Worth Having and Working For

I picked up Persona 5 not too long ago. For those who know me, this is a small surprise. I love the light novel aspects of the game but the dungeon crawling parts make me nauseous. But there’s lots of things about the game that I do enjoy. The mood and tone are straight up things I love and the jazz reminds me of Lupin III and Cowboy Bebop which is keeping me going right now. But Persona 5 is a very traditional JRPG and that means managing relationships. MC-kun has a lot of work to do keeping everyone happy and keeping his friends happy means that he can achieve his main goal. It’s a key feature of most RPGs and similar games to keep relationships solid to achieve certain tasks.

We’ve talked about how shonen anime kept me motivated about working towards friendship but today we’re going to talk about how video games remind me to continue to maintain those bonds.

2017 was rocky for me when it comes to personal relationships. I lost some connections that I thought would last a lifetime. The early part of 2018 continued that theme of me losing people that I assumed would be with me for the long run. But it means that I went on into the year with a core of people that I now feel like I can trust with my life. But it isn’t enough to add friends to the party or just keep old ones on the back burner, you have to maintain each friendship. I’m lucky enough that I get to talk to my friends regularly. There are very few I’ve lost touch with over time and if I have, there’s always been more than one factor. But there are people I’ve lost contact with and I miss them dearly. But I’m huge on the “phones work both ways” model, if I lost contact with someone while it’s easy to wait for them, I can also easily reach out: if it fails, that’s on them and it can be reassessed at a later date.

It’s easy to take long-time friends for granted. There’s this low-key assumption that they will always be there but your friends aren’t meant to replace a therapist but often times they do. I rely so much on my friends during the good and the bad times and I agonize over whether I do enough for them in return.

That brings us back to Persona 5 and another game I’m playing right now Harry Potter: A Hogwarts Mystery in both games there’s a huge importance on not just making new friends but also keeping the ones that matter to you content and satisfied with your friendship. These are the people that are going to bat for you and in both examples are often risking their lives for you (your character) and they deserve to be treated well considering. A Hogwarts Mystery focuses a lot on you comforting your friends after hardship: hell, I’m just about done with Year 2 and I’ve spent more time consoling friends than I have flying on brooms and being yelled at by Snape. Persona 5 is similar, you spend a great deal of time providing answers that you think people want to hear. They’re all somewhat aligned with what the main character would say or think but you can choose to be a jerk or be accommodating and being accommodating has its benefits: it raises the stats of the people and personas they use to better suit your will.

Now, that’s still a very cynical way to look at friendship. That you’re boosting stats and being friendly just because friends are tools but I don’t think of it that way despite being the proudest Slytherin around. I think of it more as a good reminder to check in on my friends. I rely on them so much that it only makes sense to support them as well. I find myself almost incessantly checking in on my friends and how they are doing and also because many of my friends have much more interesting days than I do. I’m known as being a great gift-giver and I often leave houses cleaner than when I arrived. Little things are great ways to maintain and keep friendships going. And they don’t have to be expensive, I love just a good phone call or playing a game together (as long as I’m good at the game).

Truth be told, the managing of relationships was always one of my least favorite parts of most RPGs and Dating Games. I had one route I wanted to pursue and like an Ayn Rand fever dream, I forged ahead. Just look at the games I play, they focus on one character that you can sort of self-insert to and relationships with NPCs be damned (except for N in Pokemon Black/White and the date you get to go on with him [regardless of the player’s gender choice] on the Ferris Wheel, that was magical and it will not be taken from me). And I rarely play cooperatively as an adult. As a teen I did play some co-op arcade games but it was mostly me being very bad at The House of the Dead II. I’m an only child. I play single player games or I play against others so fostering relationships with characters always seemed a little silly to me in some games.

But in my personal life, I just didn’t have the luxury of neglecting my friends. In college, I ended up moving away and I lost many of the people that meant the world to me as a youth. Growing up, that happens. There’s an entire social phenomena of people losing their friends in their 20s and 30s. However, the friends that do survive this battle royale are ones that are likely to be with you for the rest of your life. Not all the time, but very likely.

When my mother died, it was my friends that surrounded me with support. When I was struggling running my anime club, it was my friends that kept me motivated. When I was stressed out about work, it was my friends that had fried food and drinks to keep me sane.

And in return, I had to put in work. I gave money, gave time, gave energy and resources. I shared sofas and answered long phone calls and comforted people during loss. I’ve sent pies and flowers and been the a surrogate child and another sibling.

I gave my heart because I was already in the hearts and minds of those that matter most to me.

 

What You Need

God gives us relatives; thank God, we can choose our friends. Addison MiznerRead more at- https-%2F%2Fwww.brainyquote.com%2Fquotes%2Fkeywords%2Ffriends.html.png

The past few weeks have been interesting. Really, since last year my life has turned upside down and then right side up once more. I’ve never considered myself luckier to have the friends that I do while simultaneously feeling like no one listens and by extension: not cared about. And as I struggled with anxiety, depression and the demons of negative self-talk, I was struck with a strong reminder: sometimes the support of the people you care about most is exactly what you need and not exactly what you want.

My anxiety sometimes takes the form of mostly needing to be coddled and supported. I need adulation and attention. I want someone to tell me:

Everything will be okay.

But sometimes I get tough love. Sometimes I get stirring speeches. Sometimes I get loving cynicism. Sometimes I get told that I need to stand on my own. Sometimes I’m told to be strong. Sometimes I’m told that I need to just be positive and look on the bright side. Sometimes I’m told to buck up.

None of those are invalid forms of expressing care, love and concern for someone who is struggling with the evils of mental illness. None of those things are, in theory, wrong to say. Some of them, probably, are the best things someone like me actually needs. Sometimes.

It’s important to keep in mind that what sounds encouraging to one person is dismissive and damning to another. What is meant to be supportive often can sound diminutive.

Be kind to each other and know that sometimes what you want sometimes isn’t what you need.

 

 

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.