There are certain fantasies that grab hold of us with ferocious tenacity when we are growing up. Most of my friends found themselves wrapped up in various fetishes: Magic the Gathering, PlayStation games, the occasional comic book, and a cartoon show. Just as adults had their glorified shows (my grandmother and grandfather watched skating and my mother remembers Northern Exposure rather fondly), we kids had our own religious experiences on Saturday morning. Rarely is the impact from a cartoon so profound as to change the course of someone’s life, but I had the privilege of such a painful cosmic realignment.

Season One GangDigimon: Digital Monsters was an anime from Japan. Season 1 featured eight kids, Tai, Sora, Matt, Mimi, Izzy, Joe, T.K., and Kari (in Season 2, Davis, Yolei, Cody, and Ken are added). All of the kids are endowed with powers from a digital dimension, which they were given Digivices to access. In the beginning, the troop of kids each get their own Digimon (Tai, the leader, had Agumon, a T-Rex type monster) and find out that they are stuck in the Digiworld. They have to fight über-Digimon to get closer to their goal of going home. Along the way, the Digimon find ways to warp into super-über-Digimon, the kids discover more about themselves and what home really means, and the universe struggles to right itself from the surge in evil power that has tipped the balance.

My mid-teen life in many ways revolved around this show. My friends at school watched it. We would discuss what the relationships meant on the show, how the good guys would beat the bad guys in the new episode (because good guys don’t lose), and how stupid it was that <insert character’s name> didn’t use their power in a way that suited our high-fallutin tastes.

But more than this, so much more than this, I found a family in Digimon. It seems so lame, so pathetic, to say that Digimon drove me to expand my writing because I wanted to shape a more satisfactory world for those precious characters. Even so, as the truth often makes us limp and weak, I must admit to that ache of wanting to find a way of shaping a world full of my unrequited love and gratitude for giving me an excuse to have friends.

But even more than this, I found a family through Digimon. When I began writing, ISeason Two Gang stumbled onto . I posted my work there, which still exists. I wrote laboriously and lovingly for those characters, becoming an exceptional writer for my age (though now it is embarrassing and archaic to look at). The stories embodied ridiculously mature themes for a children’s TV show, including sex, abusive fathers, and unrequited love. But people loved them. Every once in a while, when I go back to the site, more people have reviewed and said how it made them cry (my claim to fame, as it would appear).

It was through this site that I meant Logan, Angel, Kari, and Aushie – three fellow writers. All were older than me, but Logan and Angel were the oldest. Bonds began to form, connections made, and suddenly Logan and Angel became the father and mother figures, Kari, Aushie, and I, the daughters. All of us had something less than perfect in our lives and the family provided the inadequate surrogate that we all leaned upon and drew life from. For me, Logan was the father I had never had, Angel the stable mother I needed, Kari the wise older sister I wanted, and Aushie the intent listener I loved. Years later, our relationships would disintegrate – Aushie and I would band together, Logan and Angel would stay friends because of geography, and Kari would be devoured by a world hungry for innocence. But at the time, it was love, stability, kindness, and relief.

Perhaps there was a part of us all that loved the show for the simple fact it was Japanese, or that it included good guys touting over-the-top skills on their ostentatious enemies. Or maybe it was even that the characters were cute in their odd, often abstract, ways. Then again, I think it was much more fundamental than to human nature than to kid culture.

The five of us were searching for home, too. We had dreams of stability that could never quite be realized under even the most spectacular of real-life circumstances. I think our finding each other (and finding that our circumstances were as spectacular as they were going to get) gave us a new lease on friendship, faith, love, and steadfastness – which, as young as we all were, we had nearly given up on.

I am not beyond calling the entire spectacle melodramatic. Then again, when a person hallucinates, illusion becomes tangible, magic becomes power, idols become gods. Whether or not we were children who had lost our way in a digital age or not, the danger to us was real: our lives were in danger, our meaning was becoming corroded, our souls were in limbo. Without each other, our lives could have turned out very differently. At many points, I had considered running away or, God help me, suicide. But because of that damn show that came on every Saturday morning, I had been given a way to a means out of loss of faith in my own worth. It grounded me. It chained me. It steadied me. If I were to runaway (or worse), I wouldn’t be able to talk about that episode that night with my dear family. They would miss me, and I never wanted to disrupt the sanctity of our contentment.

Now, looking back, it seems we all wrote each other stories to live by. I’m not so sure it was ever intended, but I believe, with all my heart, that those stories became our lives. Without them, I’m not sure any of us would have ever found the rest we hunted so desperately.