Staying Motivated – Documenting Growth

One of the things I think is both really good but also sometimes bad about the internet as a set of technologies, is that it never forgets. This can be bad (a lot of people make a lot of mistakes they regret as they get older and I think we still haven’t fully grappled with what that means for the current youngest adults, who’ve only ever lived in a world with constant digital presence) but I think there is, at least for someone on the older scale of young like myself, something really good about that.

A lot of my self-improvement and growth is on the internet. Not all of it, but a lot of it. I deleted my original Facebook account, but I still have the archive of that data which I can open and view easily to follow my journey as a person. My personal Twitter is the original, and I have a myriad of accounts for different projects I started and (mostly) stopped up still as archives of the ways in which I used to try really, really hard to promote myself. I have my original Instagram, started…almost exactly one month before I broke up with my ex-fiancee and girlfriend of almost 8 years, and boy is that an interesting timeline to follow (my first post was me buying my first Scotch, of all things!).

I sort-of joked about this as part of my creative endeavors in my last post, because I have a lot of very-old videos on multiple channels that show a clear path of who I am as a person and show changes over time. Of course, I wouldn’t say most audiences would see that, because that’s largely personal and I know why my voice inflection and intonation changes or what it is that causes me to approach things differently in discussions with my friends on our joint channel, as an example. But I can see it and follow it. That can even be true across media as well!

One of the things I linked as a sort-of punchline in that last post was the first video project I ever uploaded with proper voiceover intended for recording and viewing by others. It was me at what I would describe as my worst – successful enough at work to be slothful and directionless, beaten down by a relationship going nowhere (5 months after that video, I discovered that my girlfriend at the time was seeing another man behind my back and it led to a lot of friction, a proposal, and a 60-days before wedding bells breakup), physically meh (I would have my first of 4 shoulder dislocations 3 months later and I was as heavy as I ever had been), and just sort of generally off. All that was really exciting to me was World of Warcraft, so much so that I found a Cataclysm alpha installer and instructions on how to self-host a dummy world in the game with no scripting, NPCs, or other stuff that required the server code so I could just fly around in the world post-Cataclysm. That excitement made me just want to share it, so I did.

At the same time, I decided to do more – I had it in my mind that I could do YouTube, but I hadn’t been made aware of Let’s Plays yet nor would I have been an interesting person to follow then. But it was enough for me to do at least a video or two, of my guild at that time finally breaking through to and clearing the Lich King fight in Icecrown Citadel, right at the tail end of Wrath of the Lich King.

This video is so nostalgic for me in so many ways. It has my current guild leader as a raider, but this was right on the cusp of us founding the guild. It was a point where I had a good PC and felt like I could handle a FRAPS recording with decent quality and the subsequent render for YouTube. It has me at my WoW zenith, playing priest, doing big heals, just unquestionably happy with the game. It was really fun and was a light for me at that time.

I gave up on videos for a few years, but then I came back with a vengeance after PAX East 2013, another project I started about a month before my big breakup, haha. I made a daily upload schedule work around a full time job and long commute, which often meant recording and starting a render after dinner and having little time to actually play games. There’s not much of that era to even share (it lasted like a month!) but I made exactly 1 Let’s Play video and did a lot of talking head videos in my overly hot office with my overly pink face.

What’s funny to me about these, and why they hold value, is that I can follow them personally and see where things changed and understand what happened to me at that point in time. They all tie in to these moments in my life, and even without having direct documentation, I remember a lot about this stuff. I know I started this channel because PAX East that year was so cool (a couple of my friends were buddies with Nikasaur when she was at Riot, so we spent our last night out drinking with her, hanging out with Robert Khoo from Penny Arcade and a bunch of Riot developers) and that my career in software support and crumbling relationship made me feel a desire to start something new – and a YouTube channel seemed like a better idea than quitting my job or my relationship, although by the end of that year both were out anyways.

In WoW, it’s really funny because through my 3 YouTube channels (the two old ones I’ve provided videos from here and the one under Kaylriene I haven’t used in like 3 years) and the course of this blog, I can recall a lot of moments in my gameplay very specifically. One thing I really enjoy is the documentation of my Mage Tower conquest, from the early days of “eh, just my Demon Hunter, maybe my old raid main priest and monk after” to the damn near obsessive “I unlocked 5 appearances this time the tower was up, 18 to go” point where it felt like I could reasonably do it and started knocking them over in chunks. My raid writeups do a lot to remind me of my progression and that middle ground quality – I often remember raids and content I hated and stuff I loved, but there’s a lot of that middle in WoW where it doesn’t stand out in any real major way and having that documented is cool.

Outside of these personal anecdotes though, I think something that is personally motivating for me is tracking my growth as a person.

Now, I write a blog about games, so most of you probably don’t have that insight from my posts, and that is probably for the best. But I can see it – my early voice and the process of developing that was so hard for me because it was a step outside of my comfort zone. I had to put myself out there, figure out what I wanted to say, think about why someone would want to read it, and then act on that and refine my approach based on the data I got back. A lot of the reason my first year started with guide posts and dumb-guy theorycrafting is because I was not confident in myself as a writer, certainly not enough to throw out my own hot takes and observations. I always used a lot of “I think” and “perhaps for some” to couch most of my writing in the most bland descriptions for fear of being irritating or sharing an unpopular opinion. Eventually, I outgrew that obsequious mindset and started writing for myself, and I can see that readily in my posts and a big part of why I enjoy writing as I do is because I feel that openness I’ve created for myself. That is a journey I can see at a quick glance, and it reflects on every level – viewership, number of posts published in a given period, and more.

In a lot of ways, I get a fair amount of value out of that. Because for me personally, I like to look back sometimes, to reflect on and understand the ways I got to a given outcome in my life. In some aspects of my life, I don’t document because that reflection is painful. But in gaming, in writing, and my confidence in the latter – I enjoy being able to follow the journey.

Also, I really enjoy being able to roast 2010-me’s WoW UI, because it is so, so bad. What the fuck was I thinking? (The action bar layouts are made to the shape of the Logitech G13, but the rest…I can’t even say what made me go with those decisions!)

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One thought on “Staying Motivated – Documenting Growth

  1. I also like going back and seeing how I’ve changed over the years by going through old blog posts. Often I’ve actually changed less than I thought, but there are definitely cases where I’m like “yeah, I’m over that sort of thing”.

    I’m also on what you could call the older side of young (I like that phrase) and one thing I’ve noticed recently is that it’s quite weird what has been documented online about me and what hasn’t. For example Google Photos keeps reminding me of “this day, ten years ago” kind of things from a period when I took a lot of photos. In recent years I haven’t been doing that as much, so it creates this weirdly warped view of where certain years matter more and I can remember them better due to the constant reminders even though they may not actually have been that memorable per se… likewise, my blogging means I have a pretty thorough record of what I’ve been doing in MMOs over the last ten years, but recalling details about certain real life events that happened in the same period is a lot more fuzzy…

    Liked by 1 person

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