What a time to have been alive. I think going in to 2010, I was at a church conference at Catch the Fire Toronto for that New Year’s Eve. I spent the rest of that trip watching anime with my cousin. These days I’m still watching a lot of anime but I’ve since erred towards the exvangelical path, given the state of American politics in the last five years. I still would like to say that I haven’t given up Jesus, but apart from a few visits here and there, the last time I attended church was probably for Marty’s funeral back at the start of 2017.
There’s been a lot of grieving this decade. 2019 was especially painful, my grandfather on my mother’s side passed away back in September. Geoff “iNcontroL” Robinson of the StarCraft community passed away suddenly in July. One of my favorite metal vocalists, Andre Matos, also passed suddenly, back in June. I also watched from afar as quite a few of my internet friends and acquaintances dealt with the grief of losing their loved ones this year as well. In 2018, the military postal community lost SGT Schoenecker. She was the COPE at the BDSC post office, and she was 30 days out from redeploying. In 2016, I attended the funeral of my high school English and Theory of Knowledge teacher, Karen Clements. And in 2014, that was when my grandfather on my dad’s side passed.
I remember taking my sister to go see The Farewell earlier this year. My mom said a lot of Chinese mainlanders didn’t like it (most likely they just didn’t understand it since they weren’t immigrants). There was a short scene where Awkwafina’s character was upset that her parents notified her that her grandfather passed away with a phone call or a text message and didn’t let her attend the funeral. In a lot of ways that was how I felt about my grandfathers passing. 2014 was especially tough around December since my dad had to rush back to Guangzhou and suddenly the reality of being man of the house hits me. I had to make sure my brother got to elementary school on time and that if my sister missed her bus to high school, to get her there before the first bell. My mom was still living in D.C. at the time and commuting back on the weekends. In 2019 after my maternal grandfather’s passing, it was a smoother grieving process but a process nonetheless. I invested myself in my artwork, and especially with ink brush. The last time I saw him in-person was probably one more stateside visit (2012-2013) after the time when my parents booked us a trip to Hawaii with some Chinese travel agency, around the time when I graduated from college (2011). Turned out that an Army buddy from AIT was working at a restaurant a block away from our hotel.
My military journey this past decade saw me going from a medium-speed Specialist to becoming jaded and salty before getting promoted to Sergeant in 2015 during the time when the Army was running decentralized promotions due to their lack of junior-grade NCOs. I was still in the process of assembling my promotion packet and working on my physical fitness when I got the call that I was promoted. I promoted into a training unit at Fort Lee (and probably the most professional Reserve unit) where-in the summer of 2016, I got the opportunity to train ROTC cadets. The First Sergeant taught me a lot about being a leader too. A lot of that would carry over to my deployment in 2017-2018. I wrote in depth about that in last year’s retrospective. In July 2019, I would finally conclude this chapter of my life after eleven years of service.
Art has stayed one of my top focuses despite competing activities. I graduated from VCU Arts in 2011, but not fully appreciating the things I learned, thinking I learned nothing, because of my own lack of work ethic. That led me to attend Illustration Academy’s online school The Art Department in 2012, wherein I lost a lot of money but did make some good life-long connections. I’m not as upset about the money I spent now than I was then (you can visit some of the blog posts back then for further context). The best part of that time period was attending Spectrum and IlluXcon in 2012 and getting to meet Jeremy Wilson, who I count first among my best friends. I have helped him move out of two different apartments and then missed his wedding because I was deployed. He has also been the one to challenge me to revisit ink as a medium since my ink work has been more consistently unique than my digital paintings.
On the gaming front, I have seen the rise and fall of StarCraft 2 as it kicked off the insane growth of esports alongside Twitch as a platform. I started out the decade a true believer of Blizzard Entertainment and by 2019, it feels as though I have woken from a long dream. I will probably still play World of Warcraft as casually as one can, as my guild remains a source of social interaction, but I no longer am going out of my way to seek out every title that Blizzard pushes out. As many of the company’s senior leaders have retired, I’ve also witnessed many senior artists getting recruited to competitors like Riot (they have great a IP, but I have no deep ties to that IP in the way some of my other friends do). Overall, I’ve trended towards single-player story-driven games in the last half of the decade. Nier: Automata, Horizon Zero Dawn, Witcher 3, and Tomb Raider 2013. These games have been my highlights of the decade. I also have started heavily playing Honkai 3rd Impact (a mobile game that recently also launched a PC version).
In music, I started the decade attending my first few live shows. Sonata Arctica in 2010, and Symphony X in 2011 (the Saturday after graduating from college), both in northern Virginia. Powerglove was support for both bands. The venue, Jaxx, where both shows were held, changed ownership and names a few more times and now no longer hosts metal shows. Alestorm stopped by in Richmond in 2012 while supporting another metal band (A quick web search shows that it was Epica, which sounds about right). I saw Kamelot with their new singer in 2013 and then Sonata Arctica once more in 2014, both times in Baltimore at the Soundstage. After deployment, I got to see Generation Axe here in Richmond, VA (Tosin Abasi, Nuno Bettencourt, Zakk Wylde, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Steve Vai), as well as Guitar Collective (Jacky Vincent, Nita Strauss, and Angel Vivaldi), both shows were in December 2018. In the summer of 2019, I got to see my absolute favorite guitarist of all time, Tony MacAlpine, live in Richmond. The same summer, I drove down to North Carolina for Carly Rae Jepsen’s Dedicated tour. The show was great but the drive back was hell (and it kind of put me off of concert-going for the rest of the year, despite many favorite bands playing again in Baltimore). I remember starting to mess around with guitar with a pre-owned Ibanez RG 420EX back in 2009 and 2010 and just this past year I’ve purchased a JEMJR SP (equivalent to an RG550, but with that iconic grip cut out). Although only casually playing, I’ve certainly gotten a lot better in this last year.
I’ve lately been feeling the pressure of needing to become financially stable in order to move forward with my life. I feel like my maternal grandfather’s passing has really impressed on me a sense of urgency in that regard. I do have some ambitions for this next decade but a lot can happen even in five years. For 2020, I have pondered potentially pursuing graduate school (which I have concluded is not right for the season yet). Instead, I have decided to continue to hone my craft, having seen some good results this past October. I want to continue to show good results.
Thank you, those that read all the way to the end of this long autobiographical retrospective.