I’ve been thinking about gratitude a lot for the last month or so. Those of you who follow me on Twitter likely already know this. I’ve been tweeting about it almost as much as I’ve been thinking about it. I’ve also started typing out this blog post multiple times, only to stop for some vague and/or indiscernible reason. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that for whatever equally indiscernible reason, this finally feels like the right time for me to finish this blog post.
Bear with me. There will be no punches pulled in the following paragraphs, and I suspect that some of them will hit harder than I expect them to.
There’s little secret about the fact that for a very great many of us, 2016 was a brutal and ruthless mugger of a year. The political upheaval alone with regard to the US Presidential election was enough to leave vast numbers of people (myself included) bloody and limping. But for me personally, the results of the US election were merely the final, gratuitous indignity. The proverbial straw that broke this already weary camel’s back.
Because 2016 didn’t just assault me in the abstract. In fact, 2016 didn’t just assault me period. 2016 broke me. It broke me in ways that I didn’t think I could be broken. It broke me emotionally, spiritually, and damn near broke me mentally. 2016 came for me where I lived, barging into my personal life and carving out my heart with a rusty hacksaw, leaving me to die of blood loss cold and alone in a dark, wet alley somewhere. It did this by taking my birth father away from me, killing him only a few years after I’d even met him at all. For reasons that I will not explain, his passing hurt me in ways that truly defy description and because of that, everything else that 2016 brought with it hurt me that much more.
By the time December rolled around, I was all but physically half-dead. I was standing on the razor’s edge of just giving up on it all and abandoning every last hope and dream that I’d carried with me and been working towards for the better part of a decade. Almost everywhere I looked, all I saw was pain, death, and defeat. So when 2016 brought me to that ledge, I very seriously considered just jumping off and letting it all go.
But I didn’t. I held on. I survived. Not only did I survive, but I’ve successfully crawled out of the abyss that 2016 threw me into and have finally started to truly thrive in these opening weeks of 2017. Those two miraculous feats, surviving 2016 and thriving thus far in 2017, would simply not have happened (or in some cases, even been possible) were it not for the people on this list. If you’re reading this list and find yourself on it, then know that in however big or small a way, you are one of the reasons I either survived 2016, and/or have been thriving so far in 2017. 🙂
Without further ado now, here’s the list…
My Mothers: Yes. You read that right. Mothers. Plural. More than one. I’m adopted, you see, and I have been given the twin gifts of an adoptive mother who was adopted herself (and therefor completely understanding and supportive of my desire to find my birth parents) and a birth mother who was overjoyed that I finally found her, and who enthusiastically welcomed me back into her life. Without their love and emotional support, I never would have survived what 2016 did to me.
My Co-Workers: This one might feel like an odd entry (and it’s definitely a recent one), but that in no way diminishes it’s importance. Full, embarrassing disclosure: I’m 27, and until September 15th of last year, I’d never once had a job. There are reasons for that. My senior year of high school, I realized that being an author was the one thing, above all else, that I wanted to do with my life. So I vowed right then and there that no matter what it took, I would become an author. Back then, getting a “real job” would mean that I’d failed in my vow to become an author, and because of the deeply personal circumstances under which I had made that vow, failure was truly unacceptable.
But, as with all things in Life, circumstances changed. I found something that I wanted… if not more than becoming an author, then enough to change my definition of failure. So I got a job. But it wasn’t without conflict. Two weeks after getting hired, I had an incident that damn near made me quit on the spot. And then again last week, I had another one. Both times, it was the unadulterated awesomeness of my co-workers that kept me from doing it. They don’t know this, and perhaps they should, but the fact remains that the vast majority of my co-workers are fucking awesome people that I love spending time with and around, and I would not have been able to take on this job without them.
Captain Twaz: I know him by another name, but I suspect that the design Wizard of the Destiny Twitch Community would prefer I address him by his internet handle within the pages of this post. I owe virtually all of my renewed and relentless passion and drive to this man. It is a true and accurate thing to say that for all the good my mothers and my co-workers have done for me, I still would not be where I am right now if it were not for Captain Twaz. That “AuthorPhoenix89” Twitch channel of mine? Straight up would not exist if Captain Twaz hadn’t worked his Wizardly powers and created the circumstances that inspired me to start it. The 21,268 words I’ve written for my WIP over the last month-and-a-half? Probably never would’ve happened were it not for Captain Twaz re-igniting my passion for writing with an utterly mind-blowing early Christmas present back in November. This man has been a frustratingly constant source of support and inspiration for me over the last couple of years, and I owe him more for that than I think I will ever be able to properly repay.
TheSpazzyProf: Yep. Another internet moniker. But the name is not the important thing. The important thing is that while TheSpazzyProf is not the first person I ever followed on Twitch, she is the one who finally made Twitch feel like a home for me. I was still super new to even being a viewer on Twitch, let alone being a streamer, and at the time the site was really intimidating to me. The only other streamers I’d spent any real time watching were KingGothalion and ProfessorBroman, and while I looked up to them as the pinnacle of what someone can achieve on Twitch, their chats were so overwhelming to little ole’ newbie me that part of me just wanted to go crawl back under my rock and forget about the whole becoming-a-streamer thing.
Spazzy changed that.
Her chat was busy, but not overwhelming, and Spazzy herself was so light and funny that I couldn’t help but start poking my head back out of my shell a little. When I finally started chatting, she coaxed me out of my shell by being a genuinely warm and welcoming person. She made me feel like even though I was a newcomer to her channel, I still had a place at the table with her and all of her regulars. Speaking as someone who still struggles with feelings of being a perpetual outsider, Spazzy’s genuinely friendly and inclusive approach to new viewers in her stream meant so much to me that when I got my first paycheck from my new job, I made damn certain that she would be the first streamer I ever actually paid money to subscribe to. It was the only way I felt like I could properly repay the support she had given me, even though she didn’t know she was giving it at all.
And that’s why she’s on this list. Because for all that, I’ve never actually properly thanked her. So, Spazzy, if you’re reading this… thank you. Thank you for making Twitch feel like a home for me, and thank you for giving me the faith and confidence I’ve needed to keep my own Twitch channel alive and well on the days I’ve most felt like killing it. I hope I get to see you at GuardianCon. 🙂
CCSpectre: It would be the highest of offenses, the dickest of dick moves, if I were to write and publish this list of awesome people without mentioning the one person who perhaps has most made me feel like a real and proper streamer, at least with the way that I defined and applied those terms to myself.
When I first committed to becoming a Twitch streamer, to much the same degree I’d committed to becoming an author, I didn’t have much in the way of branding or artwork. Captain Twaz had done some beautiful work for me when I’d first started experimenting, but my personal identity as a streamer and general small-time internet figure had changed considerably since then, and it was CCSpectre who came to my rescue. That gorgeous artwork you see on my channel now? That’s all her doing; arriving in the form of yet another unexpected, unsolicited, and downright mind-blowing Christmas present.
In many ways, that artwork has become my armor on Twitch. It allowed me to dive head-first and whole heartedly into the world of streaming without fear of being attacked as a “fake” or “insert-insult-here” streamer. It may be a small thing to some, but having my channel art be both beautiful and so reflective of who I am? It’s given me all the confidence I’ve needed to just be myself as a streamer and not worry about measuring up to the legends like KingGothalion or ProfessorBroman.
GhostBird_TV: There’s a part of my brain that’s telling me it’s rude to shoot for the heart of someone you’ve only recently crossed paths with, but the rest of me says “Fuck it! This list is for all the people who’ve contributed to your 2017 getting off to an amazing start, and GhostBird has more than earned her place on it!”
And that’s true.
A little backstory: Some time ago, another person on this list (a certain “Canadian Alien”) expressed a wish/desire for Mass Effect: Andromeda to develop a community even half as awesome as the one that’s developed around Destiny. For reasons foreign to even myself, I decided to say “Challenge Accepted”, so I started browsing Twitch for other, smaller streamers like myself who were already streaming Mass Effect; scouting out potential Pathfinder candidates, if you’ll pardon the reference. 😛
GhostBird_TV was one of the streamers/candidates I found.
What earns her a spot on this list however, is the entirely unexpected and near-instantaneous tit-for-tat host/follow reciprocation! Make of the following statement what you will: I don’t generally do things for any kind of external reward, and I don’t do favors with the expectation or even desire for them to be returned. My life has contained more than its fair share of Darkness and as a result of that, I’ve long since resolved that if I can’t find the Light in my little slices of the world, then I will simply be the Light in my little slices of the world. I find that this approach makes life a far more rewarding experience in and of itself, and it also makes it much easier for me to cope with the days where my own personal Darkness creeps back in.
So when my host alert randomly went off mid-stream earlier this week, and I saw that it was GhostBird’s doing, it kind of blew my mind. The fact that she then followed up that host with a Twitter shout-out? Well, that’s why she’s on this list now, isn’t it? 😛
But there’s something else I need to thank her for. Something else that makes her a serious contributor to the awesomeness that has been the first two weeks of my 2017, and that actually ties back to the reason I had to thank TheSpazzyProf as well. For this to make proper sense, another small dose of backstory is required.
My first internet venture was a YouTube channel. A YouTube channel that eventually got invited into the YouTube partner program, back in the day when that was actually required before you could monetize your videos. I got a couple of (very) small paychecks out of it, but as much fun as I was having making and uploading videos, there was one thing that kept sapping away at my enjoyment of it every time I clicked “Upload”.
The lack of viewer interaction.
Viewer interaction is why I even got started on YouTube in the first place, and the night before last, GhostBird took viewer interaction to a whole new level. After performing a live reading of the first book in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, she and a few of us viewers wound up playing a couple rounds of Cards Against Humanity, and after THAT, those of us that still remained at just after midnight (Pacific Time) sat around chatting with each other for at least another hour! That’s a level of viewer interaction and connection that I didn’t even think was POSSIBLE! It drove home in profound fashion that behind the screens and the screen-names, we are all real people, with real lives, real problems, and real dreams. And the fact that I, the perpetual outsider, got to be a part of something like that? On top of the aforementioned Twitch host and Twitter shout-out? That is one hell of a combo punch you’ve got goin’ on there, Ghost. Wield it well, my Mass Effect apprentice. 😉
My Phoenix Flock: You all know who you are. My Twitch viewers, my regulars, the people whose screen names I’m always excited to see pop up in my chat window while I’m streaming. You all are legitimate rock stars. You’re the ones who make me feel like I really wasn’t crazy to give in and commit to this crazy world of internet video game streaming, and have also made me feel like at least one of my dreams has already started to come true. Mere words will never be adequate thanks for that in my mind, so the only think I feel I can do to properly show my gratitude is to keep streaming.
But still… thank you. 🙂
KingGothalion, ProfessorBroman, Kmagic101, & Everyone Else Involved With the Destiny Community Con 2016: The Destiny Community Convention, specifically the week-long, 24/7 charity stream benefitting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, may well prove to be a legitimately life changing event for me. Not because I made my way down to Tampa, Florida and actually met these people in person, but because the charity stream they put on wound up being incredibly cathartic for me.
I wrote a blog post about it almost immediately afterward (a post that sadly got lost during the redesign of this website), but without regaling you all with too long a story, the short version is this: I’ve been a gamer my entire life, and for the overwhelming majority of that time, I’ve had to listen and deal with people demonizing gamers in every way you could imagine. Implying that we’re the lowest of the low, the most pathetic dregs of society that can never be rescued, saved, or rehabilitated from their pizza-eating, sunlight-hating, mother’s-basement-dwelling ways. To say nothing of how incurably, savagely violent we were supposed to be because of all the Mortal Kombats, Call of Duties, and Grand Theft Autos.
So when the Destiny Community Con Charity Stream wound up raising more than half a million dollars for perhaps one of the worthiest of worthy causes on the planet? That was a powerful experience for me. One that, when paired with Captain Twaz’s continuous Wizardry, resulted in my near-authorhood levels of commitment to become a part of the Destiny/Twitch community. Without that commitment, I would not be here today. I would not be streaming Mass Effect, I would not have my awesome and amazing Phoenix Flock, and I would almost certainly not even be writing this blog post. So for their role in that, however tangential it might be, I have to give the most heartfelt of thanks to KingGothalion, Kmagic101, ProfessorBroman, and everyone else involved in making the Destiny Community Con everything that it was.
I’ll see you all at GuardianCon, too. Hopefully. 😛
Billy Buskell: People frequently say to never meet your heroes and quite frankly, there’s wisdom in that. That’s why I don’t feel at all bad or weird about thanking the Canadian Alien (his Twitter/Twitch username is Ehlien) for being a generally awesome person, and taking my one or two moments of pure Mass Effect fanboyism in stride. Mass Effect is my all-time favorite video game franchise, and having one of the people responsible for creating it come in and hang out in my Twitch chat while I’m streaming it… that’s a moment and a memory that is *definitely* going into my 2017 highlight reel. 😛
And Billy, when Mass Effect: Andromeda finally ships, we totally need to get the Parkourpions together for some MEAMP action. 🙂
And there you have it. A complete list of everyone who has contributed to the last few weeks of my life being almost certainly the best I have ever had. At this point, I am legitimately out of words to describe what you all have done for me, and what those things have meant to me. So, in light of that fact, I will end this blog post with four words that still feel weak and meaningless to me, but will hopefully feel like the exact opposite to you.
Thank you. For everything. 🙂