What were you doing 22 years ago?

A lot can change in a couple of years, let alone a couple of decades. In one case, one kid finally achieved the dream he’s been working towards since 1997.

Yup: Ash Ketchum is finally a Pokémon League Champion.

If you haven’t seen the Pokémon anime for a while, this is what a 10-year-old looks like after 22 years of not aging. (Picture: The Pokémon Company)

After years of failure, the hero of the long-running Pokémon animated series won the Alola League last week, and fans around the world are celebrating with him.

“22 years, seven tournaments, and no giving up,” said one commenter on Weibo. “He did it. Everyone cry 😭”

Through more than a thousand episodes, Ash fell short time and time and time again. Despite the fact that each defeat was probably paired with some sort of important lesson about the power of friendship or love or being nice to others or something like that, no amount of feel-good nonsense can compare to actually winning.

And that has inspired others to know that they can also achieve their dreams. Well, one day, anyway.

“Even Ash won the championship,” reads another comment. “I too will make it to graduate school this year.”

Naturally, this being social media, others have a more cynical take on affairs -- that Ash’s triumph doesn’t necessarily mean he’s become a better Pokémon trainer.

As one commenter put it: “This story tells us: If you persist for long enough, you’ll always encounter the weakest batch of opponents.”

It should come as no surprise that there’s plenty of chatter on Chinese social media about this momentous (and unexpected) victory. Pokémon is one of the world’s biggest entertainment franchises, with a keen following in China. Many of the recent games now come with Chinese language support, and Tencent is even working on an official Pokémon game.

Here’s Ash and Pikachu from the very first episode, which aired in Japan on April 1, 1997. Do you feel old yet? (Picture: The Pokémon Company)

If you grew up with Pokémon years ago and this story makes you feel old, well, you’re not alone. Many are talking about how much they’ve achieved in the time it’s taken Ash to reach his goal.

“I’ve gone from being a grade 2 kid to a first-year graduate student,” said one commenter.

But reach the goal he did. After 22 years, Ash can finally claim to be “the very best, like no one ever was.” And, despite being a contrived fictional event that occurred not due to an actual human achievement but rather the whims of a bunch of screenwriters, there’s still something inspiring about it.

I can’t think of a better way to sum it up than this especially dramatic comment from Weibo.

“If you’re running into difficulties, feeling that people are against you, or even God doesn’t like you, remember Ash. Remember Pikachu. A 10-year-old kid who fought 22 years and became a champion. You too will survive and get what you want!!”