• When 2009 clocked over to 2010, which feels oh so long ago, I was 13 years old. 8th grade was almost over, high school was just a few months away, and little me had no idea what the future held.

    To be honest, back then, I was pretty surprised that I would have a future. In October of 2009, I'd gotten sepsis, and was horribly sick. The doctor didn't diagnose it until way late into the game, and I was sick for two full months before I felt relatively "okay" again. There were a few points during that where things were dicey, but despite it, I pulled through. On New Year's, I was still at home, but had just gotten a doctor's note and the okay to go back to school after missing the end of October, and the entire months of November and December.

    Come that summer, months later when middle school ended...I was held back due to excessive absences. It was just another crappy event piled onto the whole thing, but was luckily overturned thanks to a combination of my high test scores and my parents angrily arguing with the school staff. At the time, I'd thought middle school was the worst thing in the world (horrible bullying, gender-segregated lunch breaks, rampant racism) and the concept of having to repeat a year of that would be the Actual Most Terrifying Thing On Earth (TM).

    Of course, things would get so much worse with high school, but I didn't know that back then.

    In the end, my high school years began with anxiety, stress, and fear, and ended with expulsion, for failing french with a 65. I'd made the mistake of choosing to go to a prestigious high school in my city, which treated students like they were in a bootcamp. Instead of having my peers bully me like in middle school, here, the teachers were my bullies; sneering, taunting, and being cruel to students was a common sight. Fail a test? You're actively berated by the teacher, in front of the entire class. It was a competitive environment, with high stakes, and high stress. We weren't allowed to have electives (they distracted us from our studies), and we had so much homework and AP books to study, that no one had time for after-school events. Part of the reason that I failed french was that I refused to give up the one thing that still made me happy back then: softball. I'd skip class, or even ignore the homework, just so I'd have time to breathe.

    One of the clearest memories I have of high school was someone on the top of the third floor of the school, when classes were changing. The sheer panic and insane pressure of the schoolwork had caused them to try to jump, because they couldn't deal with the shame of having failed one of their final exams. In the end, they were called back down from it, sobbing. They didn't come back to school.

    Any doors leading to an outdoor balcony/staircase were promptly locked for the rest of the year.

    By 2013, I was kicked out of high school, and no other magnet school would take me, as they were at capacity. My sham of a high school even refused to give me my final report card, so to this day, there are no official records of me having completed the 9th grade.

    Although things seemed like a low point, back then, that summer changed my life.

    During that summer, an outdoor cat had kittens, but passed away doing so. That left me with mewling kittens in my backyard, with no mother, and no chance at survival. My mom dragged me away, and took me to the store telling me that I should just forget about it; it was nature doing its thing. It wasn't our problem. We had just recently just lost our own beloved cat, and the wounds were too fresh. She didn't want any cats around. I was distressed, but I also didn't want to argue.

    However, during that time, guilt must have kicked in for her, because instead of distracting me with a toy store, my sniffling and crying caused her to turn the car around, and head for a pet store. We bought bottles, formula, beds; everything you could ever need when it came to raising a cat. Those kittens, still squirming in the dirt, crying for their mother, for food, for warmth, were still alive. I remember picking them up for the first time. One was white, and the other was tuxedo colored. Instantly, they captured my heart.

    Instead of feeling lost, or like a failure, or just feeling sorry for myself in general, I now had something to focus on. Every morning I'd wake up, pet the kittens, feed them, and clean them. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

    It was a turning point.

    Eventually, those two kittens could eat on their own. They grew up, and were the cutest things in the world. One named Mink, the other named Checkers; they were the most important things in my short life.

    That wasn't the only thing that happened in 2013, either. I'd started to use GBAtemp more often, watching the news, learning how to softmod consoles, and interacting with a lot of GBAtemp members. Most important of them being Chavosaur and Lunawofl, for reasons still unknown to me to this day, decided to invite me to their little Skype group, after a few hours of playing Animal Crossing New Leaf nonstop.

    I'd gone from never having friends, to possibly having people around to talk to on a regular basis. It helped me, in so many ways. To just have people around to talk to, to learn from, to understand. My minimal social skills managed to improve. I was still an embarrassing teenager, but the ability to talk to other individuals around my age and discuss things without fear of saying the wrong thing and being ostracized like in high school was so incredibly important to me. Awkward comments like other girls asking me if I liked any boys, and responding that I didn't really care about that stuff, or being judged for playing video games and reading books all day had once sealed my fate as an outcast in school, but were now irrelevant. I had supportive people who just wanted to chat about which Pokemon looked the coolest, or how many episodes of anime they'd binge-watched on Netflix that day.

    The self-confidence that my teachers had shredded apart was slowly coming back together.

    Those changes continued into 2014, where I tried to reach out to other people, to try to make more friends online. And that extended into the real world, where suddenly, I wasn't afraid of people randomly talking to me; I'd learned that not everyone that spoke to me wanted to be cruel and judgemental. Certainly, some people were still like that, but I'd still be able to hold a conversation without major fear, fear that had once been ingrained in me, due to those horrible school experiences.

    2015 was the year I graduated high school, just barely. I admittedly barely cared for school. I wasn't about to let myself be wrapped up again in the hamster wheel that had set me so far back. The American school system is broken. Alas, that is a conversation for another time. I freely skipped classes, only showed up when needed, and submitted chunks of missed work whenever I'd grace the class with my presence. It became a game. How many days could I get away with skipping? How little effort could I put in and still pass? Now that I wasn't in AP, and in a school that only took the high-risk students, the work was easy--it was almost insulting. For the first time since 5th grade, I got enjoyment out of school, but for all the entirely wrong reasons. The only time I ever enjoyed math was when I calculated how many 0's I could get on tests or homework, and still skirt by with a 75 in 12th-grade pre-calculus. My diploma arrived in the mail, because I joyously skipped graduation. The school experience was finally over.

    That year was also when I found a hobby that really interested me: news. Specifically, gaming news. Previously, the only thing that had ever stoked such a fire in me was baseball, and since it was my final year playing for the city league, I wouldn't have that hobby to lean on for much longer. The circle of communication was intriguing. PR announce a press release to a set of journalists before anyone else, and those journalists are tasked with spreading the information. But the internet age was also allowing such a wide flow of announcements, teases, and other reveals. To best cover the news, you'd have to keep watch on so many different variables, and that was so exciting. That's when I started posting news, here, in hopes of learning more about it, and finding something that I could dedicate myself to.

    2016 rolled around, and somehow, I was accepted into college. An actual university, even. My entrance letter had almost been something of a self sabotage. Surely a school wouldn't want a student who found the school system laughable. There was no way they'd allow me within a mile of their campus, when my records showed that I went out of my way to secure the bare minimum. But my 100% English ACT test scores directly contrasted with my hatred of education. Despite all odds, the college found my circumstances to be interesting enough that they wanted to give me a minor scholarship. That, coupled with the fact that I had the pell grant, meant I could go to college, without spending a cent on the cost of my classes.

    I was half honored, and half amused. I might have taken 2016 off as a gap year to figure myself out, but maybe...just maybe, I'd actually go to college. Maybe it'd be fun, even. Who knew what kinda fun stuff 2017 could hold?!

    And so, in typical life fashion...

    2017 was

    the worst year

    of my entire

    life.

    I mean, there was one good thing, in that absolute garbage-encrusted year. I met my boyfriend, who supported me through every step of that mind-numbingly horrifying year. And that's a pretty big high point. But every. single. other. event. sucked.

    Imagine 2017 as a year that starts as a small trash wrapped that rolls down a mountain of waste, collecting more and more trash. By the time it hits the bottom, the single wrapped has become a giant tumbleweed of a ghastly mess.

    It started with the death of one of my kittens. January 2017. Checkers and Mink had managed to have a few little kittens. I loved them dearly, even though they were so young, and new to the world. However, for some reason, they weren't viable. They all were dropping dead in front of me. It was haunting, and there was nothing I could do, nothing a vet could do. All I could do was sit with them as they died.

    That wasn't the worst of it.

    Mink got sick. When I came home one day, I found him shivering, meowing at me weakly. He couldn't move. He laid on the ground. He couldn't eat. He was dying. In the ensuing panic, the fight with my parents over if he should go to a vet, right now right now right now.

    He died in my lap. A final shuddering breath let out.

    He was cold, so cold.

    I lost the best cat that I'd ever had. My little friend that had been that turning point in my life. I watched him die, unable to help him. Sometimes I still dream about it. I think about it. The wounds are still fresh, years later.

    Somehow, it still got worse.

    In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey hit.

    I lost my house. I lost my stuff. Everything was soaked under 7ft of mud-sewer-flood-water.

    I lived in a hotel for months, because we were effectively homeless. The only thing we got out of the house with was my phone, some baby pictures, and my dad's passport.

    Of course, I know it could have been worse; material items are replaceable. I still had my family. That was important.

    But it couldn't stop the fear of rain I now had. Or the emotional turmoil of watching your home slowly be destroyed.

    What could heal it, though, was the kindness of strangers. One of the biggest moments in my life was when everyone here supported me. When I had nothing, members of gbatemp helped me. I'll never, ever, forget that.

    That wouldn't be the end of 2017's nightmare, sadly.

    The hotel that I'd been staying at? Their staff had been stealing things I'd looted out of the remains of my own home. The maids would wait for us to leave, to tour a new place to live, and then something would disappear. At the time, we assumed it was just us going crazy, or someone misplacing something. "I thought you saved my penny collection!" "I-I could swore I did. I...I know I had it...but it's not here...did...I not actually get it out?". That conversation kept happening, until one day, the maid walked into the room, in the late afternoon. My parents had left out the front lobby. It was just me and my boyfriend, playing games on the tiny TV, with my only console at the time: an Xbox sent to me by a GBAtemp user.

    The maid rattled the door against the deadbolt a few times. Confused, I motioned for my boyfriend to check out what was going on--no way would the cleaning service come by so late. Outside the room, was a startled looking hotel worker. They looked shocked that there was someone in the room. There was no cleaning cart nearby. They were randomly there. But why?

    Then the pieces came together.

    One of the biggest reasons we'd chosen that hotel was because it accepted pets. We had to have a place that accepted both a cat and a dog, as the hotel was our home, thanks to government funding. We were given five months to find a place to live in. We still had a month left, according to the contract FEMA had given us, but we were looking to get out and find a place to live, normally, again. On a day that we were choosing a cheap townhome to move into, the year decided to take another spiral downwards.

    The manager of the hotel didn't like me. Rude, brash, annoyed by the "filth" of hurricane victims that were in her hotel, I had actively avoided her.

    A lack of interaction didn't mean she didn't care, it seemed.

    Because when we got back from moving stuff into the new home, she had taken Checkers. I got back to the hotel room in a panic, not seeing her anywhere. Nearly tripping down the stairs, I demanded to know where my cat was. For sick kicks, she'd decided to appoint the room as abandoned (even though the key card still worked, even though we still lived there, we still had our own items in the room, we had a month left) and had someone send the cat to a shelter.

    I spent the next week going to every pet shelter in houston, trying to find her. I never did. I put up posters, informed every worker of every pet store and shelter in the city.

    When I couldn't find my cat, I went back to the manager of that hotel, demanding her to get my cat back. she laughed in my face. I threatened to call the police. She actually looked afraid, then.

    Instead of taking my side...my dad dragged me, screaming, from the lobby of that hotel. He refused to let me call the police, or file a report of stolen property. Both my parents didn't think it was worth involving the authorities over. Part of the reason was that they were afraid the police would somehow take the side of the hotel, getting me in trouble. But still. I had nothing to lose by doing so, and it was a genuine case of theft. I lost my cat that day. and I will forever regret the fact that I didn't call the cops on that red-faced demon of a manager.

    2017 closed out the year with a horrible flu. For my birthday, I was bed-ridden and couldn't move for a week. Not even to go to the doctor. There was only one time where I'd felt sicker, and that was the event, mentioned back at the start of this ramble.

    So, if you hit rock bottom, you can only go up from there, right?

    2018 sorta passed by in a blink. There were good moments, there were bad moments, but in general, it was a grieving year that helped the pain from the previous year lessen, in a blur.

    And so we get to the year we just completed: 2019.

    After so many highs and lows, this roller coaster of a decade closed out on a high, blessedly.

    I began 2010 as a frail, sickly kid, who was afraid of so much. I didn't know what I wanted from life. I never wanted to talk to people, because I was fearful of being bullied.

    I ended 2019 as someone who has grown up, learned so much, knowing exactly what I want from life. I love talking to people, and I have many friends, who I treasure.

    This decade, had so many good and bad things throughout it. That's, of course, typical, considering it's a span of ten years. But I feel like I've come so far, dealt with so much. As 2020 begins, I'm excited to see where life takes me this decade.

    So, thank you, to all my friends, and those who have been there for me these past years. I hope you all have an amazing 2020. Happy New Year.
    You, Red771, LonelyPhantom and 26 others like this.

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