Recommended Reading for the Care and Keeping of Your Amanda

Over the past convention weekend Carlos and I were able to air a few of our grievances and we both decided to work harder on being empathetic to each other and he came up with a rather brilliant idea:

Why don’t we each watch one of our favorite shows? That way we can better understand each other.

He offered for me that I should watch [REDACTED: did you think I was going to out Carlos for a blog post?] for him and for me he said he’d watch Gravitation. And that actually gave me a lot of pause (not that his answer was wrong or anything).

What would be the things I’d ask someone to watch/read to help better understand me?

Let’s start with the example Carlos gave: Gravitation. He’s not off the mark. I did spend convention dressed as the main love interest, Yuki Eiri. And I spent the weekend talking about the series a lot. I analogized a moment between me and my ex as one of the scenes from the anime. I sang the anime’s songs. I had a great time. Gravitation is, was and probably will continue to be one of the most important series in the world to me.

But why?

Well, to put it quite simply: I connected with the characters. Yuki Eiri is a stylized blonde version of me and I saw that from a very early age. Finally, a character in a TV show who had to act in many ways the same way I did: putting on a brave face of charm while slowly but surely having to cope with a past too dark to see the light. I loved the music, the animation, the darker storylines in the manga and I could relate to almost all the characters in the series (Except for you, Shuichi, you pink-haired ball of failure and forced happiness.). I empathize with Yuki, I sympathize with Ryuichi. I want them to be free of Tohma’s tyrannical control while simultaneously wanting the same charm, tact and strength that he has. Never before had a series so casually brought up mental illness for me (Yuki Eiri suffering from bipolar II and Ryuichi Sakuma suffering from what if often said to be schizophrenia but is probably dissociative personal disorder). These characters suffered; they had dark pasts but all of them, all of them were more than their collective histories. They wrote their own destinies (some more than others) and that really stuck with me. Besides, I make for a very handsome blonde.

Another great example series for understanding me has to be the obvious: Fullmetal Alchemist. God, this series meant the world to me when it came out. Imagine me: 14 years old, having just 2 years ago buried my father, living with my far too conservative aunts. I was angry. I was sad. I felt like I had no voice. And then busts through the door of my life a short, angry 14 year old blonde boy who faced similar loss and circumstances and took his destiny into his own hands. Edward Elric was my avatar to help me cope with the grief of losing a parent. Suddenly, I wasn’t alone. Suddenly, I had someone who understood my pain and on top o f it, he used science, logic and pragmatism to help him solve problems both emotionally and physically. Additionally, he also wasn’t always positive. He was sad, a lot. He had to be talked up a lot. He wasn’t alone. He had so much love and support around him and that made me feel much less alone in my own life.

Let’s move on to one more example and a more recent one: Twittering Birds Never Fly is a splendid yaoi manga and for the love of all things good and holy I never bonded with a cast of characters more. Which is probably troublesome since the series follows yakuza boss, Yashiro and his gang in a painfully emotional journey that shifts between love, angst, insecurity and the pain of wanting to feel but having to keep on a mask that you sometimes have to keep on because you think that mask proves that you have strength.

Is there any required listening? You bet there is. But sorry, it isn’t all happy stuff. It’s a lot of Panic! At the DiscoGood CharlotteGreen Day and Blink 182. These bands helped give shape to the tangle of feelings I had inside during my less than ideal teen years and if you give a listen to my mp3 player on shuffle, a clear image of who I was and who I came to be starts to form between chorus lines and guitar solos.

That was a fun exercise in self-exploration.

What pieces of media help those you care about better understand you?

Leave your answers in the comments below. This is a safe place. There’s no judgement here, just acceptance.

 

Friends on the Other Side

Friends are the siblings God never gave us. Mencius.jpg

Carlos works late sometimes. Sierra’s busy with friends and family. Marisa’s studying or in class. Taylor works crazy shifts sometimes and Amber’s usually tired after a long day with her students. Ricky’s schedule is insane and keeping up with it could be a full-time job in itself.

Keeping up with timezones and busy schedules can make it difficult to keep friendships afloat and many 20somethings find themselves struggling with loneliness. I moved away a few years ago. I live alone. But in moving, I left some of my best friends and now that I work a full-time office job, I don’t have the time or energy to be the bon viveur I was in college. I have the topic of friendship on my heart (I hear it’s magic) and I wanted to go over a few of the ways I keep up with my friends.

Call and Call

Skype is wonderful. Some of the best memories I’ve made in my recent history have been made on Skype calls. I’m an Internet girl. I’ve made plenty of friends online and we do our best to stay connected whenever we can and Skype helps us stay in touch. (This isn’t an advert, just a fact.). One of my old stomping grounds, Gendou, had a booming community and many of those community members are some of my closest friends. We do our best to get together at least once a month and chat. Many of us have grown up together and it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come from being angsty anime kids to being angsty anime adults. But depending on the friend, there’s also been hours long phone calls. Epic Google Hangouts sessions and livestream nights that go on until the wee hours of the morning. We talk during everything. I’ve been on calls while making costumes, planning hotel trips and even while working on panels or playing video games. It makes the distance between us sometimes feel not so vast.

I’ll Check the Post Box

I’m an adult now and the only things that arrive in my mailbox are bills, bills and advertisements. It was a request I started a few years ago. I asked for, instead of gifts for my birthday, I asked for cards in the mail. Not online ones, not Facebook messages, just cards sent in the mail. Over the years, this evolved into Christmas and holiday cards, post cards and all sorts of other gifts and photos sent: even internationally, through the post. It’s a great way to keep in contact and a wonderful way to break up the dread of checking the mail. And rest assured, I keep each and every single gift and card I receive and I genuinely love sending out letters, postcards and presents.

It’s a Pokemon Go Kind of Day

My friends and I tend to be a little competitive. Okay, seriously competitive. And there’s a beautiful challenge and art to competing with friends. We’re all serious Pokemon fans but a few of us: Taylor, Ricky and Carlos are serious Pokemon players. When Pokemon Go debuted, we were all early adopters of the game. We chose our factions. Selected our buddies and now we regularly compete with each other and show off our catches and victories. And the newest update to the game makes the hunt for new Pokemon even more exciting. I did write up a post about here that goes into a little more how Pokemon Go became a huge social stepping point for us.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Sierra would like you all to know that she also plays Pokemon Go and she is a higher level than me as of now.]

Pokemon in General

While we’re on the topic of Pokemon, we are mostly all fanatics so when a new game comes out: we are on it. But what’s even more amazing is how social the game is now. It’s like we’re all on the journey together. We judge the starter choices the others have made. We compare fashion. We train and battle. We share tips. We talk about how differently we play the game. Carlos is a serious perfectionist and wants to complex his Pokedex as quickly as possible. Ricky’s in it to be better than Carlos. I want to catch all the Pokemon that I want. We egg each other on, we strive to beat the league and we do our best to be better trainers and it was a great way to reconnect: especially after I moved from my home in North Texas to San Antonio.

There’s Always Convention

Some of us don’t get together very often. Some of us see each other every holiday. But dammit, there’s always convention. We often get together for con and we’ll either room together or we’ll just decide to meet up. Gendou has plenty of Texas members and convention is a great place to meet and get together. We talk, share amazing stories and make memories. You can read all about that here, here and here.

Super Smash Bros Smack Talk

I mentioned we’re competitive, right? We play a lot of fighting games. Smash Bros. is high on the list but there’s also Street Fighter, Naruto: Clash of Ninja and plenty of others. Online player modes let us fight against each other even if we’re not in the same room. We battle lag and each other sometimes and it proves for some pretty hilarious out of context quotes. 

I’ll Be Home for Festivus

Many of my friends plan to see me during the holidays or when I’m in town for convention. Sometimes my convention schedule is crazy but it’s often true that I will prioritize time with certain friends over even some family obligations. We do our best to see each other during the holidays and that’s usually more than enough time to bond before the next convention or road trip.

Wait, You’re Watching That, too?

Despite us being friends, not all of us have very similar interests. So when we end up watching something similar, it’s cause for an uproar. Whether it’s complaining about RuPaul’s Drag Race or discussing the fact that Harry Potter fans have been wronged by the ship that is Harry and Ginny: common interest binds. However, we may like the same show, we often have different opinions on the matter.

What’s most important is that we plan. We take time out to talk to each other. Carlos and I talk every week and message each other throughout the day. Ricky usually joins us on the weekends. We chat when we have time: during lunches, in between meetings, late at night or early in the morning. We talk while we travel for work, cook dinner and in between time with other friends and significant others. We make time because we care. We make time because we built a family for ourselves around common hobbies, interests and a longing to feel like we were part of something better. I’m in my 20s, so people have come and gone. People who I thought would always mean something to me I can barely remember and the people that I thought would be a passing phase are now central figures in my life. 

My friends mean the world to me; and at the risk of sounding like a shonen anime’s leading male: I want them to know how special they are to me. So thanks for keeping me grounded. Thanks for encouraging me. Thanks for staying up with me while I work on costumes. Editing panel videos. Thanks for holding costume pieces while I go to the bathroom. Thanks for letting me have the last of the pickled daikon. Thank you for cheering me up after a rough day or letting me cry over a fictional character’s dramatic death. Thank you for challenging me over issues both great and small: each one makes me a little stronger. Thank you for encouraging me to try new things but also reassuring me that things will be okay: they always will be. Thanks for all the memes and pictures of cute animals and most of all, thanks for being there.

To many more years of friendship.