#334: The Back Tattoo

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I’m pretty sure I’ve already written a blog post called “The Tattoo,” and in order to avoid repeating myself over and over again, I came up with a new title for this one, called “The Back Tattoo.” And I actually have pictures this time to match the description I’m giving it! So I’m excited about that.

Over this past weekend, Alex got a new tattoo, this time of our shared favorite character from the Persona 5 video game, Makoto Niijima. Makoto is the student council president of the game’s high school setting, and she joins the Phantom Thieves as their adviser and planner. She’s strong, smart, and deeply loyal and caring towards the people she loves. She’s also totally badass and comes up with brilliant plans that ultimately save people’s lives. As a character, I’m a huge fan of hers and so is Alex. When we were playing Persona 5 over the summer together, it was fun to talk about the characters and share elements of the story with each other. I used to text Alex pictures of their text conversations and general story happenings to keep her in the loop on things, and Makoto was one character that Alex seemed to take more of an interest in.

Having a smart character balance their maturity with their desire to fit in with others makes for a super relatable story. As you can see in the tattoo though, she’s definitely not the kind of character to pull punches. She enters the fray with nuclear magic, aikido training, and her overall intelligence to strategize and assess the situation. Now that she’s in tattoo form on Alex’s body, it’ll always be a reminder of the strength that’s required to survive and how powerful she really is. I’m super excited to see it finished in November when all is said and done.

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#333: The Listener

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Here’s a picture of dog ears, because this post is going to be about the act of listening to other people with purpose.

Listening is an underrated, undervalued action. Listening proves that you’re paying attention, it proves that you care and are attentive to other people’s worries and concerns. Listening is underrated because people too often speak without thinking first, without taking into account what the other person is feeling. They speak and speak and nothing really makes sense because they’re not following the conversation intently or actually caring about the other person.

I learned to listen more than speak recently, thanks to a conversation I had with my girlfriend, and I feel incredibly grateful for that lesson. It’s not the same just talking over someone else and being condescending and rude about it; you have to actually demonstrate that you’re paying attention before the other person can engage in the conversation with you.

As an introvert, I sometimes listen too much without taking the turn to speak. I have the problem on both ends of the spectrum: talking too much and listening too much. Being capable of both ends does allow for me to see things from both sides. I get to realize what it’s like to be the recipient of them all. Being introverted means having limits to your talkativeness, depending on who you’re around or speaking with.

Being a listener is underrated, yes, but not every one is one. We’ve established that much already. How can we change that so that more people are willing to listen rather than speak? First of all, it involves emulating that practice in all things we do, even in small conversations between partners. It involves working tirelessly from top to bottom, making sure people are more patient and understanding with each other.

#332: The Independence

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Instead of talking about American independence, today I’ll be discussing a bit of my own personal experience with independence. Usually independence is connected with ideas like liberty and personal success. Living on your own shows that you’re an independent person, someone capable of being a mature adult. At some point we all have to branch out on our own, take care of ourselves on our own, and make decisions on our own. Living independently is owning up to those responsibilities and embracing them. It’s not shying away from your obligations to yourself and your personal health and well-being. Independence is difficult, don’t get me wrong, but it’s achievable and it feels great. Nothing compares to having a place to call your own, where you get to make the rules, pretty much. I don’t know if I was ever expecting this to happen at so young a time in my life, to be completely honest.

There’s also another aspect of independence that I’d like to discuss, and that’s being an independent teacher. When I was teaching at the high school level, I had a classroom all to myself and it felt great. I was able to direct students and teach them all about English. I gave it my best, but sometimes your best isn’t enough to make yourself feel happy about how you did. Sometimes you need to try things differently. Being independent means figuring out when to make the right decisions for you and your health, even when those decisions might seem crazy or unpredictable or even rude at the time. You have to eventually make the choice between yourself and other people, and if you don’t choose yourself at least once or twice when it really counts, you run the risk of losing your identity and personal feelings. I don’t want that to happen.

#331: The Church

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One of my friends recently confided in me about her return to church, and her general spiritual journey recently. She’s undergone some philosophical changes related to church and what it’s like to be religious and have faith in the 21st century, especially as someone in the LGBTQIA+ community. I understand her skepticism and interest, and how those can combine into a legitimate feeling of angst towards religion in general. I haven’t been majorly religious in awhile, not since I was a freshman in high school at least, when I decided to drop out of the catechism program and abandon my Roman Catholic upbringing. It wasn’t without the consent of my parents, though, and even though my grandparents would ask about it afterwards, it never became a hot topic at our dinner table discussions. It was always just swept under the rug or people pretended like it didn’t really exist as a problem to them.

In my eyes, going to church is still an act of personal growth. You’re reaching out to something greater than yourself for validation and inspiration. It’s heartwarming to see, at least when it’s not being weaponized as a tool to oppress minorities or other marginalized groups. You’re using your time for an actually legitimate reason and it does make a lot of sense to me. Just because I don’t do it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate others who go there. As an adult, I understand that how you decide to use your free time is important. You can devote as much time as you want to your hobbies, but ultimately, if you want to succeed as a person, you have to focus on what makes you happy. And sometimes that involves being around other people and chanting hymns with each other. What’s not to like about that?

#330: The Toilet

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So, our toilet has been broken for about six days now. We’ve had to walk down the hallway and use that one. It’s not a bad walk or anything, and it’s all inside, but still, it’s deeply inconvenient and annoying to have to risk seeing people in public while having to go pee. It’s a step in that direction that I don’t really need in my life, if that makes any sense. I’d rather not see people while I’m walking down the hallway, and I’d rather keep to myself. In the middle of the night, when the rec room and gym are all dark, it feels even weirder to see them. I like the stony silence of the hallway, but I hate the walk. The walk is definitely the worst part.

There’s also the fact that I can’t go there when I’m in a hurry. In the morning, when I’m getting ready for work, or when I’m just rolling out of bed, I don’t want to have to run somewhere else instead of just using the toilet in my bathroom attached to my apartment. Crazy how that works, right?

The other annoying thing is that the apartment place hasn’t really been answering us about this issue. They’ve just been petty about it and have kept to themselves, rather than actually finishing what they’re supposed to. We haven’t called the maintenance hotline yet, but that’s supposed to be only for emergencies, so we’ve avoided it mostly for that reason. In this case, though, it’s become an emergency, and it’s about time it gets fixed. When the time comes for it to get fixed, we’ll probably give hell to the office afterwards for taking so long to do this. I’m hoping that we have a somewhat reduced rent due, if that’s at all possible.

#329: The Club

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One of my coworkers and I are great fans of Dungeons & Dragons, and if you’ve read this blog before, you probably already knew that. I’ve played the game for a long time, still don’t totally get it, but I try my best with what I have and I improvise a lot of the time to make sure things make sense. It’s not easy to just pick up the game and become familiar with it without having a really talented DM in your group who’s willing to show you the ropes. I’m joining another group soon that’s going to have a very experienced DM, and I’m super looking forward to having a better grasp on the rules.

But besides the point, we are starting a Dungeons & Dragons club after school for the next eight or seven weeks on Wednesdays. It’s something we’ve both been looking forward to, as a result of other mutual interest in the game, but also because we know it has a lot of educational benefit to students. Imagination, creativity, role-playing, mathematical thinking, creative problem-solving and ingenious maneuvers. This game is full of ways to keep players on their toes and force them to think differently before moving into a task. There’s really nothing like a game of Dungeons & Dragons. The educational benefit is clearly there, and I know that the students get excited thinking and talking about it. After our first meeting, I gained some people’s favor by discussing it with them afterwards. I think being relaxed and open about it is the way to go, and you can’t stress them out too much with the details. It makes sense to get them excited and everything but as a teacher you have to keep a calm demeanor no matter what. I’m looking forward to this week and whatever next week entails.

#328: The Subscription

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Paying a subscription to a service feels like having partial ownership of it, depending on what type of service you’re paying into. If it’s something like Hulu or Netflix, I can’t say for sure how that feels, but it’s not the same as say, owning a subscription to World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XIV. In those games, you are a paying customer, and you get to pay with your wallet if things don’t go according to what you like. You have to, really, because ultimately you need to justify the extra $15 or so you’re paying a month towards something. If you’re living a frugal lifestyle, that $15 could be going towards groceries or gas or insurance or what have you, but instead you’re paying it towards a temporary permission slip to play a game. Is that entirely fair?

In my opinion, yes, because they fill the games with enough content and replayability to make it all worth it. If you are frugal, then of course it doesn’t work for you, but for me, I can give away a little bit of money a month to make sure I have a stable gaming community with my friends. Sometimes just being part of a group that’s larger than your own fills you with the right kind of team spirit to continue forward.

Being a part of a guild, which I’ve spoken about before on here, is a great feeling when the guild is active and supportive of each other. Paying money to get that access is totally normal, at least in my opinion. Money shouldn’t be an obstacle to that kind of social interaction, but I understand that Blizzard needs to keep their immense server database running somehow.

And if you’re wondering about this day’s picture, it’s because I searched “sub” and then “boat” and then chose something pretty. That’s all it takes!

#327: The Kudos

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On Pocket Camp, a game I haven’t touched in awhile for whatever reason, I used to get kudos from people who visited my campsite and enjoyed my creations. Kudos was their way of expressing appreciation. Then again, there were also other ways of receiving kudos: sometimes Nintendo would host events where you’re asked to give kudos a certain amount of times to people on your friends list, so lots of people spam kudos and don’t really care what happens with it. They just do it to unlock the next set of rewards on their list of quests. I do it too when it’s available, just because I’d rather not sit down and waste my time.

Kudos is also an option on Archie of Our Own, an independently-run, non-profit organization that provides fans with an easy way to upload their stories on the internet. It’s a wonderful place full of people who have tons of great stories to share, and I love being able to share and give kudos to other people. Kudos is how you are validated on that site, and kudos is what allows you to see how many people liked what you wrote. It’s the currency of happiness on that website. Sometimes, when I feel especially down, I remember that people actually enjoyed some things that I wrote recently and are into them enough that they are willing to leave kudos for me. The fact that they’ve even read my work in the first place gives me joy, and I don’t know what to do with that feeling. It makes me happy to know that others appreciated what I did. Appreciation doesn’t come easily, but when working in a fandom, kudos and appreciation aren’t as scarce as they might appear to be. There are many options for giving and receiving love.

#326: The Claw

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Using the clutch claw in Monster Hunter: World is going to be subject of this latest blog post, because I’m running out of ideas! Here’s the first picture I saw that works for “monster” in the free photo library.

The clutch claw is one of the latest additions to the game with the Iceborne expansion, and it promises to make up for the changes Capcom made to flash pods in Master Rank missions. They nerfed flash pods so that they don’t down flying monsters any more, so the clutch claw was added as a way to compensate for the changes. It’s a fantastic mechanism that allows you to tenderize certain key parts of monsters while also forcing them to drop slinger ammo. Many weapons received new moves in Iceborne, and a lot of them involve using slinger ammo for the first time in an effective, strategic way. I like being able to use the slinger burst with my greatsword, for example. It’s an incredibly powerful move and it enables me to do lots of damage by sacrificing my slinger ammo in the process. Without the clutch claw, I’d often not have enough ammo to use to make the move work.

The clutch claw also has a move that allows you to slam a monster’s head into a wall or terrain, like a tree or something like that. I haven’t quite mastered that move because it’s a bit complicated and you need to be very careful with how you use it, and carefulness and caution aren’t exactly my strong suits. But I still try my best, and with the help of some guiding videos on the Internet I’ve been able to learn the ways of the clutch claw. Capcom really made this game difficult to compensate for its aura of epicness. And it works!

#325: The Fan Week

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Having an entire week dedicated to fan content has been an incredible experience. I didn’t realize how expansive and fun and interactive everything would be. I wrote and published two whole stories, amounting almost 10k words in total, and I feel deeply thankful for all the friends I’ve made on Twitter and beyond with their help. They have left wonderful feedback on my stories, too, which allows me to work and improve. It gives me the motivation to keep writing, which is wonderful. I don’t normally have this experience of being able to instantly receive feedback from my peers in an easy way, and I haven’t written much creatively in the past few months or even really years since college. It’s wonderful to get to write again with renewed inspiration to write.

Fandoms are interesting because, no matter which one you’re a part of, there are always bad eggs. Some people are toxic regardless of whatever you do to try to prevent it. You have to ignore those people and just move on, without paying them too much attention or else you risk letting them define the fandom completely. Ignoring and acting as yourself is the best way to move forward, without rustling any feathers along the way. You have to just be you in these spaces.

While I have had mostly positive experiences with my friends in fandom, I know for a fact that others have had negative experiences and they’ve been ruined and burnt out on everything. I don’t blame them for feeling the way that they do, especially after being part of something larger than yourself for so long. It becomes beyond your control and difficult to manage, even though you try your best to. Sometimes things just don’t work the way they’re supposed to. But that’s life in a nutshell.