[A Suitable Metaphor]

So sometimes explosions can be helpful. Things did not go well within the EP the other day, everyone was very unhappy, and I came this close to resigning (or being kicked out)… but it made me realize how important the EP is to me. So the next day I apologized and had my meeting with Wakana and told her everything. She said it’s a thing that happens to people who’ve had traumatic experiences and who’ve been enmeshed and whatnot, like I have… I’m afraid to get too close and be overwhelmed, so I push people away. I get anxious about being on the outside so I create the situation where I’m on the outside because at least that’s familiar and oddly feels safer even though it sucks. I told her all about how it’s always been rare for me to feel like part of the group (I feel more like an outsider trying to interact with the group). And I told her all about my friend asking me to be his business partner, and feeling out of the loop, and feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing more, and feeling like I couldn’t do more because of various things happening over the summer and and…

She told me if something’s important to me I need to commit to it and actually follow through, even when it means doing things I don’t want to do, even when it’s work. She helped me realize that I had dropped the ball by not telling my friend that I was feeling out of the loop and didn’t know what to do and felt like I wasn’t doing enough and felt bad about that and so on. I realized that as hurt as I felt about the whole situation, when I stepped out of my own head and looked at the bigger picture, him giving me a much smaller role in the company makes a lot of sense. I’m actually the one who gave myself that role, if I’m being completely honest. Complaining about it to the people who have been working their butts off, instead of talking to him directly, was counterproductive. Well, except that it pulled everything out into the open and provided a valuable learning opportunity.

When I called my friend he was my friend. We he asked me about my efforts to switch programs and I told him how that’s going and he told me how he’s been doing and what he wants for the company and so on. He made it clear that what happened needs to never happen again. I told him how I’ve felt this whole time and apologized. He said that if I need to talk to him about anything I can call him. Overall I didn’t really get everything I wanted from the conversation, but we’re still friends and that’s enough. And talking to him helped me feel a lot more “in” the company.

I bounced back and felt fantastic telling our new social media person she’s awesome (it’s the damn truth!). I took an article about something I wasn’t particularly interested in, learned about it, and was happy. I got to be creative figuring out how and what to write about it. I also got to finally post an article I’d done a lot of research for over the summer, which felt fantastic not just to see it up there and getting views and whatnot (so glad we waited) but there was also the satisfaction of having two things to offer the group. I want to do this work and I feel more a part of the group than before for the first time, thanks to how everyone has moved on from the explosion.

And today we got a request from someone who wants us to interview them and write an article!!! We were all squeeing because this is the kind of thing we were dreaming of a few months ago and now it’s happening!!!

… and speaking of It Happening… I finally heard back from the composition department… around the same time all this stuff was going on, that’s why I hadn’t written about it yet. The chair expressed appreciation for certain aspects of my composing, but said there are other aspects I need to work on – and I agree with his assessment wholeheartedly. He said I would make an excellent addition to the program after addressing the issues he’s concerned about, hooked me up with another faculty member to take composition lessons with, and suggested I take the theory courses so that if I reapply and am accepted I won’t have wasted any time! So instead of waiting until next semester to start I should be able to enroll in composition lessons next week… OMG IT’S HAPPENING!!! And it’s happening now!!!

I’m so excited! but also for some reason I’m kinda fixated on the fact that for the first time ever I’ll just be studying music, not in conjunction with or alongside something somehow related to behavioral science. The form, the relationships among frequencies, the interplays of rhythms and melodies, the sounds that can be made by various instruments, how to intentionally weave all of this into something… well, it depends on what you’re going for. Expressive. Magnificent. Soothing. Arousing. Inspiring. Divine… All of it, right there.

 

And Banji’s home. And my mom is awesome. And I’m getting to connect with nifty people doing stuff we enjoy. And I survived dusting my desktop for the first time in way too long. And everything just feels… balanced. Like right now there’s this perfect harmony going on, but it takes a lot of concentration to maintain and things are going to tip one way or the other, it’s not sustainable as it is, there’s a certain energy and tension and yet calmness, focus, maybe even peace. That moment of silence between the cadence and its resolution. The calm before the storm… Which I guess is oddly appropriate since it’s Mabon (either today or tomorrow), the Autumnal Equinox. Everything is in balance for this brief day and night and then we descend into the darkness and cold of winter. But there’s a certain power and strength and majesty to the darkness that I love and that I can…

okay, let’s be honest, it’s feeling more and more like Halloween. I could go into the significance of Samhain and the sabbats and so on but seriously. HALLOWEEN!!! Who doesn’t love this time of year? I need to stop writing and start figuring out my costume because damnit I’m dressing up this year and it’s gonna be awesome!!!

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Sims 3 Legacy Challenge: Orlanna Faust

Orlanna Faust didn’t remember much about her childhood or adolescence, except that they had been unpleasant. Whenever she tried to access memories from even her late teenage years, she became overwhelmed by feelings of loneliness and grief.

All she could remember clearly was a surreal and yet vivid dream – it had to have been a dream – in which she had begged for a new life far from her mundane, dreary world. A sim-like being in a long, black, hooded cloak had answered her. She could not make out the being’s features, nor understand their words, and yet she had the sense she had agreed to… something. Then she awoke, alone in an empty field, overlooking a valley unlike anything she’d ever seen…

A light-skinned, female-presenting sim sits cross-legged in the grass. There is a thought bubble above her head with an image of a black bird. She is outdoors on a sunny day on a grassy hill, with trees, mountains, and a waterfall in the distance.

Orlanna contemplates her current situation.

I’ve decided to try the Sims 3 Legacy Challenge one more time. I created a new founder and moved her into one of the 64×64 lots in Dragon Valley, then used the “familyfunds” cheat to reduce the family funds to $1800.

For an overview of the challenge and its rules, visit the Sims 3 Legacy Challenge website. In short, the challenge is to play for 10 generations without using cheat codes, extending your sims’ lifespans, raising them from the dead, etc. You start with just one sim on a very large empty lot and $1800 starting cash.

I decided to alter some of the rules for my challenge run:

  1. I added a total of 10 days to the “normal” sim lifespan.
  2. I decided that the camera in the founder’s inventory at the start of the game may not be sold.
  3. I added “No Bills Ever,” “Fireproof Homestead,” and “Young Again” to the list of forbidden Lifetime Rewards.
  4. Updated: I set up my own rules governing the traits I choose for sims that are born in-game (instead of requiring them all to be random):
    1. They must have the family trait.
    2. There is a 50/50 chance that female descendants of the founder will be born with the “Lucky” trait. When present, the “Lucky” trait takes the place of one of the requirements below:
    3. One trait must be from the mother.
    4. One trait must be from the father.
    5. One trait must be random.
    6. I have unrestricted choice of one trait.
    7. If the sim acquires an additional trait (e.g. from completing a degree) I will keep whichever one is suggested by the game.
  5. I’m playing a matriarchal family: I have a female founder and “only female children may become the heir to bring in the next generation.” Males born into the family may (but are not required to) stay to help take care of their nieces and nephews.
  6. My goal is for each heir to have children with whichever unrelated male sim(s) she chooses – without the need for marriage or other committed romantic relationships. (This way I don’t have to take control of non-player characters.) In fact, I’ve chosen “Commitment Issues” as the family trait to support this play style.
  7. I’m going to try to make additions to the legacy house without altering the existing structure. That means existing walls, exterior wall coverings, doors, and windows will remain whenever possible.

Founder: Orlanna Faust

A light-skinned female-presenting sim dressed in firefighters' pants, boots, and hat stands with one hand on her hip in front of autumn foliage and a barrel of pumpkins.

Orlanna dresses up as a firefighter for Spooky Day!

Orlanna began her life in Dragon Valley with no coherent memories, a digital camera, a high school diploma with the name of a school she did not recognize, and $1800 – hardly enough to buy or build a house. She wandered the town somewhat aimlessly at first, awed by the strange appearance of the locals… – were they… elves?

Fortunately for her, it was not long before Orlanna learned that the fire department was hiring, “no experience necessary.” The job description stipulated that applicants must be willing to live at the fire house during the workweek; that was perfect. In exchange for risking her life to save strangers, Orlanna gained a home that satisfied her basic needs.

Left: Two female-presenting sims - one of whom has white skin, purple hair, and pointy ears - shake hands. There is a fire truck in the background. Right: The same individual sleep in twin beds with "zzz" over their heads.

Left: Orlanna joins the fire department. Right: Orlanna sleeps in the fire house dormitory.

Fighting fires was hard work, but Orlanna found it rewarding. She began to make a name for herself around town. Yet – although people applauded her bravery, thanked her for saving their lives, and even seemed to like her – Orlanna struggled to make and keep friends. Try as she might to adapt to the local customs, she was prone to accidentally offending people – which caused her to lose their trust. Orlanna was often lonely; she turned to brooding to fill the void.

Left: A firefighter sprays the contents of a fire extinguisher on a large fire in someone's living room. Right: A male-presenting sim with yellow skin, blonde hair, and pointy ears covers his mouth and stares wide-eyed at the firefighter, who has a speech bubble over her head with a bouquet of flowers in it.

Left: Orlanna attempts to extinguish a large, dangerous house fire.
Right: A townsperson is impressed by Orlanna-the-firefighter’s dedication and courage.

Over time, Orlanna learned to tread more carefully in social situations. She made a friend or two and began to feel less lonely. And then she met Orion Lawless, a concession stand vendor at the winter festival. They fell in love almost instantly…

A booth with a cash register and menus on either side fills the foreground. Behind it, a female-presenting sim embraces a male-presenting sim with off-white skin and purple hair.

Orlanna and Orion embrace at the winter festival.

Legacy House

By working hard and spending wisely, Orlanna saved up enough money to build and furnish a small house in the field where she had first entered Dragon Valley. Far from the center of town, it served as a sanctuary where she could be fully herself.

A small one-story house with a porch. Icicles and holiday lights hang from the roof. It is covered and surrounded by snow.

Orlanna’s cozy little house on a snowy day.

It was with great joy that Orlanna hosted her first gift-giving party, which turned out to be a huge success!!!

A large open room with kitchen furnishings in the foreground, a couch in the left background, a table with chairs and bedroom furniture in the right background. Male- and female-presenting sims sit or stand around a large pile of presents near the center of the room. One male-presenting sim is opening a present.

Orlanna’s friends and acquaintances gather in her home to open presents.

Thanks for reading!

How Social Anxiety Fuels My Depression

I haven’t just been “out of sorts” the past couple of weeks. I’ve been moderately depressed. Tired, sad, unfocused; I spent an entire day watching The Legend of Korra on KissCartoon because I couldn’t get myself to do anything else (and I wanted to know what would happen next; it’s a great story). I’ve also been isolating, having self-harm urges, and occasionally thinking I don’t deserve to live. The abusive voice is back; when he’s feeling kind he just tells me I’m worthless.

I feel like I’m right back where I started: feeling depressed and overwhelmed by the prospect of applying for internships. (And jobs, but if I have to choose between a job and a music therapy internship, I’ll pick the internship. It’s the last major obstacle to starting my career.) There’s nothing else for me to do, nowhere else to run, no excuses. But everything feels wrong. I haven’t been practicing my instruments, it’s been over 4 years since I last worked with real clients, and I don’t have appropriate attire for an interview. I know there are relatively easy ways to fix at least two of those issues, but I’m finding it hard to get myself to do even something as simple as stepping outside for a few minutes to enjoy the sunshine.

It doesn’t help that I’ve been fighting with my health insurance since mid-June. This is a huge trigger for me; I feel like they’re threatening my very existence. We were a couple days late re-applying for our program, so there was actually a temporary lapse in coverage while our information was being processed. Fox was taking half his dosage to make his medication last for as long as possible while we waited to regain our benefits; that made it harder for him to cope with stress and he came home from work even more exhausted than usual. When we finally got our letter confirming eligibility, I rushed to the pharmacy to refill his prescription – only to discover that our HMO wouldn’t resume prescription benefits until August 1st. I didn’t know we could have our medication paid for directly by our state’s program, and I didn’t have his card with me anyway. I got ridiculously angry, started yelling, and had to use all my willpower not to become violent.

The eligibility letter was followed closely by a letter requesting proof of my citizenship and identity. I was furious – for two reasons. First of all, they required Fox to certify my identity and used the term “child” on the form; I found this exceptionally insulting because I’m the one who’s been doing everything to get and keep health insurance for us both. More importantly, the only reason I could think of why they would have trouble confirming my identity (but not Fox’s) is because I changed my last name when we got married. I updated Social Security and got a new driver’s license over a year ago, but for some reason they couldn’t make the connection themselves. It really wasn’t much of an inconvenience to send them copies of my certificates and IDs, but I felt threatened by it anyway. I was born here, I’ve lived here my whole life, we clearly marked that I am Fox’s spouse, and it’s a long-standing tradition for one partner to take the other’s last name when a couple gets married. They should have no trouble connecting my current name to my pre-marriage identity, it should be a normal part of their procedure.

I did nothing wrong, why should anyone question my right to be here?

That’s my problem: I question my right to be here. Bullying; physical and emotional abuse; living in a world that doesn’t want to admit non-binary pansexual people exist; having a body that is hyper-sexualized, censored, stigmatized, and discriminated against; persistent invasive media promoting impossible beauty standards… It’s hard to avoid internalizing messages that I don’t have a right to be here – or, at least, that if I want to exist I must do everything both inside and outside my power to conform. I feel like simply existing day to day (and being honest about who I am) is a radical act of defiance.

Radical acts of defiance take a lot of energy.

I’m tired.

This latest return of my depression – especially so soon after I thought I’d overcome it – proves to me that I must do something to directly address my anxiety. No matter how well I feel in terms of the depression, as soon as I try to start doing things again, my anxiety fairs up. It’s so bad I can’t do anything, so I don’t do anything; the depression sets in again.

It isn’t part of my official diagnosis (yet), but I’m pretty sure I have social anxiety disorder – which is described as “extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations.” It explains most of my functional difficulties that lead to some of my worst depressive symptoms, particularly being late for class and the couple of times I’ve chosen not to show up for job interviews. Even just going for a walk outside is difficult: I don’t want to be seen by anyone because I expect them to judge me harshly.

Fortunately, I have an appointment with my prescriber on Tuesday. She has offered to refer me for individual therapy – I think within the clinic where I meet with her. I can will ask her to refer me to someone who specializes in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for social anxiety disorder. (CBT is more effective than medication for treating social anxiety.) Hopefully I’ll be able to start with that person right away and gain the confidence I need to finally move forward with my life.