It's one thing to have that sort of ritual with friends you've seen in school every day for the whole year. It's just one more evening you get to spend with them. Another thing is to spend it with those same people after not having seen some of them at all. My female best friend now lives and studies in the UK, one of my best friends has been jetting around the globe modelling, another has spent the better part of this year in the US. Some are simply busy with studies and their lives around them and don't have as much time as they used to. It's all part of growing up. All the more reason to realize how much it's worth to have this evening with all of them, no matter where or how they spent the year. For that evening we're together.
It's become a running gag that I get quite nostalgic around that time and that I like to talk about the year in review, tell them about my year. They're on to something there and I always let it go because I didn't want to force them to listen. I want them to enjoy their time with everybody in one place. This year I will insist on telling them about my 2014 - the year that made all the others seem like a joke.
The year began like all the others before. I woke up on January 1st with a headache and an empty bottle of whiskey not far away, in the midst of all the others waking up to the same hangover. I went home and I felt alone. I hated who I was, what I was doing with my life and the fact that I had no idea, no clue whatsoever, what I would rather be doing with it. 2013 had been the year that I lost to a terrible military service schedule, causing me to work terribly paid, annoying jobs for half a year before I could finally start military service, without which I wasn't able to begin studying.
I went home on January 1st and I knew that three more months of those exact same jobs were waiting for me before I could finally start law school. Why law school? I'm smart. I am extremely empathetic. I thought: why not combine those two, and my love for winning arguments, and turn it into a job? Human rights, international politics. That's what I had my eyes on.
A few months later left me hating every minute I'd spent there. Law school in Vienna is the most overrun place in the world. Every test is designed to kick you out. Every lesson is designed to make you want to leave. 2500 new students every semester, 75% of which fail the very first exam. 75% of those that make it through the first exam fail the second one. And then the easy exams are done.
I barely missed out on passing the first exam. I could have taken it a few weeks later and passed it easily, I know that. But even before I wrote it, I'd decided that I would quit law school. I don't want to study in that kind of environment. So I'd just wasted another half a year, on top of the year I'd already been forced to throw away. I was 20 now and I was exactly where I'd already been two years ago.
In the middle of my first semester at law school, my family broke apart. Mother and father now live separated, I lost track of what family members are currently not talking to what other family members. Law school in Vienna was free, the school I had in mind going to wasn't. Due to the family conflict, there is not enough money in the family to pay for it. Not only was I going to be stuck living with either my mom or my dad, with no foreseeable way out for the next few year, I also was going to have to work while studying just to stay afloat at all.
The only thing that kept me going was the support my friends gave me. No matter where they were or what they were doing, they were always there for me. One night, after having a beer with my best mate (and spending literally my last cent on it), I was attacked on the street. I remember everything that happened clear as day.
Someone was walking in front of me, I didn't pay attention to him. People walk in front of you. Then someone walked up from behind me and asked if I had a cigarette for him. I said no, didn't stop walking. He said that sucks, he'd had a terrible day, his leg was hurting. I asked him if something had happened. A second later I got knocked out from behind. The guy walking in front of me turned around and kicked me in the face when I tried to get up. They kicked me and hit me for minutes, only in the head. Only when I was unconscious did they start searching me and took everything I had on me. I hadn't known any of them.
I was able to drag myself to the next police station, my whole body covered in blood. They called an ambulance. There we were, rock bottom. After everything I'd been through, the world felt like I needed physical pain on top of it, you know, to rub it in. When I woke up the next day, the doctor told me that they had to tell me to stop making jokes about my injuries because the wounds were opening up again from me laughing. I don't remember anything about it. Needless to say I didn't die, even though I thought I would. I recovered. I still have three scars from that incident. They were never caught.
At this point you're probably feeling sorry for me. Don't. It was the best year of my life.
I'm still alone, but the battering I received this year taught me how to live with myself. I'd hated the idea of spending time alone, wasting away on my own. I was forced to this year and I found my mind the most calming place to be. As cheesy as that sounds, my mind was the most peaceful and quiet place there was for me. Nobody fighting around me, no constant stress, nothing. Me and my thoughts, nobody else.
Somewhere in there I found answers that I'd been lacking. I realized that what I enjoyed doing the most was what I did for TL. I started thinking that I could apply for a journalism school and make money doing this, or something similar. A big problem for me has always been that I'm interested in everything, and I'm usually quite talented at everything I put my focus on, but that I had no idea what the ONE thing was that I was supposed to focus on for the rest of my life. Journalism is an option that allows me to focus on a huge number of topics.
One thing that's extremely important to get into this journalism school is experience. They want you to have done something like this before, or have done anything involving media content production, etc. Well. One of those annoying jobs I worked in 2013 was for a local newspaper. This year I was invited by MSI to fly out to Taiwan and cover their event. Then I went to HSC X and met the CEO of TeamLiquid, the website I've been writing (and am now running my own team!) for the last two years or so.
I think that what the TL writing staff did this year, after Waxangel stepped down, is remarkable. Lichter, Zealously and me stepped in on semi-short notice and I think we did an awesome job with what we had. The other staff around us, especially Stacey (shiroiusagi) and Annie (Meru) made life as easy as possible for us. I feel like, especially for Blizzcon, we put out some of the best content in ESPORTS. We're always looking to improve but I have no issue at all saying this as it is.
Not only were all these amazing experiences, and I still lack the words to describe how amazing my time in Taiwan was, or the amazing people I had to pleasure of meeting at both MSI and HSC, but they will also contribute to my life in other ways. Things are coming together and that's a feeling I haven't enjoyed in a while.
I went to HSC with two people from the SQRL Gaming community, a clan I joined sometime in 2013. I was just looking for anything that forced me to actually play SC2 instead of only writing about it. Instead I stumbled into a group of friends who enjoy playing games, making jokes and having a good time together even though most of them have never met each other. I wouldn't even have been able to go to HSC without Jamie "Genesis" Skinner. Meeting him and JoeBarnes (whose name isn't actually Joe) in person was awesome and put the cherry on a wonderful event.
As far as my love life goes, well... I just hope lichter and Zealously don't keep tabs on everything I tell them. But that's the least of my worries.
I'm finally happy with myself. Not satisfied, but happy with where I'm going. And the few scars I had to obtain to get here were all worth it. So to all of you: thank you. You're all part of what helped me get here.