2019 Retrospective

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« on: January 02, 2020, 10:04:54 pm »
Hi friends!

Cas gave me an idea the other day in General Discussion, and I thought it might be an interesting group activity. I was part of a forum, Zeldafront, for about 12 years, and during that time we often did retrospectives around the turn of a new year. I don't really remember if we did a big decade one for 2010, but it's possible. Anyway, I thought we might be able to talk about some of our experiences for the previous year, 2019, and some of the things we're looking forward to in the new year without falling into shallow resolutions.

2019 was a very strange year for me. I've never felt closer to anyone than I do Luca, and I think our relationship has only grown significantly stronger over the past year. In 2018, we were stressed because we were in a new place and working opposite shifts at a bad place. Mines was awful, maybe one of the worst places I could ever imagine working, and entirely because of office politics. And it was in December of 2018 that I got a job at Starbucks (well, Target Starbucks) after years of trying to work for the organisation again, and was able to start moulding my hours to fit us together a bit better. Getting to wake up later, cuddle for a while, and eat breakfast together was incredibly helpful to us both, and I think it made us happier than we were previously.

I love being a barista. I've even written a blog post about it on Pillowfort. In fact, I'd say that article needs refreshing, since it was written about a year ago. Nevertheless, my love for the craft is at the same level as it was then. But it's a bit more nuanced now; I've had a lot of bad experiences with management while we were in Denver. Both of my managers were misogynistic and highly prejudiced against their LGBT employees. As I fall into both of those targets, it's a wonder that I was able to progress as far as I did, ending up in supervisory positions in both locations. While I had a couple coworkers at Target who I couldn't stand (see other PF posts), I dearly loved working with everyone at my actual Starbucks. It ended up falling on me to protect my queer and/or femme-identifying employees from the management, and that was stressful.

Gender has been weird (when hasn't it been for me, tbh). Before 2019, I'd identified as somewhere between non-binary and femme on the spectrum, but January of last year brought a hard shift to enby for me. I felt uncomfortable with the feminine aspects of my appearance and went hard toward androgyny. And it was great! I felt so freed by shorter hair and a more punk-rock jacket and a wardrobe of skinny jeans and polos, lol. My identity switched back to feminine in the summer, buuuuut here we are again :sweatsmile: another winter shift for for Emily's "world's slowest genderfluid pendulum" machine.

CalRef has been a bit all over the board as well. We had our best month in years when we first started putting a hyper-focus on the forums, but a lot of that initial shine has died away. I'm afraid that we have a lot of community members who just aren't interested in following us to the forums, and that's something that saddens me. I love most of the community, and I want us to all talk and be friends and have conversations. Forums were the only window I had to a better world when I was stuck on a farm in the middle of the most conservative, awful place I've ever lived. The communities I interacted with were my only friends for... ever, and I want to provide that to younger people who might need it. I want to be part of that, a group that genuinely loves one another and wants to be around one another.

I love you guys, and I want you to feel happy and safe being here with me.

2020 is a year with a lot of opportunities opening up. I start school on Monday (!!), my first time attending uni with no distractions since 2008, when I was a stupid 18-year-old with no ability to self-motivate and no money to actually justify being there. I tried for a while in 2014, but I was working two jobs at the same time so it was a no-go. This time, we have some money and we're going to be able to relax while going, so I can focus everything on just doing well. It's also the first time I'm going to school for something I like instead of something I think I have to do for it to be worth the trouble.

We're also in a new country! And we just got a new apartment in this new country! My goodness that's a huge change! Things seem much more relaxed here and, outside of the downtown area we've been staying in while searching for an apartment, it seems nicer. Also there are trees and moisture in the air and I don't feel like I'm going to have random nosebleeds constantly.

I'd like to get back into writing once I have a new computer. And maybe working on other things... I don't know what I'd like to do yet, but it feels like this is a new chapter of our lives (new country, new decade) and that seems as good a time as any to work. And I want to make CalRef everything it should be! I'm seriously going to keep putting a lot of effort into this place, so that you can all feel like you're at home here and feel motivated to chat and spend time with us :heart:
« Last Edit: January 02, 2020, 10:10:28 pm by Valkyrie »


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« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2020, 02:31:14 pm »
As I’ve mentioned in the chat, I’m not just going to cover 2019. I feel like I need to look back at the past decade. I’m not even sure why, but I do. Maybe it’s just for me. I like to reflect upon things, and I feel like writing it off of me could help me provide closure and look ahead into the future.

And what a decade it was. During New Year’s Eve, a friend asked me how I would rate the past decade. I said that 2016 and 2019 were great and I was depressed for the rest of it. That, of course, killed the mood of the party, so I quickly changed the subject.  And given reflection, I couldn’t be more wrong about the answer. Yes, I have not been at my happiest during a large part of the decade, but there were happy moments, happy periods. I don’t think I could truly judge a year and say it was bad. All of them included ups and downs. Light and darkness. Whatever you want to call it. 

So when thinking about the past decades, I’ve noticed some years, or clusters of years, had certain themes to them, and therefore I’m going to divide this retrospective into these themes.

2010-2012: the years of Love and Heartbreak
2010 started out pretty great. I went on a once in a lifetime trip to Hong Kong, and I still believe it was one of the best trips I have ever been on. There was just something about that region that I’ve fallen in love with. No place I have been to has felt even remotely the same. It breaks my heart to see how the situation has gotten so tense lately over there.

2010 was also when I got into my first relationship. She was my best friend’s ex. When they broke up the year before, she remained part of the friend group and we grew closer until we somehow realised we had ended up liking each other. After a couple of months, however, things started turning bad. We got into fights a lot. She couldn’t really see things from my point of view, and I couldn’t from hers. Looking back now, we were obviously a bad match. I was madly in love with her, though, and was devastated when it ended and for a long time after. To be completely honest, I was obsessed.

That long time after included the time I’ve dated my second girlfriend. I’ve dated her for more than a year (mid 2011 to mid-2012), and she was the best person I’ve ever been in a relationship with. And yet somehow, I was still pining for girl number one. Girl two and her family loved and praised me, and I just felt bad about it, because I knew I didn’t deserve any of it. After months of struggling with my feelings, I broke up with her. Completely to her surprise. I still feel like an asshole for all of that.

Three years. Two relationships. Two broken hearts.

2013: the year of Life and Death
I have often said that 2013 was the worst year of my life. There was another bad relationship. We were bad for each other, that’s all I’m gonna say about that one.
2013 was also the year I went on my exchange to Madrid, Spain. I have learned and experienced so much during this time. I have met tons of cool people during my time there (though I’ve lost contact with most of them). It truly felt like a second home, and it was my first taste of freedom and independence after living a fairly sheltered life at my parents’ place.

But I was also incredibly depressed and suffered from extreme anxiety.

About two weeks before I went, around the beginning of August, my aunt and godmother had an embolism. She suffered brain damage and half of her body was paralysed. I was able to visit her about two or three times before I left.

She passed away October 30th that year. About two weeks before, she was finally diagnosed with Kahler’s disease. I was able to fly back and visit her about two days before she died. I have never cried as hard as back then. Not even during her funeral.
There was also a lot of drama within my family revolving around all of this, but I won’t go into detail.

Being in Madrid was in a way (and I know it sounds bad) convenient because I wasn’t in the middle of all that. I was able to escape it all. Still, it weighed heavily on my mind. Couple that with the fact that I was the furthest (or is it farthest) outside of my comfort zone that I had ever been, and you could imagine my mental health was not exactly at its best during those times. I had good times with the people there, and I partied a lot. But that was all just to escape all the terrible things that were going on. And I couldn’t keep it up. I couldn’t balance it with going to classes… so I just started slowly cutting out those until I stopped going altogether. I started having major panic attacks. Multiple times, I’d be gasping for air in the middle of the night, thinking I was going to die. I lost weight. I was not taking good care of myself. I was fucking up school. I felt like I was ruining my life.

I managed to pull myself together for the last couple of weeks and started going back to classes. It was a little too much for me to handle but I managed to at least pass two out of five classes. I passed a third after I returned home. In the end, however, I’ve set myself up to finish my degree in five years instead of four.

I’ve only told two people back home about the horrible time I was going through while I was in Madrid. For everyone else, I just put on a happy face and pretended everything was fine and dandy.

But the truth would have to come out eventually.

2014-2015: the years of Anxiety and Stress
I’ve basically spent these years trying to save whatever could be saved, degree wise. I just ended up getting into more trouble because I couldn’t deal with the ridiculous workload I had given myself. So the panic attacks continued.
I played some pretty cool games, though.

2016: the year of Mindfulness and Change
2016 was when I finally was able to pull my shit together and set my course for graduation. But I knew that just getting my degree wasn’t going to fix the deeper problems. I’ve had struggled with my self-image for most of my life. I still really hadn’t given all the sad things that happened the years before a place. I knew I had to go into therapy.
I got recommended to do mindfulness and acceptance therapy. I was sceptical at first, but it was probably the best thing I could have done. I never thought I could make myself not feel restless. I never thought I could accept things for what they were. Especially things I was sad or angry about. Meditation just helped with all of that.

It was during this period of therapy and growth that I rekindled my love for writing. Just in time for me to join a couple of people in a collaborative writing project called HySchool. One of those people just happened to be our very own Valkyrie. We got into contact with each other through writing together and that all set in motion everything leading to me being here on CalRef. I’m very grateful I get to interact with cool people such as you all 😊

I landed my first job about mid-to-end of December.

2017-2018: the years that set up the present
I’ve spent most of 2017 and 2018 feeling aimless. The job I had for most of 2017 had no structure and very low pay. I did learn a lot while being there, though. And I finally had my first taste of change and process management, the career path I’m pursuing right now.
In December 2017, I started working somewhere else. I was suddenly the leader of a project. And I wasn’t very good, but tried very hard and was slowly getting better. But not good enough. Eventually, I was stabbed in the back by one of the employees. I was demoted and she got my job. I stayed on the team just so I could keep steady employment. But I felt absolutely miserable, and it started affecting my work. Eventually I kind of lost all motivation. I was let go in late August.

I wasn’t sad about it. I finally felt free again. But I was once again confronted with the age old question of what the fuck I wanted to do with my life. I had to look for another job and I didn’t really have a lot of options with my European Studies degree given the limitations I had set for myself.

I spent months looking for a job. I kept the cover letters to a minimum. I would mostly apply for jobs that seemed somewhat okay for me. Anything that I could tell I would feel miserable in, I would just flat out ignore.

Eventually, I was approached through LinkedIn by my current employer. They offered me a traineeship. I would be working on a project for two years, helping to modernise an organisation and setting up a new platform for their employees to work in. Meanwhile, I would be doing courses to get a degree in Information & Change Management. Heck yes

Also, 2017-2018 is when I developed my interest for D&D and I still very much love playing that and other TTRPGs.

2019: the year of Acceptance

It wouldn’t be until January 2019 that I had my final interview and got hired for the project, though.
2019 was great. I have grown a lot. A lot of my anxieties just slowly started growing weaker. I worked a lot on myself and focused on self-growth. I even started picking mindfulness back up again, though I don’t do daily 30 minute meditation sessions. I just try to apply mindfulness to most things I do. It seems to get easier with time.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt so comfortable with myself as I do now. And 2019 contributed a lot to that. I even picked up music again.
And I started talking to someone cool in late December. Who know what that will lead to.

Anyway… this is about 1800 words of rambling. Thanks for reading. I hope you at least enjoyed some of it.


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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2020, 12:40:14 am »
I like the whole decade idea.

Trigger warning for, like, SO MUCH DEPRESH. I'm going to seem a bit distanced in this, FYI. There's a lot I don't remember, and a lot I try not to think about for too long.

2009 (for those interested, namely, Jens and Kyrie)
I joined Zeldafront.

I was taking music classes, but not actually thinking about going to college. I didn't really think about anything. My whole childhood I just told myself, "Maybe I'll die next year." And then that became the year after that and the year after that. I'd been depressed my whole life, so it was nothing new and I had no idea it wasn't normal to just want to die every second of every day.

What I learned later is that I didn't want to die, I was just in so much pain and agony and fear that I was numb, and that can make you want to die just to escape it.

I saw a chance to escape my weird home life and I made a crack decision to move to my college town with my brother and audition for the piano department. I got accepted. I started college. I met the person that would change my life forever. It's not a love story. When I was around her, for the first time I wasn't in any pain or discomfort, and I actually thought, once, "Hey, if I felt like this all the time, I'd be fine living forever."

Then that person got literally ripped out of my life by circumstance, and I've never recaptured that sense of safety, no matter how I've tried. BUT. I finally realized wanting to die every second and having violent ideations every five minutes wasn't normal or healthy and no, it wasn't "not a big deal" it was a BIG DEAL. But I didn't know how to get help.

I decided, wisely if you ask me, that I was too effed up to date, so I specifically didn't. Even before I understood exactly how messed up I was, I knew I didn't need to be dating anybody. It just seemed like a really bad idea.

I told my parents while I was home for the summer that I wanted to go to therapy and that I was getting worse. They said sure, sure, sure, kept promising they'd help me--I honestly didn't feel like I could start by myself, you know? I didn't even know where to go, who to talk to, or how to start. I needed someone to be like, hey, here's a good place, a good doctor, go here.

In short, I felt I had no support.

My dad starts sabotaging my college career.

I started going to therapy secretly using my school's free program.

My mom calls me up and threatens to disown me financially if I don't get a fucking therapist or a church or something . . . blah blah blah.

So I tell her I've got one, even though it was none of her business.

Somewhere in here I met my best friend for the next few years. She was great. We hung out together a lot. I finally decide after going through a few years of intense therapy--we're talking 2-3 group therapy sessions on top of my weekly private session every semester--that it's not getting better and I need meds. I had a wonderful doctor who I am eternally grateful to, I was able to talk to him about everything, and he believed me.

I got really lucky. Most people have to try out a dozen or so meds before finding one that works. I found one immediately.

It was like someone just came and cleaned out my head. I mean, it wasn't the same as when I met that person that changed my life, not in the happy way, but I was happy. I didn't have violent ideations anymore, or other intrusive thoughts.

I suddenly had so much space in my brain! I could get up in the morning without a thousand page checklist.

I could SPEAK.

I never realized my "filter" was always just because I had a depression fog over my head that made speaking sometimes literally impossible.

I started cursing totally by accident XD

I realized this was how it was for other people. They could just wake up and think about whatever they wanted to do. DO whatever they wanted to. And speak.

I felt both bitter about their lack of understanding, and empathetic toward myself. It was a weird feeling. I try not to be mad about my place in life and focus on the present, but sometimes it just gets me down, you know? Like, why couldn't I have been like everyone else? Especially since every doctor and therapist I've ever met has said my mental problems are entirely situational.

(Cue me starting to cut family members out of my life.)

Other things about having a different brain were weird, too. Things people would say that would seem so inspiring to them but that before I was triggered by or hated, were suddenly inspiring to me. Like, I was in the same headspace as them and it totally made sense why they would feel that way.

For that reason, I no longer judge people for how they think or even what they think. I acknowledge it and treat it as appropriately as possible, but I do not judge it. Or try not to. You get what I mean. I don't WANT to judge it anymore.

I'm feeling really good. My parents' marriage is basically trash still, family life still sucks, I'm cutting people off, but I'm feeling good, I feel like I'm getting a handle on life, there's some hope left. I go back to college in August for another year, and money's tight so I might not get to come home as much during the semester, but I know it's going to be okay because I'm going to get healthier and I'm going to become a boss and I am going to come back and fix everything. I am trying to be the older sister I wished my older brothers had been toward me. My little brother was getting ready to go to college, and I wanted to hang out with him there. Like I needed to be done with this depression shit. I NEEDED to. We were hanging out more, and I was more present like I hadn't really been since I was little. I went to all this therapy, yes, for myself, but also because I wanted to be there for my little brother. I mean, you got to have a reason, right?

My little brother killed himself two days after I left for college.


I went back to college in the spring because I didn't know what else to do, but I took mostly online classes. This was a kind of depression I'd never had before. None of my coping skills worked. None of the therapy worked. Mindfulness? Useless. Yoga. Useless. Meditation, whatever. Nothing worked. Literally nothing worked. I didn't know what to do. I was back in therapy, but nothing worked. I got off my meds with my doctor and therapist's approval.

Yeah, you heard that contradiction correctly. I don't really know.

I would wake up at night or still be up, go to denny's, and stay there for literally hours, just studying because I didn't want to be in my bed in the dark.

My parents finally got divorced. There were several court dates. My mom got a concussion. She got thyroid cancer.

I had a falling out with somebody I cared deeply about.

My professor started being a dick to me, and I still don't know exactly why.

In December, I had a horrific PTSD episode that would put me in bed for six months on a medication that knocked me out mentally and physically, but it was either that or die of fright.

I don't remember much about those six months so we skip to the summer of

I get my first real job cleaning a hospital. I have an amazing boss who basically is like a dad figure to me and who ends up finding out everything about me and my crazy life. I've lost contact since then due to just general shyness, or something, I'm not sure, but I'm still really happy to have met him and I think about him ALL the time.

At some point either this year, the year before, or the next year, I start having to deal with Disability Resources at school to get my professor to not treat me like crap and so that I can actually graduate. We set up a plan.

I meet my now ex-fiance. Honestly? I had gotten to the point where my depression was not getting better, to the point that I just didn't want to talk about it anymore. I just wanted to live my fullest for whatever time I had left, because I felt like I would be dying at any moment. And I figured, while I'm trying to live my best life until Depression finally wins, maybe I'll find an answer. Even when I'm dying I'm clinging to life.

That's having depression for me.

So I had a bucket list.

My therapist was telling me to date around, my friends were telling me to, my boss was telling me to, I just figured what the heck? Might as well give it a try, see what the big deal is about . . .

I wanted to know what it was like to be in a relationship. I wanted to be in love with somebody, and to care for them and do things for them and all that romantic bullshit. I think there are loves you choose, and I chose to love who I thought she was, and I honestly really did. It didn't take my depression away, but it didn't need to. I thought she understood what I was going through, and I thought she was alright going through it with me, so I had no hesitation or guilt. I was up front with everything I knew how to be, my past, my family, my brain, everything. I exposed myself utterly. It wasn't a mistake. I mean I was happy with my life and carrying the weight of my brother's death around. She accepted me as I was. Or, I thought she had.

I loved the person I thought she was, and as soon as that was stripped away to the liar underneath it sort of ended. I still thought we could be friends, though.

Boy was I wrong.

She ended up knifing me in the back in an irreparable way.

I'm surprised I'm okay.

Also, I graduate!!!

I pay rent to two places until April because my ex is so filthy I can't stay at the apartment we have together anymore. I start my piano teaching business.

Since then it's been work, work, work!

I got off my meds again, and so far so . . . good?

I've also gotten more serious about writing. I have four projects set up and I don't see myself really failing at them, but we'll see! And failing doesn't scare me.

I'm rekindling a relationship with one of my other brothers now, which is a shock (aside from my mom and him I don't have contact with my family). I hang out at his and his family's place every week now. I still don't get it, but I'm enjoying it, so that's a good thing going in my life right now.

This month I am going to see if I break even on my bills or if I need to get another job on top of teaching piano. I have a side gig I do, but otherwise it's just piano. I've been really successful with it.

Kind of an aside but I finished reading Elton John's biography which is honestly life changing for me. 100/10 would recommend. For the first time I felt like maybe, as an LGBT person and as crazy as my mind is, there's at least a CHANCE I'll be okay. I mean when you read all the shit he did and went through, ANYTHING is possible . . .

I still don't get what family is, I'm not planning on dating anyone anytime soon because I am DONE with that until I'm financially stable and a bit more on top of my mental health. I'm working on figuring myself out, but that's something that's never completely done I feel like.

Cross your fingers for me!
« Last Edit: January 10, 2020, 12:52:13 am by Rea »


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