On the LGBT conundrum

Like pretty much everyone else in Norway, and apparently, the rest of the world, I have been sucked into the world of Shame – that is SKAM, the Norwegian drama series for teens that broke into the scene last fall and caused everyone within their demographic reach and beyond to utterly lose their minds. This post will obviously contain spoilers, so do not proceed if you haven’t seen the end of season 3.

I’ll be frank, to begin with I went from being clueless as to what this was, to being mildly annoyed at the hype, and then finally, a couple of eps into season two, this spring, I caved and binge-watched the episodes during one weekend where I was supposed to revise for exams. At first, I was skeptical, but I quickly found myself oddly compelled by the characters, despite the fact that the first season in particular deals with a lot of typical teenage things that I have never associated with neither as a teen nor as an adult. But the way that the series itself has been created; the way it realistically portrays these kids, and in particular, how different it is from the glossy American drama series that we are served on TV, focusing on rich teens who experience anything from arson to murders and all kinds of drama. SKAM is a lot more down to earth, even if it is situated around Norwegian teens from more well-off families, who seemingly only care about parties and Russefeiring. Regardless, it is real, it is intimate, and it ensnares and allures its audience by giving small drips of action throughout the weeks, as we are treated to several short clips that are compiled into a long episode on Friday night, but also real-time text messages, instagram and facebook updates by the characters themselves. It’s quite ingenious, and helps make the series extremely addictive – especially for anyone who’s looking for a good reason to procrastinate when they should be studying (Norway basically stopped functioning for the entirety of the period where William wasn’t answering Noora’s texts this spring).
Season two however, was the one that really convinced me that people were right concerning this show. The previous season dealt with more “typical” issues, like teenage angst and drama, and a pregnancy scare, but season two delves into sexual assault, and offers a very natural way to deal with the issue. SKAM doesn’t point fingers, but functions as a kind of older sister, or friend, giving advice and information in a way that is easily understood and remembered, and which was applauded by audiences as well as the Norwegian police.

With that said, despite that long-ass opening paragraph, this is not a blog post about SKAM. Or, yes it is, but not really.
Season 3 is what caused the massive rush of international viewers, and made the series rise to international fame and popularity, as we follow 17 year old Isak, who may or may not be homosexual. This season is massively important, but also ambiguous. I will get to this.
It’s been hinted at earlier in the series that Isak might be gay or bisexual, but the season doesn’t limit itself to the question of sexuality. Rather, it shows the context of the question. This season deals more specifically with the idea of identity, and being true to oneself. We are given small glimpses into feelings of displacement, uncertainty and despair, not all of which are connected to sexuality, but also to mental illness, divorce, religion and expectations from society and peers. It’s all interwoven together in a way that becomes very natural in the sense that the creators of the series aren’t attempting to over-explain or solve all the problems, but rather allow them to be presented, some of them to be explored more than others, and some of them to remain unresolved, but perhaps less pressing, very much like how we pick our battles and find our coping strategies in the real world.

The ambiguity then, lies in what I refer to as ‘the LGBT Conundrum’, and so, this post is sparked by a quick rant I wrote on Facebook somewhere mid-season, as I had just finished watching a particularly  jarring episode.
It is well known by anyone who has dedicated some time to watching and reading LGBT fiction, that in addition to non-heterosexual relationships being way underrepresented, there is also a distinct lack of not only happy, but also realistic stories of same-sex love. A typical trope is the tragic love story: often ending in death. Another trope is the ‘coming out of the closet’ or ‘will they or won’t they’. Here, the story typically focuses on a set of characters who seemingly are into each other, but struggle to convey it – in itself, not unrealistic, but the problem is that these stories (particularly in my field; BL), often end once the couple share their first kiss (or,  if we’re “lucky”, a night together). It seems that this type of representation presents the idea that once the hurdle of confession or outing is passed, that’s the end of all problems. Rarely do we get to see what comes next; the every day lives, the spats, the forehead kisses, the expired milk, the holidays.
There’s also the fetishization of female love in particular, where the relationship between two women seem to be more focused on the sex, than their relation, and very often seen from the male perspective. Increasingly, this type of fetishization is also becoming more visible in terms of objectifying male couples, not only in otakudom (BL has to take some blame for this I fear), but also in more mainstream circles, such as presented in the final episode of season 3, where a group of girls explicitly point out that they think it’s “cool” that Isak and Even are a couple, because “two boys are so cute together”.

LGBT characters are rarely cast as protagonists, and unless they are on their way out of the closet, they are often pushed aside, neutralized, or used for comic relief. In one episode of the series Queer as Folk, the flamboyant Emmett is informed by his friend that the reason he has been given a job as part of a newscast team, is because he is the type of ‘fun’ and effeminate gay man that makes him ‘acceptable’, because there is nothing sexual about him. We have a tendency of accepting the stereotypical gay man as a form of accessory; the BFF, the comic relief, the non-sexual character. The fetishization of the gay man is also very much present in this type of representation, as many seem to see him more as an accessory for a straight woman, than as an individual person/character. Making the gay man into a side-kick with a limp wrist and passion for shopping neutralizes the inherited perception of obscenity, and allow the audience to feel less threatened.
This is a representation that is as harmful as it is true; because let’s face it, gay people come in all shapes and sizes. Some are effeminate, others are masculine, some are monogamous, some aren’t, some are asexual, some are poly amorous, some raise families, some don’t, some have a straight, female bestie, others don’t. The damage comes in the form of the over representation of this type of character, which creates a stereotype that not everyone can associate themselves with, and in some cases creates a form of inherent homophobia – as presented in the masterfully performed scene between Isak and Eskild, where Isak is trying to explain that he’s not “that kind” of homosexual, while Eskild, clearly hurt by his words, is precisely “that kind”.

But I digress, the main focus here is that most of these tropes tend to be on the depressing side – I should know, the way all my writings concern boys who struggle, die and are subjected to scrutiny, bullying and self-inflicted suffering.
One reason why I think that this is such a common trope is because obviously, being young is never easy, and being different is always hard. In a world that is so very focused on heteronormativity , and consequently presenting LGBTQIA as some obscure ‘otherness’, it will be a struggle for a large portion of anyone not fitting into the mainstream mold. Homophobia, bullying, sexual assault, mental illness, discrimination and alienation are all factors that are all too common in the lives of LGBT youth and adults, so it’s only natural that these things become central in television and other fictional representations, where the main focus generally is on dramatic events and effects.
In the event that a story is “too happy”, it can be criticized for being unrealistic. The reason I started writing and publishing BL, aside from obviously loving the genre too much for words, was that I felt BL was all too black and white; often lacking in realism or overflowing with inherent and internalized homophobia, but finding a balance is difficult.
There is no such thing as a problem-free life, especially when existing within a society that is obsessed with an illusion of normalcy, so portraying someone’s life as rose-red will immediately be considered unrealistic.
Nobody lives a perfect life where they always get what they want, where they never get sucked into conflicts, or suffer heartbreak, or where nobody dislikes them, where they don’t lose anyone or where they have to see their dream job go off to someone else. But sometimes, that’s what we want to see. Sometimes we need to see that there are good things; that people fall in love, or that the dog survives, you know?

The conundrum therefore presented itself in season 3 of SKAM, by rearing its ugly head just as we thought that perhaps the main couple wouldn’t have to suffer any kind of conflict. Isak was conflicted enough, with his own identity, and how to break it to his parents, who are recently divorced and with a mother who seems not only zealously religious, but also struggling with mental illness.
When the conflict then bares its teeth, complicating Isak and Even’s relationship further by revealing Even’s own struggles as a person suffering from bipolar disorder, a lot of us got very worried. For several reasons.
As someone dealing with mental illness myself, I both worried about how this would be portrayed and dealt with in a season that has far fewer minutes a week than its predecessors, in addition to already having the issue of identity and coming out to deal with – as well as a huge disappointment that this had to happen now. I felt unnerved by the prospect of yet another tragic story where the creators felt the need to complicate something that is already difficult, by presenting another seemingly uncrossable obstacle. Silently, I was grumbling why can’t they be happy?!


I was also concerned because while I was glad to see them touching upon mental illness, which is something more and more people are becoming familiar with either through their own struggles, or through family, friends or loved ones struggling, I didn’t feel like this was something that necessarily would be given enough time or respect in this season. It felt overcrowded, and it was beginning to feel trope-ish.

The last few episodes of the season were touch and go for me, as I was terrified of which way they would take this story. On one hand, you just want Isak and Even to be happy, on the other, you want the show to be realistic; you want to see the creators respect the fact that bipolar disorder doesn’t magically go away, that even when you swear to be there for someone, it’s not always that easy in the longer run, and that struggling with your own identity and your relation to your parents isn’t necessarily something that can be conquered only once – but rather can be an ongoing battle. We didn’t want a quick-fix, but I don’t think anyone wanted to see the two of them part ways and be sad either. It’s a very difficult balance to maintain.

However, at the end, now having watched the final episode only moments ago (and then not posting this until two days later), I feel satisfied with how NRK’s production company chose to handle it.
When I wrote Jaded, I purposely left an open ending, some loose threads on purpose, because the boys and their relations to themselves and others were far too complex to be realistically tied up. I don’t allow Aki and Yuuki to define their relationship, because I can’t define it (yet). I can’t decide for them what their future is. And Isak tells Eva that he doesn’t know whether Even is The One, to the dismay of many romantics out there, and perhaps unnerving to those who really just want them to be together and happy. It might feel as a blow to their newly established relationship, that he is seemingly expressing doubt already, a way for him to brace himself for an impact that might very well come – but also a way to stay level-headed in a volatile situation and in a relationship that is ultimately, very new.
In a youth culture where the weighty words “I love you” (Norwegian; “Jeg elsker deg” which is the highest declaration of love, as compared to “Glad I deg” – which is also translated to ‘I love you’ but really means more like ‘I care for you’)  are said mere weeks or even days into the relationship, it’s an opposition, but also a more reflected and mature take on the difficulty that is human relation.
Ultimately, I would like to take my hat off for Julie Andem and the creators of SKAM, for yet another realistic and emotional rollercoaster-ride.  Through season 3, we have seen examples of self-doubt and uncertainty, wrestled with identities related to, but not confined by sexual orientation or status of mental health, and we’ve seen that even though it’s easier than before to be LGBT in Norway, it is still hard; sometimes on a personal level, sometimes due to external reasons. We’ve seen that ignorance often comes from curiosity, and that questions that often are interpreted as offensive, might actually be meant well but worded wrong, and yet again I find myself mentally apologizing to characters who prove me wrong as my judgementality is confronted (I’m sorry Magnus).

This isn’t a blog post about SKAM, but it is a post where SKAM shows us the ambiguity and difficulty of portraying subjective reality while at the same time making it relateable, and where the tropes are seen as more than tropes, but seemingly appear at their most basic level; where they come from, but without being allowed to define the season. The relatively open, yet content ending shows us that ultimately, we have been following two individuals who just happen to have fallen in love, despite the circumstances and context surrounding them, and creating ripples that aren’t necessarily positive, but reaffirm that nothing is one-dimensional. Hopefully, we will see more portrayals like these in the future, and the portrayal of same sex relations will be less tropey and more realistic and diverse.

(I’m lazy, so I haven’t proofread this text since writing it, sorry for any sloppy mistakes. Also, SKAM has been sold to the US, so watch the original version while you can.)

An ode to Gravitation

I just finished re-reading Gravitation, and I’m so full of feelings, I ended up sitting up all night writing this long-ass post.
[This post will contain spoilers if you haven’t read the Gravitation manga, so please steer clear if that’s the case.]

Raise your hand if Gravitation was your first BL!

Actually, I can’t testify that Gravitation was my first BL at all, for some reason my memory is a bit hazy on how and when I got into BL, or at least on what my first reads were…. I have a feeling it was mostly doujin and random one-shots first, but in any case Gravitation was the first BL I actually owned. And it was published in Norwegian at that. Can you imagine?
I remember stepping into a Narvesen (kiosk that sells mainly magazines and various lottery tickets) at the mall, and there it was, volume one. I nearly died. And the worst thing is that while the Norwegian translation might be…. Awkward, it actually suits the characters well. Maybe because they are all so crazy, and the Norwegian used in the translation is also kind of all over the place? I don’t know, it’s been ten years since I read them. Unfortunately the Norwegian serialization was discontinued when the publisher went bankrupt, and we were left at volume 6. So I had to get them all in English.

Anyway. From the very first moment, I was completely taken with this series. And this week, I re-read the twelve original volumes for the first time in years.
It’s funny. I have read hundreds of BL manga, both fluffy shonen-ai and hardcore yaoi since my first encounter with this series, and while there are so many things you could say about this series in comparison to other, perhaps better series (technically speaking)….I absolutely adore Gravitation till this day.

Sure, it is complete crack. Murakami-sensei, the mangaka spends every author’s note talking down herself, her art and her plots – she is well aware of the craziness and often the lack of consistency, and apologizes profusely to her adoring fans with each chapter.
The art changes constantly with each volume, and we find Shuichi, our protagonist to change from an awkwardly drawn young adult into a much better drawn, but somehow shota-ish creation, which is funny, considering Shuichi grows older over the span of the series, while his looks seem to be moving back in time..?

Gravitation_(manga)_vol01_Cover

Gravitation, Vol.1 (1996)

EX

Gravitation EX, Vol.1 (2004)

I think there are many people out there who absolutely abhor Gravitation, perhaps for all of the above reasons, and then there are those who look back and seemingly ridicule themselves about having had “a Gravitation phase”. This makes me sad. Maybe I’m biased but… There’s much more to Gravitation than meets the eye. And this post is going to be less of a review, and more of a reasoning to why I love this series so much.

Again, the author herself does admit to her own flaws and the flaws in her writing. And I have to admit, when I first returned to the series this week – I have watched the anime multiple times over the course of the last ten years, but the manga is better by far, I did have my doubts about whether I would still love it. It took a bit of time getting back into it, mostly because of Murakami-sensei’s erratic art style in the first few volumes, and how vastly different Gravitation is from most other manga in its genre. However, I have been squealing and laughing out loud to myself nightly as I’ve been reading, delighted to find that yup, it’s still got that immense charm that drew me into it all those years ago. Boys Kissing
I choose to label Gravitation as BL, but it could easily have been characterized a gag manga where the protagonists just happen to be two gay men – and maybe that is precisely where half the genius lies (Formally, Gravitation states to be comedy/shonen-ai).
I’m not saying that Gravitation doesn’t have a fling with the typical BL conflict “Omg we’re both men” , but out of all of the conflicts in the series, it is the one that matters the least.  Gravitation flirts with the idea of two guys getting it on right from the first chapter, where Shuichi and Hiro use it as a ploy to get out of chores at school, and it also plays on fujoshi-mentality and the attractive taboo of homosexuality in pop culture as a gimmick throughout the series, but as far as the relationship between Yuki and Shuichi goes? Their conflicts have deeper roots, although sometimes they are just flat out idiotic and hilarious.

HOMOS

There is no such thing as ‘no homo’ here.

Still, with all the BL I have read, and none of them even remotely close to Gravitation in silliness, this manga still stands out to me in the way it handles the issues at hand. Often the serious themes will be drowned out by such antics as people getting shot in the face (only to be perfectly fine two seconds later), a giant Panda demolishing New York City, or people getting kicked out of the house in the middle of the night for showing too many feelings—to mention a few, but it is still quite remarkable how this manga can tug at your heartstrings despite all of these things. The emotional trauma from Yuki’s past, and Shuichi’s desperation to break through to him runs as a recurring theme throughout, and grave seriousness often follows it regardless of how crazy the surrounding panels will get.

Panda

If I have to pick some favorite scenes from this series, there are a few that stand out and that get me every.single.time:

“When did I say that I rejected you because you’re a man?”
This slightly abbreviated line is spoken by Yuki in one of the earlier volumes, where he has tried to break it off with Shuichi, who gets the idea that Yuki has left him because he is a womanizer who can’t accept being in love with a man. In the anime, this is a very important line, as the storyline is significantly shorter and less complex, and thus seemingly deals a lot more with the typical conflict than its manga counterpart. In this scene, Yuki dismisses this overly cliched problem, and though it is vaguely touched upon a couple times more, he nips it in the bud here.

“Yuki is miiiiiiineeeee!”
This might be my favorite scene of all times. Shuichi’s impulse control completely falls apart as he is taken with violent jealousy upon seeing his beloved Yuki with his fiancée, Ayaka. So what does he do? He stops his own concert only to scream out his affection in a chock-full concert hall and cause a small riot in the crowd. Yuki’s response? A smile.
This scene is one of the many moments of pure honesty that makes me love these characters so much and at the same time, just crazy enough to make you laugh with glee every time.

Lovers“Yes, we are lovers.”
Again, slightly abbreviated and closer to the anime adaptation. But this is fairly self explanatory. While most BL is colored by the Japanese society and its archaic view on homosexuality, Gravitation’s characters never have any problem admitting that they are in fact, gay, at least not in the majority of the chapters. Early on, a young and confused Shuichi clearly states that he is into women, but that Yuki is special, but he soon changes his tune and screams at anyone willing to listen that he is in fact, gay.
Yuki on the other hand lives in denial of his own feelings due to his trauma, as well as to keep Shuichi at a distance (for the same reason), and that’s why this is so huge. Admitting you’re a couple on national television? How’s that for honesty.

I realize all three of these are scenes from the earlier part of the series, and that they are quite similar. I could go on, especially because there are some really emotional moments later on.
The fact that Gravitation so easily brushes off things that would commonly become huge issues in other BL stories (or shoujo for that matter), is incredibly refreshing.
There’s a scene in one of the last volumes, where Shuichi and Yuki get into an argument for no reason, because Yuki is embarrassed about having been honest about his feelings, where Shuichi shuts the whole argument down by simply stating that they keep getting into stupid fights because of so-and-so instead of beating around the bush and hoping that the other person will be a mind reader.

Complications

The darker side of Gravitation, dealing with emotional trauma, murder and rape can at first glance seem to be something that blows over quickly and is only thrown in by Murakami where she sees fit to create some drama, but are all recurring themes that help shape and explain the characters, and the scenes, albeit short and barely graphical are still immensely painful and well done.

It wouldn’t be entirely honest to say that Gravitation is progressive in terms of BL, I don’t think Murakami-sensei was trying to have any serious effect on society or people’s views when she wrote the story, but it deals with these themes in such an honest, straightforward and refreshing way, and I can only admire her for how she combines absolute hilarity with underlying seriousness. Although she continuously gripes about her terrible art in the comments, there are panels and illustrations, particularly of the characters when they’re on stage, or of Yuki, which are mind-bogglingly sexy.

on stage
And speaking of sexy, though Gravitation lacks in the sex department, and barely allows us to see a handful of kisses throughout the series, Murakami and her circle write their own doujinshi, with some of the most hardcore yaoi you will ever see. Some of it is disturbing, and some of it is completely “off its rockers” to quote K. And some of it, is even canon. Hiyoko mix is one of the recent releases, which elaborates on Yuki and Shuichi’s first time, which is everything you hoped for – and more than you bargained for, and slips right into the scene it was taking out of in volume 2, with the exception of the art which is vastly different.

But here’s the thing – Gravitation’s lack of sex is ultimately what lands it as being categorized as shonen-ai, and by all means, sex isnBodytalk’t necessarily what makes a BL manga (or any manga) good. However, if you’re like me, you want to see all aspects of the couple’s life together, and as most BL tends to be quite shallow and (on account of) being on a tight time line, you want to see the sex, and you want it to be hot. Often, BL without any physical developments in the relationship department gets tedious and boring, and you find yourself just waiting for something to happen. But even now, I don’t get that restless feeling with Gravitation. Of course, with its wild and over the top plotline, it could never get boring, but Yuki and Shuichi’s relationship alone is so challenging and complex, that the story works even without the sex. In fact, that seems to be the one thing that works out for them!

It’s not romantic in the traditional way, and yes, occasionally, Yuki might come across as your typical borderline abusive seme-character (not at all helped out by Murakami’s shotafication of Shuichi as her style changes, but keep in mind that Shuichi IS in fact 18+ throughout the series despite his looks), but somehow all the little

He said no

threads come together and explain his behavior nicely, without making excuses for him. Though there is a slight feeling of non-con about their first sexual encounter, Shuichi later dismisses this “fact”, something which is further confirmed in the Hiyoko doujin.
Yuki also really respects Shuichi, though he has a hard time voicing it – he is a spoiled brat who is used to getting anything he points at with just a bat of his eyes, but when Shuichi tells him he’s not coming back home with him – Yuki respects that, and leaves him alone although Shuichi’s really only fishing for an apology and some begging, and really does want to come with him.

Another thing worth mentioning here, is the existence of the (seemingly, I say seemingly because the character isn’t very clear on their own gender) transgendered character Yoshiki, whose role grows unexpectedly large over the latter course of the manga. Introducing such a character in a series that abuses its entire character gallery could be dangerous, and characters like Yoshiki are often bound to becoming one-dimensional, and ultimately the butt of the joke in gag manga. However, in the sense that Gravitation deals with anything tastefully, or fleshes out its random side-characters, Yoshiki’s gender, while causing some confusion (often deliberately, and much due to Murakami’s habit of using characters to push the plot along, even if it means altering them entirely) amongst the characters, doesn’t define them, but leaves that up to Yoshiki’s actions and involvement in the conflict at hand.
Again, maybe not progressive and revolutionary, but in this manga of crazy characters, Yoshiki doesn’t particularly stand out, and becomes one of the more normal characters in the series, as opposed to what they might have in other manga. Just worth noting.
Yoshiki
I think one of the things I love the most is how flawed these characters are, and how they not only work through it, but they talk these things out and they learn to deal with them, and it never feels like a quick-fix solution either, despite how haphazard much of this storyline is.
It’s also interesting to note that while Shuichi clearly possesses the looks of a typical uke-character (at least beyond the third volume), he is an immensely strong character. He cries easily, and he freaks out about tiny details, but he also holds it together when Yuki falls apart, and is willing to put his life on the line for the man he loves. He can be extremely dominant when needed – or when lust overcomes him (see Gravitation CD Dramas), at which point he will challenge Yuki for the top spot. But he also takes the lead of their relationship in other ways, not least romantically, confidently enticing Yuki both sexually, as well as in other matters where Yuki might not always seem to know how to deal with a situation.

AggressiveShu Shallowsolution

It’s not smut, or fluff, or slice of life, and it’s not pure comedy. Gravitation is unique.
In its genre, I don’t think there will ever be anything that can compare to this sentimental insanity.

I would like to say that I understand why people might dislike it but… I actually don’t. I’m far too biased I’m sure. But I am also of the firm belief that Murakami’s Gravitation has too much going for it for someone to dislike it entirely, in all aspects. And whenever the cliches or flaws sneak in, they’re easy to dismiss because of the humorous nature of the manga  – as mentioned earlier, Murakami utilizes her characters relentlessly to get her plot through, so it’s hard to take many of the twists particularly serious, which means it doesn’t kill the fun!

So yeah, I’ve written over 2500 words, and I’m not sure I’ve expressed everything I wanted to say. In fact, I could probably go on for another 2000 words to be honest. But it’s five in the morning.
Somehow, I ended up writing up some kind of defense here… I’m just overcome with feelings after having plunged into this universe once again, and feeling like it’s been so unfairly treated by so many people over the years.

Plus, if you’ve only watched the anime, you are really missing out. Not only in terms of plot development, but also on the characters and their true personalities.

Silly boyfriends

Silly boyfriends. Manga! Yuki is practically as crazy as his lover. And surprisingly dumb.

Please give it a read, it’s well worth it.
Ah, but stay away from its sequel: Gravitation EX. It’s absolutely gorgeous, but…..Somehow I doubt we will ever see the end of it, and as it stands right now, I am buried in a hole of depression, having fallen from the mother of all cliffhangers. ヽ(≧Д≦)ノ ウワァァン!!

Oh my god, I just keep adding to this draft, and now it’s nearly 3000 words, not to mention all the pictures…. Honestly, when picking out illustrations to this entry, I ended up using half the manga….. I just want to include everything, because it’s amazing, okay.
Somehow, I doubt I’ve shed any positive light on this schizophrenic piece of manga….. if anything, I think I’ve found my inner Murakami. (・ω・ )
But there it is, just a fraction of all the reasons why I will never stop loving Gravitation, and why you should read it too~

2014 Digest

Another year has passed, and much like I feared, I didn’t blog at all in 2014. I hope that wasn’t a resolution for the past year? Let’s say it wasn’t.

When I think of 2014 in retrospect, I tend to think that it was a very uneventful year, at least compared to 2013! My friends and I have many annual traditions, so it often seems like the most memorable things from the year that went, are usually the same every year. And yet very different.
It kind of feels like 2014 was half good old traditions, and half intense studying for so many exams, I can’t even remember anymore.
But when I look a little closer, it was much more than that. The latter part of 2014 in particular, came with some huge changes in my life.

Love Addict was released of course, long overdue, and with my heart trembling at the thought of sharing this (for now) last piece of the Jaded SNOW project with everyone. And, being what it was, I was extremely nervous about how people would take to this story in comparison to the first two.

As much as I’d love to, I can’t live on my writing alone, so I work on the side. In September, I suddenly had no time for writing (not that there had been much of that anyway, with all the exam preparations all year through), because I had to work full-time. And then in October it came to a very abrupt halt when my workplace was closed down.
November came with NaNoWriMo, and job hunting. By December, I had a new job, which doesn’t suit me at all, but is challenging and fun all the same.

The biggest change though, is something I can’t really say that I feel on my body, to use that term of expression; it’s not something that is visible, and I can’t say it’s changed me as a person. But, it’s changed my course in life.
On December 1st, I got my diploma. In Norwegian, that would be Vitnemål, which is loosely the same as a High School Diploma, but different.
This is something I haven’t talked about. It’s not that I’ve been ashamed – I’ve written before about bullying and personal illness which forced me to drop out of school at 17. At times, I’ve felt left behind, and the inferiority complex at watching my peers and even their younger siblings rise through upper secondary and university, while I remained in the same spot, has been gnawing at my mind, but at the same time I’ve known that there’s been a reason for why my life turned out the way it did. I’ve not been ashamed, but it’s been too personal to want to talk much about it .
And this journey towards actually completing school, has been a long, winding path, complete with fighting the bureaucracy and my own demons. It’s taken a very long time compared to what it should have, and all along I’ve been terrified to tell anyone what I was doing, because if I failed, I felt like things would get so much worse.
In a society where everyone wants you to be perfect, and where everyone expects you to follow a certain path, it’s not accepted to fall behind the way I did, and I’ve had a lot of condescending comments from ignorant people along the way.

But you know, I did it. In my own way, by my own terms and in my own time.
Although people tell me that “someone as clever as you should’ve done that long ago” or “You’re so clever! You should go onto studying at university!”, it irks me that they’ve chosen not to look past the image of me being clever – yes, I am, but there are underlying factors, and reasons to why this has taken so long. And you know what? Although I wish I could’ve been finished earlier, I don’t regret a single thing, even though falling behind wasn’t a conscious choice I made. In the meantime, I have done so many things that I know I wouldn’t have done otherwise. I’ve published three novels, I’ve learned a language, I’ve developed in all kinds of ways.
Regret changes nothing. And the reason I wanted to write this long-ass ramble, was that I know many of you are struggling with various things, and feeling like you’re not good enough, or not doing things right – and that is not true.
Three years ago, I never thought I’d get a diploma. Five years ago, I didn’t want one. I’d given up, and settled on my future as a “failure”.
This is me telling you that sometimes you have to take the long way around, and nobody can tell you that that’s wrong!

I don’t feel any different really. But knowing that I completed that step in my life – that feels good. And I’m very proud of myself. So that’s probably the most important thing that’s happened in 2014!

I also experienced loss this year. My wonderful bunny passed away. I’d had him for almost nine years, more or less since the day he was born, so that was a huge blow, and incredibly difficult, not only for me, but for everyone who knew and loved him. Being a rabbit who loved everyone, there were a lot of people who were saddened by it.
Although I wasn’t planning on it, I ended up adopting a new bunny a while later, and teeny little Seira became a member of ours household.

Much like last year, I also kept a Jar of Lovely Things again in 2014, and though I slacked off and probably forgot to add a bunch of things over the course of the year, I stacked up on some wonderful memories!
The lovely things in the jar range from bacon to fangirling to huge turning points in life.
Some (very random) extracts from 2014 include, in no particular order:

Lovely things 14

Turns out 2014 was pretty eventful after all, and full of new experiences. Most of them were good ones. I already have great plans for 2015, so bring it on!

Thanks for sticking with me for this past year. I hope for your support again in 2015~
Happy New Year everyone! ♡