Maybe I’m a Lion

First off, I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has taken the time to check out my blog and leave me positive feedback. This means the world to me, and I can’t thank you all enough! I’ve been a bit stressed about my second post, since my first one seemed to do so well. Worried that I’d not be able to maintain consistently decent content, I’ve decided to take this as an opportunity to expand on my debut blog entry.

Buckle up, this is going to be a long one.

In my previous post, I mentioned that my Griever tattoo was not only special to me, but strategically placed. The tattoos I have within my own eyesight are there for a reason, and serve as important reminders of who I am, and where I have come from.

I guess I should start by explaining what “Griever” is.

Griever is a Guardian Force, or GF, that appears in the Final Fantasy series. Namely, Final Fantasy VIII. He is of a lion, full of power, strength and courage:

griever-gf

In the event that you’re wondering what a GF is, don’t worry. There’s no need to open a new tab for a Google search, I’ll give you a brief rundown.

Guardian Forces are minions of lore and power that are used throughout the Final Fantasy series in a running theme: they form an unspoken alliance with your character(s) and can be called to your aid during battle. They possess magical abilities, healing, protection, brute strength, and are just overall harbingers of bad-assery. Most of the GFs featured in the Final Fantasy series are creatures of real-life lore, and in some cases, religions. Some recognizable examples of this include Shiva, Quetzalcoatl, Ifrit, and Gilgamesh, just to name a few.

Our main protagonist in FF8 is none other than Squall Leonhart; a reluctant hero with aloof tendencies and a gift for combat. He’s focused, and hopelessly dedicated to driving his friends crazy with his general disinterest in vocalizing his thoughts, expressing himself, or even being himself, for that matter.

squall-leonhart
In the game, almost all of the GFs can be swapped between your party members. The exception to this rule is Griever, he belongs to Squall and Squall alone.

Squall spends about 80% of the game running from himself in addition to his feelings, as well as his calling. He is respected and looked up to by his comrades, his elders, and even his enemies. People are drawn to him because of his ability to make decisions and execute orders, but openly acknowledge that he comes off as unfriendly and rude. Hell, even he knows it:

squall-has-some-feelings

This doesn’t stop his friends (and teachers) from opening up to him or leaning on him for leadership.

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He isn’t exactly receptive…..

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On top of that, he isn’t comfortable in a position of leadership and often questions it, coming to the realization that he’s scared of himself and scared of opening up to others.

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It isn’t until nearly the end of the game, that he begins to come to terms with his fears and in turn, he stops running from himself and the people around him.

Up until this point of the game, we knew that Griever existed, but we were never able to summon him or use him. We don’t actually see what Griever looks like until we engage in battle with the game’s main antagonist: Ultimecia. It’s during this battle that she identifies the GF sleeping within our hero, and extracts Griever to use him against us during this “final” confrontation of sorts.

This was not only a HUGE spoiler and turning point in the game, it was a turning point for me as a person when I first played through the title. There I sat, aged 15, with my  jaw on the floor, surrounded by empty bags of chips and empty soda cans, wondering what the fuck just happened. How could this (literal) witch take MY power from MY hero and use it to start kicking MY ass?

How fucking dare her.

It was in that moment that I realized something, something that resonated so deeply with me that I would wind up tattooing the symbol of Griever to my forearm years later:

You can’t run from yourself.

Squall ran from himself for the better part of his young adult life, and the majority of the game, only to lose himself to the world (Ultimecia). It wasn’t until he nearly lost it all, that he gained the inner strength to embrace himself, the people around him, and his ability to make a difference in the world.

If you’re in the habit of running from yourself, running from who you are, running from how you feel or running from your calling; the world will rip you apart because you are letting it. Ultimecia taught me a rough lesson that day, a lesson I’ve never forgotten.

Don’t be afraid of the world.
Don’t be afraid of change.
Don’t be afraid of growth.
Don’t be afraid of the people around you.
Don’t be afraid of yourself.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
– Marianne Williamson

I carry Griever with me everywhere I go. He resides on my right forearm so that when times get tough, or I clutch my chest in an effort to stifle any ache in my heart or any doubt in my soul, I can summon Griever to remind me of who and what I am.

Maybe I’m a Lion.

griever-symbol

Liberi Fatali

Fated Children

This isn’t the first time this has happened, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Tonight, while grocery shopping, one of the employees at Ralph’s happened to notice my Griever tattoo in passing. He said, “HEY, nice tattoo!”

Befuddled, I tried to remember which of my tattoos was out in the open. After looking down, I realized it’s my ode to Final Fantasy VIII….my Griever tattoo, placed strategically on my right forearm. Out in the open, and hard to miss.

I became giddy and replied, “Hey! Thanks!”
(not to be confused with “Hey! Listen!” I’d like to think that I’m not that obnoxious.)

He said, “Lionhart, right?” 

YUP.

Technically it’s “Squall Leonhart,” and technically it’s “Griever,” but he knew exactly what it was and this is entirely beside the point, so….

“…….whatever.”

This tattoo is one of the many defining symbols that surround one of the best installments in the Final Fantasy series: Final Fantasy VIII. Many people would argue with me, and tell me why it was the worst installment and why it will always be the worst game in the series.

Bullshit.
This game is fucking magical.

My parents got me into video games at a very young age, probably age 5 or so. My mom hooked my dad up with an NES and Zelda for Christmas one year. His initial collection consisted of the shiny gold cartridge that is The Legend of Zelda, Final Fantasy, Super Mario Bros., and a few others.  I’d watch in wonder as he came home late from his long shift at the hospital and would immediately settle in to play Legend of Zelda, well into the early hours of the morning. I’d sit on the couch and would experience every victory, every setback, and every “One more time” that occurred after Link died.

I’d watch my mom and dad take turns on Super Mario Bros. I witnessed my mom master the technique known as “turtle tipping,” and together my parents saved the Princess even though that witch liked to hop castles like it was going out of style or like she’d committed insurance fraud.  The princess was always in another castle, but they never gave up.

An addict was born.

As soon as I was old enough to figure it out, I started playing the first installment of Final Fantasy on NES, probably around age 8 or so. I created a profile, named my 4 heroes, and set off on a life changing 8-bit journey of epic proportions.

Over the following 3 years, my Fighter, Black Belt, White Mage, and Black Mage would reveal to me who I truly was.

You read that right: it took me 3 years to beat the game. I was a little kid, for crying out loud. This was pre-internet, and before I knew what a “walkthrough” was. I did it the old fashioned way. Blood, sweat, tears and all.

At the end of my journey, I wanted so badly to run to my mom and dad and tell them to come look at my victorious ending screen. But…..I couldn’t.

Why?

I had named my 4 heroes “Butt,” “Ass,” “Jo,” and “Mama.”

Yes. I did that. 8 year old me thought it would be fucking hilarious to use swear words in secret, where no one could catch me, only to have it gloriously bite me in the ass years later upon game completion.

Needless to say, it was a bittersweet victory. To this day it makes me both laugh out loud and cringe internally. That was my very first taste of the Final Fantasy series, and unbeknownst to me at the time, it would not be the last. Time went on, and I forgot about the game.

One fateful day in my teens, after Al Gore invented the internet, I decided to look up “Final Fantasy” in my Netscape browser, using my dial-up connection.

What I found…absolutely floored me. Results showed that there had been several installments in the game since I’d last played. I was so excited that I nearly cried. At the time of my search, FF7 had been out and FF8 was about to be released. I spent hours upon HOURS (and then some more hours) on Squaresoft’s website, fantasizing about game-play, characters, story-line, graphics, adventure, magic and everything in between.

Back then it was known as Squaresoft. Today it is known as Square-Enix.

My parents were (and still are and always will be) the best parents in the entire world. That Christmas they gifted me a Playstation, along with FF7 and FF8. My FF7 had the green “Greatest Hits” bar on the spine and my FF8 had the classic black bar. I yanked the Playstation from it’s cardboard womb, and freed my Final Fantasy games from their saran-wrapped shields.

Liberi Fatali.

I was fucking ready.

Griever Tattoo
Photo Credit: Awestone, January 2012