#603 – Hello 2018! and Taking a Stand Against Racism

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So it took me half the month to get here, but let me catch you up on things.

The trip to Florida went well. I got to see family I hadn’t seen in a long time, we had some time in the hotel room on our own so we didn’t have to be “on” all the time (the reason sucked – there was apparently a bout of food poisoning that went through the family and we were asked to stay away for a day), and on the last full day we were there we went to LEGOLAND Florida.

We started out the day going through the park with my brother- and sister-in-law and their two kids. I wanted to be there for that, because I wanted to get photos of my nephew and niece enjoying the day. We also kept an eye on the kids while the adults went on adult rides. My nephew had a complete meltdown every time Mom walked away, but it was worth it to see how ecstatic he was when she came back around.

We split off to spend most of our time at Miniland USA, where they had tons of cityscapes from around Florida and the United States, as well as a section devoted to the Star Wars saga. Altogether, I took almost four gigabytes’ worth of photos and videos and probably spent close to two hours just taking in the builds.

We headed back to the hotel and met up with a friend of ours that we hadn’t seen in a couple years and her wife, who we hadn’t yet met. We had a wonderful dinner together before heading back to the hotel for the night to pack.

I cannot overstate how big this is for me. A year ago, it was all I could do to leave the house for doctors’ appointments, and now I’m happily going through a major theme park with no anxiety, no stress (except for the nephew, but even that was tolerable) and no incidents.

We came back home and started prepping for school and the move at the end of the month. All my books and supplies are bought, and everything’s done for the move with the exception of actually, you know … packing. That’s taking a while and we keep putting it off, and we’re running out of time, so things are getting a little tense around the house right now.

And that’ brings us, more or less, to today.

A little bit of background for the highlight of the day. I’m on a few Discord servers (Discord is a text and voice client geared for gamers. Our radio station was my introduction to Discord.) and one of them has had issues with a member not playing well with others. Constant one-upmanship, lie after lie (he couldn’t keep them straight and he would often contradict himself), subtle trolling, moving the goalposts in arguments – he was the personification of everything you don’t want to deal with in a social situation. The thing is, he would always stop just short of being a disciplinary issue. Many people complained about him, but there was nothing they could really do, despite wanting to.

Until tonight.

Earlier today, the guy posted a link to a game called Comedy Night. It’s a game where the player performs comedy over voice, and a live audience reacts to the routine. It’s a great concept in theory, but in practice it is apparently a haven for racial insults and hardcore trolling. That’s not my thing, so I mentioned that it would be interesting if not for the racial problems. And the guy tried to defend people’s right to be racist.

Now, understand that I abhor conflict. Nothing gives me impostor syndrome faster than getting into an argument. I always think that the other person can run rings around my argument and punch holes all through it.

But I just could not let this guy say the things he was saying. So I put my foot down. And things escalated.

Eventually the guy all but openly defended racism, and that’s when the moderators got involved.

After reviewing our conversation, they banned the guy. Every trace of his presence disappeared from the server.

There’s more! The guy immediately created a new account and was immediately banned for trying to circumvent the ban. And he did it again. And again. And again.

The best part is the names he was coming up with. His original handle was The Phenomenal One. He first came back as Simply Glorious. The next name was Chosen One. The guy was rather full of himself.

If he comes back, they’ll know. He’s got a definite pattern to his naming and his conversation, and he was prolific, talking mostly at people rather than to them.

The most important thing is that I stood up for what was right and prevailed. And it feels amazing. To be fair, I still get the willies thinking about the conflict. But it was worth it.

I fortunately haven’t had much occasion to speak up against racism – the circle of people I associate are very inclusive and it’s just not something that ever comes up. But it’s nice to know that I’m capable of being a more active and effective ally when the need presents itself.

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The Last Three Days

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First off, I’m sorry I haven’t written anything of substance for the last couple of days. Things have been really busy on this vacation and I’ve gotten in with just enough energy in the tank to say “I’ll get you tomorrow” twice and then go immediately to bed.So today’s blog post is going to cover the last three days – Saturday, Sunday, and today.

Saturday was the day that my wife’s best friend held a party in her her honor. We went over to their place early so we could help get things ready. My wife and her best friend mostly cleaned (I helped some) and I mostly did homework and played Secret World Legends in an attempt to occupy my wife’s best friend’s three year old. (Trying to play a game in a zombie-infested town in rural Maine with a toddler watching is very interesting, and pretty amusing. About every fifteen to twenty seconds I was asked what I was doing, and then that was followed by a litany of “why?” until the next time to ask what I was doing came around. This was occasionally interrupted when it was pointed out that I was running down the middle of the street – a perfectly safe thing to do, since all vehicles were either abandoned or being used as a barricade – because you shouldn’t walk in the street. So I had to use the sidewalk for the better part of my gaming session. Oh, and I couldn’t jump over fences either. It was cute.) The party that evening was not a big one, there were sixteen people there total, but there were only six of those people that I knew before the party, and three of the attendees were children, so this was a big test of my anxiety. I had to be social for hours with strangers, and all while the kids were playing fairly to really loudly indoors. I did really well, however. I talked with everyone at least a little bit, had a few protracted conversations with people I’d just met, and only went outside twice to get a little peace from the noise of several conversations mingling with kids at play. We were among the last to leave, and I genuinely had a good time.

Sunday was the day that we went to do the one touristy thing that I asked to do during this trip, that being to see the Golden Gate Bridge. We got into San Francisco and traffic started getting worse the closer we were to the city, and then we hit the area around Golden Gate Park and traffic came to a complete standstill. It took us well over 30 minutes to travel a mile through the worse gridlock I’ve ever seen in person. We were on our way to a particular spot to see the bridge, and on the way we missed our turns twice, complicating the trip even further. With the second miss, we had committed to actually crossing the bridge, which we did just long enough to turn around and come back, and finally traveling this way the way to my pre-ordained spot was clear. There was traffic, however, and no place to park, so there were some hurried photos taken before we had to drive on. One of those photos is above, and the significance of the place is that it is marked on Google Maps as the future home of Star Trek’s Starfleet Academy. For those that have seen the movies, the background of this photo might look a little familiar. Once we finished there, we started searching around for a place to refill our loaner car, and once we’d done that, we headed off to meet a fellow DJ from the radio station. We had a great visit with him, probably a couple hours at least, and then we dropped him off at the BART station to head back home, and we then drove to my wife’s best friend’s house for dinner and conversation for a few more hours before heading back to where we are staying for the night.

This morning we went around to some of the communities around the San Jose area just seeing what the towns looked like. I saw some places that were notable from my wife’s childhood, as well as a few tourist locations, including Winchester Mystery House and the new Apple Park complex. We also took a considerable amount of time to find a particular business that was very near and dear to our hearts, and after looking in three places using two mapping applications, we finally arrived at the corporate office for the Society for Creative Anachronism, the historical re-creation organization that my wife and I have been part of for around 20 years and that we met through. Having reached our fill of driving around, we went back to where we’re staying and took a nap.

Tonight will be a big dinner at our hosts’ house, with the two of them, their younger son – my wife’s best friend – and his family, and the two of us. It’ll be a last chance to visit with all of them before we start packing things up in preparation to fly home early tomorrow morning.

This has been an incredible trip. I’ve gotten to see a lot of the Bay Area and know now why the cost of living here is so expensive – the place is utterly gorgeous. More importantly, I’ve had the opportunity to see places and meet people that are important to my wife. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It has been twenty years since my wife was last here in California, and these last few days have been some of the best she’s had since we got together over seventeen years ago. I have made promises to several people that it will not be another twenty years before we come back to visit. There’s still so much that I haven’t seen, and I want her friends and me to have the opportunity to get to know one another better.

Tomorrow’s going to be a hectic day. Besides the flight, I have a lot of studying to do in preparation for a biology quiz on Wednesday and an algebra test on Thursday. I genuinely hope I do well – I would prefer not to have more grades that are on the low side, especially on that test. While the low quiz score will be dropped, that won’t be the case with the test, and I’ve been doing a lot of my work up to this point open-book, something that the testing center won’t allow. If I can get through this week, I think school will be easier to handle for a while.

Done Deal

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This morning I attended my Area of Study information session, which is a requirement to be able to register for classes at Austin Community College. The meeting was at the Hays campus, which is in Kyle, a town south of Austin. I live on the north side of Austin, and so I had to drive down Interstate 35 through downtown in rush hour traffic.

Until recently, I’ve avoided driving unless it was absolutely necessary thanks to my anxiety. I’ve been able to wrangle short trips to my therapist and doctors appointments, as well as the jaunt down surface roads to drop my wife off at work and pick her up again on the days I need the car, but I’ve only driven if I was literally the only person in the car – whenever I’d pick up my wife, she’d take the wheel. Over the past two or three months, I’ve started driving her more frequently, but I’ve still avoided bad traffic at any cost, and my trips have been mostly just a few miles at a time.

Today represented the worst traffic that I’ve driven through in years, as well as the longest distance that I’ve driven during that time. I got through it with surprisingly little stress and made it to my appointment with enough time to stop and have a sit-down breakfast as opposed to drive-through fast food.

The meeting itself was two hours long, and split evenly into general school information and specific information on the health sciences programs. Of the latter part, the adviser spent perhaps four minutes on sonography, but it was good information to have. I took a good amount of notes and got an ACC-branded hacky sack for attending.

The adviser for the more generalized portion asked for my TSI assessment scores so that he could note them and get them into my student record, something that had apparently not transpired as of that point in time. (He also didn’t have my name in his records, because he did all his research on his attendees on Friday and I signed up for the session yesterday, but that was a very minor detail.) At one point while he reviewed my scores, he commented “Somebody likes to write!” I had to smile at that. It turns out my writing and essay scores blew away the minimum requirement to be considered TSI complete, something I didn’t know until this session.

He told us that we should give him 24 hours to get our attendance noted in our records so that we could register. So when I got home, I had lunch and then, out of curiosity, went to go check to see if I could register yet.

And I could. So I did.

I registered for one class that meets Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, but waitlisted myself for a section that meets on Monday and Wednesday mornings, to avoid interfering with my wife’s work schedule. Hopefully I’ll get notification that I made that latter class, but if I don’t I’m guaranteed a seat in the former.

Once I’d done that, I sent an email over to the Texas Workforce Commission liaison at ACC to get the ball rolling on tuition. (For those who are new, I’m on disability and working with TWC to re-educate myself for a return back to the workforce. TWC is sponsoring my education.) I also sent over a request for book expenses as well, hoping to hear back within a few days.

I got my confirmation emails about 45 minutes ago. Tuition will be paid for tomorrow and my book will be ready for me to pick up at the bookstore tomorrow as well.

I’m about as officially a college student as I can be.

There are some details left to work out. I still need to stop by campus and get my physical student ID card done, as well as my parking permit. I need to change my major to pre-health sciences. And I need to wait on the decision about which section I’ll be attending, Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday. But everything else is pretty much done at this point.

Next semester I’m going to try to start working on some of my co-requisites so I can knock them out. Besides, having them done prior to being accepted in the cardiovascular sonography program will give my application to the program extra weight.

Part of me want to celebrate tonight. Part of me wants to just go to bed.

So for all intents and purposes, everything’s over but the waiting.

Classes start August 28th.

I can’t wait.

Rest in Peace

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Today was the funeral service for my father-in-law. We expected there to be some family drama but there was hardly any, and the service was very nice. We survived intact.

My wife did tear up during the service, as both she and I expected, but it was brief. I expect that at some point it’ll finally dawn on her and she’s have a good cry over it. I may be wrong. They weren’t very close except during the last year of his life, and even then it was a temporary thing.

We did get an opportunity to visit with some SCA friends of ours that have moved out to Phoenix. It was great seeing them and we miss seeing them more often.

The big social event this evening was a pizza party in the lobby of the hotel for the same family members that went to Texas Roadhouse last night.

As I write this my wife is very busily trying to get us as packed as she can for the trip home tomorrow afternoon. We leave the hotel at 9:30 am to head for the airport, and neither one of us want to leave things until the last minute.

As hectic and chaotic as things got at times this weekend, I’m still glad that we got a chance to see family. While this is all my wife’s people, they’ve taken me in and accepted me as family, and coming from a very small family myself, that’s a good feeling.

Tomorrow night we’ll be in our own apartment, petting our own kitties, and relaxing on our own couch. It’ll be a welcome rest after what’s been an emotionally charged and busy week.

As for my part in it, at no point during the trip did I feel anxiety. There were some situations that felt a little awkward, but that very familiar “fight or flight” instinct that I so very often get in social situations wasn’t there. My wife has been worried about how I might suddenly and catastrophically relapse back into being too anxious to function, but I’ve tried to assure her that it’s not going to happen. If it weren’t for just feeling better and not experiencing any anxiety, I’d put that on the back burner to deal with after we got home. This trip was for her to say goodbye to her father, and my job has been to keep her as together as I can during this time. But as I said, I’m fine. Tired, a little homesick, but fine.

Phoenix is a lovely city. The views are gorgeous and I got to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen while I was here. But it’s oppressively hot during the summer, and neither me nor my wife do well in extreme heat, so this wouldn’t be a viable place for us to look to relocate if we ever decided to leave Austin. Austin has its own problems with heat, and we willingly left a climate that has four distinct seasons in order to live there among our friends again, and I don’t see us leaving Austin for the foreseeable future. I wouldn’t mind coming back to see Phoenix during the winter. My wife’s brother and his family live here, and it will always be a good thing to see our niece and nephew. But I think we’re going to avoid it during the summertime.

It’s been a good trip, but I’ll be glad to be back home.

A List of Accomplishments

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Today is therapy day, and since I don’t remember all the progress that I’ve made over the last two weeks, I figured it would be prudent to summarize everything in a single place rather than looking through two weeks of blog posts during my session to grab the highlights.

For those new to the blog, remember that I’m on disability for PTSD, bipolar, and anxiety, and while these accomplishments might not seem like much, they’re kind of a big deal for me.

  • Set up an appointment to discuss a last-minute change to my Return to Work action plan that Texas Workforce Commission and I have in place. It’s the difference in a vocational certificate and an associate’s degree transferable to a bachelor’s program.
  • Went to the store on my own prepared to shop for a full week, stopped only by a lack of funds to cover the list I went to the store with, so the full week’s worth of shopping turned into about four day’s worth, long enough to tide us over until we could revamp the menu to more affordable fare. While at the store, I dealt with an anxiety-causing situation very well.
  • Went back to the store the next day to wrap up the week’s worth of shopping, this time with my wife.
  • Dealt with a difficult situation with customer service regarding two computer games that I play.
  • Took a trip down to San Antonio through bad rush hour traffic to have dinner with my mother-in-law and dealt with construction traffic on the way home. Bad traffic is one of my bigger triggers.
  • Went out to dinner on a Friday night without experiencing any anxiety at all about the situation – another of my big triggers that I avoided even at my best.
  • Went back to the store for the next week’s worth of shopping, again with my wife, but this time striking up and otherwise participating in conversations with people we know at the store.
  • Entertained a friend at home for a few hours and had an excellent time. Not necessarily an anxious situation, but it does show that I’m starting to socialize in person more these days.
  • Went to a friend’s house for a Fourth of July gathering with about 20 friends and about 4-5 people that I didn’t know beforehand. I chatted people up, I was conversational (about as conversational as I get at parties, generally speaking the more people are there the less I tend to interject myself into other people’s conversations, instead preferring to quietly observe), and I sat in on a new-to-me card game that I want to pick up a version or two of. Stayed considerably longer than I thought we would, leaving on my wife’s schedule rather than my own.
  • Went back to the store for a few items and ran in to pick things up while my wife waited in the car. At no time during this two-week period did my wife go to the store without me being present.

Wow. Looking back on things all at once, I really have made some strides over the last two weeks. I’m looking forward to discussing all of this during my session today.

Turning a Corner

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I went to the store today with my wife to get the weekly shopping done, which was considerably more than we normally get due to needing a lot of occasional purchases like cat litter and parchment paper, and stuff for Fourth of July potlucks. We were in the store for a while, and I never once felt nervous or anxious. In fact, I was striking up conversations with the folks that we ran into and that my wife knows better than I do.

It was a little later on this afternoon that it dawned on me that I was almost outgoing at the store. I felt fine, there was no distress at all. I’m not used to this. But it’s a great feeling. Is this what normal feels like? Not stressing over every little thing that could happen whenever you’re out of the house for any reason? I could get used to this.

The afternoon and evening have been spent with Secret World Legends (you might have guessed) and the story is getting more and more intense. I think I know what I’ll find at the end of the current main story line, but I’m looking forward to seeing if I was right. I’m being careful to pick up every side mission along the way, as they add lots of flavor and richness to the story and environment.

Another Step in the Right Direction

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Once again, I spent most of my day in Secret World Legends. Yes, I know I’m hyperfocusing on it. However, dinner was something of a step forward. We went out to dinner on a Friday night, to a very crowded barbecue restaurant. No anxiety at all. For someone that even at his best still avoided restaurants on Friday and Saturday night like the plague it’s certainly worth noting. I’d like to start going out on a Friday night about once a month to a restaurant that I know is going to be crowded and have a wait list, just to continue to expose myself to that particular anxiety.

I’m still enjoying the direction things seems to be moving toward.