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The Hermit’s 2017

Last year passed in a blur, and yet it feels like it was longer than most. My life was turned on its head in more ways than one, both good and bad — mostly good, thankfully.

I’ve been wanting to do some sort of review or evaluation, and thought I might as well do it in the form of a blog post. At some point last year, or maybe in 2016 but who’s counting, as a part of a similar exercise, I came up with a bunch of “categories”, or areas of focus, as help for thinking about and developing different aspects of myself and my life.((There’s a lot of these to be found online, but of course none of them quite suited me, so I made my own.)) I decided to review 2017 in terms of these areas, which are:

  • Physical environment
  • Career
  • Finances
  • Physical health
  • Mental health
  • Relationships
  • Creativity and self-expression
  • Personal development

So, without further ado, here it is – the Hermit’s 2017!((Mostly posted here for my own edification, but hey, maybe someone’s interested.))

Physical Environment

2017 was the year I moved away from northern Botkyrka, where I’ve lived all my adult life. While I definitely liked it there, the commute to central Stockholm was really getting to me. I started looking for a new place in the fall of 2016, and suddenly got the chance to move toward the end of last summer.

My new place is quite similar to the old one  — a 43 sqm (~460 sqft) one bedroom apartment with kitchen, bathroom, hall and balcony — but with a much better floor plan. It’s also on the third floor instead of the first, fairly freshly renovated, and has windows facing more than one point of the compass. Best of all, it’s much closer to the city.

Although I love my new place, I’m not so happy about the state it’s been in since I moved in. Circumstances conspired to make me unable to actually “finish” moving in properly. I still have a whole bunch of boxes waiting to be unpacked, shelves waiting to be put up on walls, that kind of thing. It makes me feel stressed out and unhappy, especially so when my anxiety worsens, so it’s definitely high on my list of priorities.

Physical Health

2017 was probably my best year for physical health, like, ever, and it’s all thanks to gardening. Turns out it’s really, really good for me. I got so much stronger during the spring and summer, all thanks to all the digging, lifting, pruning, weeding, chopping and carrying I did. Towards the end of the summer, I could actually see the change (mostly through my arms getting bigger), which made me feel awesome about myself.

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Blue gardener floof thingy

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It goes to show that I really don’t mind exercise when it’s done not for its own sake, but as a necessary part of some other activity that I actually enjoy. Sadly, there really isn’t all that much to do in the garden during winter, and on top of that, I’m way busy these days. The plan was to maintain the fitness I developed last summer, and hopefully build more strength during the winter, by doing other kinds of exercise, but I haven’t managed — not yet, anyway.

I have a personalised exercise program provided by my metamour Rye, which I hope to get started with as soon as possible, but I’m trying to not set myself up for disappointment here. Life is pretty hectic at the moment and even though I know exercise would help, getting started costs a lot of spoons.

Career

This is another area where things have changed a lot. And I mean a lot.

This time last year, I was doing an internship at Really Interactive, a small company run by my mentor in all things game development (and also my friend). While it was definitely good for me and I learned a lot during my time there, it was a bit too comfortable (and also didn’t pay the bills), and I definitely felt internal pressure to move on and try to get a job.

But, thanks to this internship and a series of fortunate events, I instead applied to FutureGames. FutureGames is a vocational school in Stockholm with excellent reputation and hundreds of applicants each year. And I got in. So in September, right when I moved into my new flat, I also started on a two-year education to become a game designer.

I had previously told myself I would never study again. After high school (and one gap year), I studied biology at university for roughly four years. Although I learned a lot, I gave up on finishing my degree once I realised that I don’t actually want to be a scientist. Also, I suppose my constant anxiety at the time definitely played into that decision… Anyway, a few years ago I tried again, this time at Nackademin, another vocational school, where I studied .NET development. While I took to programming immediately, I hated the classroom environment, found many of the courses less than interesting, and basically decided I’m not made for any kind of academic studies.

I can gladly proclaim that I was dead wrong on that count. All I needed was to be studying something I’m actually interested in as a whole (rather than just certain aspects), together with people as passionate about what’s being taught as I am, with teachers who clearly know their stuff. And, of course, it helps to not be completely paralysed by anxiety.

So, I remain on track to become a game developer, but I must admit that this education has me even less certain of what exactly I want to do within that very broad area of work. I used to think scripting was my thing, and I still definitely enjoy it, but there are so many other aspects of game development I also find incredibly interesting! Thankfully I have about half a year of courses and game projects left before it’s time to do an internship, so hopefully I’ll have a better idea in a few months…

Finances

No amazing break-throughs on this point — the main thing that’s happened is that I’m now accumulating student debt once more. But to me it definitely matters that I feel I’m “earning” the money I use to pay my bills, even if I will have to pay most of it back after my education is done. And compared to what student financing is like in other countries, I count myself lucky.

Relationships

A couple of years ago, things happened that basically led to me losing most of my active circle of friends. Thankfully, by then I had met my partner Deus, and with their other partner (my metamour Rye) we formed the polyfamily. Family is what gives my life a sense of meaning when I’m too exhausted to appreciate the rest. These days, my polyfamily is the one most central to my life.

For over a year now, we have been spending most Sunday evenings together. Sometimes we all sit in our respective bubbles and do our own thing, sometimes we watch a movie while having dinner, sometimes we rescue each other from whatever pit we’ve tumbled into.

My biological family is and always has been very important to me as well. Last year saw developments on that front I will not elaborate on here, out of respect for their privacy.

I met a lot of new people last year, mostly through FutureGames. It’s been a while since I interacted regularly with a mixed group of people, rather than my own select circles, and in the beginning it was quite terrifying. But I’ve come to really enjoy the company of my classmates, and definitely see the potential of lasting friendships developing here and there.

One person that stands out, I actually got to know long before I started studying. We met at the Nordic Games Conference I had the privilege of attending in the spring. We hit it off during a separatist mingle party and kept in touch afterwards, and I’m immensely grateful for her continuously inviting me to hang out, despite me rarely having the energy.((If you’re reading this, you know who you are — thank you!))

Mental Health

Mental health is a tricky beast, as it’s always hard to make out trends until a lot of time has passed. A few months to a year is barely sufficient. Still, I do feel like I’ve made some significant progress over the past year.

At the beginning of 2017, I was in a pretty bad place. This time of year is often the most difficult, from a mental health perspective, not just for those of us suffering from some kind of mental illness.  Basically,  winter is awful.

I ended up switching medications, from escitalopram to venlafaxine, which has been working well for me. I lowered the dose during the summer as I was feeling better, and then increased it as my anxiety came back during the fall. Though I’ve had some pretty rough patches, I feel I’ve come a long way in learning to deal with them, both in terms of “damage prevention” and dealing with “fallout”.((While my symtoms don’t include anything particularly destructive, they can definitely cause problems — for instance I might not make it to class, or fail to complete assignments.))

I’ve also made progress in identifying limitations and challenges I have, as well as how to utilise my strengths. There’s a lot of work to be done, still, but I’m definitely headed in the right direction.

Creativity and Self-Expression

I had two primary creative outlets during 2017: Gardening and aquaristics. I sort of took over as gardener-in-chief at my parents’ place in the fall of 2016, so a large chunk of my summer was spent there. As for aquaristics, I’ve been wanting to start up a freshwater tank for a very long time, and when I moved last year I got a huge but cheap used tank… and things sort of spiralled from there. (I’ll probably blog about this, at some point. Then again I say that about a lot of stuff, don’t I?)

Both hobbies allow me to combine a whole bunch of skills and knowledge I enjoy, and there’s actually a lot of overlap between them. I think working with living systems is probably my ultimate form of self-expression.  I get to geek out on stuff I love, work with my hands to create tangible results, and create something beautiful, all at once.

Test Chamber 171230

Thanks to these activities I’ve learned a whole lot of new things, spanning a wide variety of topics — for me, practise always has to be founded on a solid understanding of theory, so there’s been a lot of refreshing my old biology knowledge. But I’ve also learned things about myself, such as how much I can truly get done these days, my adaptability and resilience in the face of change or failure, and so on.

There’s a lot of things I wish I had had the time and energy for in 2017 but which has had to wait. Moving to a new place afforded me the chance to start over in terms of interior design, and I’ve been wanting to use it to really express myself. But studying has had to be my first priority, and so I still have so much to do on that front. I don’t colour as often as I’d like to, and I still haven’t gotten into creating music… And then there’s this blog, which has largely been silent for the past year. Right now, I’m really itching to write more about games and game development, so hopefully it will see a bit of a renaissance soon!

Oh, almost forgot – just before I started at FutureGames, I got my first bit of ink! It most certainly won’t be the last.

Freshly inked

Personal Development

I touched upon this under the Mental Health headline already — basically, I think 2017 was a very good year for personal development. I’ve gotten to a point in my therapy where I’m definitely seeing some very clear results. Partly, it’s about discovering who I am when no longer suffering debilitating anxiety as well as a severe attention deficit. It seems that I am actually far closer than I thought to being the person I’ve always wished I were. And partly, as mentioned earlier, it’s about mapping out the challenges I still face, challenges I am now equipped to deal with.

I want to keep working on becoming more accepting and non-judgmental, both of others and myself. I want to be better at handling differences in opinion and values in those around me. And I want to worry less about what people think of me. So… I guess I have my work cut out for me!

On a more practical note, I’ve kept up my morning pages routine, steadily filling up notebook after notebook with stream of consciousness writing. At this point I can’t tell if it’s helping me or not as a general rule, but why stop now? I’m enjoying it, and sometimes it definitely helps me process stuff and discover new angles on whatever is on my mind.

I’ve had some trouble getting (back) into other routines that I know I need, however — keeping my flat clean and tidy, for one. This is definitely something I feel I should focus on this year.

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