The Facets of Feeling

I have a problem with the term “chasing happiness.” It’s too simple. The past 2 years for me were a prison of black and white, upbeat happy or pitfall sad. In-between emotions weren’t recognized or permitted. Hell, even sadness was considered intolerable, and angrily acknowledged if it surfaced. The vivid spectrum of human emotion could not be fully accessed. The only emotion allowed…was “happy.” But denying your palate the varied flavors of life through emotional suppression only creates a disastrous recipe.

Happiness. We hold it as the most powerful, sought-after state of being for a healthy, satisfying life. But there’s a problem with those who ONLY wish to be “happy” and banish the other emotions to the dungeon-like doldrums. Happiness is just one shade. Satisfaction, for example, is not as surface-level as “happy.” Satisfaction can run so much deeper and give you a far higher sense of achievement when attained. Contentment, as well, is a warm feeling that echoes softly through your soul putting you in a relaxed state that “happy” cannot achieve on its own. Exuberance is an exhilaratory upgrade of happiness that heightens your mental state with a gripping thrill.

And then there’s the downside of the spectrum. No one wants to be sad. No one wants to be depressed. And no one should wish for it. But when it happens, sometimes you have to feel it deeply. There is no such thing as a “bad” feeling; there is only a poor way to handle it. Choosing “not” to feel it is one such example. You can never truly face your situation by running from the sentiment. If sadness happens to be your reality at the moment, then face it head on, grieve, and learn from it. Fleeing from feelings conquers nothing and produces 0 growth. It’s simply putting a lid on a pot that will continue to boil and erupt later with explosive, exponential intensity.

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It may feel like a curse to feel emotions magnified other than “happy.” If you’re like me and feel things very deeply (mood swings galore as a child), simple words with an odd inflection may cut you deep. Brutal anger may draw a curtain of red over your world. Unfair treatment might make you curl-up-on-the-floor-sick-to-your-stomach with resentment. But buoyant, spirited vibes resound within you, magnifying to a high better than any hallucinogen.

The individual you run into sobbing in public will be one of the most honest people you’ll meet. Unafraid of the world’s judgment, they are showing you their current truth in raw form, without a facade. That highly opinionated acquaintance who constantly vomits their viewpoints that everyone finds “inappropriate,” likely won’t be “two-faced” behind your back because they give you themselves without dilution. The stranger you’ve just met who heatedly shares his indignation at an injustice he recently witnessed is unafraid to display the passion in his heart. Fearless emotion is an amazing thing.

If your goal is to only chase “happiness,” how can you fully appreciate the facets of feeling? Like a brilliant diamond, there are so many glittering sides to experience that grant you new perception at different angles. Angles that illumine paths to reflections you may not have seen before. Paths that lead you to fellow humans who immediately and completely understand what you’re feeling because they’ve felt it as well. They’ve experienced that facet of the diamond themselves. They’ve tasted that emotion and overcome it before and now you’ve created a powerful connection through sharing and empathy.

We need the jarring rage you feel when a friend is mistreated, the sweltering indignance you feel when you’re spoken down to, and the simmering jealous awe that pushes us to climb and stretch for things out of our reach. Going through life cradling one feeling is a robotic pathway of monochrome imbalance. Celebrate the fact that you can feel a myriad of sentiments. Reactions that prove you’re legitimately interacting with the world and people around you. You hear them, listen, disagree, get angered by what they say, happy at their news, sad at their downfalls. Cry when you’re upset, stomp when you’re mad, yell when you’re frustrated. Shout beneath a waterfall like in A Quiet Place and let go of the composure. Embrace the wild freedom of being human.

PharellHappy

Be wary of those who are only ever “happy,” afraid to come face to face with any other emotion. Those are the ones who hide deeper currents that wash over their hidden truths and malfunction their mechanical myths behind the veneer they’ve put up. If your life is one emotion, you’re half-living, and not viewing the full panorama the human soul has to offer. If you haven’t fallen to the lowest point, clawed your way back out, coped through a mind-numbing loss, been picked up by the kindness of karmatic-hearted strangers, and even had your boss comfort you in the throes of devastation, you might not have truly lived yet.

The ending line from the Fruits Basket manga never resonated so well with me before: Repeat the good AND the bad. Do it all, and pile on the years.

Never be afraid to feel.

~Tael

 

Girl. Gamer. And?

It’s like we’ve regressed while evolving. A month ago when I went to Otakon, I met a transgender individual who shared that some of their female friends who game have gone through some pretty negative experiences with the male gaming community; to the point where they now hide their gender on forums and social media, and are treated fine until somehow the bomb drops that they’re female. When I was growing up, gender in gaming was never a thing, so why is it now?

As a casual gamer, it’s been amazing to ride along the gaming world’s journey. I started out with my very own Sega Genesis at age 7. ALL of my cousins gamed, boy and girl. And when their friends came over, we all gamed together still. There was never any “Girls can’t play” or “Boys club” nonsense. We practiced Mortal Kombat finishing moves on each other, sped through Sonic levels, and bullet-barraged in GoldenEye as equals. We chainsawed Tediz in Conker, helped snag difficult stars in Super Mario 64, and woke up rubbing the crust from our eyes first thing bright and early to grab the controller and take down Wizpig in Diddy Kong Racing.

Going through middle school, gaming was definitely still considered a nerdy hobby, so it wasn’t really broadcast much. We stayed under the radar so as not to become targets. I kept it hidden behind the scenes, indulging with my family and my bestie, who could be counted on to marathon Super Mario World with me in one night, being overly cautious not to accidentally nudge the glitchy console in any way, lest the save not work properly after having played for hours. I quietly played my RPGs in the safety of my room and found gaming companions in AOL chat rooms. I ducked my head in my GameBoy in isolated corners of the school yard.

In high school (and I admit, the fact that my H.S. population was 75% Asian could have something to do with it) it became much more socially accepted. Dedicated teams set up YuGiOh and Magic rounds religiously every day after school in the cafeteria. I encountered my first IRL Zelda fan who loved to share tips on Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask. I got invited to a birthday party where we each built our own mini-Gundams to take home (Deathscythe, baby). Gamer T-shirts and swag became more widespread.

College came and my love of Smash Bros. continued to blossom. I formed a purely battle relationship with a dude who’d come around to visit his girlfriend down the hall, and always dropped in just to play a few rounds and demolish me. In fact, there were quite a few Elite Smashers in college, and I was surprised at how many others loved it too! I befriended another girl who beasted in Smash and we took down our friends in Team Battles. And then there were other gamers still, happy to lend their assistance to the excruciatingly tedious puzzles of Prince of Persia or MarioKart training, or collaboratively get back to Funkatron in Toejam & Earl.

The gamer’s life had become a breeze of approval. Twitter wasn’t even a thing back then. Is that why everyone was so nice and accepting? Because in-person, things are different? Because a lot of people gain that web-courage, when they’re behind a screen? Or because the younger generations are more likely to be douchebags now?

Once again, I may have been caught in some kind of bubble (I’m starting to believe myself to be a unicorn in life). I was never once called out for my gender. I was never once interrogated, scrutinized, laughed at, harassed, or belittled for being a girl and having this hobby. It wasn’t considered a “cool” thing to do or pretend to like. It wasn’t a trend, as nostalgic things tend to be now. It was strictly a hobby, done for your own individual entertainment. A gamer was a gamer.

It’s interesting to see a hobby I once kept on the low explode into something that can make you Internet-famous now. But it’s also great to see how much more open and accessible the gaming lifestyle is now. I LOVE that I can find controller earrings on Etsy, Triforce handbags on Amazon, support indie artists geeky tee and hoodie designs, actually be a part of a gaming community on social media, connect with Smashers just by logging into the network on the WiiU, and pop up on the Tetris Friends site for a bit of mind-numbing block-dropping. I love that bars are incorporating arcades, Nintendo World at Rockefeller Center is a thing, Pokemon is still going strong, “It’s dangerous to go alone, take this,” has become a meme, and retro-fans recognize and appreciate the question-mark tattoo on my shoulder.

20170928_231443As a casual gamer, (and I’m not speaking for the industry side of things) I don’t feel like women are marginalized any more so than anywhere else. Are there hypersexualized characters in gaming? OF COURSE. Hypersexualization of women is everywhere in the world. We can’t expect it to magically not be in this particular medium. Grand Theft Auto is not meant to be a respectable game (you are absolutely an asshole protagonist), Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball does nothing anime doesn’t already do, yes, Lara Croft is known for having large breasts in the Tomb Raider series, that was their thing, and also seeing Valentina’s boobs jiggle when you attack her in Super Mario RPG is hilarious (because they do jiggle in real life sometimes). But how can we forget about the numerous other female roles over the years? Easy-going Jade from Beyond Good & Evil. Calculating Bellena from Skies of Arcadia (which also happened to have two female co-protagonists). Battle-worthy warrior Marta from Tales of Symphonia 2 (because Lord knows Emil needed to grow a pair) as well as the power-hungry, pint-sized sadistic Alice who put fear in even the largest man’s heart. Xelha from Baten Kaitos was one of my least favorite female characters, mostly because I didn’t find her cute at all. Yeah, sounds horrible, but I like my characters to be cute. I much preferred Mizuti with her crazy mask and garbled voice, who everyone was shocked to find out late in the game that she was a girl anyway. Because if a character is not going to be cute, they should at least be cool and have some depth to them. I see Twitter highly in favor of the fact that Twintelle from Arms has an ass. Sexualization or adaptation of the latest fit and trendy body-type?

Having that knowledge dropped on me at Otakon, that one would have to hide their gender orientation around the community they love to participate in, left me surprised, even though I’ve heard stories before. Over the Internet. I’ve just never heard a real-life story from twenty-somethings in person. I was certain there’s the chill, accepting, mature generation of gamers who love the hobby in person (because don’t Millennials accept everything accept right-wing conservatism?), and then there’s the Internet-thugging 12-14-year-old virgins experimenting with cursing behind their headsets and safety screens because they’re not ready for the real world. And I’m not threatened by children. To my fellow gaming ladies who have experienced such nonsense as this, I’m sorry I wasn’t there. I’ve been told I can come off as intimidating. Let some little ignorant troll come at me for being a chick who games.

I would skin them. (And trust me, you could probably take them too).

Just saying.

~Tael

That New York Bubble

At the time of this post, I can still say that I’ve never had an overtly racist encounter. Strange, isn’t it? I’m a 30-year-old African American woman with about 12 years worth of dreadlocks. I have never once been called a “nigger” to my face or over the internet. I have never had a backhanded compliment such as “Oh she’s blahblahblah, for a Black girl.” I’ve never had trouble landing a job either because of my race. The only questionable situation I had with a recruiter was when she tried to low-key tell me that the positions she recruited for would likely have a problem with my hair (And well, the hair stays). And as far as I know, I’ve never been passed over for anything because of the color of my skin.

I grew up in New York City, which I consider to be the greatest city in America. I may not have an overwhelming “patriotic” pride, but I sure am loyal as hell to New York. And growing up here, there’s a whole different lifestyle and an entirely unique state of mind. There is no physical divide between rich and poor and race here. Sure, certain neighborhoods are more LIKELY to have a certain demographic (South Williamsburg, Sheepshead Bay, Brownsville) but gentrification runs rampant through the city, low-income/lottery housing exists in the most luxurious buildings (my friend was lucky enough to bag one) and you’ll find everyone in Times Square from the businessmen to the tourists to the teenagers to the hood squad.

There is a certain kind of acceptance that comes with being a New York native. If you went to school here, you were exposed to a mixing bowl of race and culture at a very early age. I grew up brushing elbows with project kids, families who had enough money to treat a group of kids to dinner and the movies for their child’s birthday (an impressive feat in the 90s), immigrant children who spoke little English, young girls wearing hijabs and a boy brought up as Jehovah’s Witness who wasn’t allowed to participate in any of the holiday activities. We had class luncheons where everyone would bring in family dishes, Dance Festivals where we’d learn choreography from different origins, and Spanish class was a requirement for 5 years of my public school life.

The fact that a Confederate flag was recently found displayed in the window of an LES apartment was definitely a surprise, considering I grew up in LES. Because in the New York Bubble, racism is something that happens somewhere else. Growing up here did not instill the fear of cops in me and getting pulled over was never a stressful or scary event. In the New York Bubble, a racist establishment will get slammed and shamed on social media or Yelp; a racist incident in the street will be recorded on a camera phone and make the Gothamist for the city to snub; a Good Samaritan will call someone out publicly for displaying prejudice. Growing up in NYC, I was not taught to see race, traipsing through Chinatown, the only Black person in a swarm of Chinese friends, their parents thrilled with my knowledge of Mah-Jongg without the English characters on the pieces. In the New York Bubble, racism is a shocking and disgusting thing we’ve mostly evolved past, while small towns in Middle America remain ignorant without progress. In my mom’s building, our conservative Jewish neighbor, a mother of 2, has offered my two cousins to come wait inside her house when we weren’t home, and they can look like hoodlums sometimes.

I just had a conversation with my boyfriend the other night about how different my high school experience was from the ones you see portrayed in teen movies. No one was ever singled out for being poor, for being overweight, or for struggling in English class. Those with bad grades or bigger pants sizes or suspicious odors weren’t really treated differently than anyone else. What kind of alternate universe did we exist in? Were we just on a different level of maturity?

Even when I leave New York, I find that the Bubble still follows me. As much as I’ve traveled to visit my family in South Carolina, no one has ever tossed a racial comment my way down the dirt roads, surrounded by deep forests and trailer parks. When I moved to Boston for 2 years, I was met with friendliness abounds, as if the whole New York vs Boston rivalry didn’t exist. When I went to D.C. for Otakon a week ago, nada. Likewise, Baltimore, Virginia and down the East Coast, nothing.

One might see this as a strong sign that our country is progressing. Until you look at your Facebook feed and the news stories, the viral videos of police encounters and personal accounts from across the country of cultural headscarves getting snatched and sneers to “go back to your country.” And you dejectedly realize it is very much still there. And sometimes…it comes into our Bubble and it’s here too. And while I hold my NYC upbringing like a talisman, how far can that Bubble extend? The outer membrane is so thin…

~Tael

Yes, I Still Play Pokemon GO

No, I did not leave the app behind in 2016 with everyone else who jumped off the bandwagon. Why? I’m not a bandwagoner.

The questioning of why those who still enjoy Pokemon GO continue to do so after its popularity declined with “the masses” last year currently tops my list of MOST. ANNOYING. QUESTIONS…

Mostly because…this is what you’re actually asking:

A. Why aren’t we all quitters like you who didn’t simultaneously drink the Kool-Aid and give up at the same time?
B. Why did we all not follow the prescribed time limit that society set and mindlessly follow the rest of the robotic world who dictates what’s popular?
C. Why do I actually enjoy walking? An incredibly healthy and natural thing for your body to do and a great way to stay fit and active?

I would say sorry I didn’t follow the time-limit that the world-gods bestowed upon the sheep that flocked together and stopped playing just cause others left, but I don’t even want to apologize sarcastically for participating in something that takes dedication and keeps me active.

The simple fact is, there are the casuals and there are the hardcores. It was awesome that when the game was first introduced, people from all walks of life participated. I’d be playing alongside gentlemen in business suits, grade schoolers in soccer uniforms, and hot-dog vendors in aprons, all tossing Pokeballs at Psyducks on the screen. It’s quite the achievement to be able to bring together such vastly different demographics, and I give the game props for that.

At some point, the popularity died down, most likely with the coming of winter. The cold season is not exactly conducive to long walks by the pier and chilling in open-air parks by a lure.

But there’s another ridiculously obvious reason the GO-Bandwagoners/Questioners won’t talk about.

IT ACTUALLY INVOLVES WALKING. Which is like…EXERCISE. Which like…MOST PEOPLE DON’T LIKE TO DO!!

In order to rise to the top in this game, you have to WALK. And since statistics confirm that over 50% of America is overweight, it’s probably not a top activity of choice. You don’t see this so much in New York because we’re already a city of walkers. We were walking since before it was cool to do so in an app game; before the Fitbit craze and all that. Pokemon GO simply gave me something to occupy my mind/time WHILE walking; it made a game of it. But I’m fairly certain at least half the people who outgrew interest did so because they realized that in order to be good at it, you couldn’t do it from your couch.

In order to hatch eggs, catch rare Pokemon, battle gyms, acquire the means to power up, BAG THOSE LEGENDARIES, you must walk. You can cheat and be a spoofer, but for the most part the general public is not that tech-savvy, and also, sometimes you get caught, and also, it’s lazy.

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I’d rather play it the right way and be fit af.

If you want to be REALLY good at the game, then you have to walk MORE than the average person. Is it tiring? Duh, it’s exercise. If it’s not tiring, you’re not doing it right. Sometimes your feet hurt. Because it’s walking. And when the masses found out you actually had to WORK somewhat to master this game, well…that’s where the hardcores and casuals get separated.

They probably don’t go to the gym either.

I inadvertently lost 8 pounds last summer playing this damn game. (My gains! *Cries*) I’ve walked over 500 miles in Pokemon GO. Have the GO-Questioners walked over 500 miles NOT playing it? Do they even game outside of this app? Because despite the game’s appeal to everyone, including the non-gaming community, gamers have been Pokemoning it up since Red and Blue. We came into the game already knowing the strengths and weaknesses, that Ground prevails against Lightning, and Dark pwns Psychic and the Poke-Great-Ultra ball stepladder and the evolutions to everything.

Before Pokemon GO, I played Just Dance for cardio for a good 4 versions.  I no longer play, but I would never question those who still stay up to date on the latest releases, because I’ve heard so many stories of Just Dancers shedding pounds just from that game alone. Dancing is fun! And that game can be damn difficult. Not quite in the same league as DDR (and I still worship the ground DDRers stomp on) but still an enjoyable way to get a workout in. Classic. By the logic that we should all stop playing something just because it isn’t popular anymore, there’d be no love for retro gaming, pinball arcades, people would forget Sonic games were once MASTERPIECES, and NES minis wouldn’t be scalped for exorbitant prices. :/

If you think Pokemon GO is played out, and want to ignore the collective of hardcore players in the shadows (Pokemon GO fest, although a failure, sold out in mere HOURS, so SOMEBODY thinks it’s still popular) that’s cool. Ya’ll can stay on the bandwagon with the rest of the sheep, ready to graze on the next big thing society tells you to. In the meantime, the rest of us will be over here getting fit af.

~Tael

 

Mix Hoodies With Black

I tend to have some pretty down-to-earth conversations about racial truths with one of my cousins, who is like a brother to me. They’re never serious, debate-like, haughty, “woke” ones; just some “Damn, shit’s really like this, huh,” ones.

One lovely experience that reinforced the scaffolding of our own invisible prejudice occurred during a trip to Atlantic City for my birthday a few years back that I’ve shared on Facebook before. It was late and dark and the ATM I needed was the drive-thru kind in an empty secluded lot. My cousin instantly put the fear in our party’s hearts by mentioning how one could easily get robbed here. He does this. Like when we went to see “Get Out” on opening night and he said he hoped no white supremacist would come shoot up our theater in protest of the movie. T_T’ Had me looking at white boys with backpacks who couldn’t sit still and the exit routes for half the movie, praying.

The ATM wasn’t constructed in a way where the car could get close; we rolled down the window and I slung half my body out, engaging my core to access the screen and withdraw as quickly as I could. OF COURSE, at that very moment, a black guy with a hoodie enters the lot and seems to make a beeline for our car. Stuck hanging out the window, waiting for the machine to process the withdrawal, while everyone else is giving commentary, “He’s coming closer!” “Did he just pull out a ski-mask?” “LOCK THE DOORS!!” I panic, terrified and fully believing I’m about to get buck-fiftied for my meager checking account balance. I’m not sure if I made it to the part where I actually got the money. I may have just jettisoned myself back into the car and screamed “DRIVE, JUST DRIVE,” without completing the transaction.

Dude walked right past us.

Was our fear justified?

If you were walking down a block at night and saw a group of Black teenagers clustered outside of the projects, would you cross the street to avoid…”something?”

I don’t. Not anymore. I don’t because what am I afraid of? Why should I be afraid to walk past a group of my own race at night? At most, as a woman, to avoid catcalling, but I’d rather show solidarity. When I confidently pass them, they either quiet down or throw out a greeting. I acknowledge them back as fellow humans and keep it moving and the “big, scary moment” is over. I don’t want to fear my own people. If it was a group of White men in suits, there wouldn’t even be a situation up for discussion, my cousin says. Or if it was a group of Asian men.
What if they were wearing hoodies?

“What about Spanish men?” I ask.
“Probably not. A bunch of light-skinned guys don’t look as threatening.”
What if they’re wearing hoodies?
“But your skin is the darkest of all; would you be afraid to walk past a group of you?”

There is not a clear cut answer.

“What if it were Black men in suits?”

Then it probably wouldn’t be an issue either. Everyone loved Men In Black.

What if they were Black but wearing glasses, skater gear, a Nintendo shirt…blahblahblahblahnothoodies, why do what they’re wearing hold so much weight? Why do we trust clothes before people?

I don’t want that ingrained fear that was instilled in me growing up. I’m Black and I wear hoodies. To fear another Black-in-a-hoodie seems silly. I want to break that fear. And so I walk past them, fearless and without judgment. Because we are all people, and we deserve that much. Most especially from our own.

~Tael