“I’m sorry I’m always so depressing. I’ll do my best while you’re gone.”
I was recently asked what book or film character I would become if I could become any character I wanted. It’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer — or maybe it’s just my tendency to overthink things. Is it worth becoming a character that isn’t rather similar to oneself? It’s difficult for me to imagine being anyone but myself, flaws and all. That’s not to say that I fully embrace my flaws or love myself for them. It’s just that, even in a hypothetical scenario where I could literally be anyone, I can’t imagine existing without those flaws. Not without growing to overcome them on my own.
And perhaps that is why, when asked that question, I gravitate toward the characters I already relate to quite a bit. I’m not looking for the character that has the grandest adventures or the most luxurious life — I’m looking for myself. Or at least some version of myself. The me that has it all figured out, or will at some point. The me that has had some of the same struggles that I have had, but is able to eventually overcome them.
Thus, when tasked with answering the aforementioned question, the first character I thought of was Shizuku from Whisper of the Heart. In part because I watched the film recently, and didn’t have much time to rack my brain for options. But there are reasons beyond that for choosing her, and in some way it feels like the perfect choice.
In the film, Shizuku is somewhat aimless in her ambitions. She sees a peer she loves having such a clear path for his future, and she feels like she’s falling behind. She takes this problem into her own hands, believing that if she writes a story, she can prove to herself that she can do it and will know some semblance of what her future holds. By the end of the film, she feels that she has some clarity about her future, and everything seems to simply click into place.
I want my aimlessness to be so easily resolved.
It’s hard to see any path forward at all in aimlessness. It’s a bit odd, the concept seems to contradict its own meaning. Aimlessness implies that there are many possibilities, many options for the future. However, it’s hard to see a future full of possibilities, it feels more like the end of a path has been met, and all possibilities have been exhausted. It feels like it’s too late.
This is a ridiculous assertion, of course. It’s not too late. I’m barely an adult. For me, life feels like it’s reached its end, or at least an end, a dead end of sorts, but it clearly hasn’t. I think too much about the possibilities that have passed me by, and not enough about the possibilities for the future. I am eighteen years old and I feel absolutely decrepit. I watch a film like Whisper of the Heart and I can only think, if only I were 14 again, and could re-do these past few years of my life. But then I think, no, I must go back further, the problems didn’t start then, there’s more that has to be undone, more choices that have to be made. I must go further and further and further back in time and change everything. Surely then everything can click into place and I can feel like I’ve been on some sort of coherent track and there’s an obvious way forward.
So, if I were to be any character at all, I would want to be Shizuku. At least then I can know that I will figure it out some day. I just need to wait until the end of the movie and everything will be right.
Of course, I do not need to physically become this character to “be” her. The nice thing about choosing a character that’s rather similar to me is that it’s not outside the realm of possibility to simply strive to be her. It’s not like I want to go to Hogwarts or live inside a video game, I just want to be a better version of myself. That shouldn’t be so hard, right? That’s what I try to tell myself, at least. There are still whispers in my ear about how it’s too late, about how I should have figured this out years ago. But, all due respect to my own mind, that’s really dumb. The funny thing is that when I was Shizuku’s age I was in such a hurry to become my current age because I thought that that would mean I’d have things figured out already. Stupid me, life doesn’t put a deadline on that sort of thing. Maybe it should have, as I’m prone to procrastinating.
Interestingly, Shizuku’s rewrite of “Country Roads” in the film speaks a lot to this mentality. She writes it during a time when she feels aimless and is simply looking for a road forward, for somewhere to belong. She finds it in the end, which gives me at least the tiniest inkling of a hope that I will too.
Had a dream of
living on my own
with no fear of
being all alone.
Pushed my sadness
down inside of me
I was strong as I could be.
It doesn’t matter to me
how sad I might be,
I will never ever let
a tear show in my eye.
If my feet are moving faster
that’s because I only want to
push away memories.
When tomorrow comes,
I’ll be like I always am.
Want to go back there,
Can’t go back there,
Fare thee well,