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.

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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.

lolcats and ink splats

‘If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem.’

Lately I’ve noticed folks taking variations of this quote and using it on their journey to go barrel rolling round the internet at 11.

I’ve had an issue with this quote (which is very likely misquoted) for a while for the above reason and much more, and haven’t felt strong enough to voice it until now.

I seem to have developed some sort of fear of expressing myself online as often as I used to due to this rise in ‘with us or against us’ culture, and also perhaps because of feeling guilty that I am slowly losing the time and energy to actively contribute to any possible stated ‘solution’, vague or not.

This leaves me confused and out of the loop, sometimes unable to get on board with things due to simply lacking the information. Am I now problematic?

 

 

On another side of things, for those who do have the time and energy to familiarize themselves, it is very true that people can be resistant to change, and even outright refuse because it means more work to do what is widely seen as right, or simply commonly accepted. This lot can certainly be encouraged, but ultimately it’s their job/choice to take the steps.

 

However, speaking in absolutes where someone else’s feelings are concerned without substantial evidence runs the risk of being eerily impertinent.

Fall ’05, Los Angeles.

 

Does one misstep count as being anti-x? How mild or severe must the mistake be to rule someone completely out as being in your corner? How do we tell what a true apology is, and what a ‘fauxpology’ is when someone is in the wrong? Can we dialogue with those undecided on positions, or is it not worth it?

 

 

In hopes of finding some of these answers, I have been quieter and more observant of exchanges online, where possible.

Sometimes I do not even actively participate in them, save to learn terms that may be foreign/otherwise inaccessible to me, what not to say or do within certain circles to maintain that I respect people and would also like to be respected in turn.

 

Education is often an ongoing lifetime process as people and times change (and hopefully grow).

I don’t always succeed, but I try to exercise empathy for the folks who are going to 11, and to exercise patience for the ones who don’t yet understand something I’ve only just learned.

 

 

In a funny sort way, this rise of ‘barrel roll to 11’ culture has been a good thing for me, as it pushes me to engage in more exchanges offline, moderate exchanges I control online, and seek out one-on-one exchanges in general to further understanding.

 

I am not of the opinion that sharing is impossible in the face of difficulty (even where there are disagreements). 

I feel confident in my determination to create space for myself and others in which to safely speak and dissect, as well as call out where necessary. That in itself takes work, so perhaps I am doing some good, though it might not be observed by all.

 

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

Part I: https://kungfulasers.com/2013/08/01/emotion/

think of the children

I feel inclined to preface this with a deep, warm gratitude that I had an opportunity to leave ‘the system’, though I did not understand foster care to be a bad thing, as I believe I had better experiences than most in my foster home in Los Angeles.

Also, I only had one foster home that I can recall, which probably illustrates my situation rather well.

Children who are given up at or near birth (and even later) are often overlooked, and I am certain I will hold a soft spot forever for those who’ve been through the foster care system and adoption, even if I don’t end up voicing it after this.

We are better than the unfortunate things that have happened to us.

I am not going to go into great detail about my childhood post-adoption – that is to say, I will not be discussing isolated incidents. I have decided that doing so has been and will continue to be detrimental to my moving forward as an adult, but I will say that it was not all rosy.

As a young girl, I was given most freedoms over sense of style, save special events and holidays. I usually liked shirts and pants. I was fond of stripes. I wasn’t most folks’ idea of girly, but I was a kid, so none of that mattered to me really. I had a lot of energy, and when I wasn’t reading, I was running around playgrounds chasing people I liked.

I did well in school without much effort, and people in my little family praised me as gifted, but I never felt anything out of the ordinary. Not until I started asking questions that some adults didn’t want to answer.

My personal history was not my business, I learnt.

‘You don’t need to know’ statements surfaced. It struck me as odd that there was such secrecy around the first few years of my life, and my curiosity was met with anger usually. Eventually I stopped asking, but my curiosity never abated.

Fall ’05, Los Angeles: I find an album with photos of me.

I am seven years old in this photo.

I only felt as good as my accomplishments, most of which I felt to the person raising me included getting high marks in school, being and staying pretty to be bragged about, and being subservient. Since I don’t tend to pride myself on any of those things for too long a time, that didn’t make me feel good at all. I grew distant, and got quieter.

As I am nearing my thirties, I find that I am not any closer to finding out about my past than I was 10 years ago. I find that disconcerting, and shall begin filling out California state paperwork to the best of my ability and limited knowledge, in the hope that I can figure this out and put it all behind me, if necessary. Some chapters ache for closure.

Summer ’07, San Francisco

I am slowly processing the observation that the person who raised me and I want and value different things out of our parent-child relationship. I cannot give this person what they want, and they cannot give me what I want. The other party takes personal slight to this, but as the years go on, I can only hope they’ll see it’s more a matter of accepting things as they are between two people who are so different.

I look forward to pushing the files of this closed adoption open, to learn about my medical particulars and maybe even see if I can connect with my siblings. I wonder, do they even know about me?

It is within a person’s right to seek out their own personal history, with whatever aid they can find along the way. I am lucky to have support. Here’s to this adventure I’m about to embark on, one that might be the most difficult ever I’ve ever attempted.

Seattle, I’ll not stand idle

I’ve been in Seattle 4 years officially now. The time has been… bittersweet.

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Yes, it’s a beautiful city and region. That cannot be denied. The state of Washington and the Northwest in general offers treats for the eyes that are absolutely unparalleled. There are a number of people that are genuinely nice, motivated, and a delight to be around.

It can take time to find these people.

 

 

I can count on at least two hands the number of times I’ve been told “go back to LA!” or something similar aggressively (or maybe even passive-aggressively in places I cannot access), because I said something about Seattle that someone on the internet didn’t like. Even offline it’s prickly.

You know what, though? I’m not going back to LA. And I’m not going to stop loving this city with a critical eye.

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That’s what you do when you care for something — you spend time, money and effort. You pay attention. You call shit out. You think of ways to make things better. You remain steadfast.

 

 

Make no mistake about me. I want to work hard and live well and vote often and pay taxes that I know are somewhat going to the betterment of my surroundings. I want to learn, and to grow.

I understand that there are many people who’ve been in this area much longer than I, especially since I am not quite 30 years old and had to fight my way up here. However, that does not entitle natives or longer-term residents to bully me into silence when I say something that isn’t popular to dislike about this region, or commonly gets ignored in favour of other points on an agenda.

If I wanted to be purely antagonistic, I could step up to the stage, say I don’t care for Nirvana, drop the mic and be done with it. But that’s silly, because there are plenty of people who like the band and the culture surrounding it, which makes sense because this is grunge city and all.

Wisdom consists in not rocking the boat when there’s nothing to be learned or gained from it, so I don’t push that button.

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You may be asking yourself what I find so contrary about this place. Well, there’s a separate post for that which may come later.

For now, I am using this space to reflect on how far I’ve come, and to acknowledge that Seattle, for all its shortcomings (as you’ll find that no place is perfect), has helped me immensely.

emotion of the ocean

People on their own tend to find time and space with which to form opinions.

In a gathering, people can perhaps present opinions developed by themselves, but there seems to be a need lately to come to a forced consensus in group settings in the name of winning or being declared indisputably right.

What does that mean?

Imagine you’re at a party and someone says something off-base, or simply unexpected. The actions of just one other person can determine the reaction of others, or the party as a whole. The tone may shift as a reaction to the something.

Imagine also that there are 2 individuals in that party of what we’ll assume is 30 people whose body language or attitude becomes negative as a response to the reaction.

One person says, ‘hey, that thing wasn’t actually cool, because X, Y and Z.’

Another responds to this by suggesting they’re talking out of their arse, consciously or subconsciously preserving the overall tone of the party. This is what some call a derail.

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The internet can be a lot like that.

How often have you witnessed a thread on a forum or social networks where one idea forms and from there, through others, begins to take off?

Largely due to the internet, we live in a world where instant gratification is prevalent and is something to be expected, even in some of our daily lives in offline aspects.

Two people who say A is equal to B while another says no you silly persons, A is clearly equal to C hold more power than the one who is presenting an argument by themselves. This behaviour suggests that ‘hey, you’re only one person, no one here agrees with you, how could you possibly know anything of value?’

Granting audience to dissenting opinions is discouraged in certain places, as that takes extra time and energy, drifting apart from the flow of a crowd interaction. We may end up with That Thing, an accord about a behaviour/attitude for the sake of brevity and moving on, which leaves some feeling lost, confused and hurt.

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Why the urge to gang up on one or few?

There could be a number of factors for this. Many people are reticent to acknowledge or accept change, and so resistance to much outside their comfort zones may seem natural to them. Might be as simple as having a bad day.

Justifications seem insufficient for shutting people out of dialogue simply for views being new and strange. It may take practice, and all involved may not agree, but taking a moment to consider another perspective may be worthwhile to the masses.

A great deal of internet arguments are emotionally charged. Competition appears almost immediately, and with it the desire to one-up each other to declare superiority.

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It’s a destructive cycle of attack or be attacked that has gained popularity in shared spaces, but no one really wins anything for that brand of effort long-term.

Folks do have the stuff to collectively decide on something in a productive manner, but there appears to be a rise online of people having knee-jerk sort of reactions to unpopular opinions, and thus thrusting their One Twue Magnanimous Way forth.

Arguments don’t always have to mean that people are enemies, or that one side is absolutely correct while the other has erred. Keep that in mind for the next time you participate in any kind of heated debate, whether on the computer or off.

 

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