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Subject:Year in review: careers, relationships, genders, and more
Time:03:25 am
How was the year 2015 for you -- what was the most important thing that happened to you this year? With 2016 about to dawn on us, what things are you looking forward to (or dreading) the most about the new year? If you make resolutions at this time of year, how good are you at keeping them as time goes by?
Haha, I was just about to make a long year-end recap post anyway, but now I can do it in the form of an answer to this prompt.

*ahem*

The year is drawing to a close, so I suppose it's time to reflect on it. 2015 has been eventful, that's for sure. Here's a recap complete with out-of-context Undertale dialogue. And maybe some out-of-context Undertale background music to go with it.



My manager quit his position in December of last year, so this was my first full year of being the new head of our company's Shipping & Receiving department. I even have a new clerk underneath me. I had a very Bob Cratchett/Ebenezer Scrooge kind of relationship with my manager, which had driven me to the breaking point before, so being free of him is definitely a blessing. It's also an interesting shift from just following orders. I mean, I'm the department head, now.

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I've transformed the entire department and its atmosphere. My goal was and is to create a less hostile environment for my clerk than my previous manager had for me. I've also modernized things somewhat by discontinuing my manager's more useless ideas that had never amounted to anything except more busywork, while implementing some new ones that (hopefully) will have a real benefit.

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It's a little strange to be the one driving the plot, now. A week ago, I was receiving in some products we'd ordered the way he'd always taught me to when I randomly thought, "You know, we could scan and digitize these packing slips instead of stuffing them into a drawer." And then I did it. That was all. I didn't have to propose my plan to anyone, I didn't have to do the whole dance of, "Is this worth suggesting or should I just keep my head down and do whatever he says so he'll stop yelling at me," I just had a random whim and I tried it and it worked and now I decided that's what we're doing from now on. Even after a year, I'm still not used to that kind of power, but I think I like it.

My writing is progressing as well. The version 2.0 overhaul/rewrite of my novel continues at its glacial pace, but I see... if not the end of the entire project, at least a major breaking point coming up eventually. I think I have two books now. I was told that 80-120 thousand words is "average" length for a full novel, but as I keep expanding passages and adding more description and images, I'm already at 150-160K with four parts completed. I now believe that once I finish revising part 5 (Flames), that segment of the story will be of sufficient length and content to call it a book. It's a good stopping point in length as well as content, ending after resolving one arc while setting up for the next one. Once Flames is done, I can start pursuing publication options for book one in the series.

The catch is that that leaves five parts in book one and a mere three left over for book two, so I'll have to pad the latter it a little. Fortunately, I think I have a few ideas. I've been brainstorming events inside the city while the tribe is out on their travels, just in case I ever had to write a sequel. I hadn't been planning to, but, you know, just in case. Now I think I have enough action going on there to Song of Ice and Fire it, telling the stories of the city and the tribe concurrently and thus having enough contents for two books. Maybe. We'll see. I need to finish book one before I worry about book two, but at least I'm slowly getting closer to that goal. I'm not entirely sure what happens once it's done, but I'm excited to find out.

I've also been making some progress with my writing in other venues. I wrote a short piece called "Unmanned" for submission to the furry erotic BDSM anthology Will of the Alpha 2, and I'm pleased to say that I got in. It doesn't make me rich or even particularly famous, but it's an honor that I can add to my personal list of accomplishments and cherish forever. Anthologies almost never have any sort of actual payout to them (my compensation for WOTA2 was a flat $50 and a free copy) but my writing has appeared in an anthology. I am officially a published author. I'll take it.

This development worked out well for my annual furry convention. I wasn't able to go to Furpocalypse this year like I usually do, because my sister was getting married that weekend. Meanwhile, Rainfurrest happened to be where and when the anthology was releasing. So, we rearranged our plans and held the annual hangout there instead. In retrospect, the Rainfurrest environment probably wasn't as positive as Furpocalypse usually is, and I wouldn't blame anyone else for preferring to go back to FP again next year and beyond. Still, it was worth experiencing a larger con on that side of the country at least once. I got to hang out with some friends I'd never met in real life before, including xaq, the one I've known longer than anyone else yet only finally got to meet this year.

I also got to visit my uncle and his family while I was there, since they happen to live in the area. It was a good chance to reconnect. I hadn't seen them since I was very young and I hardly remembered any of them. Earlier in the year they held a funeral for their son (my cousin) who had recently died in a traffic accident, and I remember being... devastated by how not-devastated I was, if that makes sense. This was someone I hadn't seen since I was barely even old enough to form permanent memories. For all intents and purposes, I didn't know him. Everyone else did, though. Even my sister had reconnected and kept in touch through Facebook and the like, but I just... never had, and now I never will. I missed out on someone's entire life. Knowing that, it was good to spend some time with the rest of his family. I can't keep up with every single person on every single branch of the family tree (it's... large,) but if I can feel at least slightly less estranged to at least some of them, I think that was worth pursuing.

Of course, I'm burying this year's lead by talking about work and cons and family first, even if it's because I'm trying to cover things chronologically. I'm sure you were all waiting for me to get to this part, and so here it is. In late October, Zoey broke up with me just a couple weeks shy of what would have been our three-year anniversary. From what she told me and what I understand, the problem was mostly on her end and dealt with her psychological capability of being in relationships in the first place. She tended to get lost in them and become attached to whoever she was with, which led to a string of bad and abusive boyfriends in her past. Even though I tried my best to take care of her and treat her well, she eventually would have been so consumed by our relationship that it would have turned into clinginess and jealousy issues and things like that. She's seeing a psychiatrist and going through extensive therapy, and they ultimately determined that it would be best for her to forget about relationships and focus on herself and her own recovery for a while.

Due to her anxiety, she was never great at coming forward with bad news. Figuring out that she wasn't coming to America and to Rainfurrest with me this year after all, for example, involved so much poking that I started to worry if I was nagging. Thus, I needed budgiebin's help to get her to talk to me when this breakup was happening, and I'll forever be grateful that Budgie was there to at least give me some closure from all this.

At this point, though, what hurts even more than the breakup itself is the extent to which she's disappeared since then. Despite hopeful intensions that we would, we haven't really spoken much since then. She used to send out little impersonal news update emails to birdlooke and me about whatever was on her mind, from a recap of the latest One Piece chapter she was excited abuot to the news that her father had passed. I'd always reply and remind her that I'm still here if she ever needs or wants to talk again. I tried not to sound too desperate, but I suppose it was a little hard to help. Now, I don't even get those emails anymore.

She told me during the original breakup that she still wanted to talk to me, that she missed me and she didn't want to lose me or have me out of her life forever. She said that it was okay if I needed some time, but she'd be waiting for me to come back. She said I was irreplaceable. Irreplaceable. Her word. So, I did everything I could to come back as soon as I was able. I may have even told her I was ready to speak to her again a little sooner than I actually was. It still hurt, but I just had to get back in there before we started to lose touch. She was waiting for me, after all. Right? Yet for all my efforts, it seems she's the one who's gone. I told her I would always be there for her if she needed me, but now, even as she faces increasing hardship from family tragedies to financial problems, it seems she just doesn't need me anymore.

Which, don't get me wrong, I'm glad she's become as strong as she has. That's all I ever wanted for her, even from the day we first met. If anything, I'm proud of her. I made her promise to take care of herself early on in our relationship, and I reminded her of that promise every time I worried about her since then. I'm glad she's keeping that promise. She shouldn't have to rely on me for anything, and I'm glad she isn't. I wasn't expecting her to leave me behind entirely, of course, but if that's the reason she's doing it.... It's a strange bittersweet mixture of feelings. Almost empty-nest-y, in a way.

Still, it hurts, and it's not just our direct communication that's lacking. Here is her recap of 2015. Notice anything missing?

Now, I know it's petty to get upset that I'm not being mentioned in her news updates, especially after we've already broken up. Obviously she's not obligated to talk about her ex-boyfriend if she doesn't want to. That's fine, I understand that, and if it were just this one post then I wouldn't even be making a deal out of it. But in retrospect, I think this is part of a recurring pattern. If you go back through any of her blogs, even during the time we were still together, you will find very little evidence that I ever existed. I never objected to that when we were together, because we were still so happy whenever we were talking to each other. I didn't need her to tell the world how much she loved me; she told me that and that was enough. Sometimes you have your casual buddies and you have your significant other and they're just different. But now... well, now I finally understand that I never was her buddy. And since I'm not her significant other anymore, that leaves me... nothing, I guess. And that explains the silence.

It's a lonely realization, especially considering how we were before. We were always that couple that was disgustingly in love. We made everyone around us sick from how incessantly lovey-dovey we were. I received endless light-hearted friendly teasing over it, but of course everyone I knew deep down said they shipped us or that we were their OTP. How did things turn from that to this?

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I don't think she lied to me when she said she wanted to see me again. I think she meant everything she said, and that I really was still important to her when she said it. Something changed, though, and it feels like what was true then just... isn't true anymore.

She never was the best at telling me when she was backing out of something....

Which makes this a tough note to end on, mostly because there's no closure. Just slowly-fading memories and the dim hope that maybe being left behind will hurt less someday, as time goes on.

...

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Back to work, where I'm pleased to report that plans I've set are finally coming to fruition. This month was my annual performance review/salary adjustment, and the long-awaited payoff to a goal I'd had since the beginning of the year. When I first became manager around this time last year, they gave me a very modest raise to go with the promotion. Definitely an increase over what I was making as a clerk, but nothing compared to what my previous manager had made when he had the position. I accepted it as sort of a lay-up shot since I knew I wasn't in a very good bargaining position. For one thing, I was new to the manager position and didn't have an "as you can see I am clearly awesome and deserve more money" track record to rely on. For another thing, they made me salaried, something even my previous manager never had even after twelve years with the company. Sure, he made more per hour than I did, but he was still hourly.

So, I couldn't ask for what he made without feeling like I was overreaching... yet. I spent this entire year on a patient long game of turning around the place and impressing people, doing my job and being awesome. I knew I'd come into this review having been the manager a full year, now, and I also knew that the "we won't give you actual money but we'll make you salaried" trick only works once. Thus, I knew that this was the year I would go for it.

The review was glowing. According to my boss, I excel in just about everything I do. My only "areas that need improvement" knock was that my verbal communication lacked confidence compared to my written communication, like I'm less sure of myself when speaking than I deservedly should be. Which... I'm going to go ahead and blame three years under a tyrannical manager for that.

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Anyway, I got the raise. Mostly. I'm still about $1000 or so off what he made, but 1) the fact that I got that far in four years versus his twelve is impressive, and 2) my boss specifically said I still have room to grow further if I continue to impress this year. So, you know what, I consider it a win.

Seeing this plan come to fruition is a slightly bittersweet feeling, since I was originally doing it all for Zoey. I knew I needed more money anyway--it's never a bad thing to have--but my primary plans for what I'd do with it revolved around her. I was going to secure enough income so that I could safely support her if she was living with me and her art business wasn't bringing in enough customers. I was going to save up for a larger and nicer house because my tiny bachelor pad apartment was no place for her. I was going to buy a ring....

Now I have a larger paycheck and no real plans for what to do with it anymore. Of course, I'm not complaining about that. Compared to how many people I know who are so broke that they keep reblogging that stupid money cat chain letter every time they see it because it's the only hope they have, I can certainly think of worse problems to have. It's just... you know.

I'll probably dump most of it into savings for now, because I'm boring like that. Maybe expect a very slight increase in the amount of commissions I get, I guess.

Or maybe laser hair removal. It's expensive, but I've kind of been thinking about it lately due to the continuing progression of gender stuff.

See, on one hand, I've pretty much always been... you know.
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(Don't mind my ex-girlfriend there, I guess)

On the other, lately that's been kicking into overdrive, even by my standards. The euphoria of receiving "good girl" type affectations and relative disappointment of "good boy" ones are both getting stronger. It's getting to the point where I'm officially ready to open myself to being regarded as female... sort of. With caveats.

I still don't think I'm transgender, but the main (only?) reason I don't think that is because to me this is still... well, a very sexual thing. I know "real" trans people, including the most innocent and asexual friend I have, and they just want to live out their normal regular day-to-day lives without being misgendered. That's all. That's vald and legitimate, and I can't help but worry I'd be tainting it somehow if I claimed my fetishes are in any way the same thing.

Nor would I envision many physical changes, anyway. (Hair removal, maybe, but....) Even my fursona, who is easy to redesign and have drawn as anything I want anytime I want, still has all the same parts. (Well, except during certain Unmanned-like non-canonical extreme content scenes, but shhh.) I don't think I'm looking to get those changed. It's more the presentation, the affectations, and just... how I'm treated. I don't need a sona with a working menstrual cycle to dress in lilac and change my pronouns.

Speaking of my fursona, if I could liken my gender identity to anything to make this easier to explain, it would probably be that. I am fully aware that in real life I'm not actually a bipedal anthropomorphic animal. I am a human being. My name is James and I get up and go to work in the mornings and come home at night. But that's boring. It's dull and gray and lifeless. Online, I can frolic around as Kjorteo Kalante the Writing Woodrat, and it's so much more fun and free. I can express myself, I can be creative, and I can be happy... and yes, there is a very strong and powerful sexual element to it, too. I commission a lot of porn of my woodrat sona, because he's (she's?) hot.

So it is with my gender, too, which leaves me at an interesting crossroads. If you call me a guy you wouldn't be incorrect, though there's always a tinge of disappointment when I hear it just because of how mundane it is. If you call me a girl my heart will soar, though you will likely turn me on in the process.

Because this is such an, er, intimate thing for me, I'm probably going to keep it somewhat low-key. I'm not going to start attending family gatherings in a dress, for much the same reason I wouldn't attend them in a leather-daddy harness or any other fetish gear. It's not the world's job to indulge my fantasies (especially if others aren't comfortable with me getting off on them,) and if I enjoy something a little too much for my own good, that's my problem.

That being said, though... if any of my close friends happen not to mind me being a girl in their eyes... let's just say I wouldn't mind that, either. :)

Anyway, speaking of family gatherings: Christmas! We had a good one. My parents were more generous than they should have been, with the excuse that they'd spent a lot of money on my sister's wedding and felt I should get something extra to make it fair. They absolutely did not have to do that, and I told them as much... though I can't deny that I appreciate the sentiment, especially since it seems my wedding won't be anytime soon after all.

I suppose, if I had to sum up what sorts of things I received and how my time spent with them went, as well as where I'm going to go from here, it would be, "Looking back and looking forward." After losing my girlfriend, I've taken a lot of refuge and comfort in old nostalgic treats I used to enjoy. It's safe there, especially when the memories don't have to hold up to anyone else but me (such as that rather awkward-for-everyone time I tried to get Zoey into Breath of Fire III, only to realize it hadn't aged particularly well for someone who hadn't been there from the beginning.) At the same time, though, I know that I need to move on and move forward with my life. And I will... though I can still enjoy some old familiar comforts along the way.

My Christmas trip seemed to capture that duality. I got a collectible complete-in-box M.C. Kids, an NES game I used to love. Then I got a New Nintendo 3DS XL and some eshop money that went straight into getting Pokemon Super Mystery Dungeon. I got River of Dreams, an old Billy Joel album from before I got into metal, which I absolutely adored back in the day. That went right next to Secret Garden, the all-new Angra album with their new lead singer. And so on.

Is anyone reading this familiar with the 70s musical adaptation of The War of the Worlds? Apparently they decided very recently to do a live stage tour of it. One or two of the singers are amazingly somehow still around to reprise their roles, the rest have been recast, and the long-dead Richard Burton's spoken-word narration of The Journalist is reanimated via playing his original lines through a giant holographic projection of his face animated with Clutch Cargo mouth-vision. It sounds awkward, but it all somehow works.

Anyway, they broadcast one of the showings and my dad recorded it and played it back for me while I was there. He had the original project on cassette and I'd heard it once or twice when I was very young, but in the decades since then, I'd forgotten almost everything except the prelude (and even then I'd forgotten how long it was) and one or two isolated moments such as Thunder Child and how the story ends. I'd forgotten (as but one of many examples) Parson Nathaniel and the Spirit of Man bit entirely. Seeing the stage version was a lovely mixture of "Oh God, I remember this" and what may as well have been an all-new experience. It was very well put together and the music has been stuck in my head ever since. If this is on DVD or something, I may put that on my wish list for my birthday.

The old and new duality even carries over into what I've been doing lately. I dusted off a two-year-old Minecraft file and put my own finishing touches on a construction project that Zoey had started. birdlooke and I have restarted To the Moon and are making real progress on it, after the two of us + Zoey had stalled out on it over a year ago. After wondering if we would ever touch that game again, I'm now confident we'll finish it in early 2016. And speaking of finishing up old neglected Let's Plays, maybe 2016 will be the year of Amon Ra....

It feels like... tying up loose ends, I suppose. Which is fortunate, since the manner of our breakup didn't leave me a lot of opportunity to do that. Closure and new beginnings. I'm getting everything in order so I can move forward. A lot has happened, with a lot to process and a lot to overcome, but I think I'm ready to capitalize on the good, move on from the bad, and just keep going.

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Happy New Year, everyone.
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