The first anime I ever followed was Maison Ikkoku. At that time, the 96-episode series was aired at 1.00am-1.30am time slot on Channel 8 on Mondays and Tuesdays. It was dubbed in Mandarin and, surprisingly, I could follow it given my horrible command of the language.
In a nutshell, the story was about an ordinary guy, kind of indecisive, who falls in love with his landlord, a rather strong woman. But another woman, an energetic, cute, demanding girl falls in love with him. Now because this guy is indecisive and can’t say ‘No’ to the cute girl, he ends up as her boyfriend all the while pining for his landlord who happens to become good friends with his girlfriend. The story ends two years later in real time with the guy finally finding his voice and courage to marry the landlord after dunno how many years in anime time.
A second anime that shaped my view of romance was Kimagure Orange Road. It’s about a teenage boy who belongs to a family with psychic powers and has the ability to accidentally travel through time. When his family moves houses to a new district, he falls for a strong classmate known by other classmates to have a bad reputation. At the same time, a girl two years his junior falls for him. And guess what? She’s cute, energetic, and demanding. And of course our somewhat indecisive nice guy protagonist can’t say ‘No’ to this girl who just happens to be the best friend of the girl he likes.
Kimagure Orange Road ends pretty much the same way as Maison Ikkoku, only it’s a much shorter anime series with 48 episodes. I watched this anime also in Mandarin; it was airing on a Saturday afternoon time slot then.
When I was in university, I was the head of a committee in my society. I fell for my secretary who was a strong and independent woman. My vice-president, who was cute, fell for me. And the two of them were good friends. Shaped by the anime I had watched, I made the choice to go after the girl I liked rather than the girl who liked me. In the end, things went terribly wrong and created an icy atmosphere among the three of us that ruined our friendships for the rest of our university days.
Fast forward six years and I found myself in a similar situation. I liked someone who I thought was a strong woman. Her good friend liked me. She was cute, energetic, and talkative. Remembering the terrible mistake I made six years earlier, and after a period of discernment and struggle to make the right choice, I made a decision and chose to let go of my feelings for the woman I liked and began to appreciate the girl who liked me.
In our journey together, I found in this girl, who has been maturing into a beautiful woman (internally and externally), a strength that was not obvious to me in the beginning, a maturity that I treasure, and a lot of youthful energy that I no longer seem to have as much of.
It is from these life experiences that I can say that love is more than feelings; it is a decision to commit to sharing one’s life with a person.
Feelings come and go, and we know from personal experience that these feelings can be very strong. Every man or woman who has been married has had feelings for another person who is not their spouse. It is recognising that these are feelings of attraction, not love which is a decision and an act of will, that helps couples to stay together. It is recognising that we are not ruled by our feelings, but are also thinking, rational creatures.
When I got together with my girlfriend exactly three years ago, my feelings for the other woman had not yet died. But I chose this girl over the other woman, to be the one I want to love. She was the one for me because I chose her. It is from these experiences that I can say for certainty that there is no such thing as “the one” for me. “The one” is the person that I choose for me; through our decisions, we become right for each other as we grow in love and appreciation and respect for each other.
Likewise, she chose me despite knowing that I liked another woman. She risked loving me even though that love might never have been reciprocated. Fortunately, it was.
Today marks our third anniversary together, and one year before we get married.
In the course of our relationship, our feelings for each other have come and gone from time to time, and it hasn’t been easy for us. But in those times, we remember that love is more than just feelings; it is a choice. I pray we will always remember this.
Happy third anniversary, my love!