I like to think that Hotaru, the main protagonist of my story, is a lot like myself. Except the difference between us is that her problems are real and mine are all in my head, yet they feel just as real. I guess in a way, as I wrote this first novel, I was imagining how I dealt with my personal demons. For years I struggled with depression and anxiety and now that I can look back on it all, I have no idea why. There is no comparison between my life and Hotaru’s – I have no real problems. Sure, I had a hard time getting a girlfriend and I was teased often but that’s only because I was so down on myself and pessimistic that no girls wanted me, and I was an easy target for bullies.
Nevertheless, I felt miserable all the time. Though my immediate family loved me, I somehow convinced myself that my extended family didn’t, and that they considered me to be a failure. Family gatherings were always an awkward time. I would continuously compare myself to my cousins, feeling inferior and socially inept. This same horrible mentality followed me into my school life as well and though I no longer feel this way today, the memory of that emotion remains with me with as if it were yesterday.
I wanted my journey to reflect in Hotaru’s. Even if my story sounds extremely exaggerated compared to what she goes through, and even if my pain and suffering were nothing compared to hers, it felt just as real to me.
Her escape from her home to the outside world is a release for her. I too wanted the same for a long time - to be able to venture out on my own and experience living independently but strangely that never happened. I think it’s better it didn’t. Like Hotaru, I’m sure I also would have discovered that leaving home by yourself can be challenging.
In my story, there is a demon that haunts Hotaru’s dreams, wanting to consume her soul. I too have my own demon to battle, that will constantly crop up from time to time, trying to bring me back to my old ways. Depression, anxiety, self-deprecation, all these things continually resurface no matter how hard I fight it. Again, a bit exaggerated but still true. No matter how much I try to enjoy my life and forget my problems, I feel this demon will always be there, always waiting - there is no escape. At one point it was in full control and almost got the best of me. Though I won that battle, it’s still there, waiting for an opportunity to bring me back down all over again.
Why did I write this story? To show people that no matter how awful life can seem, it’s only as good as you make it. Hotaru is surrounded by death, the world is ending all around her, yet she still gets excited to venture out on her own and experience life. She finds friends along the way and makes the best of her situation. She continues to find a way to ignore the bad and focus on the good. Things could always be worse, and, in fact, things do get worse for a while. But she survives where so many others perish and that means something. She just needs to find out what that something is and believe in it, just as we must believe we’re all here for a reason, whether we can see it or not.
Now that I’ve said that, I should note that my parents were NEVER cruel to me. They always have and always will love me and spoil me. I never lived in a broken home or in poverty. I did have bully issues for many years both in grade school and high school so that part is real. The bullying ultimately began my downward spiral to depression and to this very day I’m still struggling with some aspects of that. For the most part, I’ve overcome it, thanks to my wife. She’s managed to convince me that I’m not a useless vegetable not worthy of love or attention. She sees something in me that no one else does or can. I’m blessed. Had it not been for her, I don’t know where I’d be. Probably rotting in a cold dark basement somewhere, getting fat and playing mindless video games for all eternity.
My hope is that Hotaru’s journey will not only been an inspiration for me but for all those who read it. Maybe together we can try to seek out the deeper meaning of the story, and in doing so, of life, rather than dwell only on what’s on the surface.