The year is drawing to a close, and so here we are once again, looking back in reflection. Brace yourselves; I have a lot to cover.
I reread my 2015 post for perspective, and noticed that I had sort of set it to Undertale music. This was mostly because that's what I was playing at the time, but also because it seemed fitting. So, let's make entry soundtracks a tradition! For this year, I had to think about it for a while, but I'm going to go with 'Epitaph' from Final Fantasy VI. You'll see the real reason why a little later (it's more positive than the name makes it sound, don't worry,) but for now just know that it sounds pretty and it makes good background music for reading ponderous entries like this.
So! Where are we now, in relation to last year?
Well, geopolitically, the world is on fire and everything is terrible. You knew that already, though. Let's shut that out for a bit and talk about where we are.
My job continues to go uneventfully, which is ecstatically good news after how terrible it used to be under my old manager. I just finished my second year of being the new manager, and my fifth year overall with the company. I got a lovely five-year anniversary bonus alongside the year-end bonus, and those together make this about the best December I've ever had as far as where I stand financially. Also, my yearly evaluation and raise were due a few weeks ago (whatever I get will be retroactively adjusted to my actual anniversary date, with back pay, so I won't have to worry about losing out on money if the higher-ups don't finish my evaluation soon.) I won't know what kind of news that's going to be until it happens, and I don't want to get my hopes up for anything larger than what I actually get, but things could maybe get even better if that goes well.
Not all the personal news is great, though. In my last entry, I said I was close to finishing what would be book one (after splitting them) of the new version of my novel.
No, I wasn't.
My aunt gave me a very thorough red-lining of the new version for a birthday present. This actually is an excellent development--she's right, and the review she did of the previous version is the reason why the new version (for people who had seen what I had so far of it) was already so much better. Editors are a wonderful thing! I had already taken my novel to the next level thanks to her, and now I'm poised to take it to the level after that. Of course, that means there's... well, a lot of work to be done. A lot of work to be done. I'm all but starting over. Again.
Because of this, I decided to pause development of the novel for a bit and work on something shorter, instead, just because I was tired of toiling on the same project for years with nothing public to show for it. (Did you know the last submission I have in any of my galleries that isn't a commission someone else did is a teaser for my anthology story, which was over a year ago? And the one before that was short little Twitch Plays Pokemon fanfic from March 2014?) I wanted to do another short, just to have something to submit. Just a quick little something to blow off steam.
Then that grew out of control as I realized I had something here, and that I could take it to the next level if I just....
I am 3DRealms only the development hell actually is building and leading to legitimately better work and not just starting the same game over in three different engines, is what I'm trying to say.
Add in random delays like that time my laptop battery died and I needed to wait until I got a new one before I could start writing on the bus again, random stress, and everything else, by December I'd pretty much given up and spent most of the time working on the LiveJournal entries for my Dagger of Amon Ra playthrough and what you're reading right now, just so I could at least get those done. Next year I'm going to try to get better about my real writing projects... if only I can decide which one I want to work on and what direction I want to take it.
Oh, but hey! The Dagger of Amon Ra playthrough is done! I posted my first entry for that project in May 2013, so this is a big accomplishment for me. The sense of "I really need to work on another Dagger update at some point" has been haunting my to-do list for literal years. I can't say I feel a tremendous sense of relief now that it's gone, since I have so many other projects on my plate that taking one off really doesn't change much. (See above paragraph, also I have a video I recorded with davidn and birdlooke I need to edit, and probably zillions of other things I'm forgetting....) However, Amon Ra is done. I wanted to cross that game off the list before the new year so I could say it was at least one good thing that came from this year, and I did.
Of course, impossible backlogs are nothing new for me, not even (especially not) in my personal relaxation off-mode of playing games. I said years ago that the entire video game industry at that moment could completely cease to exist, and the games that were out there as of when I said that would be more than what I could ever hope to finish in my natural lifetime. That was true, and it still is, but of course the video game industry continued on and made even more games after that. davidn has been trying to get me to finish 999 (let alone Virtue's Last Reward, let alone Zero Time Dilemma) pretty much since it was released, for example, and that's just one (well, three) example(s) out of literal hundreds. And I do want to finish it someday! I want to finish a lot of things someday, which is the problem.
But... I think 2016 was somewhat liberating in that regard, in that it was the year I finally let go of that struggle. You know, I'm never going to beat my backlog. My backlog won. And that's okay. If something amazing like Undertale comes out and takes the Internet by storm, and I want to play it even though I have God only knows how many other games I need to finish first, that's okay. I'm never going to finish all of them anyway. There will never be a moment of "okay, I've cleared the list, now I'm allowed to pick up a new game without feeling guilty about it." Instead, I'm just going to play what's fun and not worry about it anymore. I'm going to get about five hours into every game that comes out from now until the end of time and not finish a single one, but if I'm having fun, then... well... I'm having fun. I can at least be good about playing the same series in order, of course, but I'm not going to lose any more sleep over adding to the list in general. Obviously I'm not going to start Virtue's Last Reward until I finish 999, but at least I'm not going to worry about whether I can start Virtue's Last Reward before I finish 999 and Style Savvy, Pokemon, Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, Mega Man Legacy Collection, Mega Man Unlimited, Shantae, Shovel Knight, Rhythm Heaven, King's Quest....
I still want to go back and finish all of these at some point, of course, but I'm giving myself permission to go back to then when I want to, rather than stressing about how I have to work on my file for this or that. It's a new sensation and it's going to take some getting used to--I can't just say that once and never worry about it ever again--but so far, it feels good. So, that's another small positive in a "take what you can get" year, I suppose.
And hey, you never know what long-buried entries at the bottom of the list may bubble their way back up to the surface when the right random whim strikes. For example, this year I finally, finally read Ursula Vernon's "Digger", thus officially making me the last furry in the fandom to do so. This is cutting-edge stuff, here, folks. Maybe next year I'll get to the bottom of this business about the alleged veracity of the cake. (No, but really, it yet but it's excellent so far and I realize how silly it sounds to get into "if you haven't read this yet..." mode over a comic that already took the fandom by storm and won every relevant award back in 2007, but....)
So, I'll pick up things as I feel the urge to pick them up, and have fun doing so. That's a fairly good way to approach what should be the "relax and unwind" portion of my life, anyway.
Let's see, what else did last year's entry cover that I need to update... oh gosh I have to talk about Zoey again. Sigh. I kind of don't want to get into this because it feels like I'm digging up old news, which itself is a good sign (it means I'm finally moving on if I no longer want to wallow in it) but I'm recapping this year and the latest developments technically happened early this year, so.
Part of my misery in my last entry was because we ended our relationship on such an optimistic tone. She was only breaking up with me because her therapist advised her she probably shouldn't be in relationships with anyone until she focused on her own mental health and learned how to deal with relationships in a more healthy way. Therefore, a part of me still believed we had a chance. Yeah, we officially broke up, but since we still both loved each other and the only reason we couldn't be together was because we couldn't, who knows, maybe we could try again after she focused on herself for a while. She even told me she wanted to keep in touch and that she didn't want to lose me from her life completely. And then she disappeared.
The first few months of this year were... not pleasant for my mental health because of that. She seemed to want the idea of me being around at her convenience, but she never actually interacted with me while I was. She wanted me to wait for her, and I did, and I kept waiting, but eventually I started to feel like... well, like a Pokemon that she'd put in Someone's PC early on in the game and then just moved on, leaving me there in digital stasis while she had her adventure, expecting me to still be there in the exact same position as the day she'd dropped me off if she ever did randomly decide to come back. Being dumped is one thing--it sucks, but it's 100% her right to be with or not be with whomever she chooses, and I'm neither the first nor the last person in human history to be turned down. That's fine. I just needed the closure. I just needed to not be in limbo anymore. So around April, I finally couldn't take it anymore and sent her a letter saying exactly that. I wasn't even expecting to get back together anymore at this point. I just wanted to know where we stood, and what function I was supposed to be serving in her life anymore at this point, if any.
That finally got her to write back. It turns out she'd already gotten back together with her other ex months ago, and just never had the nerve to tell me. Because she didn't want to hurt me, you see.
Well. At least I got the closure I was looking for. Now I know, and it's settled. I spent months in this weird half-state where it felt embarrassing to still be worked up about some ex who'd already broken up with me ages ago, like I should just let go and move on already, but I couldn't because it... sort of... maybe parts of it still weren't over? It was a weird situation, basically. Well, now I don't have to worry about that anymore, and--encouragingly--for the past few months, I haven't been. Like I said, I was already getting that "digging up old news" sense of embarrassment even bringing this up now, and it should be the last time I'll ever have to. Hell, even the radio silence and never hearing from or talking to her went from anguish to "yeah that's probably for the best at this point." So, maybe even that is another positive for this year, in a way. It means I can leave Zoey in 2016, and move on--for real, this time.
Last year, I coped with all the breakup stuff by focusing on the chance for self-exploration and discovery instead (may as well make the most of the alone time, right?) and that's when I came up with the notion that I might actually be transgender. So, one year later, how has that all progressed? Well....
My own uncertainty has been my biggest obstacle thus far, even as I keep happily adding individual parts to the transitioning process. Next week will be the last laser hair removal appointment for my chest. I've already added facial electrolysis to the mix, and I started shaving my legs too because why not. (Answer to why not: because oh my god it takes forever how do you people survive doing this regularly aaaaaa.) I've started going by Celine--quietly to one or two very close trusted friends at first, as a sort of test drive to see how I liked being called that, and then slowly expanding the people I've told and changing my name on this or that site's profile. Still far from universal, but it's growing. I've gotten in with a local gender clinic, spoken to their endocrinologist once and a gender therapist once and have set followup appointments for each. I'm already on Finasteride (basically just to stop me from going bald while I think about what to do next, because I at least knew that one already) and we'll see in about a week if we want to add anything else.
In short, it's all moving forward nicely, but I still lack the confidence to say, "Yes, I am a transgender woman and this is a thing I know for 100% certain." Which is kind of unfortunate, since this clinic... it's not informed-consent model, at least, and I am getting counseling (thank God) but even the counseling seems to boil down to "ultimately it's up to you and how you feel" and wow one year might not be enough time to have all that figured out for sure just yet.
But I'm working on it, and I'm moving forward, and I'm excited to see what kind of progress I can make in the new year!
So, I guess that about wraps up this year. The theme for last year, according to last year's post, was looking back and looking forward--collecting and recalling old things I used to have growing up at the same time I ventured into new and uncharted territory. If I had to pick a theme I want to emphasize for this entry, it's... sincerity. As I said in the last entry of my Amon Ra playthrough, I think xyzzysqrl's influence has rubbed off on me, and I'm learning to appreciate the virtues of heartfelt, unironic enjoyment of things (even "bad" things) because God knows we have far too many caustic critics in this world. Kicking over other people's sandcastles for cheap laughs is easy. Admitting that you actually liked their sandcastles is harder, somehow, like it shows vulnerability or makes you the next target, or... something. But no, I'm not playing that game anymore. 2016 was a horrible year for the world at large and for most people I know, and that has taught me that life is too short and fraught with peril to be cynical about things. We need to pull together, to open our hearts, to love, and if that means publicly admitting that I really enjoyed [NSFW?] Farnham Fables and even became good friends with the author, for example, then so be it.
Oh, Farnham Fables. I wanted to do an entire thing on thing on that, because finding it and befriending the author is definitely a huge part of Things That Happened In 2016 for me, but this entry is already among the longest ones I've ever written. Still... briefly, it's a simplistic but very well thought out point-and-click with some very weird potentially off-putting content like nudity, references to and conversations about nudity, underage nudity, and nudity. At the same time, it has a lot of sentimental moments, feel-good camaraderie, and a surprising amount of feels if you give the series a chance (that is, if you either overlook the weird stuff or it's actually your thing.) It is absolutely not for everyone, please do not take this as a general recommendation. My point is that this is a passion project, something that someone with a vision who cares very deeply put a lot of work into, something with heart and sincerity, and something that the Ben Croshaws of the world gleefully shit all over without caring about any of what went into it. That's what I want to stop. Maybe the game isn't your thing. It's not a lot of people's thing. But it's someone's thing (mine) and I want to fight for a world where pleasures don't always have to be guilty.
Anyway, that sense of heartfelt sincerity brings us to the real reason I chose the song 'Epitaph' for this post. I'm assuming most of my friends are familiar with Final Fantasy VI, but just in case (spoilers): Epitaph is the penultimate song in the cavalcade of bleakness that is the first part of the World of Ruin. At this point, the party tried to stop a genocidal lunatic from gaining absolute power and failed, and said lunatic (Kefka) promptly destroyed most of the world. After a brief escape sequence set to the music of the apocalypse (technically called 'Metamorphosis'), the airship was destroyed, everything faded to black, and then Celes woke up again after a timeskip, alone but for an NPC (Cid) who had been taking care of her throughout her coma. During that time, Kefka more or less became a God and remade the world in his twisted image, dropping the Final Fantasy magical equivalent of nuclear annihilation on entire cities if anyone dared to not bow to him (or even if he just happened to be in a bit of a mood that day.) Everyone is dead or dying, the party that had tried to stop all this is now scattered and missing, and Celes and Cid (being stuck on this island) don't even know for sure that there is a world left out there anymore. If you step outside Cid's cabin, the new world map theme is 'Dark World', which sounds about how you'd imagine and is very appropriate.
Then Cid falls ill and either recovers or dies depending on how well you do at a nursing-him-back-to-health minigame, and either way, Celes gets off the island (either in a hauntingly emotional scene wherein she attempts suicide but survives and then decides to keep fighting on after all, or after Cid just kind of thanks her and gives her a raft. The "Cid lives" version of the scene is comparatively dull and anticlimactic, but you're still kind of mean if you the player let him die just to make Celes feel things.) Back on the mainland, or what's left of it, she reunites with two or three of the missing party members, one of whom (Setzer) has a secret weapon in the form of another airship (the Falcon) kept in the tomb of his old friend (and possibly girlfriend) Daryl.
'Epitaph' is the song that plays during the final stretch of the Daryl's Tomb dungeon, in a cutscene after clearing it out and as the party descends the stairs toward the Falcon. It's all about Setzer recalling the times he had with Daryl. You can watch it here:
I am very slowly making my way toward my point, but here's why I chose that song for this year: did you watch that scene all the way through to the end? Did you see the part after the recollections, once they'd found the Falcon? After going through this entire stretch of everything being terrible after Celes wakes up, after one last stab to the heart in the form of Setzer and Daryl... something happens. The game has finally had enough of being hopeless. 'Epitaph' fades out, and 'Searching for Friends' fades in. This is the new world map theme for the rest of the game, and it's... not triumphant; it still has an underlying melancholy tone that acknowledges that you're in the World of Ruin. It's optimistic, though, taking what it's been given and daring to hope. It's a theme that says, "This isn't over yet. The party still has one more chance."
Musically, the one-two punch of 'Epitaph' into 'Searching for Friends' is probably my favorite music in the entire Final Fantasy series, and it's that progression that I want to capture with this post. 2016 was not a good year for the world at large. 2016 feels like the year Kefka won, that everything was destroyed. And, unfortunately, I think we're in for a long winter, here; I don't expect 2017 or beyond to be much better in terms of global politics or the like. However, there is hope at the end. I'm sure parts of 2017 and beyond will feel like the 'Metamorphosis' and 'Dark World' numbers all over again, but as long as we have each other, it's not over. I truly believe that the love we share, everything from the kind words and hugs to the terrible jokes, that every little moment we put little smiles on each other's faces is going to see us through any storm the next few years can throw at us. I am a very firm believer in the First Church of Bluebell (speaking of finally getting around to Ursula Vernon's work!) And I couldn't possibly ask for a better crew of friends and loved ones with me on the bridge of the Falcon, soaring through the skies as we put this broken world back together. Thank you. I love you all.
I wrapped up 2016 with Epitaph. Let's make 2017 the year of Searching for Friends.