A 5-year anniversary retrospective
[CW: Mental health, Covid-19]
Act 1: Beginnings
It’s been some 7 years since I started watching anime. For about two years after that, I spent a large part of my free time discussing anime on Reddit. I’m really glad that many of the people I met and made friends with back then are still my friends. Our lives have changed a great deal since then. We don’t talk as much as we used to, even less so when it comes to anime, and while I am a little bit sad about that, the fact that we’re still friends is very important to me.
In 2015, catalysed by the release of an anime called Rolling Girls (which holds a very special place in my heart), I joined (read: was roped into joining) what was then known as Aniskype, a community that today lives on on Discord, and started being more active on Twitter, where most of my friends from Reddit had also moved to. I have some fantastic memories from the chat room, particularly the group watches of the Gundam 0079 movies, Macross: Do You Remember Love, and The Room. Over time, however, I started gravitating more and more toward Twitter, and that’s where I’ve been ever since.
Around the same time, exactly 5 years ago in fact, I started blogging. I still consider that post one of my best ones in terms of both idea and execution. It is, when I think about it, somewhat of a great coincidence that April Fool’s, my birthday, also happens to be the approximate average starting date of the Spring anime season. Because that allowed me to use this “great” first blog post as a springboard from which to dive into seasonal blogging about anime. I continued this seasonal blogging for 3 years, skipping, if I recall correctly, only 2 seasons during that time. I also wrote, over the next couple of years, short posts about almost every single anime I’d watched, as well as some random posts more or less unrelated to anime, and the odd review.
My blog hasn’t been active for almost 2 years now, though, because real life obligations, hopes, dreams and pursuits eventually started becoming more and more relevant to my life.
Act 2: The not-so-halcyon days
In the Spring of 2015, I did very little except blog and hang out on Twitter. The preceding Fall, I’d taken a break from university due to burnout, so having something to do, even if it was “just for entertainment”, felt great. However, due to legal reasons, I did have to deal with my mental health issues officially as well, so in May 2015 I met with a psychiatrist to have my depression and social anxiety diagnosed, and I’m glad I did. Medication and 3 years of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy, not the… other thing) helped me a lot. I mean, the fact that the legal issues went away also helped, but I think my interaction with psychiatric professionals was the key ingredient.
What followed that first appointment in 2015 was several years of trying to find my place in the world. I got very into photography, so much so that I actually ended up buying a camera and a bunch of lenses. In retrospect, photography was probably not the most affordable hobby for an unemployed student with mental health issues. But, it all turned out okay in the end, in part because my mom paid for the cost of my healthcare. I will always be grateful to her for that. Eventually I also had the opportunity to do some photo commissions (for friends and family mostly), earning me a bit of extra pocket money, which helped ease me back into regular daily life.
By which I mean that in 2016, I went back to university in order to finish my Bachelor’s degree in Physics. That went really well, because I managed to graduate in August 2017. My thesis was titled (what follows is a translation from Swedish) “Studying the cosmic Dark Ages and the Epoch of Reionisation through observation of the hydrogen 21cm line”, a subject matter that I’d been interested in for years. I think it’s because I felt like there was something special about a transition that has such a tangible associated wavelength. The magic kind of disappeared during the writing of the thesis, so I didn’t feel a strong need to continue studying the topic in any more detail. And I never did, aside from when there’s tangential contact with the stuff I’m currently studying.
Anyway, on the topic of transitions, in July 2017 I came out as trans on Twitter, and to my therapist. I haven’t talked about it much here on my blog, in part because of the fact that my past blog posts to some extent serve as glimpses my past, and so mentioning this in a blog post is sort of cognitively dissonant with my reluctance to rediscover who I used to be. However, this is an important part of my life, and an integral part of the reason why I am where I am today, so if I am to talk about the present, my gender identity will inevitably have to come up.
Act 3: Present day, present time
For the purposes of this post, “the present” begins around late 2017-early 2018 and ends probably whenever this hell pandemic ends. I don’t mean that in a gloomy way, I’m considering the possibility that the end of the pandemic could be a time for new beginnings. I am fortunate enough to be able to think that way, because my life situation is one where I have some degree of financial stability and can work well from home. But wait, how did a poor and unemployed student with mental health issues get here? Well…
Coming out as trans ended up being very cathartic for me. At first it didn’t really help with the depression and anxiety, it just gave me new things to worry about, but I soon saw light at the end of the tunnel. I noticed that I’d finally found something that I think I’d been searching for my entire life. I started having hopes and dreams. I found motivation to do things that felt important to me. I settled on a new name (that I actually feel strongly about), Emilia. I gained confidence in myself and my abilities. On the other hand, I also started seeing the not-so-glamorous side of belonging to a gender minority. It’s sort of funny, because people who I didn’t tell obviously kept treating me in exactly the same way as before, but the jump from finding that normal and noticing that I’m being constantly misgendered was surprisingly sudden. What was not so funny was the apathetic dysphoria and new source of social anxiety. It sucked not really being able to make new friends in class, because I didn’t want to introduce myself by my cover identity, but I also wasn’t comfortable with being out in real life.
Anyway, the increased confidence persevered, and soon after I’d started my Master’s studies in Fall 2017, I was offered a summer job as a research assistant in the Space Physics lab. In the past I would have hesitated and probably declined, but this time I jumped on the opportunity and accepted. I started in April 2018, and have been working as a research assistant ever since. As long as I eventually finish my Master’s degree, I’m planning on continuing as a PhD student in the same lab. I really love my job. I’m good at it, and I think it’s super interesting. I get to write a lot of code and make nice-looking figures and diagrams. I like my coworkers. They’re all good people, though not perfect (who is?), and I like having coffee room discussions with them. I make enough money to afford a student apartment and the associated costs of living.
In January 2019 I got an offer for a student apartment. Just like with the summer job offer, I jumped on the opportunity. I picked up the keys on February 4th. On February 5th, I had my first appointment with a nurse at the gender clinic (I’d gotten a referral from my psychatrist in September 2018). As you can probably imagine, that was a pretty stressful time in my life. But I made it through it. I moved in on March 6th 2019, and have been living alone ever since. And I love it. It turns out I’m well-suited for independent living, even though I have pretty low energy levels and don’t have much confidence in being able to perform chores when needed. But I’ve managed pretty well. And I’ve also made some good progress on getting my gender affirmed. I’m actually almost done with the process. At the time of writing this, I think I have only 2 appointments left. Let’s hope I’m satisfied with the verdict. On that topic…
Act 4: Futurama
No, not the TV show. What will the future hold? I don’t know. In the past I may have obsessed and worried over this to the point of severe executive dysfunction, but now I really only worry about one thing: How to move forward with my gender identity. I know I’m transfeminine, but I don’t really feel comfortable with describing myself in any more specific terms. I do know what I want out of the healthcare services in terms of hormones and procedures, but I haven’t quite decided how I want to present and introduce myself to other people yet. It’s a dilemma that I can’t quite figure out a satisfactory solution to. My future is still shrouded in mystery.
Unfortunately, it appears that so is the entire world’s future. The university is closed for the foreseeable future, so I both work and study from home. Many parts of society have halted partially or completely. Travel isn’t possible, not even domestically, though it’s not like I was planning on travelling anyway. Staying at home is encouraged. As I’ve said, I’ll probably be fine when it comes to being able to support myself financially, but that’s not true for everyone. The world is going to be a different place after this is over. Many people will be out of a job. I hope we can make large enough changes to society to allow as many people as possible to recover, both financially and mentally.
In contrast to these confusing and difficult topics, the future of my social media presence is signficantly more clear. I will continue not blogging regularly, and I will continue talking to my friends on Twitter. Do I miss blogging? Yes, particularly the seasonal anime blogging, but I really don’t have the time or energy for it. Well, who knows now that I’m home all day, but in general, I’m probably not going to do it.
But I do really enjoy occasionally putting a lot of effort into small things, usually humorous in nature, like photoshops or bad puns. If you recall the title of this post, you can see that this falls into the latter category. Essentially, my thought process went as follows:
- “Hmm, maybe I should do a 5-year anniversary post.”
- “Oh that is an extremely lame pun in the title, I gotta write this now.”
- “Gotta make the act titles weird as well.”
- *The actual writing process*
I spent like 6 hours on writing this post. At the time of writing this paragraph, it’s past 1 AM on my birthday. I’ve already received many congratulations, for which I’m immensely happy. However, I do have to get up relatively early tomorrow morning, so I have already missed out on a decent chunk of sleep. So, was it really worth it to stay up this long to write a post that I decided to do essentially on a whim?