I'm not entirely sure where to begin. This year has been a rather large one for me, with events such as a family cruise, moving from community college to a university, and most significantly, reconnecting with a friend, and that bond bringing about tons of revelations, new growth, and the joy that can come with being in love.
The following will be chronologically out of order.
The Cruise and Lessons from the Past
In the beginning of summer, my family went on a cruise to celebrate my sister's high school graduation (and partly my college "upgrade" since it fell on the same year). The ship was amazing (though one supper in the dining room, a nearby table was talking about how this other company's cruise ships were much larger and had even more entertainment and food options) and playing stuff like mini-golf or giant chess was pretty fun. Overall, everyone enjoyed themselves.
There was one particular night, though, where I was upset over something (I do not remember the reason) and I didn't let anyone know I was upset, and so it grew until I snapped during supper when out of nowhere the crew had everyone do a dance party and Gangnam Style was playing way too loud over the table. I angrily stabbed my food and stormed off when my mom noticed and called me out on it. I spent the next few hours wandering the ship, completely alone and miserable. Eventually my mom found me, and we had a talk. She reminded me of a scare from high school, the time I was sent to the hospital after a particularly bad meltdown. She revealed to me that Mrs. Grayson (head of the Special Education department) saved me from being sent to a mental home, using her pull and persuasion to reduce the situation down to "get a therapist to declare him non-dangerous enough to be back in school again". The point of it was, now that I'm out of high school, she can't really protect me anymore, and as I grow up, the less likely mom can either. That's definitely something I never want to happen, and ramifications of the importance of handling my emotions would be continued later on.
Another callback to my high school days came when in October, I received an e-mail informing me that Mr. Lakatos had died. He worked in the Special Education department and although he wasn't assigned to me often, the times he did have to work with me had him show incredible patience. He was assigned to many students and was known throughout the department for showing great care and respect for everyone, even pain-in-the-ass kids like me. I attended his funeral, talked to people from the department again for the first time in a while, and got to thinking about my own life. I have struggled with a very long time with self esteem and still to an extent do, and while I may have trouble getting why people would even be kind to me, I don't want to waste their kindness by turning out to be a complete waste of life. I want to go on and be a positive influence on the world, even if a lot of times I have to do it to the people who choose to like me aren't let down.
The third big callback was my guilt over a very horrible occurrence that happened to my family. Specifically, the fact that I had been easily tricked by the perpetrator into thinking him a real role model and upstanding person and felt I should have suffered more for the failure of being unable to help someone dearly close to me due to the aforementioned lie. After being urged to talk it out, primarily the guilt moreso than the details of the event, it's been taken care of mostly. I don't feel the undeserved guilt anymore, and anything that is left are more permanent remnants due to the effects of the guilt and the perpetrator on my developing teenage mind.
The School Experience and Professional Life
I began taking classes at Arizona State University this past semester. My first day went alright, up until the beginning of studio, which did not go well. I did not anticipate my bag of design supplies breaking apart and the resulting tougher trek to class as a result. Drenched in sweat and tears. Not fun. Ah, studio, which hereforth shall be known as "spend more money you certainly have on printing experiments and stuff" class. At least I lucked out in having leftover graduation gift money due to not spending it back after high school. The class contents themselves were doable with the exception of smmychopeas class, which was pretty rigorous, but also expected as the program does only allow a few students to continue past the first year, so I imagine weeding people out is the motive for the repetition and nitpicky standards.
I was unable to get far in (which here means even to the interview stage) the job search, so when I was informed about the Academic Bowl, a trivia game contest where the winning team gets a decent amount of scholarship money, I went for it despite my social anxiety, mainly because of the need for money but also because I knew it wouldn't be too intimidating of an event (as a whole, college is less intimidating than high school because for the most part your peers are also going to be people who can be professional). It took some extra time for the training sessions, but they provided free lunch, and even if our team didn't win (I am convinced we could have if I didn't get refracting and reflecting telescopes mixed up... possibly) I at least got that out of the deal, and there's always next year.
Transportation is the worst, especially if you don't have money to spare. Community College had you register for authorization to use their lots and that's about it. ASU on the other hand, has the options of hourly paid or semester passes, both of which are quite expensive. At first my transportation method was to, on some days, park at the Community College (since my sister and I share a vehicle, her re-registering the vehicle worked) and take the shuttle to ASU. This took a long-ass time. Other days, my sister would drop me off at ASU. This also sucked because University Drive is busy most of the time, and if the school was doing a sports event it became absolute hell. The time, gas, and frustration costs were too high under this system, which is when research saved the day by discovering a shuttle that went between the public library and ASU. No paying for parking shit, no shutdown traffic, and there was still a wait, but more manageable.
I finished with an A in all courses, though smmychopeas and Designing Life were very close calls.
Meeting Gray Again, and the Confession(s)
Around the beginning of March, I was informed by a friend of mine on Skype that gray (though known then by an internet handle I'm sure readers of this might know from recent deviations) wanted to talk with me again, which surprised me because I thought they had cut off all contact with me forever in February 2011. I had chalked up the suddenness of that friendship ending to my work on the collaborative comic Checkmate being not up to their standards of quality combined with my perceived patheticness and whining. I learned that since 2012 (I followed their DA account even with the contact cutoff until New Years 2012 when I decided to stop, thinking it to just be creepy and not moving on on my part), they underwent some self discoveries and adversities and finding out about them was an eye opener for me, having assumed that their life was going normal and successful to contrast my more rut-like life, because I had assumed them to be the foil to me and my sicknesses/issues.
The new chats started out fairly vanilla. Early on we would recall fun stuff we used to do like looking at bad OCs on DA, and even was asked to assist with Checkmate again, but this time being relaunched as something less like a project with deadlines and more for the sake of crafting good characters in a fairly streamlined story. I was even introduced to a new group chat and while intimidated as always, I eventually slid in fairly decently.
I fell in love. I actually had (at least told myself I did) in the closing months of the original friendship period, though it was a very... naive, prototype version of it, I would say. I was essentially super glad to have a friend that was very fun and smart to talk to, was close to my age (my mom has noted I tend to stumble into better friendships with her friends instead of ever anyone my age from school), and wasn't my sister (she is also very fun, very smart, and near my age, but yeah she's my sister, and that's the territory of familial love). Anyway, as the reignited friendship went underway, those old feelings resurfaced and I admitted it to Gray sometime in either May or April... I don't recall the date too well. I was nervous because past Tumblr posts by gray contained warnings about the vulnerability danger of being the first one to admit having a crush on the other. I'm not sure/don't remember if the feeling was reciprocated at the time, though at the very least gray was willing to try being in a relationship with me anyway, though with extra caution that would prove to be necessary with the many screw-ups I would make for the rest of the year.
The reason for the (s) in the heading is because soon after confessing my love for them, I (re)-discovered a sexual fetish I have (It's micro, with feet blending into it, if you must know). In the past (around 14 I think?), I would tend to discover it and then in vehement disgust, completely bury and suppress it and any memories attached to it (the memories were buried in pretty good, as I didn't remember the past instances of discovery until very recently, with me self-evaluating myself and my past more in-depth). This time, that was no longer an option, because the rediscovery came from me going to a site being discussed in the group chat and admitting that a fetish category aroused me. Other people knowing = no chance of burying it now. It came as a shock to gray, who thanks to my very suppressed tendencies towards sexual topics, had not been expecting that, and was the first major tip that knowing each other isn't anywhere near knowing each other.
The First Trip
Soon after the confession, we decided we wanted to meet outside of Skype, in the physical world. The fetish confession resulted in some uneasiness on gray's part, though it subsided by the time of the visit. They stayed at my house for 2 weeks. We played a lot of Animal Crossing together, went to visit the experimental city of Arcosanti, went video game shopping, made cheesecake, and watched Kamen Rider Double (One of my favorite shows, especially episodes 31-32. "Nobody's Perfect." It works in more ways than one. May I say, a Double-Way?). The most notable thing about the trip was definitely learning the joy of cuddling, hand-holding, and head-petting.
Overall, it was pretty good, going like an exceptionally good (extended) sleepover with friends, the likes of which I hadn't experienced since elementary school (though far exceeding those literal child's-play occasions).
The Second Trip
The first visit went well, and with Generation 6 of Pokémon and my 21st birthday coming up, we arranged a second visit, this one to be much longer than the previous one. However, this is where the part of our relationship about not knowing each other enough yet really turned major. I was informed that I had made a major mistake when introducing gray to my family, ignorantly misgendering them, especially in a first-impression scenario. Though gray's Tumblr had many gender-related posts before this point, it is the first point where I'd say my eyes were beginning to open up to the idea of gender and sexuality far more diverse than the limited range a lot of society gives the spotlight to. (Not that this was much, especially at that point. Even right now, I'm still very much in early learning about gender.)
The larger issue had to do with my fetish and the addiction I developed. The crisis this problem spawned saw me making many more bad mistakes when it came to conducting myself and speaking to them, and though relations between us eventually calmed down, it was a very scary experience, though necessary to work through in the long run. Especially since it was the first time I really, really experienced how dark depths that gray can reach when feeling very horrible, and how being ignorant of them really hurt and would make them feel worse and in the state for prolonged times. Similar events would occur throughout the year, and even with the experiences, there's still mistakes in how I talk with Gray in those times to iron out.
On October 12, gray arrived for the second time, the only reason I remember the date being that Pokémon X & Y were released on the day (the day being specifically chosen so we could get the new games together, which we did). We had fun playing those, watching Retsupurae and other YouTube videos, and watching Aku no Hana (that fucking show oh my god) as well as modern nice cartoons like Gumball, Adventure Time, and Wander Over Yonder. The cuddling and head-petting resumed, with the middle of trip seeing an advance in cuddling (sleeping next to each other). Additionally, for my 21st birthday, I had my first drink. It was some sangria I thought would be good. I was wrong. It tasted fucking horrible.
However, this visit turned out to have a much lower ratio of fun-sleepover time and more time with anxieties, as this visit happened while I was taking classes, and the time away from home, especially smmychopeas, proved to be stressful. Additionally, the longer duration, with gray being away from their dog and sister, didn't help ease the... I'd word it, exhaustion of the visit? Finally, the big cherry on top was that gray finally saw a breakdown/fit of mine in action, and called me out on the aggression I displayed whether in full-tantrum mode or near-tantrum mode. This naturally frightened me because the emotion gives you tunnel vision and I was never really outright told that is was aggressive, and while it stung, it really stung, I'm an very glad for gray not sugar coating it the way my family had been inclined to (I don't hold that against my family, though. I understand why they would.) because being aggressive and harmful is something I don't want from myself. I don't want to be someone who hurts, like that asshole who tricked me and did all that hurting.
Gray had to leave early as December's arrived. The last day was quiet, and I was left with their gift of a cute, pink collar with my name on it, for me to wear. The middle days of September we communicated on a very limited basis, with them reconnecting with family back home and we doing the same with my family to a much less pronounced degree (because I was still at my house). This was spurred on by gray having us reflect on the problems in the second visit, and to dial our relationship a little bit backwards to not be moving too fast and feeling the intense pressures of separations and uncertainties that we had been feeling. Not breaking it off completely, but just keeping a closer eye on ourselves to make sure we don't get too attached until knowing each other better and growing more.
As part of growing more, I had been spending a good part of December thinking about my own gender identity. It was and still is a work-in-progress, a bit of a mental mess, but it's OK because when it comes to self-identity, you want to be as sure as you can be, and if I have to take it slow to find out, then I will. It's not too bad being slow at learning and doing things, though. After all, that's why I made my new sona a turtle. I had a talk with gray the other day about this and I have a decision for experimentation right now, at the very least, to see what is comfortable for me. I'm going to see if being a demigirl is my identity (I definitely don't feel like I could qualify as a woman but also don't feel like being a man has been right for me, preferring my feminine traits when it comes to my personality). Experimentation doesn't have to be final, but it did take almost a month to become unafraid of trying it, so 2014 will be where I see where this goes.
I didn't do much YouTube Poop this year, compared to 2012's record high, though I managed to make some of the few some heavy-hitters. Especially 199, which is probably my most ambitious poop yet. Artwise, I've done more image edits on YouChew than drawings (with most drawings being of my new, 2013-introduced sona and gray's sona, because they are so cute together they rise above the average drawing block). Image edits I find really fun, they are very similar to the distortion and transformative qualities of YTP and I have a knack for making them. I hope 2014 turns out to be a good year for me, for Gray, for my friends, for everyone who isn't a jerk to others, both artistically and in day-to-day life!
Watching: Kamen Rider Gaim
Playing: Pokémon X & Animal Crossing: New Leaf