The Summer of Jos: Reflections

At the outset of May, I declared to my friends and family that the Summer of 2015 was to be the Summer of Jos. A confluence of truly unique circumstances have allowed me to do something that I have not been able or willing to do since I was in my mid-teens: to live in the present.

For the first time since Grade 8, I’m not losing sleep about an uncertain future. I’m here, in the moment of where I am, using this time to take stock of the incredible, almost unbelievable series of events that have influenced my life, to reconnect with parts of myself with which I’d become somewhat estranged, and gain some new insight as to who I am and what makes me that person.

I’m going to share some of those reflections.

Four years ago, I began reading Homestuck, a webcomic story whose current length (>1.2 million words) is estimated to be longer than every novel ever written save one. For four years, I have steadfastly read every new page as soon as it was available to me. For four years, this story has been single-handedly sustaining my not-so-inner fangirl.

Also four years ago, I stood on the precipice of the single largest and most significant change in my life. I know that young people tend to overemphasize the importance of the things that happen to them relative to what happens to them for the remainder of their lives, but I think that the benefit of hindsight allows me to be justified in such an appraisal. In all but the most literal ways, the summer of 2011 shaped whom I was, whom I would become, and whom I would continue to be. It was at this time that I made the choice that would allow me to take agency in my life, rather than simply be carried along for the ride.

The four years since have been, without question, the most transformative years of my life. And through the whirlwind of all of those changes, for the first time in a long time it feels as though the end is in sight. Fittingly, for the first time in a long time, it feels as if the end of Homestuck is finally looming on the horizon.

Homestuck is, in many ways, a coming-of-age story about finding one’s place and becoming the person you’re meant to be. How appropriate, then, that the story has been a constant companion for me as I’ve been finding my place and becoming the person I was meant to be. I look forward to the resolution, look forward to seeing how it all works out, for both Homestuck and for myself. And when it’s finally over, it will feel like a bittersweet goodbye to a friend that helped me through the most trying times of my life.

A counselor I was seeing at the University recently told me that it was evident to her that I was a generally happy person. This surprised me, because for the bulk of my life people have always been telling me that I seem sad, that I have unresolved anger, that I’m really anything but happy. But, taking inventory of myself and all that I’ve done, I can see that she’s right. And this is the ultimate result of this transformative time in my life; I’ve become happy. Truly, honestly, unreservedly happy, and at peace with myself.

Not that it’s all been positive, of course. Finding confidence and conviction in my beliefs has brought about something wholly unexpected, but in retrospect, fully inevitable: I’ve made enemies. Back in my days of trying to be aggressively inoffensive, the idea of people actually having it in for me seemed….improbable.  I have never been universally liked, of course, but the people who didn’t like me never really moved beyond a passive, “eh” sort of attitude. Not so anymore; this past year I learned the truth of that old Churchill quote, how having enemies means that at one point in your life, you stood for something. People I once called friend have chosen to no longer speak with me, and complete strangers whom I’ve never met in person have expended considerable effort to my professional and academic sabotage. And still I find myself facing situations where I feel I must choose between a friend and a desire to stand up for what I believe in. In the past, I’d have almost universally chosen friend. Now, the choice is less obvious.

In the wake of it all, however, I’ve also found new friends, strengthened existing relationships, and found support and compassion in places both likely and unlikely. Seasons change, times change, and I change. And as I change, I find that people willing to help me are in no short supply. 

The summer’s not over yet. There is still plenty of time remaining to explore, to discover, and to embrace the present. Thank you, dear reader, for sharing this journey with me in your own way.