I remember getting into anime via my "gateways" when I was 14 - rushing home from school to watch Sailor Moon, Pokemon, Dragonball Z, and Gundam Wing on TV. I would go to sleepovers at my friend's house and we would have fansub marathons all night. Anime was pretty uncommon back then - not like now where you can watch it on Crunchyroll or Netflix, or buy entire series for $25 a pop. For most anime, ordering expensive VHS copies of fansubs was the only way to get it. I would scrape and save to buy Sailor Moon VHS movies (they released the legit ones in the US finally) which cost $25 or more each!
Any anime merchandise I could get my hands on was prominently displayed in my bedroom. My sister and I would always keep all the packaging to any toys or action figures - ANYTHING that had an anime picture on it had to be saved! When I got old enough for a part time job, I went to Suncoast every week to buy each new Evangelion DVD ($30) as they came out. My first anime convention was so special for me too. I couldn't believe the number of fans that were all gathered in one place and having a good time. Anime was a wonderful new thing for all of us fans (and there weren't many of us!) and we would do anything to try to get our hands on as much of it as we could.
I have watched anime turn from an underground hobby for a few nerds to a large market in the USA. Magazines have come and gone, and countless series, good and bad, have been brought over to the States. Fansubs and even regular subs are no longer the only way to watch anime. Even the overall quality of dubbing has greatly improved over time. I go to conventions now and see people my age (25), as well as younger fans who are just getting into anime. I look at them having fun and remember how much fun my first convention was. Myself and people I know are doing grown-up things - buying houses, getting real jobs, getting married, etc. My new philosophy is a "less-is-more" one - I would rather stream a mediocre series than have it take up precious shelf space. People, let's face it - our generation is growing up. I am proud of the way anime has grown and become more available, but I will always fondly remember its beginning.