She was beautiful: small and silver and shaped to fit perfectly into the palm of my hand. Not even the resentment I felt from being the Last Kid In The Universe To Adopt A Digital Pet could keep me from loving her, caring for her, devoting every minute of my day to keeping her happy, fed, and bathed. She was mine and she. Was. Everything.
Flash forward 16 years and she’s still beautiful, but now she lives (and dies) like most other peo-ple/conveniences/hobbies — inside an iPhone. To be clear, the Tamagotchi app is definitely not the Real Deal. It lacks the simplicity of the black and white screen, the shiny cool plastic, the keychain that conveniently hooks onto a super cool lanyard. You can’t run your fingers over the faux crack in the egg shell and you don’t feel a beeping-induced panic when she’s distressed. It’s not quite the same, but it’s close enough.
From the insatiable appetite, to the excessive shitting, to the infuriating necessity of losing every game in hopes of keeping her happy, adopting a Tamagotchi at the age of 25 serves as a lesson in patience and persistence (and maybe a little regret). At the end of the day, she might be just a collection of pixels created by some dudes in Japan, but what I’ve learned is as real as anything that exists in the digital age (as if Her hasn’t made that abundantly clear):
1. Relationships require a lot of time, consideration, and effort.
Even those between you and a tech deviceDon’t sign up for (or download) that shit unless you are ready to go all in.
2. Always respect someone who is able to ask for what they need.
And give it to them if you can. Be generous, but don’t forget you have limits too. Sometimes it’s okay to say, “I just can’t give you what you need,” and press the reset button.
3. Let the little things bring you joy.
Bored? Challenge someone to a stimulating game of rock paper scissors. Depressed? Stuff your face with a delicious piece of cake. Not every argument requires a grand gesture, not every moment needs a love letter.
4. No matter how much time you devote to nurturing her, how much of yourself you give, there’s still a good chance she’ll die.
Or at least leave you for another, more attentive owner. When the time comes, it’ll be hard, but you will survive and before you can say, “All Tamagotchis go to Heaven,” a brand new opportunity will hatch on your screen.
5. Don’t wallow in your own shit.
Clean up the messes you make. Nothing gets a Tamagotchi’s wheels spinning like sitting in its own fecal matter for a few hours. Don’t be a jerk to your digipet or to yourself: if things are going poorly, fix them. If shit is starting to stink, clean it up and light a scented candle.
6. You will be many different people in your lifetime.
Just like how a Tamagotchi matures and morphs into different versions of itself. These versions will not all be pretty, kind, or fun. Some will be annoying as fuck. Love them anyway and love yourself anyway.
7. There will come a point when you need to let her go.
When that moment comes, cut all ties immediately. Turn off the virtual lights, delete the app, hide any evidence she ever existed. Remember her fondly, but for the sake of your sanity, put the phone down and walk away as quickly as you can.
8. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for what makes you happy.
So I spend my free time nurturing an ugly one-dimensional creature. Who cares? If it brings you joy and isn’t hurting anyone, it can’t really be that bad. Just keep doing you and don’t make any apologies.
9. Everything in this world can teach you something about yourself, even a hard chunk of plastic and wires.
Use every relationship and subsequent challenge as an opportunity for growth — even if it’s just the struggle of waking up at 6 am to check if your Tamagotchi made it through the night (and wanting to chuck it at the wall when you discover a sad shell of your beloved with Xs for eyes).
10. Some things are better left alone.
Not every childhood relic needs to be resurrected with a colorful interface only to sit neglected on your home screen and remind you of what’s lost. Let memories and excessive nostalgia remain where they were intended to exist: in the past.