Cause if you're next to me, that's all I really need

Last year around this time, I remember I felt a little hopeless. I despaired a little.

Last year had been full of struggle, and yet I felt like very little had changed. In many important ways, I was still in the same place I had been at the beginning of the year. This year, though... This year I definitely can't say that very little has changed. If anything, the person I am today is barely recognizable as the same person who started this year off!

It's pretty easy for me to slip into despair, still. I had an anxiety attack like three different times while thinking about the events of the year for what to put in this post. But in the end, I think there's a lot to be happy about. There's been a lot of difficulty, but all in the service of getting to a better place. And it's already paid off in some ways. So let's make this a happier post!

As usual, I wanted to animate this over music. Cause I think these kinds of things are best as a sort of credits sequence, one of gratitude to everyone who was part of the year. As usual, I didn't. I got bigger fish to fry! I decided my project time was better spent getting this site off the ground. And also, things have just been a whirlwind lately in general. I was originally gonna do Fighting On (hence the title of this post), but I think given the more upbeat tone of this post than I was originally expecting, just imagine Hoy, Small Fry is playing as you read this. (Or, actually, you don't have to imagine it. You can just put it on.)

So... what was 2018 like? Buckle in, kiddos. This is gonna be a long one.

Self-discovery and coming out #

After 2017's 52-book challenge, and 2016's 365k word challenge, and 2015's snippet writing, I chose to have 2018 as a year without a challenge. But that's not how I roll. And by the second week of January, approximately sixteen years ago, I had given myself a new challenge, one I don't have any pretty graphs for: Understand and embrace who I really am.

I called to my closest friends, and they showered me with love and support immediately, giving me the strength to keep going. By the end of January, I'd come out to my immediate family. By mid-February, I had given myself a new name, and I had received a new nickname from Hime, and I was out publicly. So many people in my life voiced their support. It was wonderful. And I was so excited, and so thankful that people supported me even when I didn't really know what was going on!

Hime #

There were a lot of feelings going on around this time. And, given me being... me, a lot of feelings going on all the time. Basically every event that you see in this post, and a lot of others I chose not to put in here, I probably had a private anxiety attack about, and Hime has been there for every one of them, helping me process and calm back down. I don't understand where she gets all this patience, but I'm so grateful for it. To whatever extent I can be described as stable, it's thanks in huge part to her soothing, encouraging influence. She says she's the helper girl, and she IS. To an absolutely magical extent. Not to mention all the surprisingly deep (and also exciting) conversations we've had about vore this year, and the games we've played together... Thank you. For everything. (Especially my nickname. Although I of course love the name I chose, I've gotten so fond of this nickname ever since you brought it to me! I use it everywhere!)

The Cat Café #

By the end of January, with my connections to all my online friends newly refreshed, I was sharing a lot of stories of friends with other friends. And one of my friends asked to meet the others.

And so, the Cat Café was born. A little chatroom where my close friends - with their many overlapping interests - could talk to each other directly, and hang out together. I still have a screenshot stored of everyone talking about how cozy they were there. A memory that makes everything else this year worthwhile all by itself.

We had so much fun together this year. Playing Dungeons and Dragons together as a group, swearing to ourselves that we would not corrupt it into vore, and then slowly, slowly dissolving into a complete fetishy mess. Telling lies about each other in Fibbage: Enough About You. Having Bot-chan come in and ingest... arrest people, giving them the Pudge role. Setting up our Vore Keijo competitors, setting up our tournament, and immediately losing interest. (OVA, you've failed us for the last time!) Playing Tales of Berseria together, and describing all the ways that all the characters were huge perverts in every scene. Gleefully killing off each other's Tokyo Brain Pop and Final Girl characters. Playing poker with high (or rather, tiny) stakes.

The café was a huge part of my support system this year. Having a group I finally felt like I was part of, a place where I belonged. And they often rallied to my support when things got tough. To everyone in the café, past and present, thank you so much.

Rose #

I can't talk about vore corruption without talking about Rose! Fetishy stuff has always been a source of joy for me. And Rose has given me that joy all year. Sharing stories, talking about our respective characters. Making fun of Eleanor's choking fetish with her has been bliss. Tormenting Violet is one of the things that keeps me going, too. And she's shown time and again to be someone I can put my trust in. She's been patient and understanding and said what I needed to hear every time I've come to her an emotional mess. I'm so grateful to have you in my life, Rose. Even if you are objectively a terrible influence. You're making me weirder. Do you know how hard that is? I can't get all that much weirder than I already am! Stop it! (But also, I love it. Don't stop. I need more Keijos and Jojos in my life... and places further than the universe.)

Making new friends in the real world #

I didn't just cling to my old friends this year, though. I went out to find my people. And it worked. I made new friends. I made so many new friends. And most of them in person. Seriously, in planning this post, I wrote out all the people that I had meaningful interactions with this year, and not only was the list way longer than I thought, it also was about half people that I hadn't met before this year.

And this is a personal victory for me. It's been so hard for me to get out and meet people because I'm usually so uncomfortable in person. But buoyed by my newfound comfort in my own skin, and energized by knowing my friends were there for me, I put my laptop down, I went out and I met people. I went to two writing clubs and met a bunch of friends from each of them (and I'm spending New Year's Eve with two of the best!) I went to a book club and met a bunch of people there. I went to a knitting class and... well, at least I learned the basics of how to knit! I met a bunch of friends at LGBT socials! I partied with friends old and new at Capcom Live and Smash Brews (where I even won an 8-player smash, a clear first for me!). I played games with strangers at PAX Unplugged. I went to Anthrocon and celebrated how at home I felt among all the other people who were off the beaten path.

Oh yeah, and riding on Anthrocon energy, I went to SizeCon. On a whim, after finding out about it the night before it started. And what an experience that was. I think I ascended to another plane from that experience alone.

To Miss Kaneda, who taught me the secrets of shoes (and the crushing of enemies with): It was a great pleasure studying at your feet (heh). You made me feel so welcome at SizeCon. Where I might have otherwise fled without speaking to a single person, you gave me the courage to come back, to make friends, and to count myself in. And, wow. I'm still fanning myself over your writing. I hope to see you again next year! You are truly a figure who's larger than life.

To Taedis, with whom I spent a bunch of time talking vore and sadism: You made an impression from the moment I first saw you when ducking into the writer's panel late, and I'm so glad I got to meet you. We had a ton of great conversations! Purse Pet made for such lovely beach reading, too. Maybe next year we can get together and have that MST3K jam?

To Mapsid and that cute fairy flitting around him, who crossed the forbidden boundary from Reya to in person: It was really nice meeting you face to face! Listening to you talk about roleplay and relationship things was wonderful and energizing, and I hope to see you again and hopefully spend more time with you next year!

To everyone else I met at SizeCon (including Kreeyz, whose button I wore on my purse all year to commemorate that experience): Meeting you all was a blindingly bright spot in the middle of a dark time. Thanks for everything.

Kait #

Of course, the first person to reach across the divide between Reya and me was Kait. And the time we spent together this year, online and off, brought me life. Sleepily playing Mario Odyssey, watching Your Name together, rocking out to Vocaloids with her, breaking rackets in Mario Tennis, gallivanting around Kanto together with a roided-out Eevee, getting the updates from her about Bowsette while I was retired from the internet (absolutely critical stuff)... beating up computers together in Smash (ONLY FOR HER TO TURN ON ME AND SHUT ME OUT IN 1v1, I'm not salty... anymore). We put together a couch together, and if that isn't an experience that makes you sisters for life then I don't know what is. And more than once, she talked sense into me and pulled me out of the tar whirlpools when I was drowning in them. Kait, you're a treasure, and I'm so thankful that you're part of my life.

Physical transformations #

I mentioned a newfound comfort in my skin. It wasn't easy getting there. I needed new clothes, but I was too scared to get them. My friends had to take me shopping - a few times - before I got comfortable with the concept of shopping myself. Another friend took me for my first nail appointment (and oh, how that has changed my life...). I got lots of advice and gifts from my female friends to help me on my way.

And it's been blissful. When my legs are shaved and I'm wearing a dress, I feel comfortable and happy in ways that I've never been able to reach before now. When I put on my breastforms under my clothes, I'm ready to kick some butt. After a long and twisted saga with lots of anxiety, I started hormones, and I'm already starting to notice changes. It's all so good.

For the first time in ages, I went to the beach. I even bought my first women's swimsuit, and wore it to a lesbian swimming event. I wore a dress with a short skirt. Literally I can't be stopped.

For the first time ever, when I look at myself in the mirror, I stop and smile. Even just catching a glimpse of my shadow energizes me. I feel so good about myself, and it's all thanks to the people who helped me get here.

Rachel #

And Rachel was one of the biggest contributors to all these changes. Not only was she a bottomless and useful wellspring of advice, but she got me things, important first things with meaning - my first sheer thigh highs, giving me access to all the power that comes with wearing hot socks. My first bra, getting me accustomed to wearing things on my chest. My first cosmetics. And all the times we had calls. All the tough conversations she stayed steady through. She held me while I cried on Christmas, talked me out of countless anxiety spirals, gave me pep talks when I needed them. Advised me on fashion decisions. Deep conversations over reheated waffles at midnight with her is one of my new favorite traditions, and our weekend of doing nothing but flopping on the couch together was the best weekend of the whole year. I don't know where I'd be without you, Rachel, and I'm glad I can count you as a friend.

Gaining emotional strength #

I think I can say that this was the year I made the most progress in standing up for myself. I mean, transitioning is a pretty major move in that way all by itself... But more than that. The friendships that I'm celebrating in this post are the ones who have stood the test of time. And this year tested a lot of my friendships. Not all of them survived those tests. In the past, I would have simply lay down and taken it, blamed myself.

But I am not that person anymore. And this year I strove to embrace my needs and wants, to stand up for them when they're not being met. Some of my relationships - friends and family - have been quietly rotting for a long time, and this year I took a stand to fix them or, if they can't be fixed, to let them go to focus on the relationships that are important. I learned a lot about how to work on those things.

And even more positively, I gained a lot of courage in reaching out in ways that I was too fearful to before. And I got through the aftermath with a LOT of help from my friends. I tuned in to myself more than I ever have before. I got a lot of new coping techniques. This year was harder than any I've ever had before, and I made it through pretty well, if I do say so myself.

Damien #

On the subject of friendship hardships, Damien holds a remarkable distinction. No matter how anxious I've gotten, no matter how blinded I am by panic, there's one person who I've never mistaken for a threat. The floof is one of my oldest and dearest friends, and somehow, some way, he has proven to be someone even my mind's most horrible conspiracy theories cannot touch. Even as our respective lives get busier, he is still a warm presence in my life, always poking in now and again with an uplifting message, or a cute picture, or something else. When we moved our conversation to Discord and we were left with "I'm sorry you had to smell it D:" as our last message on Hangouts, Damien went over and sent me one of the sweetest messages I've ever received so that would be our new last message. That's the kind of person he is. He's given me a lot of support this year, and he's one of the biggest wellsprings of positivity in my life. Thinking of you makes me smile, Damien. I'm glad that we're friends.

Continuing to create #

And, of course, there were a bunch of other things that were nice. My work life was more productive than ever, and I even helped with our user conference this year. My creative brain was shot all year this year, as I was way too busy. But despite that, I still managed to get together some new characters and develop them - Mitzi and Aurelia, my sideblog about a girl and her robot sister, was new this year. So was the miniseries about the vampire and her human lover. I survived the Tumblr exodus, got set up on Twitter and set up this blog.

I met a lot of new friends in the vore community, too, not just in real life. In just the short time we've known each other, Nan has already proven herself to be a helpful muse of the highest, most sadistic order, and a good friend to hang out with, too. Ice and I have had some wonderful times bullying each other. I met a few other new roleplay partners, and had a lovely time with each of them.

And old friends, too. Lostforte and I had some lovely times together. (by which I mean, there was a lot of eating and threatening thereof in both directions, but isn't that what lovely times are?) Sara and I have been cheering each other on all year. I got back into watching Aesir's streams, which are a lot of fun to listen in on, and even occasionally poking into his Discord. And Itsuune and I discussed tummyaches as they relate to the meaning of life.

You're all powerful inspirations. And I thank you for being in my life.

Lance #

Last in the cast listing, but certainly not least... Lance. They were the first one to take me clothes shopping, to enthusiastically demand to be allowed to do so when I told them about my gender stuff. The goofy Breath of the Wild session we had afterward with me wearing a dress for the first time will be a memory I laugh about for a long time. I still have the picture of them lying facedown on the floor after dropping a scoop for the hundredth time. Playing Let's Go with them and stampeding over all the gym leaders while we were trapped together behind my out-of-place desk, too. They were a soothing force when I was terrified that I would lose all my friends. You've been here with me for a long time, Lance, and I hope dearly that you'll continue to be. Thank you.

Next year #

So... it took about sixteen years, as mentioned, but 2018 is finally coming to a close. And where will I go next?

Well, I'm going to be continuing with my transition. This year I did a lot of tearing down bad connections, and next year I want to focus even harder on building up the good ones. I want to get back to creating more consistently - I still owe almost all of my friends a birthday story!

I don't know what next year is going to bring, honestly. But with all of you around me, with all the friends I've gained, all the things I've learned, I know it will be a good one. As good as this one, even!

Thank you all, for everything you've done for me. Let's begin the next chapter together!