Mingye’s Decade Retrospective 201X

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.


Commission for one of my guildmates
Commission for one of my guildmates. 2017

I think it is time to revitalize this web log as a content platform. Something to call my own, someplace to call home. Someplace to just dump huge-ass walls of text.

A recap on where I have been and what I have been up to: I started working a desk job back in 2015, at a big data firm that dealt with grocery pricing, originally through a temp firm. I was hired full time in 2016 in June. The job was pretty dry. I was a quick learner and did great work at first, and for the level of effort I needed to exert, the pay wasn’t terrible. Eventually by the end of 2016 I could no longer work the hours and stay functional nor healthy (the hours were pretty bad and I was drinking unhealthy amounts of coffee every day).

I was promoted to Sergeant back in 2015 as well, and I thought I was going to finish with the Army Reserves by the summer of 2016. I was promoted into a training unit at Fort Lee, and did a lot of growing up as a leader. It was actually a pretty good time, and Annual Training that year was a solid experience, getting to be cadre for the Army’s Cadet Summer Training. My old commanding officer called me up one morning at the beginning of 2016 saying the old platoon was about to deploy. I reenlisted. After completing my 1 year with a training unit in Fort Lee I transferred back to my first unit. I would also start pulling back my involvement at church with how taxing the work schedule was becoming, and eventually almost stop going to church because of the work schedule eventually moving me to working Sundays (I think I’ll do a separate post later on about moving away from church).

2016 ended with me linking up with a local start-up for collectible figurines. The founder had great ideas and really strong industry acumen but was pretty bad about paying his artists despite talking big about respecting artists. I would get fired from my day job just before Christmas because I could no longer stay awake, and then this start-up would let me go for pursuing other ventures since they weren’t paying me for the work I was giving them. I recently caught up with one of the original 3D artists that worked with me at the start-up and he told me that he never got paid either, they didn’t even credit him as the artist on the last statue that he worked on for them. Once the NDA expires, I will share all my work that I did for free. Even though growing up as an artist, I was always warned not to work for exposure, I somehow let myself get duped into doing it.

2017 was a tumultuous time. By the time my unit transfer went through, it was already too late to deploy with the main platoon. I ended up getting on the next deployment that would eventually be the relief and replacement of my original platoon. Pre-deployment proved to be a lot of unnecessary stress for a multitude of reasons, and some of these issues persisted into the deployment once we finally went overseas. There was a lot of back to back traveling and many long 6hr+ drives to West Virginia and back; a drive to Pittsburgh for an AT at Ft Hunter Liggett, a drive to JBMDL in Jersey, Yellow Ribbon in Arlington, and then to Ft Bragg for Postal validation.

I felt like I had to pull a lot of extra responsibility that significantly exceeded my pay-grade, largely due to the fact that our E-7 would fail to account for certain things but then get caught up on irrelevant minutia. I had a lot of really disappointing experiences, including the whole company being paid a week late for Annual Training because our long time Unit Administrator and original 1SG from when I first joined the Army had retired from both military and her civilian job, and our E-7 was the next pay admin at the time, but was too busy shamming at the MWR to even bother submitting our pay. He kept trying to pawn his weapon off to me during the first few days in the field too.

I think one of the instances where it felt like I was able to come in the clutch for my platoon was the day after our Yellow Ribbon event, it was our travel day to Ft. Bragg. I had this gut feeling that no one would have physical copies of their orders (which in my opinion, should have been a Platoon Sergeant responsibility since no one else would have access to a printer), so I spent most of the travel day just printing copies of everyone’s paperwork to ensure we could even get meals at dining facilities and properly get paid at the end of the training. Sure enough, after complaining that I showed up at the hotel too late on the travel day, the other leaders were some kind of grateful that I had a copy of everyone’s orders.

The year ended with us finally getting overseas to support the postal mission, relieving and replacing our sister platoon.

2018 started off pretty well that went south pretty quickly. There’s a lot I’ll probably write about later on, but I’m really grateful for the soldiers that served directly under me, because they kicked so much ass on this deployment and helped keep me sane when senior enlisted leaders kept letting me down.

Since getting back home, I was in big slump for the first few months. I blew through so much money getting more and more hardware for streaming. I started taking guitar lessons a few months back, and completed an oil painting (will upload later on) that my friend bought. And here in 2019, I’ve finally turned 30. I’m pursuing the path of freelancing / entrepreneurship and really going hard with content creating on Twitch, literally doing everything I know how to do. We’ll see what the next few years bring but for now I’m just excited to be ETS-ing from the military this year.