Category Archives: Not Writing

35: I’ve wasted a lifetime pretending to be me

I've wasted a lifetime pretending to be me

All my recent angst is self-inflicted (for certain values of “self”*), and it has nothing to do with my birthday. I’m seriously starting to consider changing the birthday tag.

I’m backdating this post, as I tend to do, because 2 days after I came home from Seattle, my back decided I’d been mistreating it with all the walking and the carrying an unbalanced bag and lifting a heavy carry-on over my head to get it in the overhead bin on the plane—yes, I am that short—aaand I guess I threw my back out? About a week later, I don’t need painkillers to get through the day anymore and I can sleep in bed again instead of on the couch (moving in my sleep meant I’d wake up wanting to scream). Is this what getting old is? I hate it. A lot. Moving on.

This is the second year in our little house and we’ve agreed that we’ll be moving, most likely to Washington, as soon as we have enough money saved up to cover first and last month’s rent, security deposit, moving costs, travel costs, etc.

I went to Japan last year. I went to Seattle. I’ve been passing my classes.** I threw enough money at my credit cards that they’re mostly paid down. I cut off most of my hair again.*** I’m a semi-successful ghostwriter with a regular client, and when I look for more work, I can usually find it.

The best music I found last year was She Wants Revenge (80s-style goth from the 00s), it’s super catchy and sexy and gothy—all good things! New albums, either out last year or I found them last year, from Faderhead (Night Physics), A Perfect Circle (Eat the Elephant), Gary Numan (Savage), Mesh (Looking Skyward), Julien-K (Time Capsule), Grendel (Age of the Disposable Body) and God Module (Does This Stuff Freak You Out?****).

To do this year:

  • Make a real plan with s/o for moving out of this town.
  • Pass all my classes.
  • Pursue viable alternative income streams.
    • Use the accounts I have on various freelancing boards.
    • Make a text adventure app.
    • Write porn “erotica” ebooks and publish online.
  • Moar tattoos.
    • I want jellyfish. Lots and lots of jellyfish.
  • Play Bloodborne all the way through.
    • (Maybe also finish Dark Souls, since I seem to be feeling masochistic.)
  • Write.
    • There is no secret to writing, except to write. That is the only way the writing will get done.

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*Does the goblin shark that lives deep in the spirals of my brain and keeps me up staring at the ceiling while it whispers seductive cruelties in the dark count as a “self”?
**Even though the idea of failing—and all the other dominoes that fall after that—baits THE FEAR in me, the only useful option I have is to keep moving forward as best as I can and to make the best choices I’m able to make at the time.
***Because I can never learn.
****It’s a remix album, I bought it mostly for the name but it’s better than I expected and there’s an excellent cover of “Round and Round.”

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August 29 – September 4 | Seattle (Highlights)

I had a week off in between terms and I wanted to go to Seattle to visit my dad, so I went. (All by myself!) That’s how grown-ups do things, isn’t it? Guise am I adulting right or nah?

August 29: Arrival

Flying To

Flying over Montana (on fire) | Airplane cookie

After exiting the plane, I immediately got lost in the airport. In my defense 1) SeaTac is kind of huge, and 2) all the in-game maps tell me where I’m at on the map, but the map on the website wasn’t doing that. Tl;dr: I realized there would be an entrance near where they sold the tickets and entrances often double as exits, so followed the signs that said “ticketing” until I found some doors. (This is why it’s important to encourage critical thinking btw.)

I met up with my dad, we took the Link light rail to the Capitol Hill Station, and walked like 8 or 12 blocks to his apartment. (This is one of the reasons why I try to travel carry-on only btw.) After I dropped my shit off, we went up the hill to Blue Moon Burger and I betrayed my generation by not photographing my food, or the restaurant, or otherwise commemorating the experience. (Shame! Shaaame!)

August 31: Woodland Park Zoo

On Friday, me and my dad decided to go to the zoo. First, we made the mistake of going downtown because that’s where we needed to transfer from one bus to another. It was a mistake because downtown was busier than I think I’ve ever seen it, and neither of us could figure out why Labor Day weekend had drawn such a crowd… until I noticed a not insignificant amount of people wearing badges around their necks and—oh fuck me we had gone into downtown during PAX (I had forgotten that was going to be happening because I’m just a fucking casual). There was so much PUBG hype going on, I almost talked to strangers, and I never do that.

Fortunately, the crowds at the zoo were significantly smaller.

Zoo - The Worst Seals

Penguins on Penguin Poo Rock | Penguin | Penguin | Penguin

We saw penguins!

Zoo - Flamboyant Ostriches and the Worst Cats

Flamingos | Hippo :D

And flamingos!

And hippos!

Zoo - Real Life Dragon

Gorgeous Komodo dragon statue | Gorgeous Komodo dragon skull | Gorgeous Komodo dragon| Another one of the Komodo skull

And this handsome boy!

(That statue was mostly accurate, and to scale, and I loved the mosaic on its back, and I barely managed to snap a couple shots before it was descended upon by a pack of fucking children—but that sort of thing tends to happen if you go to the zoo on a holiday weekend, so.)

September 3: Ivar’s, the waterfront, Bremerton

Ivars - Waterfront

Seattle Waterfront | Ivar’s sign | Ivar’s fried oysters & chips, fish & chips | Ivar’s in neon

Visits to Ivar’s at the waterfront are basically mandatory. I had fried oysters for the first time, they’re very good: less chewy than other mollusks but the same sort of flavor. I think I prefer the fried clams? The fried fish is also very good. (Who am I kidding? Everything at Ivar’s is good. GO TO IVAR’S AND EAT ALL THE THINGS.)

Bremerton Ferry

Seattle skyline (view from a ferry) | Harborside Fountain Park fountain | Fritz fries | Harborside Fountain Park bench

We took the ferry over to Bremerton just to go to this German fry house. I’m not kidding. The fries are some of the best I’ve ever had (full disclosure: I like my fries thicc) and they have probably 2 dozen sauce options, including weird shit like Thai peanut, and curry mayo like me and my dad got, along with standard things like ketchup and fry sauce. (Yes, we ate french fries twice in one day. What can I say? We’re part Irish.)

After the fries, we walked around Harborside Fountain Park until the ferry back to Seattle was ready to go. It’s a really nice park with a lot of fountains, and carved rocks, and a beautiful view of the Sound.

September 4: Departure

Flying From

Flying over Seattle at night | Space Needle (view from a ferry)

Not counting the travel days, I had about a week in Seattle, and I came back home in time to get my first week of the term school assignments in on deadline, even though I was more or less 3 days short on the first week. (One definite point in favor of online school: flexibility.)

Seattle - It Was Like This

Gloomy sky | Apartment building | King Street Station | Space Needle at night | Skyscrapers

Goodbye, Seattle! I <3 you!

The course names at my school are all just lies, apparently :(

Term 8 ended on Sunday. The course I took was called Introduction to Graphic Design Technology. That name is a fucking lie. What the course syllabus states the course is intended to do is teach students to have a fluid understanding of Adobe Illustrator—and Photoshop—and InDesign—in 8 weeks. Obviously, I fell behind immediately, mostly down to stupid habits learned in response to the flexibility of deadlines.*

Standard penalty for turning in work late is 10% off.* Okay. Fine. That’s fine. I can deal with that. (No, seriously. I’ve never been precious about maintaining a 4.0, I know my limits and I know what’s reasonable to expect from myself.) Except. I noticed a few of the rubrics have this section for “timeliness” on them that takes off like 15% if the assignment is turned in within 2 days past the deadline and 25% for anything after 2 days past.

What. Is that… is that instead of the 10% or on top of it? What the fuck.

I was also not meeting the standards I apparently hold for myself, as far as how quickly I was able to learn the material and how well I could apply it to the assignments.*** And I was behind, which I mentioned already, but being behind means my assignments were graded basically 2 weeks behind instead of 1 week behind so my grade wasn’t up to date, like, ever for the entire class. And the instructor was swinging wildly between empathetic/helpful and aloof/uncaring. And most of the rubrics listed “proficient use of the programs” as being necessary to get full credit, while “rudimentary and unrefined” topped out at about 75% of the points**** in the design category, which was the category that was always worth at least like 50% of the total assignment.

At about week 2 and going forward, I never knew where my grade was at or how well I was doing or whether I was actually learning or getting anything useful out of the class and oh my god it was torture. The worst part was when I got feedback on one week’s discussion posts that said my replies were “generic and vague” even though I specifically referenced the thing my classmates were talking about and related it to a defined opinion I had. This only increased the feeling that I had no idea what the instructor wanted. Turns out I can’t deal well with uncertainty, which was a surprise for some reason, even though I’ve known me for several decades now.

By the last day, right around the midnight deadline (classic me!), I was throwing together a final project out of the rudimentary and unrefined assets I’d built over the past 8 weeks (with a lot of judicious… um, let’s call it “inspirational(?) googling” because I had no fucking idea what the final project was supposed to look like, since design wasn’t part of the curriculum). Once that was turned in, I started frantically doing math to figure out whether there were even enough points left for me to pull a passing grade out of the wreckage, estimating how many points I could probably count on getting on assignments I was waiting for grades on, figuring out what I needed to get on the final project to pass overall, then emailing my advisor in a panic because I was pretty sure I was going to fail and I needed to know what would happen after that happened.

Tl;dr: I ended at a B+. I don’t know what happened. All I know is it’s over now, I have the credit, I don’t have to take the class again, and the next class looks like it’s going to be a better introduction to graphic design than the class that’s actually called “Introduction to Graphic Design.” Fuck.

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*I am so much more familiar with the late policies than I should be, but that’s the sort of thing you get cozy with when you have all sorts of headfuckery echoing in the background and it could get its teeth in you any second and sometimes you won’t even notice you’ve been quietly taken by depression in the dark waters of the night** until you notice how deep and cold everything is now and realize you’re drowning.
**Spoiler: It’s always night.
***I think I’m still traumatized from the coding program I failed out of (section: SCHOOL). Pretty sure that’s it…

March 20 – April 3 | Japan: the food post

(I got a better phone with a better camera so my pictures don’t look quite so shit. Like usual, this isn’t everything we ate, but it’s fairly representative.)

konbini - 7i

Konbinis! Convenience stores in Japan are the second best thing (the best is the vending machines on literally every other block that sell ALL THE DRINKS). You can get trash food, you can get healthy food, you can get a proper meal put together without much effort. Kitchens are small and it’s more typical for people to eat out more often than cooking at home (my s/o’s tendency to pick up Subway on the way home instead of trying to make food at home suddenly makes more sense).

nabin

Oh my god I have missed Indian food so much since moving back to Montana. Nabin is a Sri Lankan place with delicious curry and naan and saffron rice and samosas and these little dumplings called “momos” (pictured). Since getting home, I’ve started making curries and rice. So good.

dominos

DOMINO’S IN JAPAN. The ingredients are better, the flavor combinations are to suit Japanese tastes (teriyaki chicken, chicken and corn with mayo, pork and roasted garlic) besides also offering more typical flavors (margherita, all meat), the option of 4 sections on a pizza is a standard thing, the pizza is cut into 12 instead of 8 and the pizzas are smaller.

conveyor sushi

I don’t know the name of the place but it was conveyor sushi! We went to see the new Tomb Raider (English with Japanese subs), then went to this conveyor sushi place so we could say we’d done it. Everyone I tell this story to is some degree of squicked out but I had no problems with any of the raw fish I ate, or any of the water I drank, or anything else. Either I got luck or food-handling standards are more strictly monitored over there (I know which one I bet it is).

sweet potato ice cream

In Kawagoe there was a soft serve stand selling sweet potato ice cream: it’s half orange and half purple sweet potato flavor (not that I noticed a difference in flavor, but I’m not super familiar with the flavors of different dessert-style sweet potatoes, so). After we got our ice cream we saw like 5 more of these stands, so it’s a popular thing.

rest stop

At the rest stop on the way back from the mountains, there were all kinds of little snacky vendors, and a Starbucks, and a couple of proper restaurants where you could get an actual meal. We opted for Starbucks and takoyaki, because I have this compulsion to eat trash. Takoyaki has this weird kind of texture where I wouldn’t order it for myself (because an order there had 8), but if someone was offering it around, I’d have 1.

gyoza place

Aaand speaking of eating trash: GYOZA. I was thoroughly schooled in some cultural aspects I wasn’t aware of, one of which is that gyoza and beer is considered kind of a garbage meal and something salary men have after work before stumbling home. Obviously we went to this amazing gyoza franchise place 3 different times at 2 different locations (both of them close to a train station, because smart real estate placement). I had karaage, and steak fried up with green peppers, and a kind of hot and sour beef sauce with tofu in it (not pictured, because I ate it before thinking to photograph)—this was on 3 separate visits, not all at once, and we always got the “sets” that come with an order of gyoza, rice, soup and pickled veg. Fucking delicious.

heartful bakery

Last one: Heartful Bread Bakery. This is a few blocks from my s/o’s parent’s house where we were staying and it’s where all the bread in the house was from. They even had Irish soda bread (but they didn’t know that’s what it was, it was labeled “fruit bread” or something and it was really good with butter on for breakfast). We walked over for breakfast one day before getting on a train and got the most delightful little assortment of things, plus a coffee from the vending machine outside.

vending machines

I lied. Vending machines. I will miss the vending machines most of all. *single sad tear*

March 20 – April 3 | Japan

PSA: I have a passport now. (It’s like I’m an adult or something.)

First international trip: Japan. I don’t speak the language—other than knowing the difference between “domo” and “arigato“, which got me further than it had any right to—and I planned nothing. My s/o is from there, speaks well enough to get us around, and knows how the trains work.

Strangely, I had next to no experience of jet lag from Montana to Tokyo (unless the long stretch of time in airports and on planes where I had no idea what time or day it was is jet lag; if that’s it, then I had jet lag for like a day). In all fairness, my sleep schedule was proper fucked before we left, and there’s a 15-hour time difference, so it’s possible everything just lined up to mask my usual sleep disorders into looking like a normal sleeping pattern. Yeah. That sounds right.

downtown 1

We walked around Tokyo a lot, near the train station. There are temples (Buddhist) and shrines (Shinto) everywhere, which I like a lot in the same way that I like churches for the architecture and the sense of history.

sakura

It was sakura season. Turns out it only lasts for about 2 weeks between blooming, full bloom, and falling to clog all the streets and rivers, but it’s aesthetically pleasing enough to be considered worth the effort (?) and there are cherry trees basically everywhere.

kawagoya

Kawagoe dates back to the Edo period and it’s a huge tourism destination. They have places where you can rent kimonos and then walk around shopping and taking photos and learning history (we didn’t rent kimonos). I felt like less of an asshole taking pictures of everything because everyone else was doing it too.

harajuku

I fucking hated Harajuku. It was everything I loathe about big cities, all condensed into a couple of city blocks. That main section of the picture above? That goes all the way down the blocks, that many people, that tight together. I don’t regret going, but I wouldn’t go again, I guess is what I’m saying.

mountains

Towards the end of the trip, we went up to the mountains and stayed overnight at the most adorable little cabin (IT HAD BUNK BEDS WE SLEPT IN BUNK BEDS IT WAS THE BEST), then we went hiking the next day. There were a lot of little gazebos that had “Refuge Shelter” signs in front of them; I think I was probably missing something (like a door to some stairs to the actual shelter) because what I saw would not be sufficient refuge or shelter if the volcano went up.

3 of my favorite things:

favorites

Sesame milk (it tastes like halvah), a little shrine in the street, the volcano that could have killed us all but decided not to (thank you for letting us live, volcano-sama! <3).

INTERIOR, NIGHT, DARKENED BEDROOM

If you happen to get sick with this year’s plague/flu, and you’re curled up in bed, shaking with chills, half-awake and in and out of fever-dreams, trying to prevent your lungs from evacuating your chest and your soul from evacuating your mortal coil you know what’s the very most perfect and apropos movie to watch?

IT COMES AT NIGHT.

Just the latest in a long line of bad investments

First, I wanted to get an AS in accounting, because it seemed safe and stable and like something that wouldn’t eat so many braincycles I wouldn’t be able to do creative work on the side. (I’m terrible at math, so I don’t know why I thought this would be a good idea.) The further I went, the more obvious it was that everyone in accounting was only getting their AS as a first step to getting a masters or doctorate, because an associates degree doesn’t qualify you to do shit except keep going. The people with the accounting jobs I thought I’d be able to get didn’t have their degrees in accounting, they just sort of stumbled into accounting jobs. Wtf.

In between terms, I changed my major from accounting to computer science, because all the computer science classes sounded really interesting and I’m interested in high-level science fiction concepts like “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning,” and there were courses on how to make apps, which is currently a reliably in-demand skill set. My (not well thought-out) plan was that if I could learn enough to make apps on the side, I could do that while I finished the degree. Right? Right. Except all the courses are just programming boot camps, even the one that said it was an intro course that didn’t require programming knowledge, the one that was listed as an overview of the subject in general, so I thought that would be a good place to start—and then it was just Python boot camp. Wtf again. This tanked my GPA (which was already on the borderline), so I took a term off to try to learn the subject on my own.

Over the next 2 months, I learned my brain isn’t wired for coding, so it would be kind of stupid to keep bashing my head against that particular brick wall, but I wanted to do it anyway. I was signed up to take the next class, a class that (again) sounded more introductory, that my program advisor said was more introductory, but did have some coding, and I’d been studying while I was off and I thought I could handle it. On the first day the course opened, I checked it out and it was just another Python boot camp. The curriculum was almost exactly the same. I freaked out and started frantically looking through all the online course offerings—exactly everything because I was desperate to find something I could do—and of course I landed on an art degree.*

I’m cynical enough to believe that one of the most important functions of an art degree is that it forces you to 1) produce work, and 2) have that work critiqued. Another value is the networking with other students and professors who may have connections in the industry and/or become valuable connections over time. Like any other skill, you have to invest the time, and one of the best ways to invest time is to pay for some time to be blocked off for that specific purpose. That’s kind of all a college degree is to me at this point, just a series of blocks of time I’m paying to have carved out for a specific purpose. Could I do that myself? Yeah, probably. And also, no, not successfully.

Tl;dr: On March 5, I’ll start classes for a BA in Game Art and Development. The first class I’ll be taking is World Mythology, followed by Intro to Creative Writing, then I’ll get into actual art classes. This feels like one of the least stupid decisions I’ve made since I’ve gone back to college again.

POSTSCRIPT 2/1/18: My financial aid appeal was approved. I will have funding to take classes starting next term. I will be able to continue deferring my student loan payments. I won’t have to enter bankruptcy because I can’t afford payments on an unfinished degree that I can’t afford to finish without financial aid. O THANK THE OLD GODS.

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*Back up here to explain my issue with art degrees: They’ve always been presented to me as a waste of money, since they don’t qualify you for a job like a technical certificate or teach you “real skills” like a STEM degree.** The thing is, I know logically that’s bullshit. I know there are a lot of people making money off of their creative work. I read their blogs, I follow them on Etsy and Tumblr. This isn’t impossible.
**There’s also the assumption that creative people will be creative whether they have any formal training or not (and formal training beyond a vocational certificate is kind of low-key discouraged if you’re poor,*** since you’ll be wasting resources by following a path you can’t afford to walk on your own—how dare you pursue self-fulfillment needs! Don’t you even know where you are on Maslow’s Hierarchy?! You should be concerned with food and shelter, maybe personal safety if you really want something to aspire to).
***When it isn’t being openly/loudly discouraged.