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2014 In Review

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First post of 2015! I might as well make it a long one. And, as it will probably be a bit too long for Facebook, which is my main posting location, I will actually update my long-neglected blog.

2014 was a very interesting year for me. It had some extreme highs, extreme lows, and some absolutely mundane middles.

The first half of the year started off incredibly busy for me. I turned 27, was constantly working, and actually socialized quite a bit, both with old friends and new ones.  I had one of my photos used in a full-page ad for 2Chillies Swimwear in Vogue Australia.  In March, we bought our condo, officially becoming homeowners after half a year of searching for the right place. My dad and I took Ed for his first overnight crater trip at Haleakala. I got an Outex housing for my camera and started playing with underwater photography as a way to get my ever-increasing butt out of the house and into some form of physical activity. I began exploring the family photo archives for images of old Oahu to share. I finally got my own suit of Halo Spartan armor thanks to some awesome friends. I tried to make more effort to draw and paint, but didn’t really have the time to get it to stick. And there was lots and lots of work – some fun, but mostly stressful and sometimes difficult.

Me.

Me.

Image in Vogue Australia!

Image in Vogue Australia!

First night in the new home.

First night in the new home.

Pretending to be Ariel in Waikiki.

Pretending to be Ariel in Waikiki.

You know that feeling of running down a hill, and the forward momentum makes you feel like you have to keep going, or else you’ll stumble and fall over? That was the first half of the year for me. Back in March, I first confessed on Facebook that I suffered from anxiety. I’d known this for years, but never really looked at it as a real issue. I’ve always been fairly shy and introverted, but thanks to years of anxiety doing things like making a phone call was a huge struggle for me.  I’d always been told to “just relax” because “it’s not that big a deal”, but of course I never could do that. I’d ruminate on unpleasant things, and work myself into such a state I’d either break down crying or just shut down completely. I tried to keep it hidden from the world for the most part, and only my husband and closest friends knew about it.  A lot of it was based on uncertainty about my career. Freelance photography is an incredibly difficult industry, as many of my friends are well-aware, and I definitely suffer from Imposter Syndrome, feeling that I didn’t really belong in that world and it was only a matter of time before people would see that and reject me. It didn’t help that I would often interpret someone’s apathy toward me and my work as malice – though I know rationally that I had to give people a reason to care, and more often than not I’d be too timid to do so in the first place.

Then came the Great Escape. I was blessed with the opportunity to travel for nearly a whole month during the summer to New York City and Europe. Aside from one small hiccup with my luggage showing up a day later between London and Pisa, the trip was a blessed respite from all the personal and career-related emotional turmoil back home, and for the first time in a long time, I finally felt relaxed and happy. That whole trip is several blog posts waiting to happen (hopefully within the next few months), but there’s one moment that stands out to me above all.

On the edge of the Cliffs of Moher.

On the edge of the Cliffs of Moher.

Basking in a light beam within a nearly empty St. Peter's Basilica.

Basking in a light beam within a nearly empty St. Peter’s Basilica.

When my friends and I spent a day visiting Capri, we rented a small boat, bought a couple bottles of wine, and spent the afternoon sailing (boating? It was motorized..) around the beautiful island. Capri blue is a real color – the water was captivatingly peaceful, the sun was warm and bright, and the wine had gone to my head. I realized, in that moment, I was truly happy. Or, more accurately in my own crude language, I had no fucks to give. I wasn’t worried about anything for the first time since I could remember. I knew it wasn’t permanent, but just being capable of reaching that state of being was such a relief it was overwhelming. It was at the point in the trip where I had been gone long enough that the worries back home had faded, yet I had enough time left that I didn’t have to start worrying again.

Floating in the Blue Grotto.

Floating in the Blue Grotto.

Happiness in Capri.

Of course, that meant that coming back home was a whole other experience. All the feelings that I had been putting off or had hidden away came crashing back down on me, and I was left a wreck. The littlest things would set me off into instant tears, and I felt lost, hopeless, and alone. Ed had been trying to help me in his own ways, but unfortunately, my mess of emotions was not at all receptive to his logical point of view, and things would just get worse. He finally put his foot down, and demanded I seek professional help.

And so I did.

I hadn’t seen a psychologist since my college years, and even then they had said that I didn’t necessarily suffer depression, but I would “stress myself out” a lot. The psychologist I’d seen back then had been very much against medication, so when the one I saw this year tentatively suggested it, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.  My mind was too set in its patterns to be broken by sheer willpower alone, and I had never tried drugs, so why not?

So, it was off to a psychiatrist, and he set me up with a daily 10mg dosage of Lexapro, and my life changed.  They say that it takes up to a week or two to take effect, and so it may have been a placebo effect (but who cares as long as it’s working), but there was a moment 3-4 days into me taking the pills that Ed noticed a change. He had brought something up that would have normally sent me into a fit of tears, but to his surprise he saw me start to fall apart, but then take a deep breath, and respond like a rational human being.  That’s when he knew that we should have done this a long time ago.

With my emotional well-being on the mend, we could now look at my problems I was having with my career. I went through a couple months of being completely apathetic about photography. I was working, but I would never go out and shoot for fun anymore.  I was dreaming of returning to painting after being inspired by all the wonderful artwork I’d seen during my trip. I was enthusiastically sewing my Assassin’s Creed costume until my fingers went numb. Then, something happened that changed the course of my life goals.

Ed posted a photo of me in my Halo Spartan armor to Reddit, and to our surprise and delight, it shot to the #1 post of all of Reddit for several hours. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and I figured out that the Internet actually liked me as a geek. Before this, I’d begun experimenting with making YouTube videos with my newfound confidence, but this one event made me realize what truly made me happy – being a geek and embracing geek culture.

Honestly, probably as life-changing an image for me as Lava Kiss was.

Honestly, probably as life-changing an image for me as Lava Kiss was.

I’ve always been a geek. I remember in grade school wearing boys Darth Vader light-up sneakers because they left Imperial Seal footprints. I grew up playing PC games, would read all the Star Wars comics and novels, and by 8th grade got into drawing anime and fan art thanks to the summer of 1999 Toonami block on Cartoon Network. In high school, we started dressing up for movie premieres and general cosplaying, had overnight LAN parties, and got into MMORPGs.  The older I got, the busier I got, but being a geek was a core part of my identity.

Post college, trying to work in the fashion industry, I tried to fit in a bit more. I didn’t deny my geekiness, and luckily it was becoming more mainstream, but I still felt like an outsider amongst those who I perceived as “the cool kids”. I’ve met some absolutely wonderful people in the fashion industry who I love to work with, but at the same time, I didn’t necessarily want to go out and drink/party with them and continue networking after we were done working – I wanted to go home and play video games.

Becoming “Halo girl” on Reddit made me really think about what I wanted, and what I wanted was to do what made me happy – be a geek and make original geek content. Thus began the Mana Mai Tai Co.

I’m still working as a photographer, and have done jobs like shoot the new Governor’s official portrait, but I am focusing my extra time on MMTC with my geeky friends.  Our goal is to create original geek content – including podcasts, videos, images, and articles – from the perspective of Hawaii-based geeks. We also want to showcase Hawaii’s geek talents to the world. Time will tell if it’s a project that will pay off in the end, but I hope it will.

So, that’s what I’m starting 2015 with. New emotional stability, a new project to invest in, and a new confidence in my identity. Also a new sense of taking a step back when needed – I got sick two days ago and spent most of the last two days sleeping instead of trying to push myself to do New Years-y things. I’m about to turn 28, and I need to start taking better care of myself!

Here’s to 2015, and flying higher now that I’ve stopped holding myself back.

Me.

Me.

PS. Still waiting for someone to bring a sick girl some ozoni. :(

 

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