the best years

Childhood is often referred to as the leading candidate for Best Years of One’s Life, though a significant amount of us have different experiences. For better or worse, there are many things a person may get to explore as a kid that will not be accessible once adulthood is reached.

Perhaps the reverse is also true.

In adulthood, I feel that I have slightly more autonomy, even if there are still feelings of helplessness. Peeling off the layers of adulthood has been a challenging experience, and in my early thirties, and I am only just starting to suspect that I might have the hang of it.

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June 2016, the day before graduation. Seattle.

I have not updated this blog in over a year. In that year plus, the following events have occurred:

  • [Summer 2015] I worked two full-time jobs, and took on an independent study at my college.
  • [Fall 2015] The mobile game studio I’d been employed with for 4 years closed. After 9 years in the industry, I decided that would be my last job in games. I took the first part-time job I could find, with the goal of finishing college in mind.
  • [Winter 2015/16] I am granted early admission to my first choice university.
  • [Spring 2016] I graduate college.
  • [Summer 2016] I scramble like mad to ensure my place at the university.

During this time, I pushed myself to a great number of limits. A lot of them made me cry from a combination of exhaustion, frustration, and depression, but I managed to make it through. Full-time studies can be incredibly isolating, especially when living near the centre of a larger city.

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March 2016. Montreal. Photo by Marisa Parisella.

I have had to ask myself a few times why I pushed so hard. I came to a couple of conclusions:

  • I did not think I would live beyond age 30. When I turned 31 last summer, I arrived at what one might call an ‘oh shit’ moment. ‘Oh shit, I’m not dead after all. What do I do?’ I made some plans, and pledged to revisit my progress every so often, so long as I wasn’t dead.
  • I gained a bit more faith in myself and my abilities. I doubt this would have been possible without the support system I have in place, composed of chosen family and friends.

I turn 32 tomorrow. I tend to think about how things are going in life the most around birthdays, and each new year.

I am a late bloomer in several ways, so perhaps it makes sense that my thirty-first year felt like one of the best years of my life.

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July 2016. San Diego.

I learned incredible lessons on and off campus. Some days were hellish and unforgiving, but others were filled with laughter and gratitude. Overall, I found methods to keep myself motivated, and outlets in which to kvetch. It is my belief that in this life, both are very important.

If there’s any gift I could think to give to the childhood version of myself, it’s to keep working hard to make things better for the version of myself that remains, and for those I love, for as long as I can.

I’ve dwelled on it long enough, and I can finally say that it’s OK that I didn’t have a particularly fantastic childhood. The best years aren’t always on time.

on the diversity of black women

On Tuesday morning, I saw a striking image of Janelle Monáe (wiki) on For Harriet‘s Facebook page, promoting a new song of hers called ‘Yoga’. I wasn’t a huge fan of the song, but I found that image of her invaded my thoughts for a good chunk of the day.

In this image, Janelle stood against a kumquat-coloured wall, with her hair tied up, and her legs crossed. She wore a short black sport top with TOMBOY against it in bold, white lettering. She had hoop earrings on as well as a look that seemed to dare anyone to challenge her and be foolhardy enough to think they could win.

Tomboy. That word to me feels as though it gets most of its traction in whispers and private messages among trusted friends, and yet it was arguably the loudest element of the image. It took the breath out of me.

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It should perhaps come as no surprise that I find Black women incredibly powerful, intelligent, creative and autonomous. There are some out there in the world that I will carry love for my entire life. These are a few observations that I have made throughout my time on this planet. Even in times where I may not be able to see someone who resembles my colour out on the street, I can turn to the internet to see what’s on their minds.

It is difficult for me to recall a time when the internet wasn’t full of ire. There is much I pay attention to, especially when it comes to Black women, what their endeavours are, and how they are perceived by others.

It doesn’t look good: there is little to no wiggle room outside of expectations (sometimes developed by stereotypes), and commonly I see many transphobic, racist comments made about them should they strive to do a little living for themselves. They’re not allowed space for anger, anguish or much in the way of assembly without being considered suspicious. The assumption I see a great deal of is that women in general are supposed to be meek, feminine, and appealing to men — even via online comments in allegedly progressive communities!

Salt-N-Pepa.

I enjoyed growing up in the 90s, for the most part. I was exposed to a fair deal of music with Black women at the front, addressing issues of responsibility, sexual independence, and a general sense of women going out and doing their own thing. The songs were catchy, and carried important messages for me as a young lady. I was expressing myself very freely then as a tomboy, which I did not realise until later was rather a lucky thing.

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Missy Elliott by far was the most influential rapper of my teens. A talented writer and producer of many popular hip-hop / R&B tracks, Missy always appeared to have a heart of gold, and so much love for her fans, and artists that she was working with. Her videos have been amusing, bright and colourful, and quite often memorable.

Girls, girls / get that cash / if it’s 9 to 5 / or shakin’ your ass / ain’t no shame, ladies / do your thang / just make sure / you’re ahead of the game would often be sung with gusto whenever ‘Work It’ entered the song rotation in my library. Again, messages of women doing for themselves — at least, that’s how I saw it, in any case.

However, the late 90s is when it started: I began to notice the buzzing of judgments. Wouldn’t Missy be nice if she lost some weight? Wore a little something girly? I wondered why these images mattered more to the people talking about them than how incredible it was to observe a lady making it to the top and controlling her image.

Skin of Skunk Anansie (wiki). Not an R&B artist, but a remarkable musician nonetheless.

Don’t believe the judgments stop at music. This form of behaviour permeates virtually every form of media there is, as well as other fields. Serena Williams, a professional tennis player with several notable victories under her belt, is an example of a Black woman exceeding unexpectedly, and a receiver of various crap comments because her figure isn’t appealing to some straight men looking for eye candy in the tennis world. World class athletes are not exempt from this sort of harm, nor are those of different professions who brave the world as their authentic selves.

In adulthood, I have noticed that there’s loads of work to be done in checking one’s assumptions about what kind of person a Black woman might be, just based on her appearance. These are things battled with on a regular basis. This is absolutely a problem for feminine Black men as well as those who are of colour and fall outside of the binary; it’s almost as though the shaming is intended to magically change a person to suit another’s preferences somehow.

That is not how it works. Some harder conversations need to be taking place about the beauty in diversity among Black people (especially women), which should extend to remembering that each person has autonomy and is deserving of expressing it as they wish without the peanut gallery passing judgment without invitation, or inciting violence.

Respecting people who may differ from you is not a plea, and should not be treated as such. It is a demand.

actually, it’s about ethics in games

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This was a half-hour freewrite concerning the seemingly leaderless movement affecting women in games negatively today. I was outside waiting for a friend for drinks, needing to let some frustrating feelings out, and I just so happened to be reading some tweets about The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air at the time. Thus, the freewrite is a different take on that theme, which you can check out here.

After some observation, I don’t believe this movement is solely about ethics in games. There’s a wealth of pain supporting the idea of this being a way to shut women up, and I cannot get behind that.

I wish people didn’t feel these harmful comments and exposures of one’s personal life necessary, if their main goal is to force journalists, developers &c to operate with a bit more integrity. Fear tactics are being employed.

As usual, respect to those who feel the need to leave the games environment for their own safety / well-being. Respect to those who stay, even in the face of abuse.

 

this is a story
developing now;
games culture went
pearshaped somehow

I’d like to take a minute
to reflect on that;
how criticism puts
you in danger in zero time flat

in southern California
with guys and dames
PlayStation is where I played
most of my games

chillin’ out, maxin’,
relaxin’ all cool,
playin’ Parappa badly;
can’t pass driving school

years later there were guys
who were up to no good
starting with misogyny
and bein’ rude

I got just one little dox
as would be my fate
for criticizing video games
and opposing GamerGate

I called on some support
and when it came near
the women, they got doxxed
creating a culture of fear

if anything I could say
it’s sad times for dames
but they say, ‘nah, forget it;
it’s about ethics in games!’

we go on months like this
and I’m gettin’ irate
at the Anita hate
I yell, ‘leave, GamerGater!’

I looked at my kingdom,
looked at Vivian James,
how quickly I forgot
it’s about ethics in games

 

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Silly SJWs, right?

the end of games

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I wrote this with the past few weeks in games culture where women are concerned in mind. I suppose thinking about the last couple of days attending [convention name omitted], the culture and events surrounding it, and 4 hours of sleep likely helped this become a thing.

Respect to those who feel the need to leave the games environment for their own safety / well-being. Respect to those who stay, even in the face of abuse.

 

women in games,
y’know they have it rough
loving their work
seems never enough

you’ve got to get up, stand up
for their right to exist
making impact with your words
as your fist

knowing full well standing up may be
risking losing some credibility

but what is worth more in this industry
bonus points, or visibility?

we’ve got talent up to our nose
and as we highlight,
our community grows

if we can’t stand
being critical here
perhaps the end
is actually near

 

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From Portlandia. (Not my favourite show, but some lines ring true.)

the power of obligation

Last month, I was contacted by three people I would rather not have engaged with, but I did so anyway. Why?

 

An obligation, I suppose you could say. All three of these people were folks I’d had a habit of chatting with quite frequently and excitedly at some point in the past. At a later date, all three made me feel not OK in major ways for reasons that I’ll refrain from getting into detail here.

Somehow, I felt that I would or could make things worse by not saying anything in response to their contact, in case they didn’t understand why I didn’t want to be contacted (even though I communicated to each of them what was amiss). Our past interactions inspired me to respond, too.

 

 

There’s a sense of finality in breaking ties with people, whether it’s speaking to them less, or going your own way, online, offline or both. It can make things uncomfortable if you have friends in common, and/or frequent similar social circles. It can cast a shadow over anyone’s day.

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Not breaking ties is tempting. It’s an ‘engage anyway’ button that a good chunk of folks tend to push perhaps without fully realising it, and it almost always comes at a cost to the one pushing it.

 

 

When folks do something wrong, there can be an assumption in play that we should just carry on as though nothing has happened, and move on. That it’s not worth the bother. I’m trying fiercely to break this habit, at least in the sense that I don’t speak up when something’s not quite right.

Part of moving on for me involves dealing with the thing, if it’s within my ability to. At the very least, I want those around me to acknowledge they’re aware of it. I would want to know if I mucked something up so I could fix it, if possible. (I am very aware not everyone shares this feeling.)

At best, the problem lies within a simple miscommunication that can be smoothed out if and when all parties involved are receptive to talking about it. At worst, one side shuts down when such news is being relayed, which usually leads to resentment, questioning safety, and other negatives.

 

 

Practice does not necessarily make perfect, but it should make better in a number of cases.

It’s rough finding ways to let people know you’re not OK, especially if you’re seen by others as a person who is relatively strong of will and/or are used to going a lot of things alone. Keep this in mind: even strong people can break when you think that they’re merely bending.

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August ’07, Indianapolis

Please consider being receptive to constructive criticism, even if it’s just to allow the person giving the criticism space, and to give you space to mull the information over awhile. Even if they’re parting words, and even if it hurts. Within that hurt is the opportunity to learn. We’re works in progress, and it’d be foolhardy to assume we’ve got it all figured out.

Please also tell yourself – maybe more than once – that it’s alright to disengage when you feel it necessary, nostalgia be damned. Holding onto memories of the good times serves little purpose if it’s being invoked during repeats of harmful behaviour, whether said behaviour is intended or not.

 

One obligation we have and often forget is the obligation to ourselves, to our hearts and to our well-being. Those obligations are simply not possible to fulfill if we keep offensive actions in our lives.

Part III in a personal blog series about interactions on the internet.

Part II: https://kungfulasers.com/2014/04/03/possession/

oh snap! a thank-you to photographers who provide safe spaces

I recently finished a shoot with the vivacious and fantastic Isabel. I’m glad that I went through with it, as she was very patient with me while I sorted out some stuff internally.

Being my first shoot in well over a year, this was a special yet nerve-wracking event for me. I was being shown the city, getting to know a new friend as well as having photos taken of me in what I would not consider my most natural or even comfortable state.

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10 July, San Francisco

Maybe you would not know it to look at the photos, but I struggled more with being presented in these ways than having my picture taken (having my photo taken is one fear down after several years of practice)! Isabel provided most of the wardrobe and I approved it before putting it on. The point was to further challenge myself to take up space in something other than my usual t-shirt and jeans, to tap into my femme side.

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No matter what your goals are while photographing or being photographed, flexibility and being in a somewhat relaxed state is essential. I wanted to thank Isabel for making sure that no matter my endeavours, I always felt safe and in relatively good spirits.

social justice warriors

I must say, I am on team ‘social justice warrior is actually very cool-sounding’.

That probably was not the intention, but the creator of this term has likely failed terribly if their intention was to do harm against activists/social justice folk.

I got to humming in the shower a little theme for SJWs, to the tune of Sailor Moon’s theme, which sort of makes sense. I’m afraid that if I see this term being used online in the future, I may not be able to help myself from breaking into song. Sorry not sorry.

 

boundaries

image from Social Justice Anime Macros

 

fighting evil by retweet
building MRA defeat
calling out abuse on the street
they’re social justice warriors

they will never give support to a TERF
’cause every woman has her worth
respect benefits the whole earth
and social justice works for …

no rape culture!
and no sexism!
no phobias!
and no racism!
feminism is for her and him
our social justice warriors

fighting evil by retweet
building MRA defeat
accountability is pretty sweet
for social justice warriors
social justice warriors!