed the concentration of my master’s program, midway through the degree. Currently, I’m in limbo regarding my future plans. But I am not sacrificing who I was meant to be, and I am much happier for it. Pokémon: Detective Pikachu really resonated with me because it highlights this divide all of us have between what we love and what we think we should love. Tim Goodman buries his passion for Pokémon out of grief, but it’s this passion that allows him to do so many amazing things throughout the movie. I buried my passion out of shame and duty, and it made me a miserable human being. Tim and I both have learned to express and enjoy our passions, not keep them hidden. I am so thankful for stories like Pokémon: Detective Pikachu who are helping others learn the same.