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Today is my birthday, and with it I want to think about what's ahead.

(Edited ) | Perspective

It's my 20th birthday today! While it was more-so an average day in terms of how it went, the amount of birthday wishes I received was astonishing. From people I regularly hang out with to friends I haven't spoken to in a while to complete randoms, it was nice being appreciated by so many people. I can't understate how grateful I am to everybody who said happy birthday, really. With all that said, I want to take a moment before today ends to reflect on the last decade of my life and look forward to my hopes for the next one.

Mental Health

The most defining part of the last decade for me was figuring out my head space, with the last 2-3 years being spent on actively improving it. Of course, this is something everyone goes through growing up instead of a problem that's exclusive to me, but try saying that to someone who didn't know who to listen to anymore. For context, I grew up with everyone around me - from fellow students, online friends, to even my parents - having opposing perspectives and countering any opinion I had. I wasn't able to set up any filters for my perception of the world, leading me to nearly drown in the noise. I bring this up because the same thing happened with my mental health. I was bombarded with media encouraging getting professional help if needed, which ran counter to the viewpoints of my parents who've seen their friends change for the worse after therapy. Worse yet, there was no professional help where I grew up; only a councilor at the local hospital. There were other problems I had during the last decade, but I find my perception of noise was the most defining one for me.

While I can't confidently say I'm past my troubles just yet, I can comfortably say I'm past the worst of it. As much as the noise of clashing opinions frustrated me at first, I found it to be more comforting and even enlightening on some of the other troubles I have. While I could go on for longer, I think I should wrap this section up with expressing the things that helped me the most. Firstly, learn to let go of stuff; especially any stress that you may have. I found this applied to my need to understand exactly what was wrong with me, which I don't bother with anymore. If you still feel the need to cling to something because you have to do it, I want you to consider a question that I've been grappling with myself; why do you feel the need to solve massive problems by yourself? The follow-up to this statement is that you should instead be focusing on caring most about the problems affecting those around you, such as your friends, family, and neighbors. This was something that came from a conversation with my Dad recently, addressing a major fault in how I perceived the world. Finally, air your brain out. Write in a journal, take some time to meditate, do whatever it takes to give your brain a break every once in a while. These are nothing definitive, but these are some of the things I've learned that have made me more comfortable with my mental health.

Developed Interests

While I haven't done anything major with my life so far in any specific field, I'm comfortable with what I've managed to do for my age. I have a general idea about what I'm hoping to do with my life, that being a mix of working on video editing, developing games, and producing music. All three of these were interests I developed in the last decade, but video editing would likely be the oldest. I remember spending hours making videos on Windows Movie Maker (XP) and recording from a camcorder I got for Christmas one year. I would later spend days editing together moments I recorded with my friends on Minecraft, Garry's Mod, and other games and start uploading those to YouTube, continually improving my skills and trying new things. That said, I avoided making videos for a few years because I put to great of a weight onto them. I thought that whatever video I hoped to make next had to have a bullet-proof script or it wasn't worth pursuing. That, alongside the need to learn how to use newer software, turned me off from making videos for quite some time. It's only recently that I've been getting back into making them with the recent Sn0wy Direct uploads on YouTube. It's re-sparked my enjoyment in editing, and while I did encounter some problems I found that this is something I want to get back into.

The second major interest I got into was game development, with Portal 2's Perpetual Testing Initiative serving as my introduction to the field. I started off making simple puzzles in the in-game editor, but soon found myself wanting to do something fancier. I can remember that the first Hammer map I ever made was from exported PTI map, edited to connect two separate rooms through some mechanical areas. I later explore much more exotic ideas and concepts which, while occasionally being too much of a challenge for me, taught me lots about Hammer, level editing and game design. In recent years, I've been exploring level design beyond Portal 2 with dabbles into mapping for Team Fortress 2. I've also been looking into playing around with other engines, and have been meaning to start creating games in PICO-8 to learn more about prototyping and game development.

Last but not least is music. I was a band kid, having took band every year during my time in high school. Through it I learned the basics of playing the piano, bringing home one from the school to practice. My parents bought me a basic Casio piano from the local thrift store at as a Christmas gift during junior year, which I would then use to practice on Melodics. Eventually I also found LMMS, a free digital audio workstation that I used to create my own songs that I would share with my band teacher. Since then, my skill-set for playing and producing music has grown and I've created a few tracks that I've been comfortable enough to share with the world. While music is definitely the youngest of all the interests I currently have, it's one of the most fulfilling.

The Future

Finishing off, I want to think about where I want to be in the next 10 years. What comes to mind first and foremost is that I want to at least be doing something involving the gaming industry at some point in the future. Whether it be Triple-A or Indie, I want to help create new and enjoyable games that people would have fun playing. For the other core interests of mine, I want to create more videos. It's a vague idea on purpose as I'm not fully sure what videos I would make, but it would defiantly be some mix of sketch comedy and game design analysis. For music, I want to create one full album themed around the noise I dealt with growing up. As for other interests, I actually want to get more into drawing. I think it's a fun skill that's worth having, and it's something that I've been getting more into as of late with help from some of my artist friends! I'm also wanting to do more with programming, although that may go hand in hand with game development. Finally, I want to secure the foundation of my mental health, giving me firm ground to stand on. I want to be fully confident in myself, believing that I'm able to work on any task within my skill-set.

No matter what happens, however, I'm happy with how far I've come and I'm thankful for the friends I've made along the way.