2015 Year in Review

With two days remaining of 2015, I’m looking back on the crazy year that was. I’ve said many times that experiences are precious to creators and that it is important that we reflect on and remember them. For me, the experiences of 2015 have been substantial and significant.

My year started with a promise of organisation. I bought a leather-bound diary to replace the calendar on my phone, and I used it every day. Writing my plans and to-do lists on paper made me feel more organised somehow, and it helped me keep track of all my due dates and work hours. I did not miss a single deadline this year.

I started a new job in January, in addition to working the retail job in a grocery store that I had kept for four years. My new job was in an office at the University of the Sunshine Coast, doing outbound calling to new students or current at-risk students, providing them with proactive assistance with university life. We received an award for our service to the university community in November.

In April, I graduated with a Bachelor of Education (Secondary) and Bachelor of Arts (English, SoSE), which took me four years to obtain. After writing thousands of words and teaching for hundreds of hours, I finally received two testamurs and a faculty commendation for academic excellence. I was ecstatic.

But, I had already commenced the next step in my academic journey. I was accepted in a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) program in February, and was then accepted into a Master of Creative Arts (Creative Writing) program in April. I terminated my place in honours, instead pursuing my master’s, which I am still enrolled in and enjoying immensely.

Also in April, I quit my job in retail. Though I was not consistently being given enough hours at the university to survive, I was also tutoring and was occasionally being paid for my writing, so I decided I’d had enough of selling people milk and bread. I never regretted that decision and quitting had an immediately positive effect on my mental health.

In 2015, I submitted my writing to a lot of places and had a many of those pieces published. In fact, I submitted one article or story per fortnight, on average. My work found a home at Needle in the Hay, Media for Misfits, MDP Web, Offbeat Bride, the Lane of Unusual Traders by Tiny Owl Workshop, and the University of the Sunshine Coast Journal of Arts and Business. After my work was accepted for USC JAB, I became their chief editor and edited the most recent edition of the journal.

I also broadened my writing horizons this year, finally becoming serious about writing for and about videogames. I worked on some contract writing and editing projects for upcoming videogames at the beginning of the year. I had articles and reviews published at PlayWrite, PC and Tech Authority, and Impulse Gamer, and I became an editor of PW and a regular contributor for IG.

On the back of that success, I attended three gaming and nerd culture conventions this year: EB Expo in Sydney, PAX Australia in Melbourne, and Epic Diem on the Sunshine Coast. I went to EB Expo with a press pass, which allowed me to attend my first ever press evening and to stand in the VIP queues during the exhibition. At PAX Aus, I was on two panels: ‘Rocket League: Community Building in Competitive Games’ and ‘Sick Heroes: Exploring Representations of Illness in Games’. I had some serious imposter syndrome sitting across from amazing, qualified people with incredibly clever ideas, but I somehow made it through both panels and I feel like a much stronger person for it. At Epic Diem I sat on a panel called ‘Redefining Games: Prepare for Unforeseen Consequences’ which also featured Steven O’Donnell—also known as TV’s Bajo—and yet my imposter syndrome was almost entirely gone.

As a result of all of this, I played more videogames this year than ever before. I actually feel as though I played broadly enough to have opinions and discussions about the best games of the year for the first time. Although I certainly didn’t play everything, and there are some significant titles that I still haven’t experienced enough of yet—like Rise of the Tomb Raider and Undertale, for instance—I certainly played more comprehensively this year than ever before. I would like to give honourable mentions to the following:

But my game of the year for 2015 is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. I lost myself in this beautiful, vibrant world, and it inspired my first paid article about videogames, so it holds a special place in my heart.

If I haven’t spoken enough about videogames, I also dabbled in videogame design and development for the first time this year. I released a number of videogames and participated in my first game jam (and then my second). I learnt basic Javascript, basic C#, and played with a lot of game development engines, including Unity. I am excited to bring my passion for writing and creating to a new medium.

Inbetween these gaming conventions, I had my confirmation for my Master of Creative Arts (Creative Writing). I stood in front of an audience and spoke about my research project, I answered difficult questions about the ongoing nature of my research, and I spoke to a panel of supervisors and reviewers about why I am deserving of their further support. It was the most difficult task of my academic career, and I am proud to say I was confirmed without revisions.

In November, I travelled overseas for the first time. I visited Japan for two weeks, and they were two of the most intense weeks I have ever experienced. The culture shock was strange and the feeling of not quite belonging was overwhelming at times, but Japan was so beautiful and exciting that it was all completely worthwhile. I learnt to enjoy rice, to navigate the Japanese subway and railway lines (sort of), to communicate with people who didn’t speak English, and to see the world in a slightly different way. I recorded the lessons I learnt in articles and short prose.

I returned home to a new job at the university, answering student queries through inbound calls and emails. Although it required similar skills to the position I started in January, I was finally being given enough hours to survive, while still being able to focus on study, writing, editing, tutoring, and all of the other things that make my life varied and exciting.

I look at where I am now compared to where I was this time last year—working too many hours over the Christmas period in a retail job I did not enjoy, waiting to hear about whether I would be welcomed into an honours program and never truly believing I could also receive an offer for master’s—and I feel completely amazed at what I have achieved in twelve short months. Though there were plenty of overwhelming, anxiety-inducing moments this year, some awful moments in my personal life, some lost friendships, and too many tears, 2015 has been—overall—the most influential and significant year of my life.

So far.