My Struggles with Body Image

As long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with body image issues. The mirror is either my best friend or my worst enemy, depending on how I’m feeling that day. I get irrationally upset when someone brings up my weight. I tend to hate myself if my clothes rip or get a little snug. I sometimes stress eat followed by bouts of crushing guilt and anger. I used to compare my body to others’ constantly: he’s in such good shape but I’m so fat, his eyes are so pretty but mine are boring, his hair is perfect but mine is a complete mess. It’s not so bad now, but I still struggle with appreciating any kind of bodily beauty without comparing it to my own perceived lack thereof.

As a kid, I was teased for my weight. I was an easy target who cried easily, so a couple of bullies in elementary school took advantage daily. I wasn’t the only chubby kid, either. I just hated myself the most for it and gave them the biggest reactions, so naturally they kept coming back for more. As I grew older, it became less about my weight and more about my plain appearance. One girl that I thought was very pretty once said to me, “Well Travis, you’re not part of the good looking crowd. That’s OK, though. You’re just not and that’s how it is.” The funny thing is, I thought she was trying show me kindness at the time. I took her misguided advice to heart and accepted that I was supposed to be invisible, and chose to dress in dark colors to disappear amongst the masses. I existed in isolation and didn’t participate in any activities with my classmates for most of my time in high school. I began to despise people and lost myself in video games.

College was a welcome reprieve. I met some nice guys who accepted me for who I was. I was still in the closet with my sexuality at this point, but that’s another story entirely. When I met my husband near the end of my schooling, it was the first time I felt wholly loved by anyone. It was a great feeling, but unfortunately not something I fully embraced or even believed for a long time. As I got to know more of the local gay community, I began to fall in with the wrong type of people. I saw how “athletic”, “fit”, and “masculine” guys were adored. I started getting a taste of some of that attention myself, as I had finally “blossomed” into a full grown adult.

I started working out, starving myself, and paying too much attention to the mirror. I craved compliments from random guys who found my newly sculpted body attractive, men who would have never batted an eye if they saw what I looked like before. I turned into a catty, petty, mean girl, MONSTER. As you can imagine, this caused a great strain on my relationship with my boyfriend (who was treated very poorly by these people, by the way), and it nearly destroyed us. It’s taken many, many years to repair the damage that was done. This goes without saying, but guess what happened to all the men who stuck around for my “good looks” when I needed some real support and friendship? They were gone with the wind, never to be seen again, and I rightfully lost the implicit trust and adoration I had from my partner. I was completely alone again and it was my own fault.

I entered a renewed phase of self hatred, and I felt stupid, worthless, and unwanted. I thought I was a terrible person for what I had become, which made me bitter and angry. I didn’t trust anyone. The world felt alien again, unwelcoming and scary. I had worked so hard to be loved, or at least what I thought was loved, and it turned out to be in vain. I had put the one man that truly loved me through the worst years of his life. With the passing of time and a lot of therapy, I’ve addressed that self hatred and anger. I’m able to love my body on some days, but not all. I can tell myself, with a great deal of conscious effort, that I’m a worthwhile human being with talents and values, despite what others may make me feel. Even though I’m back to being a chubby guy, I’m much happier and content with myself than I ever was in my entire life. On rare days, I even share selfies.

My life has been a journey. While my body image issues are only a cog in the complex inner workings of my mind, I wanted to share this particular story in the hope that someone can relate. Let’s all learn and grow together, shall we? I’m always open to talk or listen. ❤️

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A Catalog of Overwatch Trolls

I’ve been playing Overwatch for about a year now. Its engaging, team-oriented game play and impressive variety of characters keep me coming back for more. On a good day, Overwatch is great. Your tanks lead the way, your healers keep you healthy, and your offense and defense heroes aggressively pick off the opposition, all while keeping the ever important Point top of mind. You dance together and recite goofy voice lines before the match starts, and put together an effective team comp. This is Overwatch at its best.

Recently, however, it seems a darker, more sinister player base has emerged from the shadows. These unsavory folk seek to undermine everything that’s good about Overwatch and what it represents. These creatures of darkness don’t appreciate the camaraderie and teamwork that goes into a good Overwatch player, no. They instead seek to siphon the fun and enjoyment out of every match they participate in, all to feed their own festering unhappiness and insecurity. Can you believe that these fiends would pay money for a game and a subscription (I’m talking about PS4 here) just to spread frustration and chaos? Let’s take a closer look at these mind-boggling phenomena in my Catalog of Overwatch Trolls.

Symmetroll

Guise of Choice: Symmetra

Mode of Attack: Poorly placed teleporters

Description: Symmetrolls take one of the most elegant and beautiful Overwatch characters and turn her into an agent of deceit and mayhem. When you see a teleporter in your base, it’s normally a reason to celebrate. You can return to the action immediately and support your team in a critical moment. Symmetrolls betray this trust and place teleporters in precarious situations, such as facing a cliff edge. Particularly nasty incarnations of the Symmetroll use Symmetra’s “sit” emote to casually watch its teammates fall to their doom. Despicable!

How to Defeat: If a Symmetroll sets up a teleporter and you’re aware of its location, take some time to carefully pass through it over and over again to expend its charges, saving your allies from a nasty fate. If the Symmetroll is sitting nearby, give it a push off the edge when its not paying attention.

Meitroll

Guise of Choice: Mei

Mode of Attack: Poorly placed ice walls

Description: Sweet, innocent Mei. Her latest animated short paints her as one of the most precious denizens of the Overwatch universe. This heartwarming guise, however, can conceal one of the most despicable of all beasts, the Meitroll. Armed with a desire to destroy all things good and right in the world, the Meitroll makes it a goal to impede your team’s progress at every turn with ice walls. You’ll find your spawn exit, your paths of attack and retreat inexplicably blocked by barriers of unforgiving ice, oftentimes accompanied by a sarcastic “Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry!”

How to Defeat: A determined Meitroll cannot be dispatched, but there are ways around its trickery. Anticipate the paths that it will block and position yourself in alternate routes. Always have a Plan B. In time, the Meitroll may just get bored and switch to a Hanzo.

SniperKingTroll

Guise of Choice: Widowmaker or Hanzo (frequently appearing in pairs), sometimes Ana

Mode of Attack: Pretends to be a master sniper but rarely scores a kill, usually treats the point as lava, and gets eliminated frequently

Description: Good snipers will anticipate the path of the enemy and take down opponents that threaten their teammates, but the SniperKingTroll has a different, more sinister agenda. Eschewing human decency, the SniperKingTroll stays as far from the objective as possible, taking random shots that seldom land, and contributing little to nothing to the team effort. When asked politely to change characters, it may laugh or emote rudely at you.

How to Defeat: Like the Meitroll, there’s little you can do about a SniperKingTroll. It can also be difficult to distinguish it from a player genuinely trying out a sniper character for the first time. Be wary of directing ironic “Thanks” voice lines to undeserving players. If all else fails, pick the sniper first next time and show the SniperKingTroll how a REAL Widowmaker plays.

Throwtroll

Guise of Choice: None. Any character.

Mode of Attack: Feeding the enemy, or otherwise throwing the game

Description: Throwtrolls are the most basic type of Overwatch troll, a less specialized version of all the aforementioned species. Dissatisfied with its own performance and looking for an unhealthy outlet, the Throwtroll uses any means necessary to sabotage its teammates and throw the game. It employs a multitude of dastardly methods: rushing blindly into battle alone, repeatedly jumping off cliffs, running around spouting voice lines instead of fighting, refusing to group up, or simply doing nothing. You’ll find yourself asking, “How did the enemy team get ALL their ults again?” Blame the Throwtroll!

How to Defeat: The Throwtroll delights in ruining your fun, so the best thing you can do is have a good time in spite of it. Sure, you’re going to work extra hard to win while being down one (or more!) players, but don’t give the Throwtroll the satisfaction of tainting your enjoyment. You could end up transforming into a Throwtroll yourself!

What other types of Trolls have you encountered in Overwatch, and how have you overcome them?

Stardew Valley – A Look at Queer Representation

I’ve been playing Stardew Valley off and on since it was released on Steam, but I didn’t get heavily into it until I bought it recently on PS4. It’s a delightful homage to farming simulator games like Harvest Moon, but takes the formula farther by adding a modicum of character development in the form of simple skill trees, and basic yet enjoyable combat elements that remind of Secret of Mana.

Like most farming simulators, you can form friendships and eventually romantic relationships with residents of the nearby town, but queer representation – especially in the Harvest Moon series – has been limited if not completely absent. If you create a male character, you can only romance the females, and vice versa.

In Stardew Valley, you’re able to pursue any of the available single NPCs whether you’re a man or a woman, but this freedom treads on an issue of queer representation unique to games media, similar to Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and their handling of sexuality. In Skyrim, you can marry anyone you choose, no matter your race or gender. Don’t get me wrong – this kind of inclusion is a good thing. What this also does, however, is erase sexuality entirely. There’s no queer narrative, no characters with relatable experiences or struggles, and no mention of different sexual identities. All of Tamriel is queer and that’s not a believable reflection of reality.

In my current and indeed first in-depth playthrough of Stardew, I chose Alex the Gridball (i.e. football) player as the target of my affections. (WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD) Dialog with Alex starts off as you might expect: a lot of talk about sports and girls. It’s not cringeworthy, but predictable for a “jock” type character. As I accumulated more hearts with him, some deeper facets of his personality bubbled to the surface, including a broken family and an increasing desire to avoid Haley, a “mean girl” after his heart. (I may have chosen to bag him just to spite her. Maybe.)

The conversations with Alex up until you surprise him with a bouquet are canned and would make sense whether you’re a girl or a guy. Nothing groundbreaking there. Two small bits of dialog did take me pleasantly by surprise, though. The first occurs when you confirm your true feelings for Alex over a romantic private dinner, and he confesses he didn’t think he could have “this type of feelings for a guy.” That itself is a big revelation. For one thing, it means the entire world of Stardew Valley isn’t queer. In Alex’s mind, he thought he could only feel romantically toward women. Someone raised him to think that way, and society reinforced it.

The second occurs during the wedding itself. As the blushing grooms stand together in front of the entire town (with Haley being all jealous and plotting in the back row), the Mayor recites simple vows and ends with the proclamation, “We now pronounce you husband and well… husband!” Instead of something universal that could capture any possibility, the writers of Stardew Valley chose to craft something tailored towards two men. As before, the Mayor’s hesitation in reciting a phrase other than “husband and wife” clearly paints straight relationships as the norm.

Although not quite on the same level as Bioware, which included a character like Dorian Pavus in their game Dragon Age: Inquisition, it’s clear the creators of Stardew Valley intended to represent queers beyond the blanket erasure of sexual identity presented by Skyrim. Those two choice pieces of dialog tangibly increased my enjoyment of the game on a personal level, beyond anything its good mechanics and gameplay have already offered. There may be more to it than I’ve seen in my file (I saw some screenshots on Google of an interesting conversation with Alex’s grandfather that furthers my reasoning), but it’s a great start so far. I’m looking forward to many more hours with this game, especially when it comes to Switch.

Pokémon Journal Entry 5

Because of my busy weekend, I wasn’t able to make entries as frequently as I would have liked, so this particular entry will be pretty long. Enjoy!

Exploring Malie Garden was nice. It reminded me of the Japanese Tea Gardens we have here in Hawaii, especially with the bamboo and pagoda.

Heading off to Mt. Hokulani to take on the next Trial. There’s an observatory up there like on Mauna Kea on our Big Island.

I met Samson Oak, cousin of Professor Oak from Red/Blue!

Met a little girl named Acerola in the Malie Library. She seems to know a lot about Alolan myth. Who’s her dad anyway?

Visited the Malie Recycling Center and learned that Grimers and Muks eat all of Alola’s garbage. Wouldn’t that be a great thing in real life?

Learned a new battle style—Elegant!

Took a bus to the top of Mt. Hokulani and saw the peak of Mt. Lanakila. In Hawaii, we have two tall mountains on our Big Island – Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. I immediately drew references between them.

I heard about Professor Kukui’s dream to build a Pokemon League on top of Mt. Lanakila.

I met Molyane, the administrator of the Pokemon box system of Alola and Professor Kukui’s old adventuring partner.

Arrived at the observatory on Mt. Hokulani and stumbled into Sophocles’s Trial Challenge. The audio quiz he gave me was pretty easy, but the Vikavolt Totem Beast was pretty challenging.

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Pokémon Journal Entry 4

The game’s starting to get interesting now as I reach the third island. Here’s some more highlights from my adventure.

  • I evolved my Brionne into Primarina!
  • Took on Mallow’s Jungle Trial. It was interesting enough – gathering ingredients, and pretty simple, at that. The final battle against the Totem Beast was easy with my Butterfree using Bug Buzz. The trials are started to feel like less challenging, reskinned Gyms.
  • Went to the Dimensional Research Lab and met Burnet. Damn, Professor Kukui is taken by Professor Burnet!
  • Learned about Ultra Wormholes to other dimensions and the Ultra Beasts that come from them. Apparently Palkia, Giratina, and Bronzong all can travel between them.
  • Memorial Hill was another graveyard. Pokemon can get a little dark and deep sometimes.
  • Visited Koni Koni city with its Asian flavor. The lady there that gives massages uses the Lomi Lomi technique, a popular one here in Hawaii. The word “lomi lomi” means “to massage” in Hawaiian.
  • Bought a bundle of new TMs at the Pokemon Center shop.
  • I met Team Skull Admin Plumeria, who basically confirmed that Team Skull is comprised of a bunch of “dummies”, in her words. They’ve been a pretty pathetic team so far.
  • I defeated Olivia’s Grand Trial and her rock Pokemon easily with Primarina.
  • I spent some time tossing Pyukumuku into the ocean and earned 20,000 pokebucks for it. Not bad for a part time job! Apparently you can go back and do the job every day to make more money!
  • I met Faba and learned about the Aether Paradise, the artificial island for Pokémon.
  • I visited Aether Paradise and met Wicke. I love her style and those glasses!
  • Lusamine is Aether Foundation’s president. She’s got some crazy looking hair! Talking to her was a bit strange, and her going on about wanting to love and save every Pokemon. There’s something seriously off about that…
  • A jellyfish looking Ultra Beast appeared and attacked us. I defeated it with water type attacks. Lusamine’s react after the fight was strange. Those evil eyes and wicked smile don’t look so good. What’s up with her?
  • I challenged Hau to another battle after reaching the new island, Ula’ula. It’s time to explore a new place!
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Now THAT’S an evil smile if I ever saw one…

Pokémon Sun Journal 3

Here’s the next segment of my Pokemon Journal series. My Pokemon Rides are filling up pretty quickly!

  • I met Hapu and her Mudsdale and battled Team Skull again. They’re shaping up to be a pretty pathetic team. I haven’t felt genuinely threatened and they seem like a disorganized group of lowly thugs, to me.
  • I evolved my Trumbeak into a Toucannon!
  • Found the Game Freak Lab! There’s one in every game, isn’t there?
  • I reached Version 3 of my camera.
  • I met the Masked Royal (conveniently shirtless) and Kiawe (also conveniently shirtless). Hi.
  • Had my first Battle Royal, which is a free-for-all match with four trainers. Similar to the battle arenas from the other games, you get BP for winning and can trade them for items (TMs, stat boosters, training gear, etc).
  • Visited the Thrifty Mega Mart that gives you a discount coupon at the door.
  • I completed Kiawe’s Trial, although I don’t like how the challenges played out. I understand that the game was trying to be goofy, but it could have easily been a real test of memory and skill. It made Kiawe look a little lame. I’m starting to miss the gyms, honestly.
  • Now I can call Charizard as a ride Pokémon!
  • I flew to the Pokepelago for the first time and got a lot of beans. I upgraded the bean stalk island to level 2 and got the berry farm, training, and exploring islands on my first day.
  • I may be enjoying Pokemon Refresh with my newly evolved Machoke a little too much…

All right! On to the next trial, the Lush Jungle!

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That’s a good boy.

Pokémon Sun Journal 2

I’ve decided to make the remainder of my Pokemon Sun journals into lists of important events, places, and/or characters that piqued my interest. That said – here we go with Journal Entry #2.

  • I defeated the Trial in Verdant cave, and then took down the Kahuna of Melemele Island. This prompted a very familiar update – Pokemon of up to level 35 will now obey me, even if received in trade.
  • I received the ability to call Tauros and use its charge to destroy rocks. I found quite a few hidden items and gained access to 10 Carat Hill.
  • The Fighting Z-Crystal is now mine, which went to my Machop.
  • I got the False Swipe TM from Professor Kukui, which is early for that particular move. I’m happy about it though, since it makes catching Pokemon a lot easier.
  • I explored a beautiful meadow full of yellow flowers and caught myself an adorable Oricoros.
  • My Popplio evolved in Brionne, and my Pichu evolved into Pikachu.
  • My camera reached level 3, with an even better zoom!
  • I’ve been dabbling in Pokemon Refresh and realized that the effects of high affection are similar to those in X/Y. It’s nice getting those extra critical hits and status cures in battle.
  • I traveled to Heahea island and reached Paniola Town. The cowboy theme is no surprise to me – the word “Paniolo” means “cowboy” in Hawaiian.
  • The Nursery in Paniola Town replaces the Day Care centers of previous titles. It’s basically the same except your Pokemon won’t gain levels while staying there.
  • Shortly after my arrival on Heahea, I learned there are three Trials on the island. As I’ve played more, I notice that Trials aren’t all that different from gyms. You travel through an enclosed area, each with its own obstacles and gimmicks, and fight a powerful foe at the end. It seems that Trials are just gyms with a different flavor.
  • I caught an actual Tauros (that I can include in my party). I’m happy that I found one.
  • I got another Pokemon ride ability – Stoutland Search. This basically replaces the item finder gadgets from previous games. I’m still having a hard time figuring out how to use it properly.
  • I unknowingly entered another Trial and took on a whole bunch of Wishiwashi. The Trial itself was disappointingly easy, but the giant Wishiwashi at the end was pretty challenging. That part I liked.
  • After completing the Trial, I finally got a Fishing Rod! It seems like you can only use it in certain spots though.

I’m enjoying this game a lot! Stay tuned for future updates!

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My current Pokedex completion numbers… I have a long way to go!

Pokémon Sun – Journal Entry 1

I’m nearly six hours into my journey now, and I wanted to share a brief collection of my thoughts with you all. As a warning, these posts may contain story spoilers and other game details, so proceed with caution.

First of all, I have to say I really like the new Pokemon Refresh! You get access to it early on in your adventure, and while being very similar to Pokemon Amie (except you have beans instead of Pokepuffs), you can also heal your Pokemon’s status ailments outside of battle with Medicine! Talk about convenience!

Hau’oli City, the largest city in Alola, apparently, is one of your first stops in the game, which is a nice change from previous entries. Before your adventure barely begins, you already gain access to a well stocked Pokemon Center with a Shop and Café, and you can buy new outfits and style your hair, all on the same street! It’s great to have these facilities open up early on.

I’ve also gotten the Rotom Dex and accessed it’s nice little camera function, reminiscent of Pokemon Snap. You get notified of good photo spots on your map as you walk around, and you get rated on the pictures you take. Collect enough “Likes” and you level up! I’m already at version 2 that allows me to zoom. This is a nice bonus feature that pays homage to all you Pokemon Snap fans out there.

You can also enter the Festival Plaza relatively early too, which hosts all kinds of games and extra activities you can do, including missions where you can use communications and team up with other players. I haven’t tried it out yet, but it seems really neat. Another nice thing – you get the Exp. Share from Professor Kukui pretty quickly, so that definitely helps the grueling low level grind quite a bit.

The little details make me smile. The colors are all very bright and vibrant. You can hear Pokemon cries as you walk by tall grass. The locals are dressed in colorful aloha attire like muumuu and aloha print shirts. The music is all very Hawaii in style and tone, with delightful notes of ukulele sprinkled throughout many of the tracks I’ve heard so far.

I haven’t seen too many Alolan Pokemon yet, though I did catch a Yungoos, Pikipek, and Alolan Grimer and Meowth. I also caught an Abra and a Pichu, woohoo! I took down a trainer’s school, and met Captain Ilima (a pretty Hawaiian name), and battled the goofball Team Skull for the first time.

I guess the one minor complaint I have right now is the gimmicky ways the game prevents your progress, but I suppose there’s no way around it in a Pokemon game. Wet paint prevented me from opening a gate, and an angry Tauros has been conveniently blocking my way when the story wanted me to go elsewhere. All games do it so I’m not faulting Pokémon for it, but it’s just very evident when these devices are being used.

All-in-all, it’s been great so far! On to Route 2!

Nintendo Switch (NX) Reveal – Literally Crying

Since Nintendo announced the mysterious NX last year in March, I’ve been fidgeting on the edge of my seat waiting for some authentic news. Rumors and speculation abound on the internet since, some of it sounding marginally credible, others more farfetched and seemingly implausible. As an early birthday present to me, Nintendo finally broke their painfully long silence and released a preview trailer on October 20th for their new console. A sudden announcement dropped on Twitter a mere day before the event, though hushed whispers across the digital sphere seemed to have been in the know for awhile. Needless to say, despite the video being released at 4:00 a.m. my time, I dutifully set my alarm for 3:45 a.m., aiming to be awake with the rest of the world when Nintendo drew up the curtains. I was extremely glad that I did. The rest of this post talks about what happened in the special preview video and some of my thoughts and feelings that resulted.

It all starts off in a cityscape at night, and we find ourselves in the home of a man playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on his TV in the living room. That’s nothing too unusual so far, but I could already feel my heart pounding in anticipation. The musical accompaniment aptly matches the hushed mood, a familiar scene that most of us gamers live through as we wind down for the day and settle in with our favorite video games.

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Then a dog comes into the room and barks; it looks like its playtime. An attractive red screen appears abruptly, on which we’re introduced to the console’s true name, the Nintendo Switch, its cool square logo, and a wonderful clicking sound effect that I KNOW is still stuck in ALL of your heads. The background music changes and picks up with the reveal, a hip and fun tune that takes us through the rest of the preview.

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Letter to My Younger Self

As I talked about on Twitter earlier this week, I’m sharing a letter that I wrote to my younger self as part of a writing assignment from my psychologist. It was an emotional experience, though a little strange, as well. So here it is, edited for grammar and spelling but content intact. I hope this can help some of you in some way, like it helped me.

“Hey Travis, this might sound weird, but this is your future self talking. Yeah… hello. I know things are tough for you right now. Kids pick on you, your dad is gone, it feels like mom doesn’t care, and you’re scared and lonely all the time. Trust me, I know how that feels. You probably feel small, powerless, and sad. You probably think something is wrong with you since your dad left you, and you don’t have any friends. I know it’s tough.

I guess I’m here to tell you that… well, yes, it is really tough. It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to cry. You’re going through a lot and it feels like it’ll never end. It feels like you have nothing to look forward to, that every day feels like something you have to just get through so you can get back to your room and lose yourself in your video games.

I know it’s hard, but you have to remember something important – there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re a sensitive kid, you care about others, you just want to be loved. Believe me, I totally get it. It’s wrong that others are picking on you, taking out their problems on you. They’re cruel. They’re mean. But there’s nothing wrong with you – you’re a chubby kid, and chubby is beautiful. Your dad left, but your dad is a jerk with a lot of his own problems. He didn’t leave because of you.

And yes, you’re gay, but there’s nothing wrong with that either. Don’t feel bad that you’re scared of it – the world was a scary place back then, and so was your school. You’re going to love being gay when you grow up, and people are eventually going to love you, relate to you, and respect you for it. You’re going to get what you want someday, trust me.

You might feel like you’re completely alone, but you do what you have to in order to survive. That’s OK. You have to. You’re a tough kid and you had to adapt to make it. You’re a good kid, Travis. You’re perfect just as you are, curves, dorkyness, gayness and all. You are perfect. You are sensitive and hold a great deal of love and caring deep down in your heart for others.

I know you just want people to be kind to you, to love you for who you are… Trust me, it’s coming. You’re going to get there. Just hang on for a little bit longer and everything will be OK. You’re you, and that’s the best thing you could ever be. I have to go now, little Travis, but I’ll always be right there with you, waiting for you in a better future.”