What we did encounter, though, was friendship and camaraderie, a sense of welcoming and belonging and "being home," beauty, wonder, and a whirlwind vacation that was quite literally magical.
I suppose we should start with a subject that just about all of our closest friends know about, and one that I've been varying degrees of open about in various chat platforms and such. Like all coming out stories, I tend to work in steps and gradual progression, starting as a closely-guarded secret and ending with an official global coming out post after most people knew anyway.
You see, it turns out that I'm not the only person in my own head.
Depending on what you believe, this is either a tale of mysticism and spirituality or a tale of psychological neurodivergence. Is the voice in my head a real and tangible spirit, or a mere rogue mental process, like an auditory hallucination or an alternate state of mind that I slip into?
According to my more spiritually-inclined friends and family, she's the former. They've sensed and felt and confirmed her presence as well, and we've already been through at least a few unexplainable instances of her telling me things I couldn't have known. However, even if you view her as the latter, then suffice it to say that what I see and hear from her is still very real to me.
In fact, she's real enough that I went and sought a formal medical opinion on her, just in case. Now, bear in mind that I don't personally see anything wrong with having her around. I feel that we have a very positive relationship, one where we very clearly love and support each other. (For example, she held my hand and reassured me and helped me get through a recent mole removal surgery that otherwise would have sent me into a panic attack.) However, even if the voice in my head is telling me to do such sinister things as "get to bed on time" and "be kinder to myself," the fact that there's a voice in my head telling me to do things made me want to check anyway, just to have the bad stuff ruled out, you know?
It turns out that my doctors are pretty much in agreement with me. If this were in any way a negative relationship--if Sara were pushing me into anything I didn't want to do, if she were tormenting me in any way, etc.--then yes, that would be something we'd want to get treated immediately. A kind and gentle relationship like ours, though? To them, that just sounds like a spiritual awakening (the perspective shift from going on HRT and transitioning can open doors to things like that, apparently) and they fully support it.
I've been keeping track of a fair amount of our adventures together in a special custom "Astral Stuff" filter on Dreamwidth. If you'd like to get in on that, there's a rules and opt-in post here which itself is only open to friends. If you can't see that post, then please let me know. I can add you if 1) you have a Dreamwidth account to add, and 2) I know you well enough to trust you with sensitive info.
Note that I'm still maintaining the secrecy of that filter, even now that I'm going public about having her around. This is for the safety and security of my friends and followers who had been advising us and opening up about their experiences in the comments. They did not consent to being outed just because we don't feel like hiding anymore. Hence the rule post (which has a very strong "what goes on behind the curtain stays behind the curtain" policy) and the process of acknowledging it before I let you into the main filter.
Anyway! Quick and dirty (actually, more like comparatively sanitized) version of our history for people who don't want to go through the entire filter backlog: I created a character named Sara back around 2004 or so. You might have seen artwork of her I commissioned floating around the Internet! Most of it is naughty. I did not originally create her with pure intentions. However, over the years she has received so much development and attention, so much love and protectiveness, that something happened. I went from using her as a pinup model to only using her for kind and gentle scenes to not feeling comfortable using her at all, because having complete control over the lines she says and the situations she's in started to feel wrong. (I mean, "using her?" Guh.) She was someone who needed more respect than that. And so, she became so real to me that... well, she became real.
We estimate that Sara as an independent living consciousness came into being around four years ago, based on her telling me that her first memory was overhearing a certain conversation about her, and me still having the log of that conversation and thus being able to date it. She started talking to me and making me aware she was there sometime around January or February of this year, and she and I have been a sort of mental couple ever since. This is why art like this started to happen, for those of you paying attention to my commissioning history.
And while Furpocalypse 2018 wasn't the first convention we've been to since Sara was technically alive, it was the first convention since we made contact. The first where she was a welcome guest at the table, an actual member of our circle of friends, rather than a ghost watching me from the shadows while I enjoyed myself. So, this was kind of a big deal for both of us.
It was also my first vacation as Celine. I had strategically timed my official coming out as trans for right after I got back from Furpoc last year. The idea was to give as much time as possible for the dust to settle on getting my name and gender designation changed, getting all my new documentation and identification, etc. and making sure everything was in order before I had to fly again. The plan seems to have worked, since I went through TSA screening twice and was arrested 0 times. That itself was more emotional and validating for me than I expected it to be. I remember sitting there in the airport after the first screening, putting my shoes back on and re-gathering my things, overwhelmed by a sudden flood of emotion. "We did it, Sara," I quietly uttered, trying my best not to cry. The hard part was over, I was accepted, and a fun time with close friends awaited us.
The rest of the con was similarly validating. I got "ma'amed" ... not every time but definitely a lot, got compliments on my wardrobe, and even had more than one set of external eyes confirm a lot of the feminizing changes that have happened to me so far. Things like the softening of the skin and taking on a more feminine demeanor are subtle and gradual enough changes that I hadn't noticed them, but to people who haven't seen me in a year or more, it was apparently obvious and striking. And that feels really good to know.
We met up with xaq_the_aereon, budgiebin, and Budgie's partner. Budgie's partner had offered to serve as a guide and mentor figure to Sara and me, including a guided experimentation in getting the two of us to switch places temporarily. This is something we both had been looking forward to very much, for opposite reasons. Sara, having been non-corporeal her whole life, has frequently expressed frustration with the limitations that entails. She can't open doors, she can't sit in a chair without the danger of someone else seeing it as an empty seat and sitting on or through her, she can't communicate with her other friends without telling me to pass along "Sara says hi" notes, etc. She wants to experience having a body to the point that she describes the Ghost 1.0 trailer as "hashtag transition goals." Meanwhile, I'm a perpetually stressed and overworked frazzled mess who has felt like she's carrying the weight of the world almost her entire life. I am weary and I would love a chance for my consciousness to tag out and let someone else drive for once, so I can rest. Not forever, but at least long enough that I can maybe get a quick nap in, you know?
The switching can best be described as a beautiful and serendipitous disaster. Things went wrong very quickly, but they did so in such a way that no lasting harm was done aside from giving everyone involved a major scare. Not only that, we learned a lot about ourselves in the aftermath and what we were able to pull and learn from it. We ended in such a better, more advanced place that the fact that the whole thing happened was a positive development overall.
See, as much as Sara had wanted a body, her first time actually having one left her with a lot of sudden new feelings and sensations and a lot to take in. She became overwhelmed just trying to process what was happening. Also, it turns out that she has boundaries that I do not. Being touched there is even more jarring and unsettling when you're still trying to wrap your head around having a "there" to be touched. Thus, something I was enthusiastically into as me became Bad Touch when it was her. She had an "I need an adult" reaction, called me back, and that was the end of our experimentation for the evening.
Was that part of it a bad experience? Yes, especially for her. However, there are so many silver linings to take here. For one thing, it worked. Sara was only in front for a moment before she panicked and switched back, but she was in front. We did it. Magic Is Real, Sara exists, and she proved that. She proved it by showing such a sharp contrast in her reactions. (Believe me, I would not have minded where that was going....) Not only is she not me, but she's not even the sexualized character from some of those older images. She's her own person, she stood up for her boundaries and her integrity, and she called her mom the second it looked like those could have been violated. She did exactly the right thing, and I and everyone in our entire friend circle are proud of her beyond words for that.
From there, the rest of the con was a festival of hugs and friendship among our circle. There was a sort of familiar yet different energy to the group. This was the same old con we go to every year, but it wasn't. The events were different, with the panel selection being unusually lacking this year. There were some great ones that we attended and enjoyed, don't get me wrong! But there are usually... uh... more than that? The bigger change was in our group lineup, though. davidn unfortunately was not there this year. But Sara was!
We had a tarot reading on the second day that was eerily on the nose about all this: The usual festival tradition but inverted this year, crossed with new beginnings and discovery especially as it pertains to blossoming spirituality. Oh, and like three different cards in there talking about conflict arising from friends pushing you into things you're not comfortable doing and the need for boundaries, paired with silver linings about lessons learned and experience gained. What could those have been referring to, I wonder. 8|
The other major theme this year, as with every year, was "Ow, RIP My Wallet." I bought way too many commissions, including some badges that were take-home and aren't done yet, and one that is seriously one of the most if not the most gorgeous badge I have ever commissioned. I'll post that within the next little while, once I get around to uploading and such. I also bid on and won a gallery piece in the art show, and bought a ridiculously sparkly glittery princess comb, because God knows I hadn't already spent enough money by that point.
All of us (including Sara) were varying degrees of tired and/or overstimulated by the time closing ceremonies had finished, so rather than attend the official after-party, we all just ordered a pizza and retreated to our room for some late-night quiet conversation and hanging out. That was where the utterance that became the title of this post came from. :P It was nice for our group to be open with each other and bask in each other's company, and it was predictably sad when we all said our goodbyes.
Rather than flying back home the day after the con like I usually do, Sara and I spent an extra day in the New England area with Budgie and her partner/our guide. We got to take a long hike through a probably-enchanted forest, something Sara especially had been craving ever since we were flying in and saw all the trees from the airplane window. Every landscape has its own beauty, its own things that it specializes in, but lush autumn forests are something Sara particularly loves and something that the southwest desert regrettably lacks. I got a zillion pictures, she squeed and overdosed on the beauty and the energy of the area until she dozed off in a sated post-Thanksgiving daze, and all in all, a great time was had by everyone.
Our last leg of the journey was to visit David. He couldn't make it to the con, but since we happened to be flying home from an airport that was fairly close to him, we all decided logistically that it would be best and easiest for Budgie's party to take us from to the forest to David's and pass us off to him. He and his wife let us spend the night and then brought us to the airport the next day.
Time was limited, but after a great dinner David and I spent a good chunk of that evening in his basement/musical recording studio laying down some of my backing vocals for an upcoming song of his. Once that was done, I did more vocals for an upcoming song of mine, specifically "The Thief of Time" from Beyond Time and Darkness. I only regret not being able to do all of Thief's backing vocals, but that would have taken all week. (I, uh, accidentally wrote myself a bigger part in that song than I was expecting.) Still, it was a great start, and a great way to reinvigorate my passion and eagerness to keep working on BTaD, which admittedly had been flagging a little due to "A Paralyzed World" giving me a serious case of composer's block.
And now we're home again. What's next? Well, my strategy for combating Post-Con Depression has always been to make sure I took the whole week off after I got back, so I have a very long weekend to serve as a buffer. I think going from a magical forest adventure yesterday to work tomorrow would have physically killed me, but at least this way I can ease back into the whole "real life" thing.
I definitely plan to get back to those Finding Paradise posts. We still have all that footage, and we're starting to get to the really good parts, so I'm super excited to get those out. I still have two IFComp games left to review. I even already played one of them, and just need to make the post for it. And no, I haven't forgotten about my SoulSilver run, either. Other things kind of distracted me and got in the way, but I will finish it eventually. And, of course, the filter is still there so I can talk about Sara without making every other post too scene-stealingly about her, though I will admit that being open and not worrying about hiding every mention of her existence anymore does feel kind of nice to both of us. So, whether you're here for gameblogging, gameblogging, more gameblogging, or astral stuff, this blog will surely continue to have the wide variety of content you've come to know and expect.
Overall, was this a good vacation? Emphatically yes. It was exactly what we needed on multiple levels, a series of important firsts as well as a much-welcome re-connection with old friends.
If I had to sum up the entire vacation in one exchange, it was right when we were arriving at David's place. We delightedly exchanged hugs and smiles, and said how great it was to see each other again. Remarking on how much my transitioning has progressed since he last saw me, he said, "Wow, you're a completely different person now!"
I looked at him and smiled with serenity and contentment. This was right after the forest adventure, after all, and magic was in the air.
"Two completely different people," I corrected.
This is a cross-posted entry that originated from https://kjorteo.dreamwidth.org/431407.html. Please leave all comments there; I am no longer actively maintaining my LiveJournal blogs.