The Ignition of My Passion for Storytelling

I can pluck it from one event in my life. Certain memories of mine stand solidly in my mind while in other cases, I can’t remember much from a span of years. In one of those gaps, third grade, one of the hardest years of my academic and personal life, my grades slipped. Not drastically, I still had A’s and B’s, but for one solid year I got consistent, heavy C’s in English.

I can’t remember if English was my favorite subject or not at that point, it was probably art, but I do remember one specific project. We were tasked with recounting a time in our life and retelling it as a short story. We used odd yellow paper that was larger than the usual size and had an uncomfortable texture to it without being flat. The lead hardly showed up on it unless the tip was ready to carve through the page.

I wrote about the most recent Thanksgiving and considering it was the first after my parents divorced, it was just my mom and me. She was making the turkey and getting the table ready when our dogs, allured by the scent of savory meat, were crowding her feet. I can’t remember if our one dog, Buddy, an old Yorkshire Terrier, had passed away at the time, as I remember he passed away in third grade as well. Either way, she fed the dogs as I likely stood uselessly waiting for food. Maybe I was good and set the table, something that was a simple task for me to do just for two.

After dinner when she was cleaning up, she happened to come across a miscellaneous dripping of sauce on the counter. She wiped it up with her finger and popped it in her mouth. What she thought had been turkey juice or gravy was actually juice from the dog food. Her face twisted in bitter disgust and I remember us both laughing at the grievous error. Check that off the “never have I ever” list.

The moment, although brief and enough to gain a small laugh and carry on, meant everything to me in a time where it was hard to smile. Besides the divorce, my best friend had moved away that year as well, and I my little world had shaken so hard it knocked me down for a bit. Although most people at first glance likely wouldn’t suspect that sort of depth from a third grader who still can’t use proper grammar and spell common words correctly. (I still suck with grammar; I wish I could remember the years we actively studied it.)

My teacher didn’t find the story entertaining either, and wrote something to the effect of “this isn’t funny” or “this isn’t interesting.” To her defense, it was likely neither to an adult, especially a teacher reading about thirty of those papers. However, as a child, I took great offense. I believed it to be funny, and if she couldn’t see that— well, I’d just have to write more and get better to prove I could write a good story.

In third grade, I was still playing pretend at recess with the friends I had left, and when that friend group disintegrated around fifth grade, I started writing my ideas of worlds and villains instead of acting them out. Although I moved them onto a backup drive to save space, I wrote a little more than a hundred stories. I hardly finished any of them, but I had so many ideas I wanted to write I just had to get them down somewhere. It wasn’t until sixth grade when I finally wrote a “book” (about 30 pages in size 18 font) that had a narrative arc to it. The rewritten version of this book was the first I ever finished at about 260 pages. I planned four books for the series but only ever had three of the books on a “first draft” basis (all less than 30 pages, if I’m honest).

I’ll never forget what it felt like to finish writing that book. I realized that I actually could. The first hurdle I needed to jump through to become a writer I had vaulted over: I could complete a manuscript. Of course, it took years and shows the clear progression of improvement as it goes on and thus needs many more drafts, but I had done it.

I still have that paper. The decaying pages from almost a decade ago. It sits in a bin at my mom’s house, I think inside of a plastic bag for some form of preservation. (When I return to my Mom’s house I’ll take a picture of it and attach it to this post.) It taught me how to take feedback. While I wasn’t pleased with it, I took it into consideration, and I went to work. It was one of the hardest lessons to learn, but an absolutely necessary one, and I’m glad I learned it early on. I am forever thankful to this teacher in particular, among many others that I couldn’t have grown without the aide of. She was the one that ignited the flame to my passion that’s glowing brighter with time.

Springing Papers from My Locker

Of all the habits I have that can vary between annoying and concerning, one of the most prominent is my need to hang onto paper materials. What do I mean by paper materials? I filled the bottom compartment of my locker with drawings, notes, academic papers, and pads of specialized paper that I’ll probably never use again. To top it off were a pile of tangled wire items like a router, backup drive, and a multiplug adapter. I’m moving into my own apartment in five weeks, and in a plight to avoid studying for my last final, I decided to clean out that locker and decide what I actually had to keep. Some Spring cleaning, even if it isn’t quite Spring yet.

I’m a Junior at an art college, and so I have more papers than I have ideas what to do with. I have empty lines of notebooks and empty pages sketchbooks sitting around waiting to be used. Those had a simpler solution than the rest; reuse. I’ll use a single notebook for a couple of different classes until it’s filled to near maximum capacity. A few pages leftover is fine. I have three in this state: A flowered journal from my English Composition class that was used as a journal for that class alone, not even taking up half the journal. A notebook with skulls and constellations from Urban Outfitters that I used in my Physical Science class that’s 60% full, but potentially able to be used for my Psychology class in the summer. I also have one more notebook that I have from my Fiction One class. It’s not even half-filled so that I’ll reuse as well.

The next token category of paper goods were academic sheets and essays. I apparently enjoy hoarding syllabi along with assignment sheets that I’ll never need now that the class is over. Because many of the academic sheets were from my Poetry and Fiction One class, I decided to recycle almost all of them. I have my files on my computer, except the one project that I accidentally saved over. I kept the paper version of that. As much as I love assignment sheets that give details and guidelines about what we’re supposed to do, they take up a ton of unneeded space.

The largest category of wasted space were papers for one specific class: my horrid Basics of Animation class. Apparently the “basics of animation” includes drawing like cavepeople on the old sheet by sheet animation, taking overhead pictures, and uploading them to the computer. I’d say 75% of my waste was from this category. Each sheet was about 1/12th of a second of animation. How many trees died so I could realize I didn’t want to be an animator? Rest in pieces, along with my one dream of being an animator. Maybe in another life.

The sheets for these two animations made it into the save pile.

So what did I keep? Besides the items with more space in them, I kept a few things I still enjoy. One prototype of a final project I can’t seem to locate, and some extras from the collage background of that project. Two papers: one analytical paper I was proud of about comparing two different art pieces, and another paper on a local Savannah artist that we were told we be put in the city archives but I’m unsure. The aforementioned Poetry project that I messed the original file up to. Two animations from the basics of animation class: One of my furious fairy character doing a head turn with some concept art, and one of my final flour sack project with concept art for that as well. And finally, a couple of scattered pictures I drew for various assignments that made me smile.

When I was done, I realized I had forgotten to take a picture of the before status of the locker, but here’s the aftermath.

I feel like many artists, I get attached to my work a little too much. I hold onto it for too long when it likely will serve no purpose later. I don’t need forty sheets of a ball bouncing across the pages of what is now my minor. As much as I love keeping any random sheet that may inspire me in the future, I do know when enough is enough. And now that I’m moving, I finally had a reason to decide what doesn’t need to travel with me… and a reason to procrastinate studying for a final essay.

Reflections on Sleep Paralysis

I have experienced such a diversity of dreams, dream patterns, and dream states to the point where I’m not sure there’s anything I haven’t experienced yet. I’ve had all sorts of regularly vivid dreams, lucid dreams, oddly conscious yet seeming otherworldly dreams… and I have also have had two episodes of sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis, if you don’t know, is being conscious but being unable to move when you’re emerging from sleep. It can last for minutes or seconds. Thankfully, mine have only been at most half of a minute long. Through desensitization via horror movies, what would be nightmares for most are often complacent dreams that I use for inspiration for my stories. However, in these two cases, the stories became my paralysis.

The first experience I had was when I was in my senior year of high school. I woke up on my back with my arms by my sides, unable to move. I never sleep like that: it’s almost always on my right side, sometimes my left. In the dark of the room with the hallway light leaking in, I could feel, and see, my covers moving as something small crawled up my legs until its face peered out from under the covers. It was all black, and it looked like a demon crossbred with a Gremlin, without the fur. It had beady little black eyes that had some of the light reflecting off of them. It smiled, revealing pin-like teeth. It sat on my chest and stared me down.

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Here’s what it looked like, a rough-sketch at least. Sort of cute if I wasn’t seeing a hyper-realistic version of it inches from my face.

It was that moment I knew I was experiencing sleep paralysis: that entire display was my biggest irrational fear. For some unknown reason since I was young, I feared a gnome-like creature crawling up from my feet at the end of the bed and over me if I slept on my back. It would’ve left me open for their attack or anything they wanted. I knew, in that moment, there was nothing I could do, because I couldn’t move. I stared it down. I wasn’t scared. I know, that sounds a bit pretentious, but I was more intrigued than anything else. I held its eye contact for the next couple of seconds before I fell back asleep. My fear response is usually intrigue, which I feel like puts me in the role of the dumb protagonist that investigates the clattering sound from the kitchen in the middle of the night.

The other time I had a sleep paralysis episode was last year, my second year of college. I had woken up on my back again, this time with my body pressed against the wall. It was some random time in the morning where the sun was up. Despite the fact I had my poster up next to me, I was able to see a gnarly silhouette of a face that I can only describe as a cross between Scrooge and the Night King. It was close to my face, and despite being two dimensional, I could guess the texture of its face. It opened its jaws and with a bony finger —of which I’m not sure where it came from— it pointed at me and said, “I’ll find you soon.” This was the only auditory part of the sleep paralysis events I’ve had. This episode was enough to scare me; the vague threat was what did it.

This creature was also reminiscent of something from my childhood. While I have no pictures of it, it was almost identical to this villain my friends and I created for our playing pretend games in elementary school. He could manipulate shadows and travel by sinking into the ground into a shadow and slinking around on the ground and walls. He could also possess you that way, according to our lure. I hadn’t thought of him in years.

I find it interesting that my brain dug into my childhood in order to try to instill fear in me. I can’t even remember how far the gnome thing goes back. I’ve gotten so many more fears since childhood —isn’t that a part of growing up?— and more raw, grisly ones. Yet it didn’t choose to put an alien trying to dissect me or some demonic rapist, it chose things that’ve been around for longer than my present self has.

I guess it chose to do something more intimate, something closer to me. I suppose in this case, my biggest fear would be my own brain. I wonder how it’d choose to portray that. And how I could make a story out of it. If I have to suffer from the condition another time, I may as well make it just as useful and productive as the rest of my sleeping habits.

The Seeds of Storytelling

When I was little I wanted to do many things. This lead to some interesting choices in ‘career day’ presentations throughout my elementary school career. I only remember presenting about becoming a veterinarian and another about becoming a fashion designer. Barbie could be everything; why couldn’t I? Looking back, I recognize that all along the different elements of my passions were present throughout my childhood in different forms. I even recognized an additional form recently.

We didn’t have quite the powerful feminist campaigning back in the late 90’s and 2000’s, I still remember the jingle saying, “Be who you wanna be, Barbie Girl.” That alone was inspiring.

I was fortunate enough to have a basket of Barbies, complete with their own 3 story, four foot Barbie house. The thing was taller than me for the majority of my time owning it. At some point with a box and some creative direction thanks to my Mom, we even made a school for all the Kelly dolls to go to. I wish I had pictures: it was incredible. I was an only child, so I had a lot of time to myself and spent much of it playing with my Barbies (and Bratz, but I had more Barbies). I could play for hours just with my Barbies and creating different stories and worlds to explore with them.

I vividly remember playing with Barbies with my best friend and the entire plots we’d come up with. There was one series of play sessions I remember where there were warring vampire factions that got so intense my best friend wound up ripping one of the dolls’s heads off. There were also a series of play sessions that focused on the differences of economic statures between the rich and the poor, somehow inspired by the movie Anastasia. (That much I remember clearly.)

As I got older, the story became that of playing pretend in the playground. We’d have intense play sessions there, too. Most of those play sessions were using existing characters and storylines from shows we loved, but we still would add our own twists. I remember one time where my best friend was possessed by Devimon and in order to save her we were going to have to kill her to free her from his possession. Explaining that to a recess aid who thought I was going to literally kill her is something I’ll never forget.

He was nasty though, like seriously. Poor T.K. and Patamon.

I already was crossing into roleplay territory with those games, however when I got to middle school I began to chat with my friends on AIM for roleplaying. It wasn’t so cool to be running around pretending anymore. By that time I had already started to try to write stories on my own. I still have ancient files from sixth grade of old stories I had started and never finished. Roleplaying on a chat messenger was approximately 50% of my life from the ages of 13-15. For a science project during this time we had to measure how much time we spent doing certain things in a day. I can’t remember what it was for, but I remember the outcome was that I spent 36 hours a week on the computer. And when I was on the computer I was always roleplaying. And that was before I spent every free moment roleplaying. It only stopped when our friendships faded.

More recently, I recognized that my pursuit of art and animation was to support storytelling. My art was either scenes, or character designs for different stories and universes. This recognition lead me to realize why I could never have a job in animation: I want to create my own stories, not work off of someone else’s. I’d even argue my art now continues to further my stories in one way or another. It’s rare for me to do an art piece for the sake of doing an art piece.

I fondly remember these moments from my childhood while reflecting on the evolution of my creative process. It reminds me of how far I’ve come in just 21 years of life and the possibilities of growth in the future.

Why I’d Never Reside in Savannah

Savannah is like the gorgeous ex of yours whose appearance makes you think they’re the best human being in body and mind until you realize at some point they were just gaslighting you to use you in one way or another. I almost wish I never even went to college in Savannah in the first place. In our orientation, one of the police officers who was giving us the safety talk described Savannah like Main Street in Magic Kingdom; it’s “gorgeous,” and it distracts you from the real dangers around. If someone told me I could sit on my ass for the rest of my life and get paid to live in a large mansion with servants to do all the chores and feed me cookie dough while lounging like some kind of Greek God, I would probably set them and the money on fire.

The “exotic” Spanish moss is only so beautiful until the branch falls from the weight and you have to dodge a clump of it that contains little bugs locally called jitters. Once when we were in Forsyth Park for a drawing project I watched a branch fall off and smash into the ground next to a kid. If he had decided to move a foot over earlier in the session he could’ve been clubbed in the head from it. It’s not technically an invasive species, but it was an imported one, ironically not from Spain despite its namesake.

The architecture in downtown Savannah attends to the image that the city likes to show you; beautiful and cultured varying architecture styles varying between Georgian to Victorian, and Federal to Gothic. If you look hard enough, you may even find a few Mid-Century Modern buildings. What they don’t show you –for which the city is specifically designed– is if you venture down a small side street you could find yourself getting shot at or mugged, something which happens oddly frequently to the naive students of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). I think it was last year a kid fought off someone with a toolbox.

Returning to the same adventure of watching a kid nearly get knocked out by a branch, we had earlier watched two clearly homeless people fight over a bike. Their argument became a screaming match, and at that point we began to cautiously glance back because it’s hard to draw a fountain when you’re wondering how it’s going to escalate. Eventually —if I remember correctly— a cop came out of nowhere to settle the dispute. Later a homeless man who clearly had soiled his pants tried to record our class and post it to his facebook account with his phone he had. Thankfully, with this incident our teacher actually recognized it was happening and asked him to leave. This demonstrates a rather large problem Savannah has, along with the main problem I have with Savannah: the treatment of the homeless.

Might get mugged but hey, at least there’s a pretty fountain.

While the city has its projects, many people slip through the cracks of the system and you can see them walking around the city in highly populated areas. In my entire time of living in Savannah, I have been catcalled and harassed by more homeless people than any other type of person anywhere else in the world. The other day a homeless man went out of his way to run my foot over with his bike while I had been sitting on a bench waiting for the school’s supposedly safe transportation system. I can’t even go to a public library next to one of our academic buildings to check out a book for class without dodging a homeless man clearly masturbating in the stairway. Near the one set of dorms there used to be a colony of tents where the homeless would camp out just outside the fence. From what I’ve seen, Savannah does little to nothing in order to help get these unfortunate individuals off the streets and indoors. This is dangerous for everyone in the city, especially the homeless, considering many of the ones appear to have mental health issues.

On a lighter note, the weather is often disgustingly humid for the majority of the year. There’s no way around it. Think you’re going to flat-iron your hair? Think again. Nothing you can do will save your hair from the humidity. The only time Savannah isn’t trying to actively wreck your hair with humidity is the winter. And if you think humidity’s bad, just wait until summer arrives where God tries to drown the whole sinning city with floods and nonstop rain. The streets aren’t built for that kind of rain, and neither are the people driving in it. (Seriously. Savannah drivers are some of the worst in the states I’ve encountered so far. Not as bad as New Yorkers or Floridians, but just behind them.)

Highway 80 in October 2015, thanks to Climate Change and God’s damnation.

The roads of Savannah can switch lane at any moment. A left lane can become a turning lane. A right lane can become a turning lane. A middle lane can also sometimes become a turning lane if adjacent to another turning lane and another avenue to go straight. Many roads are one way, and often have little evidence of being so to the inexperienced. Where I grew up we didn’t have one way streets. Due to the city having many student drivers, traffic is insane and accidents are frequent. I refuse to drive unless I absolutely must. Usually that “must” is groceries.

On the day I’m adding the previous paragraph, I witnessed a wild car accident of the likes of Hollywood movies. I was standing at a street corner, ready to cross over to the block one of our dorms was on when a black sedan flew up the wrong lane and a large grey suv had cautiously started their way across the four-way. Thankfully the SUV stopped —and had been going so slow— that only their front left corner got clipped. The black car then spun around in a circle and immediately flew back down the lane it had arrived in. Immediately witnesses got out of their cars, along with the SUV people who appeared to be fine. I thought I heard someone say they got his license plate, someone else said they called the police, and someone else was telling the SUV people to stay in their car. Seeing that the situation was being handled, I did what I could in a timely fashion by making sure one of the college’s security guards was informed about it.

Savannah is like most populated cities, even though Savannah is a smaller one. My true issue with Savannah is that it tries to sell itself as a safe, southern quirky town to trap tourists for their money. My college does that just as well —seeing as Savannah depends on the money it brings the city— but that’s another post for once I graduate. The deception is what sickens me. What makes me detest the city. Any city is probably shitty, but Savannah puts on a mask of Bugs Bunny where if it were being truthful, it’d be wearing a Donnie Darko one.

           

Or perhaps like the bunny from one of the freakiest episodes of the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.

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This thing haunted me for years.

“Who Is Your Hero?”

I’ve been on YouTube longer than almost the history of my entire public school education. I remember the days where I would await whatever FRED video would be posted. The days where cats playing pianos were just the start of talent —before keyboard cat. Where the Numa Numa guy was cool and not a meme yet, not that we had memes back then. I mean, I would find just about anything cool when I was like 10 years old on the internet. Thankfully I was sensible enough to find Shane Dawson’s occasionally racist skit videos distasteful. (Along with Onision’s content, who has somehow remained unabashedly negative? Come on, dude. It’s 2018.)

In my Foundations of Story class, we were asked to think of our personal hero. A hero, for the introduction assignment, was defined as “a figure in any medium whose exploits and life demonstrate admirable skill or exceptional persistence.” I could’ve chosen my parents or any celebrity figure or fictional hero. It took me a long time to think of different people who were inspiring to me that I would consider a hero. For some reason, I couldn’t stop thinking about different YouTubers and debating with myself over which one to choose until I looked at the back of my phone to find Shane Dawson’s Illuminati popsocket. It was then I realized that Shane was my hero, duh. Which definitely sounds confusing based upon the last paragraph: let me elaborate.

I started really watching YouTube videos —albeit somewhat addictively— around 2015, and I know this because I switched from a cringy old channel to a newer one. I’m fairly certain I rediscovered Shane through collabs with Joey Graceffa. I remember being surprised, considering my last memory (at the time) of Shane was him being painfully obnoxious and extra in ways that made me uncomfortable. For Joey to do a collab with him was unexpected, but it made me reconsider watching Shane if someone as #familyfriendly as Joey was including him on his channel. Shane’s channel had changed significantly, and so I resubscribed.

It’s been almost three years now that I’ve been following him again, and wow. He’s changed a ton. Instead of creating the problematic content from the late 2000’s, now Shane is producing high quality content on a near daily basis about things he is genuinely interested in. You can tell when someone’s enjoying themselves, and you can tell he’s passionate about his content nowadays. I respect and am inspired by the dedication it takes to produce multiple great videos every week that often require loads of research (for the conspiracy videos especially) or even coordinating schedules with other people on a basic level. I tried coordinating schedules once and you know what happened? Nothing.

In addition, Shane has been wildly open about his own personal struggles. Of course, being a well-known figure on the internet is going to lead to your life being less private than the average person, but Shane has spoken out his own issues —whether it be on YouTube or his books I Hate MySelfie and It Gets Worse— concerning eating disorders, his sexuality, and other personal information like his relationships. It takes a lot of personal strength to come to terms with your personal struggles, and a monumental amount to talk about them online for millions of viewers to see. I value that and aspire to be that certain and honest to not only others, but myself especially as well.

In the past few months, Shane has also featured other smaller content creators and given them a platform to support their talent endeavors and promote them to his own audience. A few people from Fiverr including Antonia Marquee and Jesus Christ. Then there’s also the Psychic Twins, Terry and Linda Jamison who already had a following via other resources but were able to establish themselves on YouTube to his help. He also boosted a vastly talented young singer/songwriter by the name of Sophie Pecora. In some of his videos he also hires a child actor by the name of Christopher to act as a son as a joke for a fake family as a sort of test run for the real deal. Both the latter two children had their families around during the filming and spoke highly of Shane’s professionalism.

When I went to share with my class who my hero was, the day before a very quickly debunked accusation was spread about Shane (which stemmed from a chopped up, out of context audio piece of a shitty joke he had made during his offensive years). I almost changed my answer to the prompt due to the fear of what people would think who had only followed media headlines instead of investigating to find the truth themselves. I worried they would think I supported someone who wasn’t a good person. I recoiled from that selfish thought once it arose and I couldn’t even imagine how I would feel if I was accused of such things, nonetheless how Shane must’ve felt.

I went into class the next day and still declared him my hero, because he truly is and it would be wrong to say he wasn’t. I doubt Shane will ever see this, but he inspires me to be my truest self and strive for the best in others and my own work. If I had alcohol, I’d raise him a glass. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I do not. So, thanks Shane! 😁

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2018 Goals

Last year I separated my goals into more topical categories, but I was inspired by seeing many bullet journal spreads organizing them by frequency that I decided it would be a potentially more effective way than before. It’ll be harder to achieve the once a week goals, but I look forward to the challenge!

For my weekly goals, perhaps the toughest of all, I want to keep up with three things: go to the gym once a week, make a blog post once a week, and upload one YouTube video once a week. The gym goal will probably be the hardest to achieve. My current student dorm is the second furthest from either of the gyms, but one of the buses I would have to take to get back to my dorm stops by it. I’m not athletic by any means, and because my dorm’s so far from the walkable area of town, I don’t get any exercise anymore. I would theoretically by okay with just half an hour at least once a week. I also would like to make a blog post once a week along with a YouTube video once a week. These two I’m more accustomed to completing on my own. This blog I usually update once a week, and I’ve been getting more persistent with YouTube. I made an entire list of video ideas to get started on as well!

For my monthly goals, they seem rather relaxed but with those intense weekly goals I want to be able to complete them on a regular basis. I want to read at least one book a month in my free time, and not for school. This upcoming semester alone I have eight books to read, and I don’t want to include them. I got a lot of books for Christmas this year, and I look forward to reading them all! I miss leisure reading. Besides reading, I want to submit to two publications each month and have something polished to go out to them. The only non-literature based goal is to hang out with my friends outside of class at least once a month. Usually I become a hermit and rarely leave the dorm except for class but I want to work on being more social and developing the friendships I currently have because I’ve met some great people in the past year or so.

For my major goals for the year, I’ve got a handful of writing goals. Last year I completed my goal of finishing three books, so I was trying to think of how to challenge myself this year, considering I had originally never imagined finishing even two. So this year, I want to finish writing the first drafts of two books, write one feature film, write two pilot episodes to different series, and finally, have my one book from last year ready to send out to agents. The way I’m planning it is having a third draft, fourth draft, sending it out to beta readers and getting their responses, editing a fifth draft accordingly, and then a sixth draft to polish it off.

I’m not entirely sure which task will be the hardest, but it’s a tie between having a polished book and going to the gym once a week. The only days I’ll accept as a gym day, if I’m not at the gym, is if I did at least 30 minutes of walking in an activity like shopping around somewhere or walking a distance like to get to my café. (My cafe takes almost half an hour to get to from the bus stop. The walk back as well would make it count.)

I have a lot of goals this year, and honestly, I’m not entirely sure if I’ll be able to complete them all. But if I manage to do at least three quarters of them I’ll be satisfied with myself and call it a productive year. Happy 2018!

An Ode to Aim

Two days ago, AOL announced that it will be discontinuing the use of their chat client, AIM, on December 15th, 2017. The service has been active since 1997, and allowed users to communicate across the internet allowing them to not only talk, but send pictures, videos, emoticons, and files to each other. While I didn’t use it in 1997, I began to use it in what was about fifth grade until eleventh grade, and at my peak of its usage, I was on almost every free moment for three years straight. In fact, in one of my science classes the year I began excessively using it I measured how much time I used on the computer per week, and learned I spent 36 hours a week on the computer, along with AIM. It became my life.

I remember the importance of having the right set of emoticons to express yourself with; you could choose from lists of different animals or styles. I chose a panda, so whenever I’d post a 🙂 or 😀 an encouraging albeit slightly haunting panda would appear. The worst were when you accidentally had an odd semicolon or question mark and the panda would accidentally form. In addition, every time I received a message, a butchered audio clip of the beginning piano part of What I’ve Done by LINKIN PARK played. I grew attached to these choices, and they grew on me as the chat client progressed.

(These were low-key terrifying in small form. The one with a grin we called Face because we referred to it as “what’s-it’s-face” whenever it accidentally appeared in chat format. Sometimes we would branch off and roleplay with it to the point I made it into a weird character that could never die. I don’t know why.)

My one friend encouraged me to get it because she didn’t want to get charged on her phone for all the text messages we’d use. My friendship with her ended within that year, and I went dormant for awhile. That is, until I met a friend at the beach the summer of sixth grade going into seventh grade. We got along great and exchanged usernames to speak with each other again. She introduced me to the greatness that roleplaying was, and it was like a drug. For the next year we role-played for hours on end, often staying up until the sun came up to sleep the day away. We were nerds, so we didn’t really go outside much anyways. Despite how close we are, we eventually drifted apart.

Then came the next generation of its use with more friends. We had a role-play group where we would go back and forth for hours, sometimes holding three at once. One on the group chat, and then two others with each other separately. We became skilled at typing quickly and creating detailed, spontaneous characters and plot creation. It was fast paced, creative multi-tasking at its finest. I managed to get my best friend onto the app, and we finally had a way to talk instantaneously. Her other friend joined as well, and the three of us had our own little group. I wound up talking to her friend more than her at one point, and him and I became great friends. We all gathered up one day and had an adventure at the movie theater. Despite my closeness with all of these people, we all drifted apart as time went on. (Except with my best friend; we’re still the same.)

By the end of my usage, I had accumulated a collection of groups (usually made of the same 5 friends but with different combinations) with classic names that only thirteen year-olds could’ve come up with. Kukuku, NellandmecauseEmishere, gnarshlop, hellohellobabyyouIMDme, BREWHAHA, BAHUMBUG, BTT, BCC, and last but not least, Anna’s mobile! GASP. Our usernames were even more cringe-inducing, although I will not share those for the sake of my old friends. I may not speak to any of them anymore, but I respect their privacy to their awful usernames just as I hide my own.

AIM allowed me to spend a solid chunk of my life connecting with my friends and getting to know some new ones. Without it, I would’ve never had such great times and I would be stunted as not only a writer, but as a person too. I’ve learned a lot of personal lessons about the aspect of written communication, and while some are painful, they are all valuable to me. I grew up with AIM. It was there for me to use in Elementary, Middle, and High School, which is longer than all but one of those friendships. And so, I say with a nostalgically heavy heart, goodbye, AIM. Thanks for the memories.

(It felt almost damning to not make another reference to my childhood, haha.)

King Challenge 2017 – Results!

This July, I challenged myself to write 6 pages a day, every day for the month of July. (In a previous post, I talked about being inspired to do this from watching a video where George R.R. Martin and Stephen King had a chat.) Originally I had a mini-vacation planned that I was going to exempt from my challenge, but eventually my plans fell apart so I wound up not going anywhere. Therefore, I wrote during those days as well. My second goal of this challenge was to finish writing a book of mine that I started last year. Let’s see how I did.

 

I succeeded! In retrospect, I shouldn’t have had too many issues with succeeding due to my limited amount of plans; the majority of the days were free and I was alone in my cabin with my only distractions being the ones I created for myself. A couple of the weekends I traveled back to visit nearby family, and the travel time was usually around 3 hours, so that took significant chunks out of the day.

There were two days (July 6th, July 22nd) I almost couldn’t get to my goal. The sixth was the day before the vacation when I wound up being mentally overloaded so I called it off, and the twenty-second was my sister’s belated birthday party. Considering the house had over 100 people in it throughout the day, and the fact that for the better part of 3 weeks I had little face to face contact with other people, it was pretty draining.

Both of those days, along with one or two more, I didn’t work on my book. I didn’t want to write such an important first draft with little to no energy, and so I worked on some short stories or scenes for other stories/books. I’m always juggling projects, so it’s not like it’s not helping in any way.

In total, I wrote about 447.5 pages in that month, along with 122,424 words. When I picked up writing my book, I had been at around page 75. In total, my book wound up having 256 pages. So that means I wrote about 181 pages during the month towards it. Less than half of what I wrote that month went towards the book. I found that pretty ironic, considering that finishing the book was my entire goal for doing this self-imposed challenge. When I go through my files from the past month, a lot of them are from the warm-ups or other books I worked on. (I remember on Monday the 3rd I came up with a new book idea and worked almost exclusively on that. My brain seems to never stop, even when I want to sit down and focus on something.)

My writing habits usually are to write in the midday, but during the month I found myself writing fairly late into the night/early morning. There were many days where I’d be deliriously blasting 80’s horror movie music while bopping around and writing. It was great. My sleeping schedule wasn’t as great, but I had nothing too significant to do in a strict, timely manner so it all worked out. Every day I wrote for at least an hour, and near the end I started writing for about an hour and a half to two hours. Usually I can accomplish six pages in an hour.

I also decided to try a sub-challenge as I went on; I later learned Camp NaNoWriMo was occurring, and looked up the general suggestions and rules for it. Because I was aiming for adding around 40k to my book, I felt it would be wrong to put all of my book in the box that you copy in. Therefore, I decided to try to do their suggested ~1,666 words a day. There were two days I didn’t manage to hit that goal, but the others made up for it. For my book, I wound up adding 51,989 words to my book for it to total 72,786. If you’re curious how I kept track of all the numbers, I tried out the 5KWPH app throughout the month to keep track of my writing sprints. I’m going to make a post about my experience with that soon, because through that I learned a lot as well.

So overall, my findings for my experiment were about what I expected, but it’s really cool to see the numbers behind my productivity. I wish I kept track of how much I wrote during January and February when I finished two books I’d been working on for years; it would’ve been wild to see the amount of words I wrote per day then! This experiment also tells me that I can most likely complete NaNoWriMo. It’ll be harder to accomplish from school being in session, but I’m sure I’ll find my way to succeeding with that as well.

I encourage anyone to try this out and see what your results are. It’s an interesting labor of love for writing and experiment to be able to see what you can accomplish. In my case, it wound up being rather encouraging, and I hope it is for you too!

Why I Appreciate 13 Reasons Why

As someone who once considered suicide, I appreciate this show. Don’t confuse this as a defense of the show and certain parts of its content; I’m not going to take a moral stance of whether this show is something simple as good or bad. I will, however, get rather personal with why I appreciated it, so that you can see where I’m coming from. I don’t feel sympathy/empathy easily, so I apologize in advance if anything I go on to say is a bit harsh. I am just as harsh with myself as I am with my commentary.

Almost everything that fictional Hannah Baker dealt with I experienced in real life, and for that I relate to her immensely. The various forms of bullying for various reasons, and friends you think you can trust throwing you under the metaphorical bus of abandonment are just some of the things I also dealt with. Hell, to top it off I worked as a concessionist at a movie theater too. The customers there can be just as bad as high schoolers, but I digress.

I’ve seen some people get upset about suicide being depicted as a method of revenge. This isn’t an average depiction of suicide in media, and people seem to hate what it proposes. On the other hand, I don’t hate it. When I was considering suicide, one of the reasons I wanted to was purely out of spite for the people who made me want to die in the first place. Sure; they’d feel no regret if I was alive and called them out, but if I was dead? Maybe then they might feel something in their cold, vacant crevasses where hearts should be. I’m a creature of spite; my first grudge I ever began holding was in pre-kindergarten during nap time on the mat where some boy kicked me in the head. If I was going to leave this world I was going to leave it in the fashion I lived it, which brings me to my next reason.

Something people seem to forget about suicidal people is that they’re people. Say it with me: people who have mental health problems are people. People are complex beings and just because someone might want to kill themselves doesn’t inherently mean that they’re good people. It’s a selfish act and if someone’s doing it for revenge against others, that’s all the more selfish. I am a strong believer of calling people out, and whether they’re breathing or not doesn’t matter. If they weren’t respectable when they were alive, they still aren’t when they’re dead.

It’s important to show people as the flawed, multifaceted beings they are and to especially have representation of that in media so that we stop glorifying people and all of the actions they do. Hannah was selfish. Don’t erase that from her character. (The only other place where I’ve encountered this commentary is in the latter half of the song “Me Inside of Me” in the musical Heathers.) An old neighbor of mine died with heroin in her system and everyone painted her as a suicidal saint (despite there being no evidence linked to it being a suicide), completely ignoring the fact she was dating a heroin dealer and y’know, did something inherently stupid like doing heroin. I watch people glorify the dead in both fiction and reality, and I’m tired of it.

With that said, I appreciated that characters were developed to the point of becoming like real, living, breathing, flawed people. I binge-watched this series in the span of about two days, and when I went to discuss it with one of my friends, we found ourselves talking about the characters like they were legitimate people. While the show aims to spread awareness, it never made me feel like it was doing anything pointedly without narrative reason.

Even the fact nobody was trying to help Hannah while she was alive made sense. In the real world, sometimes people don’t want to help. People don’t always care. If I had a dollar for every unhelpful exchange with an employee of the schools (especially the counselors) or friends I had, I would’ve had enough money to produce this show myself. At one point I openly sobbed at a lunch table for the first time in front of all of my friends and they all just carried on as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening. Not everyone will care, and not everyone will help. There’s not always support around people and I feel like that’s deceptive to assert that there is.

This show is up front with its sensitive subjects, and I appreciate that most of all. There’s no shying away from anything to try to fluff up the horrible reality of the situation or cascade it as anything good. It’s intense, it’s abrupt, and it’s not for everyone. I don’t entirely see where people come from when they say it promotes suicide. Hannah died and her rapist walked free. He didn’t feel remorse. Some of the other kids might’ve felt remorse, but many of them didn’t, or at least, didn’t to the level she probably wanted from them. She emotionally wrecked her parents (not to mention also financially) and her only semi-legitimate friend that all cared for her on some level. How is that encouraging? End your pain to transfer it to the people who actually cared for you? That just doesn’t make sense.

However, it doesn’t need to make sense. If I had seen this during the time where I was suicidal, I might’ve done it. I remember trying to come up with a way to insure that justice would be delivered when I wasn’t there to deliver it. One of the few reasons why I didn’t was because I knew there was a chance of it not happening. I have a feeling I still might’ve thought something like: Well, it didn’t work out for Hannah, but it might work for me.

That thought alone terrifies me. This show isn’t for everyone, and it certainly won’t change any behavior of the kids who are bullying and it definitely shouldn’t be viewed by anyone who’s mentally/emotionally compromised. The true people who should be watching this show are the neglectful adults that stand by and do nothing to stop any part of the harmful cycles that kids like Hannah Baker got looped into. Maybe then it can shock them into action for caring about the children they impact.

After watching this show, I was launched back towards the depressive mental state I managed to free myself from. I knew it would happen, and it’s half the reason I watched the show. I write methodically, and it really helped me with a couple of chapters in one book I was writing. I know myself well enough to know that I won’t completely slip back to where I was, and I can still separate fiction from reality whilst still being productive. (I do not recommend this for anyone who doesn’t know themselves and how they react to things that well. It’s taken years of self-observing to figure out how my head generally tends to work.)

I think it’s important to remind everyone that people possess this wonderful thing called free will, and if you can’t handle a show with touchy subjects, you should probably avoid it. Nobody’s forcing you to watch it. If people want to blame the show for people copying what’s depicted, it’s quite ignorant to ignore the fact that the signs were most likely all there before the show/book was viewed. If you’re old enough to be caring for yourself, you should know what things trigger you and what you should avoid. For a show about a girl killing herself, there’s definitely enough foresight to find more extensive warnings online if you’re sensitive to the topic or other potential topics that might be covered.

This show isn’t something that I’d consider particularly good nor bad. It’s just modern depictions of raw, human suffering and the terrible things people –children, even— do to each other. Whatever you want to call that or morally dub that is up to you. I’m just appreciative that this was represented in a truly unfiltered, unflinching form.