Most of us spend our entire lives searching for our purpose, to find the meaning in the blank pages of our storybooks. I often think about this. I think about the people I have met and how they have changed me, and how little events that might seem meaningless to others end up influencing me the most. Just like the protagonists in these stories, I’ve always believed that I would only discover my own purpose on an adventure.
So today I ventured from my cosy abode in Surrey to the far away land of Brighton. Unlike Surrey, Brighton is teeming with colour and vibrancy, it’s the perfect place for an adventure. So with a buzz of excitement and an eye for opportunity, I arrived in a positive state of mind. After napping on the beach for an hour I felt rejuvenated and ready for anything. At this point, my sister suggested that we go to the arcade. I hadn’t really had much experience with arcades and didn’t really see their appeal, but I’m the sort of person that will try anything once. So I sauntered into the arcade, where we prepared ourselves with a hefty collection of 2p,10p and 20p coins.
For a brief explanation (also see photo below), these machines work by the player pushing 2p coins through a slot, in an effort to push the 2p coins already inside the machine along so that they fall down into your winnings. There are a number of prizes within these machines that can also fall down if you place your 2p coins correctly. As a final year STEM student, I felt more than capable to succeed in this challenge. After all, surely it’s just physics and good timing? We scoped out the arcade in search of our target, and we soon came across the holy grail of arcade machines. The Pokémon toy machine.
Then that was the first time I saw him: a little charmander, perched onto a bulging nest of 2p coins. Our target was set and we started pushing our 2p coins into the machine’s mouth. My sister and I soon initiated a tag team system where one of us would run to the nearest coin exchanger when our supply got low and exchange our 20ps and 10ps for 2ps, whilst the other would form a human shield around the area in the case of lurkers aiming to swoop in on our prize.
Eventually as time drifted, I soon started to realise that this mission was not as easy as I had anticipated. Voices started echoing in my head: “Feed the machine, tuppence for the charmander.” The various sounds around me and chimes of old timey arcade music start to merge into a soft jeering. I felt like Bilbo Baggins in the fight of her life against the nefarious Smaug. I started to recall all those coins that I’d found in my room that I just scooped into a jar collecting dust in a meek corner, and all those coins I’d spent on disappointing freddo chocolate bars. All those wasted opportunities.
At some point I’d started to lose my peripheral vision. The world outside of the arcade machine started to blur and contort into fog as the mechanical whirring of the inner meat of the machine spurred me to sway backwards and forwards. My body started to modulate to the machine’s natural frequency, I was now one with the machine. The charmander stared at me with black beady eyes, it’s glare hot on my face and piercing into my vision. I tried to glare black, in an effort to embue my inner power into the coins and force the charmander to succumb to me, but alas it was not very effective.
Eventually my time in the arcade started to end, and my cluster of coins was also near depletion. Although I had managed to catch a squirtle, the charamander still resisted. My mouth was bone dry and my forehead entrenched in sweat from my efforts. I decided to compromise, and accept the sacrifice that the squirtle had made. But how far can I actually go in this world as a water pokemon girl instead of a fire pokemon girl? There was a dull pang in my chest as I scooped up my remaining coins and took one last longing look at the charmander. Maybe I should just accept that I am the sort of girl who seeks out a charmander but ends up with a squirtle.
But I guess the most important thing that I learned today is that my purpose in life is neither as a gambler nor a Pokémon catcher.