A Moment To Be Real

Photo I took at the September 12, 2022 show

The Goo Goo Dolls were propelled into the mainstream with their six studio album Dizzy Up The Girl mostly thanks to its inclusion of “Iris”, which was originally written for the movie City of Angels and stayed at the top of the music charts for almost five months.  

I do not recall the circumstances of how I acquired this album in my youth. Was it an album specifically bought for me because I had some interest in the band or did I claim ownership of one of Kim’s music CDs like I did with Everclear’s So Much for the Afterglow album? I have no clue. What I do know is that it would play a huge role in my earliest attempts at using music as a form of therapy.

When I was on the bus to school, I would listen to music on my portable CD player through foam covered headphones and imagined music videos while watching the scenery zip by as I stared out the window. When I was at home, I would listen to music while playing video games or chilling by the little stream by the dirt trail behind out house. Once the divorce was underway, music was an escape from the seemingly endless reminders that I was a disappointing third wheel and a failure in my family—at least according to the woman that gave birth to me.

“Why can’t you be more like your brother?”

“There’s too much estrogen in this house.”

“There will be consequences.”

Dizzy Up The Girl, which I had got around the divorce,was frequently in my CD player. It didn’t hold the same emotionally relatable lyrics as other albums in my collection at the time I had acquired it. For me, it was mostly the music itself that carried the emotional weight. “Black Balloon” is incredibly depressing and hopeless both lyrically and musically, but I did not relate to the themes of drug addiction at all while I felt the tone of the song in my soul. It did have its moments lyrically, particularly with the song “Acoustic #3”.

While everyone else seemed to be swooning over John Rzeznik, I adored the gravely, raw energy vocals of bassist Robby Takac on the few tracks he sings on. Years later, I was happy to discover GGD’s old punk rock stuff when Robby was the lead singer.

Then John Rzeznik wrote a song called “I’m Still Here” for Treasure Planet. The song was written about a misunderstood teenage character with an absent father and a mother who kind of didn’t know what to do with him because he was always getting into trouble, but Rzeznik had written it in such a way that he could have written it for anyone who was still trying to figure out who they were. It felt like Rzeznik reached into my soul, pulled out my most vulnerable feelings, and turned them into words. I’m positive the opening lyric “I am a question to the world; not an answer to be heard or a moment that’s held in your arms” hit me like a bag of bricks the first time I heard it and even twenty years later it’s hard not to cry whenever I hear John quietly sing it. I remember I had a copy of the Treasure Planet DVD—at the time DVDs were putting more special features on how they made the movie and that appealed to my love of the animation process. If I wasn’t watching the special feature of how they computer animated John Silver’s robotic arm on 2D animation, I was watching the scene “I’m Still Here” is on and griping that one of the lyrics on the subtitles was wrong (“And I’ll never be what you want, made of pain” instead of “And I’ll never be what you want me to be”).

For Christmas last year, my husband went all out for me. He bought me a replica of the leather vest Claire Redfield wore in Resident Evil: CODE Veronica, a complete copy of the rare PS2 game Rule of Rose, and a ticket to see the Goo Goo Dolls the following September. A ticket for a second row seat.

There was just the physical ticket so I didn’t realize it also included a meet and greet with the Goo Goo Dolls until my husband told me. He showed me all the stuff this meet and greet was supposed to come with: an autographed poster, an autographed drumhead, a picnic set, a clear bag, and a tour jacket—a freaking tour jacket! I’ve met a bunch of bands and done a few paid meet and greets and none of them ever came with a jacket.

“HOW much did this cost?” I asked.

My husband says his classic “Don’t worry about it” line.

The day of the show we get to the gate a good two hours before the official check in time. While my husband took me out of for sushi, we had realized that all the emails had been in my husband’s name and we suddenly became worried that this might mean I might not be able to go to a meet and greet meant for me because everything was in my husband’s name. We checked with the box office and they confirmed the ticket was in my husband’s name. There was already a table with all the VIP goodies set up outside the gate so we figured that maybe a VIP rep would come out earlier than the check in time.

The rep didn’t come until just before the check-in time. We thought you had to check-in by 4:30pm when actually check-in started at 4:30pm and you had to back by 5pm. But I’m glad we got there early: the venue is outdoors so we could hear the sound check while we were waiting. I have a video clip on my Instagram of hearing them play “Yeah, I Like You” during their sound check. They also sound checked a bunch of other songs. At some point they were playing a song I didn’t recognize—I admittedly am not familiar with a lot of their material after the Let Love In album, but I’m 99% positive it was “Free Of Me”—and John was on the microphone making suggestions of how they should play an instrumental part live. He said something like “Instead of playing it like this (strums guitar four times while humming the notes simultaneously…like they usually do I guess) we should play it like this (two long played out guitar strums while humming the four notes). I kind of like this better.” I thought it was pleasantly amusing that a band could still edit the way they play a song they already recorded (and if I got the right song, one they released nine years ago).   

Besides being the only VIP member with blue hair and blue fox ears, I was probably the youngest person there. Most of the other people were closer to the band’s age. I felt like a young kid who just discovered this old band when really I had been listening to them for almost two decades. It also seemed like I was the only one who wanted to meet them because they had an impact of my life. A lot of the other people I talked to were there because they love the music purely for its sound and thought it would be cool to meet the band. They seemed like these older, retired types who pay extra for these VIP experiences with the extra perks just because it is fun and they have the disposable income to do so. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that—it just felt strange to me because I’m used to meet and greets where there are at least a couple people who want to meet the band because they listened to the music when they were struggling. But the people I talked to were super excited for me knowing how much the music meant to me.   

Our VIP rep finally rounds up from the meeting place at the time listed on our schedules and takes us to the back where we wait for John and Robby to come out. He goes over the rules: we’re not allowed to take photos (he will be taking a photo with the band for us and it will be posted within a day or so), we can give a fist bump or high five but unfortunately no hugs due to Covid (obviously don’t want the band getting sick), we’ll be standing on opposite ends of the amp they have set up, and we have to leave any drinks on a table away from the band because it’s a sober tour (likely because John is a recovering alcoholic and has been sober since 2014). 

“Don’t be shy! Ask them that question you’ve always wanted to know the answer to! Chat with them! And have fun! Now…are you guys ready to meet the Goo Goo Dolls?!”

Fuck no, but this was as ready as I was ever going to be.

I never thought I was going to have the opportunity to meet them. Hell, I thought I would have been dead by now let alone meet one of the bands that helped me keep going. I felt woefully unprepared even though I had been thinking about what I would say to them for the past two weeks. I wanted to write it down and give it to them in case I fucked up, but we weren’t allowed to bring personal items for the band to sign because of Covid and I figured this also extended to giving personal gifts to the band. My only option was to practice all the things I would say in my head and hope for the best when the actual moment came.

I was internally freaking out. Every time the door would open I would panic and then felt a weird sense of relief when it turned out to be a crew member. 

Then John and Robby came out.

While the others were shouting in excitement as they took their position by the amp, I quietly said to myself, “Aaaaaaaaaaah shit!”

There were about three people ahead of me so I hoped that would buy me a little more time, but of  course they rushed right through it without barely saying a word to the band. Dammit. They could have spent a little more time with them!

I sheepishly walk up to the amp. I’m trying not to be nervous, but I feel like my heart is going to drop out of the bottom of me. There they were in all their rock star glory: John’s chiseled facial features… Robby’s brightly colored hair… both bursting with confidence that only music legends have.

Admittedly, it was a bit of a blur and it felt so surreal. Both of them were grinning politely at me and they thanked me for coming. We did fist bumps. Robby told me he liked my ears and John kindly agreed. I’ve always heard they were kind and nothing about my interaction with them suggests otherwise.

Against all odds, I somehow got everything I wanted to tell them out of my mouth. It went something like:

“Sorry…I’m nervous…I, uh, I’ve been listening to you guys since I was 11…my parents divorced and my mom became abusive towards me not too long after I got Dizzy Up The Girl… it was one of the first albums I listened to as self-therapy…so…thank you! Also, Robby, I love your singing so I like your guy’s earlier punk rock stuff!”

If I came off as a fucking weirdo, they didn’t tell me. I remember they smiled and thanked me and I said we should take the photo before I start getting too emotional. We get the photos taken. I figured they probably look amazing because they’ve been getting their photo taken for literal decades while I probably look like a smiling goofball because I never fucking know how to pose for pictures. (And I was right).

I head outside and stop to put my hands on my knees to bend over and try to breathe.

“You okay?” one of the others that went before me asked. Two other people join in. 

“I’m okay. Holy shit…my heart pooped its pants.”

“What did you say to them?”

“Well…everything I wanted to say to them!” I explained what I told the band and what they said to me.

“Wow! That’s amazing! Good job!” the other lady and her friend told me like a couple of encouraging moms.

“Shoot!” the first guy said. “Had I known you were going to say stuff to them I would have snuck in a recording!”

We talked some more and I started relaxing some more.

“Dave Grohl said something like ‘concerts bring music into 3D’. When you met the band did it feel like they…became real for you?”

Holy shit. I understood that sentiment completely. I know what the band looks like from seeing them on TV or printed media and I know what they sound like from listening to their music and interviews, but the moment John and Robby walked into the room it was like watching the sketch from a-ha’s “Take On Me” music video becoming a real person. There was something different and exhilarating about being able to touch and talk with the band for that brief moment as opposed to decades of viewing them on a brightly lit screen or printed on a piece of paper. David Grohl had a point when he said “It’s the most life-affirming experience, to see your favorite performer onstage, in the flesh, rather than as a one-dimensional image glowing in your lap as your spiral down a midnight YouTube wormhole. Even our most beloved superheroes become human in person.”

Now that I think about it, one of the lyrics John Rzeznik wrote actually came true the moment I met the band:

And I want a moment to be real

Want to touch things I don’t feel

It almost feels like a dream, but I have the tour jacket and the picture where I look like a goofball standing next to the band to prove it was real.

Rude, Entitled, Out-of-Touch

My retail job would be so much easier on my anxiety if I didn’t have to deal with incredibly rude, entitled, out-of-touch assholes. These are the type of people that make me question my pay grade and life.

The Saturday before Labor Day, I got screamed at by two different men within five to ten minutes of each other during the first half hour of my shift. The first was brought up to my service counter because his card wasn’t working. He kept swiping it despite the fact my register kept saying he needed to use the chip reader. “There’s no chip! I had the bank take it out!” he yelled at me showing his card that clearly had a gold chip in it. Finally he angrily walked off saying he’d shop someplace else. The other customer wanted to cash a check, but his ID was expired. I explained I cannot take an expired ID and asked if he had a second form of identification. He demanded his stuff back, told me to fuck off, and said this store is fucking stupid.

Gotta love holiday weekend.

Last week was weird about batteries. While working customer service a week ago, an old man walked up and plopped down eight loose lithium batteries on my counter wanting a return with no receipt or packaging. I politely explained I needed a receipt or the packaging to be able to process a return. He said he shouldn’t have to keep the receipt or the packaging and just kept telling me to return his batteries. “I drove 23 miles to get here!” I had to get a manager to explain what I just had told him and he gave her an attitude as well. We finally just had his son go grab an 8-pack of batteries and we used the barcode from that to process the return to give him store credit. The following day I overheard a lady who was yelling at my manager over the batteries not having expiration dates like it was our fault that they didn’t have any on the actual packaging. “Well, everything should have expiration dates!”

The theme of the week before Labor Day weekend was about services we didn’t offer anymore:

One lady wanted a shelf she bought assembled and whoever she talked to wasn’t aware that we don’t offer free assembly at the store anymore. She came back in the next day and someone else had to inform her that it’s not a service we offer in store. She kept saying “I’ve gotten stuff put together before!” Eventually after back and forth, she finally just got the damn shelf returned.

Another lady wanted an item we carried, but in a different color so she asked us to order it. She said we had stuff ordered for her before. We used to be able to order things for customers or have them delivered from another store, but we no longer offer those services and my manager explained that she would have to order them online. She had a complete crying meltdown because she needed the item in white as she was blind and needed to be able to see it. We offered help her set up an account, help her order the item, and get a gift card so she could pay for it since she only had cash, but she outright refused every suggestion we had. The part that irked me was when her friend called her phone and she told her friend that we were giving her the run around, that we wouldn’t help her, and that we “don’t help disabled people”. No, you wanted us to do something outside of our capabilities—we couldn’t do it even if we wanted to—and you shot down every alternative we gave to try and accommodate your situation.

The self-checkout is often a breeding ground for entitlement and audacity. Many people straight up refuse to use them. Some believe that the items should be cheaper if they have to use self-checkout. Some joke about waiting for their W-2 for “cashiering”. I had a guy tell me a joke about how a customer went to the break room claiming to be a worker because he checked himself out on a self-checkout—he thought he was so hilarious when I actually found it quite insulting. One time, a customer had me scan all his items for him in self-checkout because he thought he was doing me a favor by giving me job security. “I want you to have a job!” Sir, I do have a job and sometimes that involves watching multiple self-checkouts at once instead of running a singular register. I’ve also had customers come to my register with a single item that costs less than five dollars with the same “I’m helping!” attitude of Ralph Wiggum when in actuality they’re just holding up my line.

My “favorite” self-checkout incident occurred sometime last year. We were so short-handed that day that we only had enough people upfront to watch the self-checkouts and there weren’t any registers open. Being that it was after 5pm when most of the staff was gone for the day, we did have any extra hands to come up and help us. This made one middle-aged woman extremely irate. She was screaming the entire time she was checking out her groceries about how she had to use self-checkout. “Fuck this place! I’m never fucking shopping here again!” I remember her asparagus wouldn’t scan and she just threw it aside when I offered to help scan it for her. “No! Fuck it! I don’t want it now!” Somehow by some miracle I didn’t have a full blown panic attack. I learned later that my grandma, who also works at the store, was on sanitizing cart duty and saw the whole thing. She had the balls to go up to this woman and politely ask, “Excuse me, were you yelling at my granddaughter just now? The one with the blue hair in the self-checkout?” The woman was so embarrassed that she was apologizing profusely. “I didn’t know she was your granddaughter! I’m sorry! Tell her not to take it personally! I was only venting!” She should have apologized to me personally instead of to my grandma, but I’m glad she was put in her place.  

Some other customer stories off the top of my head include:

*The lady who bought a BB gun for Christmas for her grandson and got pissed that our policy wouldn’t allow her to return it. “There should have been something telling me I couldn’t return it!” There were signs posted in Sporting Goods near the product that explained they were non-refundable.

*A guy came up asking if we had free Wi-Fi because he needed to download an anti-virus program to his phone. I gladly showed him what network to use and he got huffy because the network was unsecure. Dude, you’re using free WiFi in a retail store. He then paced around the front end while talking on the phone with a customer service rep of the program he was trying to download and chewing them out.

*An older woman in her own motorized cart refused to bag the groceries she checked out herself, which resulted in two employees checking to see if she had actually purchased the items. I only know about it because she had me call a taxi for her and then proceeded to chew me out about how two separate coworkers “gave me the 9th degree” about not putting her groceries in a bag. “I’m allowed to not put anything in bags if I don’t want to!” She’s not wrong, but our training requires us to deter shoplifters and walking out of the self-checkout with a whole basket of groceries not in bags looks kind of sus. More importantly, she was taking it out on me when I had absolutely nothing to do with her being stopped by two coworkers. She came back to my counter about 20 minutes later pissed off because the taxi I was told would be there in “about 20 minutes” wasn’t there yet and demanded I call them back. They said they were on their way.

It’s not like this all the time or even throughout my entire shift, but interactions like these occur often enough that its understandable why there there are suggestions calling for forcing people to work retail or food service for an X-amount of time to learn how to be a kind and decent human being. Having worked retail and food service, I understand the sentiment.

And Music is my Aeroplane

From the “Aeroplane” music video

My husband and I recently saw Red Hot Chili Peppers for the first time. It was an amazing show: The Strokes opened for them, they had a very cool stage set up, RHCP had a solid set list with a lot of their best known songs.

One moment in particular blew me away and it was probably the most subtle part of the show. The stage goes dark and a stage light shines down on Flea, who is alone on center stage. He starts playing a bass line that sounds so familiar yet I can’t put my finger on it. And he sings…

I’m a little pea

I love the sky and the trees…

It took me a good couple of seconds to realize he was playing “Pea”. The moment I figured it out I recalled some things I had forgotten as well as gained a little insight.

When I was a kid, I saw the music video for “Aeroplane”. The band was playing shirtless on Green Hill Zone-like checkered platforms next to a pool of synchronized dancers. There were also girls in gold sequined body suits that I always thought were wearing devil horns, but only recently discovered that the pouf from their hairstyles hid the middle point of the tiaras they were wearing and, perhaps unintentionally, gave the appearance of horns. I’m pretty sure Anthony Kiedis is the reason why I’m attracted to thin framed men with waist long hair, which might somewhat explain my love for Duo Maxwell from Gundam Wing.

The music video was enough for me to want the album it came off of—the criminally underrated, underappreciated, and overlooked One Hot Minute album. Like Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill, I was too young to initially understand the album’s mature themes and I just really liked the sound, which is mostly upbeat and funky in contrast to its darker lyrical content of drug addiction, battling personal demons, and loss. It was an album that was in heavy rotation growing up, especially after my biological mother started becoming abusive, but unlike a lot of other music I listened to it wasn’t because the lyrics spoke to the depth of my soul. Although I would eventually relate to the more depressing, struggling lyrical content as I got older, I mostly listened to the album because the actual music was just so damn good and I felt happy listening to it. I would play the album while playing my Super Nintendo—I specifically remember playing “Coffee Shop” during the coffee shop level of the terrible Wayne’s World game.

The song that convinced me to get the album is also a song that can describe my own relationship with music depending on how it’s interpreted. To be fair, at least parts of “Aeroplane” is referencing drug addiction as Kiedis was dropping lyrical hints throughout the album that he had slipped from sobriety, but it could also have a double meaning if taken literally and describe how music can be pleasurable and painful, particularly from a lyricist’s perspective where ideas for songs may come from memories and experiences.

As a listener of music, I also find music enjoyable, but at times it can be distressing because it has helped me remember painful memories I have forgotten. I used to listen to music all the time so a lot of these lost memories are connected to music, notably the shittier times I’d listen to music to soothe my worries. Unfortunately, I’ve even forgotten some of the music I’ve listened to and therefore sometimes I’ll suddenly remember things when I go to see bands I listened to during my childhood, which is what happened at the Red Hot Chili Peppers show. This time is brought good memories, but it can be traumatic depending on what I’ve recalled.

Yet I don’t believe its bad.

As alarming as recalling some of the more traumatic memories can be, it’s worse not being able to remember them. I hate not remembering. It bothers me that there are seemingly huge gaps in my memory and sometimes the memories are so vague that I wonder if they are false memories or if I can only recall a sliver of what happened. It’s weird how I can remember small details from minor moments that happened in the last decade, but I can barely recall things from my own childhood because my brain buried it as a defense mechanism.

The worst thing about the memory blocks is I cannot seem to remember a lot of the things Kim ever did. If I didn’t have a bunch of core memories about the abuse, if my fiancé/husband hadn’t pointed out that her behavior was abusive, or if I didn’t have writings describing incidents hidden somewhere in my closet, maybe I’d wonder if it really happened.

I feel like if I can recall more of those memories, no matter how awful, then maybe I can heal and maybe I won’t be in such pain…and maybe music might be a key in remembering some of those memories.

Anthony Kiedis was onto something when he said music was his aeroplane as music has been something that’s helped me rise above my own pain. It’s just a shame that the band doesn’t acknowledge the existence of One Hot Minute.

You Are No Mistake

My first true love.

Nearly five years ago, I finally broke down and started receiving professional help for my depression and anxiety, which I had been struggling to deal with on my own with no medication or therapy. Before my scheduled appointment, two big things happened that greatly improved my mood and made the appointment somewhat difficult because I had trouble explaining the overall situation because I was so goddamn happy.

  1. Getting my autographed Pixar Coco print.
  2. Meeting Isaac Hanson following my first Hanson concert, which I had been waiting 20 years to see.

When I was prescribed medication, I called them “Ikes” because of the photo I took with Isaac. He was behind the chain link that made up the one wall of the garage the tour bus was parked in and I was standing in front of the chain link with the biggest smile on my face. I had been terrified to be on medication since my first suicide attempt where I used the pills I was prescribed during my first involuntary commitment and strangely calling them Ikes and putting little stickers on the blister packs they came in made the experience smoother.

How ironic that nearly five years later I ended up at another Hanson show when I’ve been struggling with my mental health. Things are not nearly as bad as they were when I had gone to the first show yet I’m still not having the greatest time.

I saw an amazing show. I met some cool fans. I managed to meet the band outside afterwards. I had a great time!

…until recalling the events of the concert night stirred up some memories from my childhood. Some things I have always remembered while others had been long forgotten.

Hanson wasn’t something I got into on my own. Kim bought their first album, Middle of Nowhere, and she refused to listen when I kept telling her I had no fucking idea who they were.

“You know who Hanson is! You like their song on the radio!”

She was likely referring to their hit single “MMMBop”, but I swear I hadn’t heard it until she forcibly pushed this album on me. 

I listened to the album anyways and flipped through the lyric booklet that had their pictures in it. The front cover had the entire band in an orange filter, but the one in front wearing a leather jacket and a pouty stare framed perfectly by flowing locks of hair caught my attention. He reminded me of the long haired punk kid from Salute Your Shorts, but more attractive. I did become obsessed with the band as a whole, but I swooned over Taylor, especially after I found we have the same birthday—just four years apart.

They were the biggest thing at the time. They had sold out shows where the crowd of screaming girls was reportedly as loud as a plane engine at takeoff. They had fans in countries I didn’t even know about and they had sold out shows there. They were in every magazine targeted at teenage girls. They made appearances on TV shows, talk shows, and even SNL.

…and not one goddamn person in my class liked them.

Fourth grade was fucking horrid. It was already bad enough being a ten year old who got their first period a full year before we watched the lovely puberty video while having the only male teacher in the school at the time, but it was made infinitely worse by my class bullying me every day just because I loved a band that was considered “girly” that sang a song about a silly made up word.

The worst was when the school planned a fun day that included allowing students to vote for what music was going to be played over the intercom. As I was being bullied the entire year for being head over heels for a band everyone loathed with every fiber of their being, this “Rock the Vote” event went as well as expected. Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls won out and I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who voted for Hanson. My class was sure to let me know their bands had won by acting like a bunch of dude bros after their football team won the Super Bowl. The cherry on top was the note left on my desk that said “HANSON SUCKS”. The bullying was so bad that day that I stood in the back of the line and just stayed in the hallway while the rest of the class moved forward—no one noticed I was gone. The teacher from the next class saw me sitting on the floor when her class came downstairs to the cafeteria and offered to have me sit with her class after I explained how mean the other kids were. I had the last laugh as Hanson continued to make music while the Spice Girls didn’t last too long after the departure of Geri Halliwell and the Backstreet Boy’s popularity dwindled significantly in our school.

One of my previous posts, “God and Depression”, described how I began questioning the existence of God after an incident where an adult church member behaved exactly like the bullies I thought God would stop if I continued to go to church with unquestioning faith. Years later, I would achieve a girlhood dream I had of owning a rare yellow car because Hanson drove one in their music video for “MMMBop” and I felt some satisfaction when I drove it to the church just to flip off the building while playing that very song on my radio.

Right before middle school, my parents bought their first and only house together. They thought I would be excited about the house and were shocked when I reacted angrily to the news. For most of my life, I had lived in the low income town houses and I felt like I was being ripped away from my home. I was anxious, completely terrified, and furious that my parents for doing such a thing. It wasn’t until recently that I realized, “Ah. That was probably an autism thing.” When my parents brought me and my brothers to see the house, there were gifts for us hanging from the coat rack. My gift was Hanson’s 3 Car Garage album, a compilation of recordings from one of their demo albums. By an odd coincidence, our house came with a somewhat run down three car garage, which my parents pointed out probably so I could make a connection between something that I liked and the house that I initially hated. Actually, it kind of worked because it only strengthened my cringe preteen delusion that I was destined to marry Taylor. “Their album is called 3 Car Garage…and we have a three car garage…we share a birthday…it’s fate!”

Our town has three elementary schools, but only one middle school so my sixth grade class consisted of students from all three schools. One of my classmates from one of the other schools happened to be obsessed with Hanson as well. It was like finding the Holy Grail and we bonded quickly over the love of this band. One of my fondest memories of us was requesting “MMMBop” to the DJ at the monthly Fun Night dance and literally rolling on the floor laughing after all except four or five students, including ourselves, immediately rushed out of the gym in disgust. It was the funniest thing to us and we didn’t care if everyone else thought Hanson was stupid—I suppose as long as we were friends it didn’t matter what everyone else thought.

But alas, my love for Hanson started waning out towards the end of the middle school. Taylor, who I thought was my soul mate, got married. Not only did he get married, but his wife was five months pregnant when they did. Besides Taylor’s nuptials gutting me emotionally during my teen years, my musical tastes were shifting heavily towards nu metal and my new obsession became Kittie. I did still like them and bought every album up until Underneath, but I wasn’t as obsessed with them like I was in preteens and early teens.

Since Hanson was a huge part of that childhood involving a parent that would later become abusive, I suppose it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the concert unintentionally triggered my “PTSD-like symptoms” (as my therapist calls them) and recalled all these memories.

There was a moment in the show that sucker punched me emotionally.  I was bawling during “Child at Heart”, a song about finding hope in the face of struggle, and then Hanson followed it up with “Weird”, a song that holds special meaning for its themes of unfair treatment for being different and wanting to feel understood in a world where everybody is “normal”. Lately, I’ve been struggling more than usual and feeling like the biggest failing misfit just like I did growing up.

But… maybe… it was more helpful than hurtful. Repressing memories, in the long term, ultimately has had a negative impact on me so maybe remembering all these things can help with the healing process, which has been long and difficult.

In the end, despite all the feelings it stirred it, the concert served as a reminder that I need to stop being so hard on myself. As Taylor, my ex-future fiancé, says in “Child at Heart”:

You can just breathe. You are no mistake.

Temperamental Pikachu

A visual representation of my car giving me problems.

A lot of my posts involve my narcissist mother as I’m working through unresolved trauma and PSTD symptoms, but currently she is nothing compared to the bane of my existence that is my yellow PT Cruiser (aka. “The Pikachu”).

The day after I decided to put the Aloy cosplay on hold for the sake of my sanity instead of trying to complete it in a matter of days, my car wouldn’t start after work. Long story short, the starter and thermostat were shot and it had started leaking coolant.

Of course, it had to die during the time the parking lot was being re-done so I couldn’t leave it there. I have AAA and waited six hours after calling them for a tow, but I ended up shelling $90 for a tow truck in town because nobody affiliated with AAA wanted to come to Rural Town, Wisconsin. I’m still waiting for the reimbursement I sent in.  

We had initially had planned on a friend who went to mechanic school fixing the car, but decided to explore other options after three weeks of him flaking out on us. Our regular garage—being the only good garage in town—was booked out for a month and the earliest we could get booked was the third week in September. Another good garage in the next town over was able to pencil us in for the following week, but ended up canceling on us after the mechanic called the next day to inform us that they would be unable to do the job as their secretary did not realize how much time it would take. Finally, someone my husband used to work with contacted us offering to fix the car if we still needed it.

Some of the initial issues we pinpointed and got parts for were worse than we thought. We had a couple mechanic experienced people tell us that typically the water pump is replaced when doing the timing belt since it’s such a pain in the ass, but when we opened the car we found a brand new timing belt in a crap water pump that was fixed McGyver style and there was no gap in the blades. The starter was more rusted than we could see with just the hood popped open. Thank God we planned on replacing the spark plugs anyways because the connectors had rusted off and the metal was completely black.

Things went relatively smoothly at first as most of the initial problems were fixed within an hour of getting the car towed to the guy’s place and it was actually running, but soon turned into a clusterfuck of road blocks. It wasn’t leaking after replacing the thermostat and they had hoped that they wouldn’t have to replace the water pump, but it started leaking somewhere in the 45 minutes they had the car idling. The water pump was a bitch to get out. While getting the water pump replaced, my husband quipped about replacing the alternator only to find that the bearings were stating to go out and we decided to replace it while the car was still open instead of waiting for it to go out later. We also decided to have the shocks on the back hatch replaced after finding it was an easy fix and it was cheaper than having to replace the whole door if the bad shocks resulted in the back window breaking. We found that most of the engine mounts were broken. The hose clamps fell apart upon touching them. While trying to get the timing belt put on, he noticed that one of the gears was cracked and it could rip the belt to shreds. It been almost like getting a laundry list of problems from a shady mechanic except the guy has been showing us pictures and videos of the issues if my husband hasn’t been physically there to be personally shown the problems and hasn’t raised his labor costs beyond what we initially agreed on.

Meanwhile, for the past five weeks, I’ve been getting up earlier so I can get a ride with my husband when he goes to work two hours before my shift starts. I’ve been pretty sleep deprived as a result. On top of all this, work has been more stressful for reasons I will not get into. Between the car, work, my regular stressors, and the general feeling of burn out from stress and a lack of sleep, my anxiety-induced nausea has been much worse than usual to the point that I’ve either been violently vomiting or not eating and have lost a little bit of weight as a result.

I’m fucking miserable and exhausted.

I nearly lost it yesterday morning. The car was supposed to be done last Sunday, but we found one of the gears that holds the timing belt was cracked and it could potentially rip the timing belt to shreds. We were in Chicago at the time so we checked a couple places, but ended up having to order them online since PT Cruiser parts are apparently difficult to get through a retailer. We got the new gears the other day along with the shocks that UPS didn’t deliver to us a few days ago because, of course, they suddenly couldn’t find out apartment even though they’ve delivered dozens of times since we moved there. The parts get put in and all that is needed is some new hose clamps because, as mentioned earlier, mine apparently disintegrated. The three of us hit various stores in town to find the hose clamps. We had ordered some in the event none of the stores had them, which is precisely what happened despite Advanced Auto Parts’ website saying that they had the clamps. (We did later find out Advanced Auto Parts actually did have the clamps and the employee that was asked about clamps was dumb.) Just shy of half an hour into my shift I get a text and a picture that informs me that he popped the hood to find that the timing belt was snapped like we theorized it would if we left it running on a cracked gear. So that’s another fifty bucks to the $500ish worth of parts we bought that initially was $140 before we kept running into issues that were a problem now or would eventually become a problem soon. I suppose I’d rather have it snap now rather than while I’m on the road, but this is just getting ridiculous at this point.

…and it starts raining and the car is outside so they aren’t able to install the new belt.

This has basically become the Cars version of what Job went through in the Bible. I’d say this is like a real life version of Miss Trunchbull buying a lemon off of Harry Wormwood in Matilda, but she kind of deserved it and her car still kind of ran. How appropriate that I affectionately call my car “Pikachu” because it’s about as fucking temperamental as Pikachu was at the beginning of the Pokemon anime.

When will my car be fixed? My husband and our mechanic say Friday assuming the breaks and rotor don’t need to be replaced, but who the fuck knows at this point. For the past two weeks we’ve been seeing the light at the end of the tunnel only to have yet another setback. The only silver lining in all of this is fixing it is much cheaper than buying a new car and should run beautifully for a good long time whenever the Hell it gets done.

My Own Inspiration

Spoiler alert for Kiki’s Delivery Service

When I was fifteen or sixteen years old, I saw a commercial for the very limited theatrical release of this beautiful looking anime film. Created by a “master filmmaker” I had never heard of, it had gorgeous visuals, unusual characters, and an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. As there weren’t any theaters near me that was playing it, my only glimpse into this wonderful looking film was this commercial until I was able to acquire it on DVD.

I got into Studio Ghibli purely on a commercial for the limited theatrical release of Spirited Away.

Perhaps due to the popularity of Spirited Away, Walmart started selling several of Studio Ghibli’s films. I realized when I saw the four-way with the Studio Ghibli films that I had actually seen one of their films before I had seen Spirited Away. I don’t remember if I saw the movie before or after I saw the Spirited Away commercial, but either way I never made the connection that both films were made by the same studio until that moment in the Walmart store. I do remember sitting on the hardwood floor at the foot of my brother’s bed while the Disney Channel was playing on his old tube TV and there was a witch with a red bow in the middle of the street focusing intently on a chimney sweeper broom trying to get it to magically levitate.  

I think Studio Ghibli is so popular because they are masters of storytelling and animation. They’re so good at their craft that other major animation studios like Disney and Pixar have looked at their films for inspiration. But no matter how many of their past films were dubbed into English or how many new films were released, Kiki’s Delivery Service remains my favorite.

Perhaps it was because Kiki is so relatable beyond both of us wearing black clothes, owning a black cat, and becoming friends with an oil painter. She started off as overly determined, but her confidence and self-esteem wavered. Her abilities weren’t absolute as they were affected by things like depression. She had to take on adult responsibilities at a young age yet struggled with becoming independent. These mirror experiences in my own life—just in different ways and without the support system that Kiki had.

In the third act of the film, Kiki experiences a crisis when she temporarily loses her ability to fly. The movie hints that there are multiple reasons for this like Kiki feeling disheartened, doubting herself, and no longer finding flying enjoyable once she used it as a means to earn an income. Ursula notes the similarities between magic and art and offers some insight when she describes getting over artist’s block after realizing she needed to figure out why she wanted to be an artist. Kiki concludes she hadn’t thought about why she wanted to be a witch and that she needs to find her own inspiration.   

From the time I was little, I wanted to get into video game design or animation. In high school, I took classes I didn’t want to take because a friend had convinced me I needed them for college credits, which I thought I needed to make myself into an artist.

Then I took an animation class. I’ve done a lot of art mediums that I wasn’t particularly good at, but still found at least some enjoyment in the process and learned something from it. That wasn’t the case with animation. We did hand drawn, stop motion, and Flash animation and the only thing I learned was that I hated it.

Imagine having this lifelong dream of getting into video game design during a time when most video game animation would have been done through key frame animation and finding out that your fascination with animation is simply not enough for you to enjoy making it. It broke me.

My choices were to go into debt to pursue a career path I’d likely not enjoy or give up on this goal with no real back up plan. I kept trying to think of some way around it. Maybe I could just be a character designer. Maybe I could just work on storyboarding or the script. Maybe I could still make it work. I eventually came to the same question as Ursula and Kiki did: Why did I even want to do this in the first place?

Like Ursula, I had never given any thought as to why I wanted to be an artist. I spent my entire childhood being told that I was creative, artistic, and talented. There was always the expectation that I’d pursue an art career, but never thought about if that’s what I truly wanted. I found that I didn’t.

Even though an art career isn’t what I really wanted, I had held onto this idea of becoming a professional artist for long that it was hard to let go. Others didn’t make it easier. My friend’s mom told me “You’re wasting your talents.” A co-worker at my retail job saw the work I was doing for a cosplay and said, “You’re in the wrong business.” When I took up the cake decorating position, I got so good at it that everyone kept telling me “Open your own bakery” and didn’t care about my concerns and lack of desire about opening one. People think that if you have artistic talents or any ounce of creativity then you have to use them to turn a profit, but that awful animation class inspired me to learn the truth: you can create art simply for the enjoyment of it rather than to make a living.

Maybe Ursula came to the same conclusion when she found her own inspiration as the movie never explains if she earns her living by selling paintings. At least, I’d like to think that she did.

Tiny Little Fishy

Since 2017, Ghibli Fest has been rereleasing Studio Ghibli favorites for limited theatrical runs. May’s offering was Ponyo, which is loosely based on Han Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.

Ponyo is special to me because it was the first Ghibli film I saw in the theater, but it was also a sore spot due to the circumstances that lead to that moment.

In my early 20s, I had some sort of argument with my mother, Kim, that lead to me throwing some things and she had me thrown in jail. While I fail to recall what the original argument was about, I do remember the events that occurred afterwards. After a few hours in jail, I was told I was free to go, but there was a temporary no-contact in place with Kim (I found out years later this wasn’t something they automatically do, but something she had requested). I was unable to go home as I lived with the person that I couldn’t have contact with so I walked a few blocks to the house my friend and his mom, Jess, lived at. It was October, lightly snowing, and my thin metal band t-shirt didn’t protect me from the freezing cold. I was hanging out with my friend when Jess says there’s a phone call for me—it’s Kim. She broke the No Contact she put in place herself just long enough to tell me I was not allowed to live at home anymore. I hung up on her. I had a rough night, I walked through the freezing cold, and I found out I was essentially homeless. I just sat in the dark bedroom all day channel surfing the cable in a daze.

Thankfully, my other friends had recently gotten their own place and they let me crash at their place. I didn’t have any ID on me at the time because Kim had things like my birth certificate and I had no proof of an address because I technically didn’t live anywhere. Without proof of my identity, I wasn’t able to become an actual tenant at my friend’s apartment and not being a tenant could get them into trouble. To skirt around this, I would stay for two weeks at a time, go stay a weekend or so at Jess’, and then go back to the apartment for two more weeks.

I did this for nine months before I got into a huge fight with my friends. By that time Kim and I had reconciled so I angrily stormed off to her place, which was a two hour walk. Shortly after I arrived, my friends called to inform Kim that I wasn’t allowed to stay with them anymore. It ended up leading to a mental breakdown and yet another short stint in a mental unit of a hospital. A few days after I had left the hospital, Kim drove me to my friend’s place to gather my things and I found everything dumped on their front doorstep.

I was hurt, but it hurt even worse when they acted like they didn’t kick me out and they somehow couldn’t possibly understand why I was so incredibly upset. Regardless, they tried smoothing things over with peace offerings of presents, but I felt too betrayed and angry to accept any of it. This only made them angrier as they felt they were kind enough extending these olive branches despite the fact they felt they hadn’t done anything wrong. How dare I refuse them!

One such olive branch was going to seethe new Studio Ghibli film, Ponyo, in a movie theater. At the time, it was rather unusual for anime films to have widespread theatrical releases in the US, if they even had one. My estranged friends had managed to find a theater in the next state over that was playing it and a mutual acquaintance of ours was willing to drive them there (the one friend that could drive was uncomfortable driving that far). They messaged me asking if I wanted to come along and I coldly responded, “I’d rather wait to see it on DVD than to see it in the theater with you.” Like any emotional early 20-somethings, they got pissed and trashed talked me on social media (which would have been DeviantArt or MySpace in 2009) and to anyone that would listen about what a complete, ungrateful bitch I was.

I became an even bigger bitch when I found a theater within our state that was playing it and, after explaining my side of the story, convinced the mutual acquaintance to cancel on them to take me. They were furious! It was most definitely petty and childish, but I certainly didn’t give a shit. “Fuck them!” I thought.

Seeing a Studio Ghibli film in the theater was more beautiful than I could have ever imagined. I cried to Ponyo’s breathtaking hand-drawn animation and storytelling. It made petty, childish revenge taste that much sweeter. It got even sweeter when a theater half an hour away was showing the film and the projector broke during the previews when my asshole ex-friends went to go see it on the last day the theater was playing it. They viewed it as horrible luck. I saw it as glorious karma.

Ponyo was a piece in a continuous cycle of fury and backstabbing that lasted for a few months before we somehow managed to patch our friendship. To this day, I still don’t understand how the Hell we mended bridges, but I now know that they wouldn’t have been burned to begin with if it weren’t for Kim.

A few weeks after I had moved out of Kim’s place for good, I visited those friends, who were now living on the other side of the state. I don’t remember how that dark period three years prior was brought up when I was talking to the husband half of my friend couple, but I’ll never forget what I was told when I noted they had kicked me out.

“…we never kicked you out.”

“Mom told me that I wasn’t allowed to stay with you guys anymore!”

“She told us that you were going to stay with her from now on!”

Once we had exchanged our sides of the story, we realized to our horror that Kim had manipulated both parties and it nearly cost us our friendship.

My friends hadn’t called to kick me out—they called because they were worried sick about me and hoped I had walked to her place. She told them I would be moving back in with her, but she just told me that I wasn’t allowed to stay over there anymore. In addition to not having a conversation with me about moving back in with her, she also failed to inform me she had told them to leave my belongings on their doorstep before they left for the weekend to see their relatives. From their perspective, I had willingly left on my own accord and they understandably had no fucking clue as to why I was angry with them. To me, they had kicked me out following an argument, threw my things out the door, and then pretended like nothing happened. The reality was we were deceived by an abusive parent who manipulated the situation to exert more control over her daughter.

The deception was bad enough on its own because of all the confusion it caused that set off a chain of events that nearly destroyed an almost decade long friendship, but what kind of monster watches their daughter be hurt and angry for months about a betrayal that never actually happened?

I have some sort of vague recollection of her suggesting that I make up with them, but the fuzziness of it makes me question if my brain is making up a false memory. Though it wouldn’t surprise me that she would make such a suggestion to cover up what she had done. If we made amends, we would go back to normal, never speak of it again, and Kim gets away with taking advantage of a situation to manipulate her daughter. The more we stayed angry with each other, the more likely one of us would have blown up at the other for what they supposedly did and it would have risked Kim’s actions coming out into the open if we realized something wasn’t adding up, which is precisely what ended up happening except years later and not during a moment of frustrated rage.

When my husband asked if I wanted to go see Ponyo in the theater, I immediately said “Yes!” Like calling her Kim instead of Mother, it was another way to switch the narrative and figuratively take back control from her.

The movie was as beautiful and breathtaking as it was the first time I saw it. Only this time I was seeing it because I genuinely enjoy the film and Studio Ghibli rather than out of pure spite and vengeance for a perceived wrongdoing. It’s been a few months since the theater showing and I no longer see Ponyo as a bad memory of the past.

Tuesday

Spoiler alert for the movie Street Fighter.

Once in a while, my brain goes over the “What ifs?” of confronting Kim about the things she put me through during my childhood and early adult years that have left me with on-going nightmares and broken self-esteem, but ultimately I come to the conclusion that such a confrontation is not worth it. I call memories I wish I could confront her on “Street Fighter Moments”, referencing an exchange between Chun Li and Bison in the live action film of the game.

Chun Li passionately describes how twenty years prior her father saved the village at the cost of his own life when he stood up to Bison and his goons. When Chun Li expresses complete shock when Bison casually admits he doesn’t remember the incident at all, he says, “For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday.”

The reaction Bison has to Chun Li perfectly demonstrates what would likely happen if I ever confronted Kim on anything, which is why I don’t her. After all, there were times in the when I would gather the courage to call her out on her behavior only for her to blow me off and say things like “It’s over. It’s done with.” If I couldn’t get through to her as these things were happening, I figure my chances of getting a satisfying result are non-existent now that those memories are at least ten years old.

This isn’t all that unusual for survivors to feel conflicted about confronting a parent over past abuse as part of the healing process. There’s an intense desire to express how their behavior has affected them, but there’s a high risk that they won’t be responsive or apologetic or even acknowledge what happened, which is the goal of confronting the parent in the first place. The problem is that both parties involved have different perspectives. For one, it affected how their brain processes information and how they react to other people. For the other…well…it was Tuesday.

Hargreeves

Spoiler alert for The Umbrella Academy.

Note: As Elliott Page’s character in the show is also transgender, his character will be referred to by their preferred name and pronouns.  

Shortly before my birthday last year, Elliot Page had come out as transgender. His transition reminded me that I never finished Beyond: Two Souls and I had been meaning to watch Umbrella Academy.

Umbrella Academy is like if Peabody’s Improbable History and the movie Looper had a threesome with an alternate universe version of the X-Men where a much shittier mentor figure molded the mutant kids into emotionally stunted adults instead of the superheroes he wanted.

I immediately took a liking to Page’s character, Viktor Hargreeves, as there was a lot I could relate to. We’re both artistic in some way—Viktor has his violin whereas music is the only art form I could not grasp. In flashbacks during Season 2, we see a young Viktor take up the violin and declare that one day he will be extraordinary, which mirrors my own desires to break past the 2nd place prizes of the Masters category of the cosplay contest I enter and finally win a 1st. We both have shitty parental figures that put our siblings on a pedestal and made us feel worthless compared to them. We even have a Golden Child brother that is labeled as Number One in the family while another brother is an alcohol-fueled screw up that is still sits much higher on the family totem pole than we are. Compared to our brothers, we’re better at being functioning adults yet we’re also the most mentally fucked up out of all the siblings due to what our parental figures put us through. We have written quite a bit about the experiences of being the outcast black sheep in a dysfunctional family, but only Viktor has experienced some moderate success of such writings through his book Extra-Ordinary: My Life as Number Seven.  Viktor was on meds to suppress his emotions just I have my meds to suppress my depression and anxiety, but I don’t regain lost superpowers if I can’t find my pills or forget to take them.

I’ve been in Viktor’s shoes more than I’d like to admit. I’ve felt the desire to belong and fit in. I’ve felt like I’m weak and ordinary. I’ve felt like a monster that can’t stay in control. I’ve felt like I don’t deserve to live and that all I ever do is fail and ruin everything.

Towards the end of the second season, Viktor’s powers are triggered in the worst way during an FBI drug-induced interrogation. Upon seeing the ghost of his brother, Ben Hargreeves, inside his mind he realizes his powers are causing the apocalypse in the real world (again) and feels an intense amount of guilt. It’s during this scene that Ben tells Viktor something that was strangely insightful to my own childhood:

“Dad treated you like a bomb before you ever were one.”

It reminded me how I had expressed suicidal thoughts and—instead of having any concern for my well-being—Kim saw me as a threat to her, oblivious to the obvious fact that the only person I wanted to hurt was myself as she unnecessarily hid all the knives in the house thinking I was going to kill her in her sleep. When I actually acted on those suicidal thoughts and tried to kill myself, she still didn’t express any concern for me. Sometimes I wonder if she wished my suicide attempt had been successful. I mean, it wouldn’t surprise me considering all the times she waltzed into a room and sighed, “There’s too much estrogen in this house”, a phrase that cut to the bone knowing she meant she didn’t want me around as we were the only two women in the house. Not to mention that when my brother had behavioral issues that put him in a similar mental floor I had been in, she doted on him lovingly like any caring parent would.

Dammit, The Umbrella Academy, for making enlightening statements that make me realize just how fucked up my egg donor was and still is.   

The Worst Cosplayer

My one goal in life is to win a 1st place in the Masters category of the only cosplay contest I’ve ever competed in. It’s the sole reason this blog has been silent for several months: I simply don’t have the time to focus on writing.

The main problem I have in regards to this goal is I’m an overachiever and a procrastinator. Much like having depression and anxiety, these are two opposite traits that don’t work well together.

I picked Aloy from Horizon: Zero Dawn as my cosplay, which is the most detailed and complicated thing I could have chosen. It has all manner of things I’m either not incredibly skilled at or haven’t done at all: making patterns from complete scratch, hand stitching, decorative stitching, weaving, wood work, prop building, LEDs, complicated wig building and styling, tons of fur and leather or faux leather, etc.

The overachiever in me enjoys the challenge. The procrastinator in me combined with my anxiety and depression puts off this challenge or makes progress rather slow until I realize its two months before the convention and I don’t have anything completely finished.

There were also a series of stressors that only made things much worse: the overturning of Roe, sudden car issues, garden plans that weren’t executed until a month after everything was supposed to be in the ground (my other dream is to sell pickles at the farmer’s market once we achieve my other dream of owning a house so we can garden there instead of the community garden), the cats being more hyper than usual during the night while I’m trying to get rest, the annual summer fundraiser at work, a transphobic Christian group dividing the community…not to mention the usual nightmares I have about Kim, my egg donor, and the stressful nature of working retail. 

There were a lot of issues with building this cosplay. I must have made at least half a dozen patterns, each with their own minor adjustments, for the complicated, leather skirt panels with decorative stitching before I finally figured out one that looked right. I had tested several eyelets with leather lace until I found one that worked, but the leather lace did not fit with the eyelets when I made the actual piece—by the way, there were almost 100 eyelets on that particular piece and my hands hurt for days after punching out all the holes and crimping the eyelets with special pliers. I went through several methods of punching holes into faux leather—ruining several types of hole punches and a wooden mallet—before finally figuring out late in the building process that a Dremel with one of the carving tips actually worked. The wood beads were a nightmare: it took several hours over the course of a few weeks to sand them into shape with a Dremel whenever the weather was nice, dye them, and seal them only to end up having sand off the coloring and redo them when I fucked up after realizing Mod Podge didn’t work that great as a sealant despite it having worked beautifully when I tested it. Adding to all this, I had started construction later than I probably should have thinking I was going to lose enough weight to justify waiting, but lost only about five pounds.

Not surprisingly, by the time the Monday before the convention rolled around, I only had a few things finished while the rest was in various states of progress. It was my day off and I had another whole day off before the convention so I believed if I crunched I could get it done. I went to my hour therapy session, hashed things out about the cosplay with the therapist, and left with the determination that I could complete this cosplay by Friday. After all, I had done it before and I could do it again.

Then everything went all wrong.

Dyed my alternative to the leather lace I had intended to thread through the eyelets and the dye didn’t take despite using a whole bottle and specifically buying dye formulated for synthetics. I spent half an hour trying to grind holes into faux leather skirt panels and barely made a dent in the 2000+ holes I had to do. It was too hot to glue foam outside so I tried doing it inside and realized my room wasn’t ventilated enough when the glue gave me severe headaches. It went like this for twelve hours and nothing ever got fully completed. The longer it went on, the harder it was to convince myself to keep going. I was exhausted and miserable. I wanted to give up, but I felt like I’d be a failure if I did.  

And I just started sobbing—a full-on, blubbering, cut-through-the-bone breakdown.  

At some point during all this, my husband came to talk to me.

“If you feel like you can get this done by Friday, then go for it. Do you feel like you can get it done by then?”

“…at this point, I feel like if I had the rest of the week off I’d be cutting it close at best.”

“Then why don’t you put this off until next year instead of driving yourself further into insanity?”

“Because…I don’t want to be a failure. And I’m not getting any younger. I’m a fucking 35 year old trying to cosplay as a 19 year old.”

“Sam…what you’re doing is worthy of a 1st place prize.” I think that was the first time he ever acknowledged my dream of winning a first place prize for cosplay. “I feel like if you try to get this done before Friday then you’ll be rushing it and making mistakes…is there anything you’re doing to cut corners now?”

The bow. I wasn’t making the bow I had intended to make for a lack of time. I had wanted to see if I could make it a somewhat functional bow that drew back properly, but couldn’t figure it out and scratched the idea.

“But if you had an extra 52 weeks, you could add all those little details and make something that will wow the judges.”

He was right. It sucked hearing it, but he was right.

Things didn’t magically get better once I stopped trying to build a cosplay before Friday. I still felt like a failure. I still felt like exhausted, hot garbage from sleep depriving myself the past two months trying to build this thing. I still had nightmares about Kim that night—the reoccurring one involving the pathway behind my childhood home leading down to the little stream where I would go to destress and dreaming my little nature sanctuary was completely underwater.

Through this cosplay, I realized I have some unresolved issues because of Kim I didn’t realize I had.

  1. I’m scared of getting older because I feel like I missed out on so much during my younger years because of that vile woman. As my step-mom once said, “You had to grow up too fast.” At the same time, I feel like there’s certain things I won’t be able to do once I am older—one being cosplaying as young adults. Also, I’m at the age Kim was when she started being a really shitty parent and she became more unhinged and callous as time went on so I worry the same will happen to me.   
  2. As she always compared me to my seemingly perfect Golden Child brother, I always had this feeling like I had to be perfect. Instead of being perfect, though, I ended up being a bit of an underachiever because if I couldn’t do something right or on time I would give up. So the idea of putting a big project on the back burner makes me feel like I’m screwing up like I did in my youth and I don’t want to be that person that feels like everyone is waiting for you to screw up like you always do.  
  3. When I was planning on going to my very first convention with my friends and was making my first convention cosplay (Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service), she made fun of me for it because she thought it was childish for a grown adult to be going to an anime convention. And it stung. She did apologize for it later (one of the few times she actually did apologize for anything she did), but the damage was done and it stuck. I don’t have this cosplay goal because of her, but maybe a small part of me feels that if I accomplish this particular goal it would be kind of a “Fuck you” for giving me shit about something I was excited about.

I may not be going as Aloy this year like I wanted, but at least I’ll be going to the convention for the first time since 2019 and I’ll have a great time anyways. At least I won’t frantically be trying to complete a cosplay in the hotel room the night before the cosplay contest.

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