Inspirations

Hey Todd, do you know the character whose name I stole yours from?

ConfusingSentence

Yeah, probably. Although I more just used that name because someone else told me it was a good idea. I mean, after I had already named you “Telegraph,” which isn’t really a name, and was also my screen name on forums for a long time. I stole it from a ska band in Chicago, but yeah. I’m not very good at coming up with names.

SuckatNaming

No, this is more a blog to acknowledge my inspirations in cartoon drawing; how you came to look like you. Anyway, to start with, I think one of my earliest inspirations was Garfield. I have rather early memories of my family borrowing the Garfield movies from the public library, which was in the middle school that I ended up going to, and then later working in. I was just there today, in fact.

Asshole

Right, right. Back to Garfield. I think the biggest way that cartoon inspired me was the characters’ eyes always being half closed. Going back to your earliest appearances, your half-closed eyes-matching your indifferent frown to create your resting face-can be traced back to Garfield. Also, your laziness probably comes from him, too.

ThankYouSoMuch

Get over it. Moving on, back in the day, I watched a lot of Disney Afternoon, and also Tiny Toon Adventures. Which might’ve been on at the same time… but I somehow watched them both, anyway (maybe I channel-surfed). I think a lot of the general cuteness that I aim for in my drawings come from Disney Afternoon cartoons like Ducktales, Darkwing Duck, Chip n Dale, Gummi Bears, Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, etc. Also, some of the more expressive stuff probably comes from those Steven Spielberg-produced WB cartoons. Some of Scarlet’s flip-outs were inspired by Babs Bunny-

WhosScarlet

ImScarlet

ABlog

 

So yeah, Scarlet’s some kind of assassin/secret agent from an amalgamation of Medieval and Renaissance eras. I’ve drawn her over and over again; she’s all over my dA.

ABitObsessive

 

But yeah, Tiny Toons. Disney Afternoon. A bit later, I began reading the comic book based a particular blue hedgehog and his friends. He was in a few videogames on the Genesis, and he had two cartoon shows at once (the one on ABC’s Saturday Morning program was infinitely better than the one running weekday mornings on… Fox? Probably.) Anyway, some of the facial expressions the artists would draw in the early years of this comic probably inspired me, but it was really the artists who were drawing a few years’ in to the comics run that I liked (and would like to emulate, but probably will never be skillful enough to do so). Artists like Spaz, Manny Galan, Art Mawhinney, and many more through the years that I shamefully can’t remember (wasn’t there an artist with the first name “Conor?”) who really drew in a style that I liked. Also, the semi-apocalyptic setting, where Robotropolis is a polluted wasteland, but there are still places like Knothole Forest, probably really informed the world of Heavenly Bodies (a book that will be out at some point in time). I read the comic for years and years… but it stopped appealing to me some time in 2012. Probably because it was becoming too much like the actual video games-which I never really cared about-and abandoning a lot of the things that made it it’s own unique thing. Some people like it better that way, and they are welcome to that opinion.

TrashYourComments

Shut up, Todd. So, a bit after I had been reading the Archie Sonic comic for a few years, a show on Mtv debuted, about a cynical, monotone, teenage girl, who frequently gave biting social commentary (can you guess what this one is?) I thought this character was really cool, so for a bit, I tried to write Todd in a way where he would offer biting social commentary on the characters around him. It didn’t really work, because I am probably not as smart as the writers of Daria.

Anyway, I think I need to step back a few years and bring up something big in my life at the time: Warcraft II. The Real Time Strategy Game that got me into fantasy creatures, such as orcs, dwarves, elves, trolls, ogres, and the like. I would spend days just playing this game the Summer of ’96, and then after that, I started making maps with the map editor, trying to create stories. Eventually, this game influenced me to read my favorite book ever: The Hobbit.

SuchaNerd

Whatever, shithead. What I always liked (besides the game itself) was the concept art drawn by Samwise Didier. That dude is awesome at drawing fantasy creatures, and I think he was at least in part an inspiration in the way I draw humans, dwarves, etc… but especially how I draw orcs. If I draw them. I always thought his wolves or tauren were cool looking, as well. His style is like a mix of realistic and cartoonish, which I really like. Think I saw his stuff when I played Diablo III, too; looks just as good in that game.

So, I’ve covered most my Western inspirations (even though Sonic was made by a Japanese company); now it’s time to talk about Anime. If you’ve seen the sweat drops and anger bulges on my characters, it’s pretty clear that I borrowed some things from the East, as well (and if you haven’t noticed those things, you’ve probably noticed the pencil blush marks on all my female characters). Akira Toriyama is probably my biggest influence, as far as how I draw humans goes. Maybe. I dunno. To some extent, I’ve probably also been inspired by Gainax, and Gurren Lagann in particular. Probably. Possibly. I dunno.

SoDecisive

If there was one thing that for sure inspired me in story-writing, it was Final Fantasy… at least up until XIII. XIII inspired me to sell it back to Game Stop when I finished it, and that’s about it. But yeah; I once wrote like a 600-plus page book, which was heavily influenced by Final Fantasy (and also, to some extent, by Warcraft; I really wanted a mix of the Eastern and the Western, there). …It was highly derivative and amateurish, and I deleted the entire thing. Some characters from it-like Scarlet-survived the deleting, however.

Abyss

No problem. I also think I should hit on Nintendo: everyone knows it, right? It’s an influence over gamers everywhere. Mario was more famous at one point than Mickey Mouse. For me, although Fox McCloud is my favorite Nintendo Character, and Zelda II is probably at least partially what got me into Medieval stuff (my knight helmets often resemble those of iron knuckles’), what I’ve really been drawn to over the years are the character designs in Mario games. In particular, I like Yoshi and the koopa troopas’ designs. Also, specifically in Super Mario RPG, there was a character named Croco that I really liked, both for his design and his speech patterns. There was also some kind of dragon enemy that I liked the design of. Those designs have informed my designs of reptilian creatures in the past.

Shock

Going back to speech patterns, I’ve also always enjoyed the dialogue in Mario games; the rpg games in particular, like Paper Mario. There’s a lot of charm in the character designs, but there’s an equal amount in the way the characters talk. It’s all very adorable, clever, and frequently funny, even. If I could bottle the essence of that dialogue and put it in my own writing, I’d be happy.

Another Nintendo series-one that needs more love-is the Mother series. If you want an example of a game with charm, heart, humor, and creepiness, you should play Earthbound. If you want to play another game with most of those things, but also some heart-wrenching scenes, you should play Mother 3. Something that happens early in the game gets to me every time… I was shocked when I first saw it. One of my favorite moments in a video game. It also has a story that feels on par in a lot of ways with a Studio Ghibli film, particularly towards the end. Now, if you want to play an awesome game in the same vein as the Mother games, but by an American designer-one that gives you the option to spare every enemy you come across-you should play Toby Fox’s Undertale. It has the charm, the humor, the heart, the creepiness, and the tear-jerking, and it was all done by one dude, practically.

HowInspired

They inspired me to gush all over them! Isn’t it obvious? But yeah; I just think that they’re really good, and that those who like good stories in games should give them a chance (well, at least with Mother 3 and Undertale). I’ll also say that the Undertale soundtrack gave me the determination to keep running and exercising last fall, when I was preparing for my pt test (it’s just that it apparently wasn’t enough, and I had to work out extra hard with a PT leader for the whole week before my PT test). I also think that Earthbound has given me pointers on what a modern fantasy about the US (or Eagleland) could be like.

There also seems to be a certain archetype of a female character from Japan that I really like: it’s a serious, bad ass woman, who also has a sweet, soft side, or a vulnerable side. Characters like Risa Hawkeye from Full Metal Alchemist, Blaze the Cat from Sonic the Hedgehog, Freya Crescent from FF9, etc. I’d like to count Scarlet among those characters at times, but she’s just too goofy.

HEY

Anyway, I’ve covered most visual media that inspired me (maybe leaving out some, but whatevs). Maybe I should talk a bit about music that’s inspired me. Artists like the Beatles, New Order, Smashing Pumpkins, They Might Be Giants, Five Iron Frenzy, Less Than Jake, Reel Big Fish… those are some of my favorite bands, and some of their music has probably seeped into my writing or drawing, because listening to music is one of my biggest inspirations. “Last One Out of Liberty City” by Less Than Jake is essentially the theme song to my 72nd and a 3rd comic (at least in my dreams…) Whenever I read about or listen to the Descendents, it makes me want to be in a band and/or write music. “Own Little World” by Celldweller and “Dominator” by Dwarves inspired and/or informed the creation of a couple characters from Heavenly Bodies.

Anyway, this is getting really long, it’s Friday afternoon, and I haven’t drawn anything yet.

Slacking

Right you are, Todd. Right you are.

Edumucation

Education is important, or something. When I first went to school… I didn’t realize that. I was 5. One of my earliest memories is walking down the street to the grade school, that first day ever. Pretty sure I had an entourage; my mom, brother and sister were with me. It was playing out like some sort of action sequence in my head, because we were a formidable group, probably (not).

SCHOOL

The first few days, I was in one teacher’s class, but after that, I was in this new teacher’s class. This upset me, I remember. Even though this other teacher was nice. Also, she reminded me of some cartoon character-like, a street smart, male, cartoon dog-because that’s what my brain did back then. Later in the year, there was a Christmas gift exchange, and I got this teddy bear another kid had made himself, and I was like, “I don’t want this!” I was a very thoughtful little asshole, wasn’t I? This was also the year I burned my hand on my godmother’s stove at her old house, I remember. Took a while to heal.

Throughout grade school, we had these swimming lessons at the local high school. The first two groups swam exclusively in the shallow end, but in group three and on, you started swimming in the deep end. I was deathly afraid of swimming lessons, months before we actually had to go to swimming lessons.

DEEPEND

To my relief, when I was in group three, they decided I should move back down to group two. To my embarrassment, however, I moved down from group three to group two, as it made me feel inferior. I think mostly younger kids were still in group two… Also, there was something about a teacher having to help me put my underwear on, that supposedly another kid had a picture of… but we’re probably not talking about social anxiety/shaming in this blog.

Towards the end of Grade School, I was put in classes that consisted of kids in my grade and kids in the grade below. On a scale of E for Excellent, S for Satisfactory, and U for Unsatisfactory, I think I got mostly S’s. The way the other kids talked, too, made me feel less intelligent. I remember there was some state or national test thing that we took, and mine came back with the name “Iam  Mellman,” because whoever it was who graded it couldn’t read my handwriting correctly. Regardless, I remember scoring pretty low on that thing. I also remember making “animal signs” at the local weather reporter when he came in to film us, and getting crap for that for a few years, but yeah.

When I got to Middle School, my sole interest was video games and fantasy novels. Somehow, I didn’t seem to get in trouble with my grades during my first year there, but starting in seventh grade, I was getting low enough grades that my mom started noticing, and I started getting in trouble for it. Didn’t really change how I performed, however, until the next year; in my eighth grade science class, I basically did none of the work, and sat in class reading some MYTH-Adventure of Aahz and Skeeve.

FAILURE

Eventually, it caught up to me that I was getting an F in the class, and my mom grounded me from doing anything but school work until I caught up. There was some balloon project that I got in way late, but was given a C on, saving my grade. My mom said she was proud of me. I just remember thinking that it wasn’t High School yet, so it didn’t matter…

…but when High School came, I still didn’t particularly apply myself. I was getting decent enough grades for the most part-nothing lower than a C-through my first couple years. I even got placed in AP English my Sophomore year… A friend and I found a worksheet from that class, in which I got like no points, even though I wrote down all the correct answers. I guess I didn’t write them down the way the teacher wanted them to be written down (we found this because I had drawn one of my comics on the backside of this worksheet). So the next year, I was back in regular English class, getting A’s again. However, in my Spanish and Math classes, I wasn’t doing great. I generally blew off the Spanish class, and barely passed both the years I had to take it. It was more fun to goof off with my friends than actually put in the work, I suppose. So I got C’s in those two classes, and in most my science and math classes, but whatever math level I had my Junior year… I got a friggen’ D.

MATH

Not sure what happened there, but it totally messed up my GPA. Also, I never took the SAT’s… So, even though I mostly got straight A’s my senior year, it was too little, too late, and I ended up going to the local Community College.

Finally in a place where I had to spend some of my own money on my education, with other friends making it to Universities, I started to take this crap seriously. Somewhat. Did pretty good my first two terms, but then in Spring Term, I took macroeconomics, trigonometry, and a weekend physical fitness class, altogether. The weeks I had that weekend class sucked, and in general, that macroeconomics and trigonometry class sucked. The tests in that macroeconomics class were open book, but they kicked my ass anyway, because the instructor thought he ought to be teaching at the university level, or something. And the Trigonometry class… I was struggling with it, even when I was trying. When the final came, I could’ve done well enough to get an A in the class overall, maybe. However, I was so burnt out on it that I didn’t study at all, and I got forty out of one hundred and twenty points. I got two C’s that term, the only C’s I’ve gotten my entire college career. There was at least one biology class that I thought I was in danger of getting a C in, but I got a B instead, so yeah.  I was in the honor roll multiple times at that Community College… but big deal, it was a Community College.

Finishing up at the Community College level, I had an Associate of Arts Transfer Degree… that I had no idea what to do with.

FREEDOM

So the next few years, I just kinda existed. I remember, too, being happy when I was done with school. Why? There was no plan for what to do next. I worked in Yellowstone as a dorm custodian, I came back and worked at a gas station for a while, and then I started subbing as a custodian for the school district (there was other work here and there, as well as a few significant life events, but eh.) It just kind of felt like going nowhere a lot of the time, like I was accomplishing nothing. Other people were doing things with their lives, like advancing at their jobs or getting married, and there I was… a substitute custodian.

Eventually, I joined the Air Force, just so I wouldn’t be doing nothing for forever… and also because of a girl, but I’ve told that part of the story before. I’ve also talked about BMT in the past, although I suppose I haven’t talked about studying for the ASVAB (some kind of military placement test). Before I took that thing, I wasn’t sure if I was particularly smart. Then I took that thing, and I scored high enough to where I could go into any career field I wanted to, basically. For the final test at BMT (that went over all the information we learned in our classes), I got a 90 out of 100. Then I got to Tech School. If Tech School would’ve just been the school part, I would’ve been golden, because I scored in the 90’s in nearly all of the tests, there (but it wasn’t just the school part; it also involved marching and being around asshole MTLs all the time. One of whom accused me of lying, and backed me into a yes or no answer for a question that wasn’t a yes or no question. And then after that, he apparently totally forgot about it. But I didn’t.)

ENTRAPMENT

When I got to Little Rock, I was given my CDCs (Career Development Course). Essentially, five volumes of really friggen’ bland, horrible-to-read military textbooks. I was given a year to get through all of them, take pretests, and then take the actual test. When you first got to that office, that was your job, pretty much; studying that material. So once I got through all the material and answered all the questions at the end of each chapter, I started memorizing what the answer to each of the questions were, and there were a lot.

MEMORIZATION

I wouldn’t move on from a page until I memorized all the answers. Because the pretests were pretty much just those questions, I scored like a 92 on my first pretest, and then like a 96 or 97, I think. I think there were supposed to be three of those pretests, but after the second one, they just interviewed me and decided I was ready for the end of course exam. Which I got an 85 on, because not all of the questions on the exam were from the end of chapter questions in the CDCs, heh. Still, that was pretty good, but if I’d gotten a 90, I would’ve gotten a day off.

After that, I took some military tests that counted as college classes (forget what they’re called) so I could get my Air Force Associate’s. And then I had two Associate’s; one in Arts, and one in Applied Science. Not sure why I thought I needed that second degree, but it looks nice on top of my chested drawers, next to the other one, I suppose.

Anyway, at that point, I decided I should use military Tuition Assistance and apply to start taking online classes at Oregon State. It had always been my dream to be an OSU alumnus, for whatever reason. Maybe because of my brother and sister who graduated from there, maybe because of watching OSU sports all my life, maybe because I really like Corvallis, OR. For whatever reason, I was taking classes through them, and I was kinda nervous, because I hadn’t taken any real college courses for a long time… My first term, I got an A and an A-. Second term, A-. Third term, A and A- again. Fourth term, A and A-,  including my first ever A in a math class (though it was statistics).

Then, as I was getting ready to exit the military, I get this message from someone at the Tuition Assistance office, saying they audited me, and that I owe them over $2,000. Because I had gotten a message from the education center saying that they had to review my TA request the first time I put in one, and let it go through, I had assumed that I was doing it right (I had also been told by higher ranking individuals in my office that I could do it the way I did it; there was a waiver they could use). So I was like, “I was told there was a waiver,” and even forwarded the guy an email sent by my supervisor to the school, explaining that there was a waiver (he had been told the same thing by the same coworkers who had told me that). I also called the Education Center, and I probably wasn’t super nice in my tone, because I’d just been told I owed over $2000, and I was pissed off. Well, I was getting pissed off at a Master Sergeant, and as a Senior Airman, that’s not gonna be good for you. So she gets all pissy with me, tells me there’s no such waiver, tells me to talk to my first shirt, etc. And the guy also emails me back in this curt response saying that there’s no such email, I did it wrong, etc.

So the next day, I go in to the Education Center, because I was told they could help me use my GI Bill to pay off the debt. Well, the friggen’ guy there claims he doesn’t know how to do that or something, and also tells me I better not say that it was their fault that it went through, because I took the training and read the thing, etc., and that it’s my responsibility. I told him about the email, and he’s like “Oh, that’s not what that means! That means this other thing! Do you think we have time to do that for everyone?!” I was like “I guess I didn’t understand the scope of your review process, then.” So I’m just getting irritated with all of them, and I have the money in the bank, so I just pay the $2000+ off, thinking that would be the end of it.

Except it wasn’t. When I was getting signatures from all the different places as I was being discharged, having them sign off whether or not I owed them money, this asshole I talked to at the Education Center the other time looks at my file, and is like, “Oh no, it says you still owe $2000+.” I had paid the school, but the TA site apparently said I still owed that money to them or something, even though the guy in the email had told me I would pay the school. So I told this guy I already paid the school, and I don’t know how he got from point a to point b, but he starts accusing me of knowingly committing fraud. I told him I didn’t knowingly do anything, and he was like “Oh yes you did! You took the training, you read the thing!” And wrote down that I still owed $2000+.

FRAUD

I didn’t say anything else, but I was pissed, and if I hadn’t still been in the Air Force at that point, he might’ve found his ass on the floor. Luckily when I got to the office and talked to my Superintendent, she called the TA guy and advocated for me and my personal character, and made things better. The TA guy was also accusing me of fraud and talking shit about me, which she told me she didn’t like. I was very grateful to her, and have to note that she helped me out more than once during my time there. Of the good people I met in the Air Force, she was certainly one of the best.

So now, I’m back home, and taking classes this Summer. Of the two classes I’ve completed already this term, I have two A’s. So far on my online class (which is the whole term), I have 100%, so that’s probably going to be an A too, if not an A+. We’ll see how this last course goes… But boy oh boy, I’ve been kicking ass in all my classes at OSU thus far. If only I’d applied myself when I was in High School, my life probably would’ve been way different, and there probably wouldn’t have been that period between my community college years and my Air Force years where I did nothing.

Let that be a lesson, kids: apply yourselves, or you will have to clean toilets and get yelled at by a Training Instructor.

Beaver Football

Hey Joe. You’re just the person I was looking for.

WhadyaWant

Well Joe, I wanted to talk about the Oregon State Football team, and I hear that you’re an expert on them, and football in general.

NoImNot

Well, maybe you just need a little refresher. Corvallis Academy was the first in the area for primary and preparatory education, starting back in 1856. In 1868, the school was given a federal grant, allowing it to offer bachelor’s degrees in arts and sciences. Primarily, it was an agricultural school, as its name in 1890, “Oregon Agricultural College,” indicated (there were 11 name changes in the school’s history; it didn’t come to be known as Oregon State University until 1961). Now, the team’s first football team came in 1893, after the former president-who had banned sports at the school the year prior-died, and was replaced by someone who immediately reversed his decision. In their first game, against Albany College, OAC won 63-0. The first ever Civil War (their rivalry with the Ducks) came in 1894, and their first games against the Huskies and the Cougars came in 1897 and 1903, respectively. In fact, the Beavers’ first game against the Huskies came before Washington’s first games against both the Ducks and their rivals in Pullman.

Wikipedia

Yup. Let me hit you with some more Wikipedia info: the Beavers have been to the grandaddy of them all, the Rosebowl, 3 times: in ’41, ’56, and ’64. They’ve won the Pac 12 championship 5 times, including the last time, in 2000. I don’t need Wikipedia to let you know about their 28 season losing streak, however, which started in ’71 and ended in ’98. It started with the Great Pumpkin, Dee Andros, who was beloved for how often he beat the Ducks, and for his 1967 team, dubbed the “Giant Killers” for their 3-0 victory over #1-ranked USC. It ended with the last year of Coach Mike Riley’s first tenure with the Beavers. That year, though very much underdogs, they won the Civil War against the Oregon Ducks in a thrilling double overtime, the image of Ken Simonton running down the sideline for the final score of the game becoming iconic.

ToiletBowl

Oh yeah, that was pretty awesome, huh? Both teams were terrible in that game. 11 turnovers, 4 missed field goals, and horrible weather. Apparently the last college football game to ever end in a tie. Ah, the good ol’ days…

Avezzano

True. Although last season was approaching such levels of suckage; we were 2-10, blown out almost every game. So how we gonna be this year, Joe?

I dunno

C’mon, man! Don’t hold out on me! You’re the expert! You study film, watch practices, analyze body language, personalities and attitude!

JustBecause

You don’t have to swear at me. You just have to give me your analysis!

MyAnalysis

Wow, that’s harsh, man! What are the biggest problem areas that you see?

OandDlines

What are your predictions?

RestareLosses

So you think they’ll win one game all year? That’s worse than last year!

TruthHurts

That’s harsh, man. Basically a betrayal of your own kind.

AintMyKind

If ya wanna get technical, I guess.

Religion and Politics

I was raised in the Catholic Church by two old school, conservative Catholics. My siblings and I went to church every weekend and every holy day of obligation. I went through Religious Education, all the way up to Confirmation; my Confirmation name was Francis, after the Saint who loved the animals (because animals are awesome).

Francis

Growing up, my young mind could not comprehend that there were people who were not religious; only bad people who did bad things could be “atheist” (I didn’t know they were called that, at the time). As I grew older, I developed the understanding that not everyone was a Christian, or even religious (and I didn’t realize that not everyone who was religious was Christian; I remember a conversation about Jews not believing the exact same thing as we do, for example.) Kids at school who had been Christians began to decide that they were atheists, and some of the more seemingly-intelligent people that I encountered in the world-especially on the internet-gave strong arguments against religion that I felt were wrong, but I couldn’t really respond to.

I’ve talked about the group of friends I made in High School in the past, and also how that group started going to a College Bible Study together. At first, I would say about half the group was Christians, and the other half was atheist, Wiccan, or whatever. A bit after college, however, pretty much everyone was going to church; the majority of the group was going to a local “Four Square” church. I’m not sure exactly what that means, but I will say that I do like the pastor there-he was the father of one of my classmates throughout my school days. I always felt welcomed there, and while I always felt welcome at the Catholic Church as well, this other church seemed less focused on tradition, and more focused on developing a relationship with Christ. While I still generally went to the Catholic Church a lot (and even sang in the choir with my mom), I would go to that Four Square Church, too, and talk about not being sure if I would remain Catholic. Made my family happy (my sister decided not to make me her son’s godfather).

Growing up, religion was always a part of me, and a big influence on me. My mother taught me to pray, praying with me every night at bedtime.

Praying

She also taught me love and kindness. She also taught me to respond to the count of three, to eat my dinner (even if I had to sit there for hours without eating it), and that “life is tough.” All in all, she is a pretty patient woman (she’s married to my dad, after all). One of the things both she and my father taught me, however, was that Democrats are immoral, disgusting, mean-spirited people, who just want to be allowed to do whatever they want to do, like being sexually irresponsible and against the church. So growing up, I was a Republican (well, in spirit at least). Mostly, they seemed fixated on one issue: abortion. It was a very bad thing.

At High School and on the internet, as with religion, I began to realize that not all good people were Republicans. In fact, I got the sense that a lot of people felt Republicans were stupid, although I didn’t fully comprehend why; I didn’t really know any other issues, besides abortion. I did multiple reports on it throughout the years, which didn’t change my opinion from that of my parents’. Slowly, however, I got the idea that Republicans were for the rich class, and in bed with corporations more than Democrats.

dubyadoodoo

They didn’t care about the environment, or poor people. But… ABORTION. So I didn’t really pay attention to any other issue, and the first time I could vote, I helped vote W back into the White House. I was taken aback that my brother and his wife voted for Kerry; I didn’t know how to handle my brother being kinda liberal (they were still pro life, though, so that was good).

As I got older, I met more people who were gay, the first of them in High School. Then when I went to Yellowstone the first summer I worked there, my roommate was gay. I’d talk to people online who were gay or bi or whatever, and… the vast majority of them were pretty nice, or at least decent. My parents have been very against gay marriage… I just think they should do what they want? If they’re not hurting anyone, and they feel like this is right for themselves, who am I to get in the way of that? Perhaps it took a bit of time, but that became my opinion on most things; let people be themselves. Even if it conflicts with my spiritual beliefs. I don’t know who’s going to Heaven or Hell, and I’m pretty sure no other human being does, either. So let people be, and be nice to everyone.

However, on most things, my friends have generally been fairly conservative, to go along with my parents’ worldviews, for the most part. So this helped me to keep my viewpoint that illegal aliens shouldn’t be allowed to stay, because they didn’t follow the rules to be here, and if the rules aren’t upheld on that, why have rules at all?

StayOut

Besides, the Democrats just want them here so they can illegally vote Democratic in elections, amirite? I also thought for a long time that the Iraqi war of 2003 was justified; I listened to explanations on why there had, in fact, been materials necessary to build WMDs in Iraq, that Saddam Hussein was evil and ousting him was a good thing, etc. Well… his former military helped form ISIS, whom the current Iraqi military RAN from. So the destabilization of the region is largely due to our involvement, and also, my argument about rules is a slippery slope, illegals account for 1/3rd of our agricultural output, and rounding up and deporting them all would be incredibly expensive (although I do still think that the Democrats really want the illegal immigrant vote).

Around the time I was leaving to join the Air Force, Barack Obama was running for his second term in office against Mitt Romney. I did not vote for either candidate, because I didn’t feel that either represented all of my interests. At the time, I still would’ve preferred Romney beat Obama… but still; progress.

In any case, as I said before, BMT was hard, and going to church on sundays got me through it. In Tech School… I started to not go every week. Getting up on a Sunday morning was hard, because I didn’t want to do anything (leaving the Squadron was always a pain in the ass, because you had to check out with CQ. Also, I think I was probably already starting to get depressed, but yeah). When I got to Little Rock, I would sometimes go to church on base, but I would often go out to Fort Smith to stay with my girlfriend and her family, and I could never quite convince her to go to mass with me… so we didn’t go. And I stopped going even when I stayed on base; I decided I wasn’t really getting anything out of it, because I didn’t get a sense of community from it as per I didn’t talk to anyone. I would make an attempt to at least watch mass online, but that was about it. I wasn’t praying much that first year, either, and when I wasn’t with my girlfriend, I would drink, surf the net… and get lonely and depressed.

Then… my fiance broke up with me. I’ve talked about this before, and how I was devastated. The first month after that, I focused on getting in shape for my PT Test so I could go home in December. After the December visit home… I was in a dark place. We were talking a bit again, and even discussing seeing each other, but then, she stopped getting online. I would get messages from her on fb sometimes, mostly that she needed more time, and that her parents didn’t want me in her life anymore… and then even the fb messages stopped. Her internet went down, forever. In this time, I would sit in my dorm room, thinking. A lot. About dark things. I had had previous thoughts of suicide one time, very briefly, as we drove over the river in my hometown when I came home to visit. That was a desperate desire to not leave home again. This… was about control. Because if she wouldn’t talk to me, then maybe I would cut my throat with my knife, and THEN she’d be sorry! …I never actually did that.

Control

In mid 2014, I began listening to christian radio shows on Sundays, and praying every day. There was this program out of Cleveland called “Truth for Life,” which I would listen to in the mornings while I drank my coffee before work. In the winter, I started going back to mass on base, and signed up for a Bible Study. There had been a Bible Study I’d been going to in NLR… but they were a bit conservative and judgmental for my tastes. The time that one of them said “Some people in this room are not going to Heaven,” I decided I was out. It didn’t help that when I went to their church, after service, they would just ignore me, and I would stand there awkwardly. Also, their pastor would talk about tithing every week, and how you were evil if you didn’t… Meanwhile, his church is super extravagant, with monitors everywhere, a full choir, an orchestra, and a worship band. A bit too much for me. So I didn’t get along with them. I also didn’t get along with this D&D group, who I yelled at and got kicked out of. I felt like I wasn’t getting along with anyone, pretty much.

Anyway, I went to that Catholic Bible Study on base, and it consisted of me and three old people… They were nice, and I went for a few weeks, but then I moved off base, and getting up for it on Sundays got really hard… I felt really bad for not going anymore; the leader was a very nice man who gave me lots of encouragement. Meanwhile, work had been shitty, and it just got shittier. I was losing my patience with everyone and would yell at them, I think I’ve covered. There was one person who was consistently really nice to me-she helped me a lot when the breakup happened. I started hanging around her a lot, which she didn’t seem to mind, but I had this thing about poking people in the side; people back home would get irritated with it sometimes, but didn’t make a big deal about it. Some people in the office… they got really angry about it. She didn’t like it either, started to be unfriendly, and when we talked about it, she let me know. So I stopped doing that for a while… but then a couple months later, I did it again a few times. Then she told me I wasn’t invited to her wedding, and it made me really upset (even though I couldn’t go anyway), and I just stopped talking to her. Then I got pulled into the Commander’s Office and was served a No Contact Order. They seemed to think more was going on than the poking, apparently.

After that, I just isolated myself in a corner. It seemed like every time I had a disagreement with someone, I would get pulled into either the First Shirt or the Superintendent’s office, and talked to about my attitude. So, I mostly shut myself off from people.

Isolation

My new supervisor was a really nice guy and helped me out a lot with my move and stuff, so I would talk to him and help him whenever I could (or felt like it; I was also starting online classes then, and would try to do all the work at work). Other than that… I think maybe three people noticed the change. One of them was an individual I liked to refer to as “The Little Shit” (he asked me to refer to him as such when I wrote about my time at LRAFB, heh). Also, the very nice supervisor, who I should all more often and see how he’s doing. Also also, the nice new Superintendent, who noticed that I was being isolated. Nobody else really seemed to acknowledge it, however.

When I moved to NLR, I started talking to my brother on Saturdays, so that helped. I looked forward to our talks on Saturday mornings about as much as anything. He and his son would also play Minecraft with me, and that was good. There was also this old Jehova’s Witness who would come to my door and talk to me about his church and the Bible.

JW

Surprisingly maybe, I actually enjoyed these talks. Finally, around September, I joined a group for returning Catholics, called Landings. Before that, I’d actually been going to the catholic church in NLR (well, one of them), and decided I would like to get to know some people in the community. These people were also older, but there were a lot more of them than at the Bible Study on base, and around them, I felt at home almost immediately. They were very nice and welcoming. When I told them my story up until that point, I was a bit worried, because I included everything. They thanked me for my story, gave me hugs, and prayed for me a lot, heh…

I say I told them “everything,” but I didn’t tell them about my knife. There was another time, too; at my apartment, on a Saturday. I had been talking to my brother about how much I hated it there, and how I had no control over my life. Later that day, I started drinking… quite a bit. I thought about the control thing again, and decided that I was gonna take my knife and jam it in my throat. As I was getting up to do this, my phone rang; my brother wanted to play Minecraft. So I did that instead. The memory of almost doing that the next day really worried me, and I let my brother know. He advised me to let everyone know, because they would tell me how much they loved me, and that he and his family loved me too; his son really loved me. So I made a journal on Tumblr, posted it to fb, and everyone told me how much they loved me. It definitely made me feel better.

Towards the end of October, something happened at work again; the tv. It was driving me insane. I was trying to concentrate on work or whatever, but it was loud to the point that I had to listen to it. I put up with it for weeks, tried to turn it down, got bitched at. It was slowly causing my anxiety to rise, until one morning, I got in an argument about it and just left the building. I called my superintendent, who had told me that I could ask to leave if I was having a mentally bad day (my supervisor was not there, and I didn’t feel comfortable talking to anyone else there). She told me I could leave, and that she would tell people what was going on, but I decided I needed to go back to get my stuff. I was just bee-lining for my stuff and the door, hoping no one would talk to me, but a couple people demanded my attention-and I ignored them. One of them was the section chief, who decided to give me paperwork for insubordination. She told me I needed to never do that again. I didn’t know if I could “never do that again,” so I decided that I needed to talk to my psychologist about getting out.

Meanwhile, I made some good friends with people at Landings, including a family that invited me to Thanksgiving. However… It was a week until my PT test, and my waste was like 2 inches over what it needed to be for me to pass. I’d been working out, but apparently not hard enough.

Fat

I also couldn’t do a mile and a half in a passing time anymore. So I worked my ass off every day with the PTL, who sacrificed his time for me, and for that, I’m grateful. I ate as healthy as I could, and damn it, I PASSED. By the skin of my ass. I never wanted to take another PT test again; it was too hard. Another reason to get out. Then, I went home for a whole month in December, the first time. It was great. It felt like It would go on forever… and then I had to go back, and it was the hardest goodbye yet; another reason to get out. And one of my new supervisors sent me a text, telling me to come in early on Monday, while I was still connecting flights in Chicago. Didn’t ask me how I was or anything. That pissed me off. Another reason to get out.

I went to another Landings session as a helper, as well as a Bible Study some of the Landings people did in the interim. I also started hanging out with these guys at times other than Landings, and it was great… but I knew I was getting out. My psychologist had diagnosed me with Avoidant Personality Disorder, a diagnosis that would get me administratively discharged. In the meantime, however, I was going to church more than I had since being in the Air Force, I was praying more, I felt closer to God. And then I got out. Not before having to pay back over $2,000 in tuition assistance that I apparently filed incorrectly, getting accused of fraud and almost getting into even more trouble… it was great. Also, I had to wait, wait, wait on paperwork, not knowing when it was gonna be signed, not knowing where it was, etc… and then when it was all signed, I had like 3 days before I was discharged. So I could not plan anything ahead of time. I had to wait in my apartment for 3 weeks before TMO could send people to get my stuff. It didn’t arrive here until a month and a half later. And most recently, they decided they overpayed me over $800 on my last check, and demanded it back. God Bless the US Air Force!

During my time in the Air Force, however, I learned some stuff about life; the entire world isn’t contained in my tiny hometown. There are lots of people who don’t live their lives the way I live mine. Most people aren’t immediately judging me upon talking to me, and probably can relate on more stuff with me than I realize. A guy from Saudi Arabia and a guy from Jordan are two of the nicest people I have ever met. People who grow up poor have very little chance to be not poor ever, even if they work their asses off as much as they can. If the environment is ruined and the Earth becomes unlivable, there won’t be any babies to save from abortion (but abortion is still an abomination; I won’t budge on that one). The US is not necessarily the best or most just country in the world. I can get away with yelling at people, but I’m probably better off practicing being calm and letting it slide. Loving people and showing compassion is the best way to be a christian. Most importantly: the Catholic Church is home, and Pope Francis is awesome.

World

Also, I registered with the Pacific Green Party. I’m probably a hippie, now.