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How the last Jedi and Pokemon taught me to let go - by Thomas Kuzma

27 February 2024

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The new Star Wars movie released just over a month ago (*) and with it came a variety of positive and negative views on this latest instalment. What I found most interesting however was Luke’s representation as the hardened old man who had given up hope on the Jedi. SPOILER WARNING ahead for people haven’t seen the film, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

In a moment of anger and hatred, Luke brought a torch to an ancient temple preparing to burn what the Jedi were to the ground. The only thing that stopped him was his old master, Yoda, who ended up destroying the temple himself. With this he taught Luke that the greatest teacher is failure. That weakness, failure and folly are necessary teachers in the world. “We are what we move beyond, that’s what makes us masters”.

Living as someone with autism, I have seen too many people struggle to let go of things they believe are important to them, afraid of failure and weakness because they see them as weaknesses, not realising the benefits that can come from them. Six months ago I started a Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge.

Pokémon is a very popular game series that started back in 1996. Pokémon was designed by someone autistic; Satoshi Tajiri wanted to make a game that gave kids the same amazing sensation he had collecting bugs as a kid. You receive a Pocket Monster and go on an adventure fighting and capturing monsters to fight in gyms (themed Pokémon fights). Typically, Pokémon don’t die, they just faint. They can be revived again if you go to a Pokémon centre.

The Nuzlocke Challenge is for those who want a real challenge. When a Pokémon faints, it dies. There’s no second go. Pokémon Centres can’t revive Pokémon, you have to let them go.

As I played this challenge I caught a Pidgey only for it to die as it evolved into a Pidgeotto. Having to say goodbye gave me the opportunity to reflect on what just happened, and how it affected me.

Just like in this game, I find the art of letting go is a hard thing to master in real life.

Many of us on the autism spectrum tend to ruminate and dwell on things that happened ages ago. Previously, I talked about how bullying affected me, but I will admit it still hits me hard occasionally, even today. I struggle to let go of angry thoughts and feelings because I’ve realised that I never got the upper hand, and that those who wronged me didn’t get their just deserts. Working as a Teacher’s Aide and as a Mentor on the autism spectrum, I have come to realise that many students hold onto thoughts and feelings about negative emotional experiences in their life.

One student loved the ‘naughties’ so much, he would use every moment to bring up shows and fads from that decade. He couldn’t let that go. Now imagine if he tried getting into today’s interests like movies or TV shows that kids his age enjoyed. If he could talk to other students about those types of interests he could build some friendships up. By making friends with others, his social skills and life skills would grow and develop.

The difficulty is that if we keep focusing on the negative experience, it can overwhelm us and do more damage than the actual event did in the first place

It turns out that we can teach ourselves to let go, but it has to be through our own source material. I started to learn about letting go by using the Pokemon Nuzlocke Challenge to teach myself that nothing lasts forever. This may not work for everyone, so you need to use something that makes sense for you, to help you through this process. This is a good thing, I assure you, because even though it will suck the first time, it will get better as time goes on.

However, you do need more than one strategy to let go of something. One way to help you get through the process of letting go is to surround yourself with the things that make you feel happy. By surrounding yourself with positives, it helps you set your mind at ease about what you are going through.

Friends are great allies in helping you let go.

My friend Lyndsey taught me that if I feel down in the dumps that I should pick a random letter from the alphabet and spend a day doing things I like with that letter. Try it, you may be pleasantly surprised.

(*) this blog was originally published in September 2028

Looking back at Pokemon, I remember the day I lost ‘Roadhog’. He grew up from a Bulbasaur to a Venasaur and went up against the large gaseous rock called Weezing. Fumes filled the air as the opposing Pokémon’s master told it to explode. I felt my heart sink deeply in my chest as I saw that word come up, I tried to put Weezing to sleep, to stop any eruptive behaviours. In seconds the Pokémon I started with lay dead in front of me.

Taking a step away from the game, I gave it a moment. I could turn the console off and he would be alive again! But that’s cheating. You can’t cheat in life, sometimes you just have to move on. That’s how we grow and become better people. I had to admit to myself, that he wasn’t coming back, but I knew that I had plenty more Pokémon that were faithful to me and that they would serve me well.

I know you may look at this and think “yeah but I can’t/won’t do that” but here’s the thing; I know you can and will and here is why. You have made it through life this far and you have faced challenge after challenge coming out as a new and better person as time has gone on. You have done that with the help of those who care for you and through strategies that you have learned.

By using what you love to help you let go, you are improving your life and you and I both know you want what’s best for you! Just make sure you don’t act like Yoda and blow up a temple in the process.

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