Hey – travelling is an investment. An investment in me. Me running wild in anime shops and konbinis. God, I swear I’ll die over there.

I decided to go back to Japan in 2018. What better way to celebrate my mediocre time back home than by splurging on a holiday I’m not sure I can actually afford. Like, no one should ever hire me because I don’t know how to be responsible with money. (What will happen to my alternate universe first-born when I can’t even buy him new clothes that fit). Picture this commercial:







And there you have it. I fell for that. An ad made by me, in my head.

But it’s exactly because I have been feeling low that I need to go. And, as I’ve said before, I don’t think travelling will cure me, definitely not, that’s not where I’m coming from. What will help me on the way though, is a challenge. I learned a lot about myself the last time I travelled alone, and not all of those were good things.

I learned that I have a long way to go when it comes to dealing with my anxiety. And I know that sounds ridiculous, right, because I was on the other side of the planet, by myself, and I managed. But what I didn’t boast about were the hours I’d walk through crowded markets, starving because I was too scared to walk up to a stand. I didn’t mention all the times I stared longingly at the sea, too hesitant to get in the water. I didn’t share the (cue the TMI) fact that I was constipated for a month because my body literally couldn’t use the bathrooms.

And the truth is, while the week I spent in Tokyo was beyond my most absurd fantasies, I mean it was amazing in every way you can imagine the use of the word, it was also the loneliest. Like, I’d sit in my hostel bed, pull the curtain for privacy and watch anime for entire evenings instead of going out, because I didn’t know what more I could do than visit museums and shops and just spend money. I felt so lonely, even though Japan is the greatest country in the world (obviously a hyperbole; it has come to my attention that people think I’m being serious – and probably a tad delirious – when I proclaim I’ve met celebrities and actually just saw someone who looked like them on the bus or talked to someone who works at the local theatre).

But despite all that, despite the solitude and the homesickness (after six weeks backpacking I was definitely ready to go home – chicken), Tokyo is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. And I’ve spent every day since then dreaming of my return. Dreaming of going back to Japan.

And I am. I managed to snatch flight tickets to Tokyo during a January sale, and will be going for four weeks from July to August later this year. Four whole weeks. As to what I’ll be doing over there (or how I’ll even pay for it), I have absolutely no idea. I guess I’ll sort that out later.

/Eren out.

Books I Read in 2017

Like I do a film blog series, I figured I might as well do the same for books, especially since I’ve been reading a lot in the past few years. I love books, I think they’re great, and I’d love for more people to love books as much as I do, so I’ll be sharing some of my favourites, as well as less favourites, with you guys today. So here it is for the first time, books I read in twenty-seventeen! (Note: I will only include published literature on this list! No manga or fanfiction, though I’ve read my fair share of those too. Will probably to a similar anime/manga series on my anime blog.)

1984 (George Orwell, 1949)

Loved it. Some deep dystopian shit. I finally understand why the TV show Big Brother was called “Big Brother”. Great book. 9/10

White Fang (Jack London, 1906)

I’ve always wanted to read some Jack London and finally I got around to it. I liked this book, but I get the feeling I should stay away from animal tales because I cannot stand to hear about animals getting hurt, abused, or dying, even fictional ones. I’ll definitely check out The Call of the Wild when I have the time though. 7/10

Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell, yep that really is her pen name, 2013)

Not a bad book, per se. I liked it, though I found it a tad immature for my taste. I get the feeling the author wanted to take away some of the stigma surrounding slash fiction with this one, but in doing it so innocently, what we have here is not really a book about slash fiction at all. It is bland at times, too. 6/10

Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn, 2012)

I was completely on board with this book. Until the very last chapter. Really. Thriller/crime books aren’t quite my cup of tea, but my very dear Author-sama recommended this writer to me, which was why I gave it a go. I’m sad to say it is generic and doesn’t offer that sense of arc completion – perhaps I would’ve liked it better with a different ending. 6/10

Mindspeak (Heather Sunseri, 2013)

I was kind of into this book until I realised that by the end of it, less than a month had passed, which really turned me off the story. Insta-romance is rarely a good thing. This book suffers from a few severe cases of gender discrimination, despite its best efforts not to, as well as a very, very questionable romantic interest. I dropped the sequel halfway through because the plot stopped making sense. 5.5/10

One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1967)

I’ve been a fan of Marquez for years, but magic realism is not my thing. I liked the book, but thank god I opted for the audio book version over making my way through the thing myself. It is long and complicated. While I was definitely interested in it, in the characters, in the world, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what I got out of this book. 6/10

The One Memory of Flora Banks (Emily Barr, 2017)

I enjoyed this book greatly. The language is simple, almost too much so, but it has to be that way because the narrator is simple. Or, well, she has the vocabulary of a ten-year old, but shallow is not what I meant. Lovely coming of age story about a girl who can’t remember anything. I was so into the book I started suffering from short term memory loss during this read. 8/10

The Problem with Forever (Jennifer Armentrout, 2016)

With this, I realised it’s time for me to move beyond traditional YA. While there are great books in the genre, I really am getting too old for it. This book is, unfortunately, forgettable and bland, much like my own first attempt at writing for teenagers; the art is not an easy feat. So I’ll be more picky in the future, but I still wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone. 5/10

We Were Liars (E. Lockhart, 2014)

I could not put this book down. It’s not a massive read, but I finished it in two days straight because I adore the style in this one. It’s so cleverly written, so carefully weaved together so that you get the feeling something’s off, but will still be surprised when you reach the end of the it. Then there’s the poetic narrative and the impressive use of images to describe feelings otherwise inexplainable. Hats off to this one. 10/10

Honourable mentions: Robinson Crusoe (ugh), The Time Machine, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (remind me never to pick up a Verne book again Thank You Very Much), a few screenplays, and some manga. Lots of manga.

Twenty-seventeen: A “Reflection”

Preface: My only resolution for this year is to eat more fat. And no, that’s not some poor attempt at tricking myself into eating less because who ever follows through on resolutions anyway – I honestly just need to eat more.

It’s that time of year again. Or it was, but had I posted the first draft, or the second, or the third, all of which I binned, I feel like I would have started the year off on the wrong foot. Let me see if I can gather everything I want to say onto one page alone.

Twenty-seventeen was an utterly forgettable year. And perhaps the problem lies with me, because I cannot, no matter how I try, remember what I learned since last Christmas. I do remember thinking, “I’ve never been this happy,” back when I was still in London, back when I was so, so free.But twenty-seventeen was a year of regret too. And I hate regret, hate the concept of regretting, thinking there was always some part of me that wanted to take whatever action I took at the time. And I do regret.

I regret not taking that job in London. I regret not applying for classes at my local university. I regret months and months of procrastination, of not doing anything. I regret not eating enough. I regret learning how to use a semi-colon. I regret not going to that party. I regret going to another. I regret not being honest with that person when I had the opportunity to be. I regret going home that night. I regret getting drunk when I should have gone home. I regret kissing that boy. I regret spending money and I regret not spending enough. I regret and regret and regret.

And honestly, I don’t know what I’m left with. I graduated from university six months ago, and to be honest, that’s scary. Being out of uni is scary. Having bills is scary. Applying for jobs, sending out emails, and going to interviews, is scary. Talking on the phone is scary. Not understanding taxes is scary. Not having money is scary. Living at home is scary. Trying to make friends, conversing with strangers, opening up, is scary. Dating is scary. Being an adult is scary and I am scared.But the last thing I want to do is end this post on a low note. So here goes all.

I don’t know who I was in twenty-seventeen. I remember a girl with endless enthusiasm, a girl who couldn’t stop laughing and couldn’t sit still, a girl who hated weekends because no one was around, and a girl who’d do anything to write.

I don’t recognise that girl, and that is scary, because I thought this exact phrase to myself: I’ve never been this happy.

And I want her back. I need that back. I will have that back.

As for me in twenty-eighteen? I think I’ll start with blank paper.

Films I watched in 2017: Anime Edition

Twenty-seventeen has been a good year for watching movies, especially animated ones. Thanks to big hits like Your Name and Koe no Katachi, anime has gotten some of that limelight recently, and I had the opportunity to watch both old classics and newer titles at home and in the cinema. Here are the best and the worst best I’ve seen so far.

Akira (K. Otomo, 1982)

Akira is great. A bit long, but man, it still looks gorgeous, thirty-five years after its initial release. Definitely worth the watch. 8/10

Ghost in the Shell (M. Oshii, 1996)

The original Ghost in the Shell is a very good movie. I saw it in the cinema and was fascinated by the artistic atmosphere. It’s not a film I’ll watch again anytime soon, but it is incredibly well-made. 8/10

Hal/Haru (R. Makihara, 2013)

As much as I like sci-fi, especially when the sci takes a backseat to allow for romance, this film was a bit boring. It looks gorgeous, but in terms of action, it is rather lacking. Cute, but nothing too memorable. 6/10

Kokoro ga Sakebitagatterunda (T. Nagai, 2015)

Whoever came up with anime musicals were a genius, and I love this movie. It tells a heartwarming -breaking tale of a young girl who struggles to communicate her feelings, and it is truly gutting to watch. It’s a coming-of-age narrative and perfectly captures the awkwardness of being a teenager. 9/10

Only Yesterday (I. Takahata, 1991)

It’s difficult to get behind the art style in this one; it doesn’t always look as good. The story is sweet, but it’s hard to tell what connects the two time periods that are presented in it. I prefer the arc where the protagonist is a little girl, would’ve have liked that to be a movie on its own. Again, not a bad film, but it will be a long time before I watch it again. 6/10

Princess Mononoke (H. Miyazaki, 1997)

This was easily the best movie out of the bunch. Easily. Twenty years have passed since it first came out, and it holds up excellently. I’m not the biggest fan of Miyazaki’s work, personally, but this movie is a true masterpiece. 10/10

Honorable mentions: Zutto Mae kara Suki deshita.: Kokuhaku Jikkou Iinkai (or, I’ve always liked you, and yes, the long-ass name is the reason it’s not on the actual list) and Kuroko no Basket: Last Game (not a standalone movie but a sequel to a much longer, and much better, anime series).

Sometimes things go the other way.

Sometimes you forget what you were really put on this planet to do. Sometimes you trudge around in the same old normal until you lose sight of your goals and motivation. Sometimes you’ve been stuck in that low, ceremonial practice day in and day out, simply not finding the right moment to break out of it. And then, sometimes, things go the other way.

Up. They go up.

I can be frighteningly hard on myself. And I’m working on that. I tend to notice only the things I fail at, the challenges I can’t overcome, and my shortcomings. For months I’ve been thinking I’ve not made any progress at all, I’ve just been stuck, I’ve not been good enough – but that’s only one side of the coin.

The other day I paused, took a deep breath, and looked around myself. And I saw improvement.

I saw myself talking on the phone. With strangers. I saw myself making small talk at work. I saw myself at work, at a job, a job that I’ve kept and am actually pretty good at. I saw myself juggling writing and my day-job. I saw myself cutting down on chocolate. I saw myself making friends. I saw friends. I saw more self-awareness. I saw myself taking action, even though it’s still baby steps. I saw myself being honest when honesty was hard and vulnerable. And I saw laughter. I saw myself laughing. Laughing. Not as much as I used to, but I did laugh.

I’ve been working hard, much harder than I believe and give myself credit for. I’ve worked on myself, on my surroundings, on my writing. I’ve tried to create the life I envisioned, and perhaps one of the reasons I haven’t made it yet isn’t that I’m not good enough, but that that vision has changed, and I don’t precisely know what kind of life I want anymore.

Things are sorting themselves out. Maybe not at the pace I’d like, but things are happening and that’s a good thing. The only thing that remains is picking up that book manuscript and looking at it without crying. Then I’ll be set. 

Why I Don’t Do NaNoWriMo

National November Writing Month. The time when thousands of aspiring writers huddle up in their homes to write their shiny, new ideas – fifty thousand words to be exact – in just a mere month. And I’m always curious about what kind of people do this. Surely, it can only be the unemployed, the students, child-less or stay-at-home people, right, because writing fifty k in a month is really hard actually (I digress – obviously it is perfectly possible to write a book on top of a job, a family, or other commitments, I’ve done it – I was just trying to prove a point).

Me, I’ve never done NaNoWriMo, nor will I ever do NaNoWriMo, because I simply don’t believe in the method. I have written novels the length of fifty k or more, in a month or less, but I’d never set out hoping to achieve something like that. It’s just not feasible.

I think the point of NaNoWriMo is to motivate would-be writers to get off their butts and go write those novels they’ve always wanted to. And it’s great if they can do it. But forcing yourself to write sixteen hundred words every day, well, if you’re a writer, you should do that anyway (look who’s talking, miss on-indefinite-hiatus). It’s our job to write. Even when we don’t get paid for it, even when we’re stuck with writer’s block, even when we’re out of motivation, inspiration, and ideas – it’s our job to write. That’s what being an artist is.

One of the joys of writing, which I’ve only learned recently, is not knowing where your story is going. I used to be a heavy planner, and you have to be for NaNoWriMo if you want to make the deadline, but now I know how exciting it can be to just sit down and let the story write itself. And I’m not saying “don’t outline” – do outline, if you want to. Still, some of my best work came from improvisation, from straying, from not following my outline, because, I find, a story in writing is alive. It doesn’t tell the story you want to tell. It tells the story it wants to tell (or maybe I’m just a really, really bad writer…).

People spend weeks planning their November novels. Brainstorming, outlining, even first drafting (cheaters). And sure, that’s how you’re meant to do it, but me? Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’ve misstepped somewhere along the way, but I find planning and following that plan… uncreative. I find my language becomes dry and boring, sentences repetitive and the style non-existent. Digressing from my outline was what made way for the birth of my writing voice, and the voice is an author’s most powerful weapon.

Thirty days is not a long time to write a novel. And in rushing it, you destroy your voice. In rushing it, there’s just not enough time to think about language, phrases, words. You can’t stop to edit or look back at what you’ve written, and by rushing, you don’t write very well. At least I don’t.

I like to let the story take its time. Sometimes it works out well, and it’s written quickly. Sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes I spend weeks outlining a novel only to find, starting on the first page, that this novel simply isn’t going to happen. Sometimes stories just don’t happen.

But the strangest thing about NaNoWriMo is the word count itself. Fifty thousand words. That’s meant to be your standard novel. Except, you know, novels vary. Some are half that. Some are double, or even three times fifty. Genres play a part here too. But out of all the things I’ve learned in my writing career, one glaringly obvious one is that you can’t predict the length of your project. I mean, you can try. This is especially important in screenwriting. I mean, I tried to write a YA novel. Google says the appropriate length is fifty to eighty thousand words. I wrote thirty. I tried to write a NA novel, a side project while I thought about what I wanted to do next, meant to be thirty thousand tops. It’s finished four months later at fifty. The problem is, even when you plan, you don’t know how many words it’s going to be. That’s the story being alive. That’s why I’ve seen people run out of plot halfway through their NaNoWriMo novels and freaking out about it.

We’re at the end of November, and I’m curious. How has NaNoWriMo gone for people? How has it gone for you? Me? I’ve not written anything. I’m in the final stages of editing my book, and as any good writer would do, I’ve been putting it off for almost a month now. But, as any good writer, I’m getting back on it. As we enter into December, I will finish that goddamn novel because I am sick of it and want to move on to better things. I don’t really care about NaNoWriMo. I just care about writing.

/Eren out.

What I Learned from Writing a Slightly Better Novel

So I wrote another novel. No, really, I did. And, well, it was nice. The writing process, I mean. Not the novel. Or, at least it was better than the last one. I’m still operating in the silly romance, YA-but-for-adults-because-there’s-graphic-sex-in-it territory, but this time, I actually think it is (don’t say it not that Eren not go-) passable.

And here’s what I learned.

It’s okay not to outline. This book began with two key concepts and a single scene in mind, and from that it evolved to a 50k monster of cheesiness. Instead of planning everything, I just wrote whatever came into my head. I spent my days at work brainstorming the next chapter to write once I got home, and whenever I had ideas for longer arcs and complex plot conventions, I noted them down and reviewed them as they became relevant. And it was a lot of fun! Never knowing what my characters were up to, having to come up with new and escalating conflicts on the fly, and steering the plot in the direction I wanted it to go – what an amazing exercise on writing.

How to deal with dry spells. Now, I don’t believe in writer’s block, because even a cleaner (hah) has to clock in on their bad days, but I do believe that sometimes a story can be hard to keep going. Sometimes I stalled. I stopped writing for days. Weeks, at most. And I found that more often than not, if I couldn’t write a scene or chapter, the issue lay in the previous page. So I’d go back, re-read and re-edit the older chapters to make room for the story to grow. And I found my way out of it.

Writing is rewriting. I absolutely hate this mantra, but it’s true. I wrote until I was finished with a chapter, and then I went back and rewrote it. Several times. Even now, I’m rewriting them. I came up with new concepts and images half-way through, and I went back and planted them in the earlier pages. The process is slower this way, but I saved myself a lot of effort; because once the draft was finished, at least it made structural, dramatical, and grammatical sense. It was much more ready for someone’s eyes. My own didn’t hurt so much from reading it.

The importance of reading. Noticed how I italicise a word in, like, every other sentence and use hyphens as often as I can get away with? Yes, I learned that from my writing idol (I dubbed her Author-sama in my head because she’s a fanfic writer and I have no idea what her real identity is). But aside from stylistic choices, writing idiosyncracies, and abusing grammar, Author-sama taught me something else too. To copy other writers. To take from them what I admire, like mixing ingredients into a new dish, and creating my own – dare I say it – voice. I know now why I write, why I’ve always wanted to write: because I love stories. And I cannot get enough of them (the mere sight of letters and words makes me all giddy inside; the touch of the keys under my fingertips leaves a flutter in my chest; and the sound of the tapping – tap – tap – tap – reminds me that I am the luckiest person in the world, for I have found a passion to live for).

There is no cure for imposter syndrome. I’m starting to think that if you’re genuinely happy with your own work, you’re not an artist. And that makes being an artist very difficult, because in order to sell your product, you have to believe in it. But honestly? I still don’t think this novel is worth anyone’s time. I think it’s immature, self-indulgent, poorly written, and, well, boring, which is why I sent it off to Alex to get a real author’s opinion (because none of my friends could spare the time – and I get it, fifty thousand words is a lot). And, in all seriousness, I don’t even think he read it. He might have skimmed through the first few pages, but he emailed me back with a reprimand; to stop being so submissive and start pitching to agents. And while it may take a long time until I find the confidence in my skill and actually start believing in myself, here’s what I can do for now: polish the work and let it speak for itself. If it’s good enough, it will get picked up. If it’s not, it won’t. And then I can start over (I’m very excited about my new idea).

How to write short stories. It happens, when you’re in the middle of a long-term project, that you feel like doing something else entirely. Starting something new. Or you go through an experience and want to express it through your art. Thus, the short story, the type of short-form writing I’ve always avoided because I’ve never been good at it, got a permanent spot in my toolbox. I mean, I even enjoyed writing them. Because sometimes I just needed to get an idea, a scene, a sentence, out of my system. And a lot of the time, it helped me get back on track with the book too.

What I lack. My language is simple. My vocabulary is weak. (And I’m working on those, I’m reading and reading and reading and reading.) My dialogue is god-awful. I forget to use my senses and I’m terrible at body language. I tend to use the same expressions over and over (a lot of furrowed or knitted brows and smug smirks and grins). I can’t shake those damn adverbs. And themes, don’t even get me started on those (the thing is, I don’t know what they are). But it’s okay. Those are things I can work on.

And where do I go from here? Whether this book ever gets published or not, and, let’s be real here, I really don’t think it will (no matter how much I want it to), one great thing came out of it: it saw the birth of Eren’s writing voice. That was the one big thing I didn’t have at university, the one thing holding me back, and I never realised how much the voice ties into the why of writing, but I’m starting to understand. And, I swear, I’m not bullshitting, I really do feel lucky; I’m only twenty-three (and yes, there are writers younger than me that have it all figured out but there are many more older ones that don’t, and I’m not talking about them, there’s no help in comparisons) and I’m already starting to understand. My writing isn’t ready yet. It will never be ready. There’s no such thing as “ready”. It’s just this: are you a writer, or are you not?

And I am.

Tragedy is My Genre

It’s becoming a bit of an in-joke with me and my friends that tragedy is my genre – because everywhere I go, sob story material seems to follow. On the off-chance that anyone reads or ever will read this blog, especially the people involved, or you know, future employers, I can’t exactly go into detail about any of the things that plague me. And that kind of sucks, because writing is my thing, and I’d give anything to just get all my worries onto paper and leave it at that; give myself the illusion that writing things down make them better or make the problems go away, but, alas, life is never that easy. (Maybe I should pull out the old diary after all…)

And the thing is, I’m not the one creating all this conflict surrounding me – things just happen to me. I swear I didn’t do anything, I didn’t intend for any of it to occur – it just did. And all of the things, the problems, do have solutions; solutions that are out of my hands. It’s not my place to enforce them, I can only sit idly by and wait for other people to sort out their shit so that I don’t have to deal with it.

It seems my life is becoming this bizarre soap that I’m eternally trapped within. There’s intrigue, drama, conflict, none of which I created but somehow still ended up the victim of, and when I think about it, even as I stress over it, I can’t help but laugh at it all. When will I be able to simply live peacefully and normally? Though I suppose I never got the whole “normal” thing in the first place.

And hey – I’m okay. I’ve written a lot of somber posts lately (you should see the ones I binned!) – but I’m okay. I’m okay. I am okay. As long as I can write, I. Am. Okay.

/Eren out.

Ramblings on Writing (or: The Startling Realisation that Dreams are Hard to Pursue and Regret is a Bitter Pill to Swallow)

Preface: I tossed some words onto digital paper and no, they don’t make sense to me either. Maybe that’s the point. 

So I graduated. I got a job (not at all relevant to my degree, thank you very much, but a job nonetheless). I networked and set up meetings and contributed to my local community. I even wrote a few things. I followed my plan to a tee, made all the right moves, and I’ve been incredibly lucky in my situation; yet, I feel more lost than ever. The more things I try to do, the further my goals of becoming a writer slip away. But I do write, I was never wrong about that, almost every day I write, and yes, I have my bad days, but I love it so much.

Then –  why?

I ask myself.

I managed to work on the things I knew my skillset was lacking, and I feel like I’m improving, for sure, but I also feel an immense lack of direction. The venn diagram of what I like to write and what I want to write is not a venn diagram at all – it’s just two circles and they definitely don’t intersect. And perhaps I’ll start there.

You don’t make money on writing fanfiction. Nor anime reviews (unless, you know how to edit and well, I don’t, so-). You don’t make money on poorly edited, sappy romances, written in elementary-school English and saturated with adverbs. The stories I want to tell, the messages I want to convey, they’re not in my writing. I haven’t found a way of expressing them. I’m still searching.

When I left university, I wanted to write films. I wanted to write for video games. I wanted to be a spoken word poet. I wanted to write more reviews and analyses, I wanted to make gaming videos and podcasts; I wanted to be a literary editor and consultant to my friends and everyone I came across. I wanted to do so many things, and thus, I ended up doing none of them. 

So, what am I doing, exactly?

For starters, I try to focus on one project at a time. So far I have two book manuscripts, a handful of half-finished poems, a rushed short film, and a gazillion poorly drafted articles relating to either anime or video games. All of it, of course, completely unedited, tucked away at the very moment of completing that first draft.

Because when I look back at it, any of it, I absolutely can’t stand it. I’ll read it over and over, picking the words and phrases, awful images and inconsistent characters to bits and pieces until there’s nothing left but paper dust on the floor.

And I know I’m only a few months graduated, I know that writing doesn’t work like that, doesn’t happen overnight, I know that because I’ve had to explain it again and again to friends and family who keep pestering me about when I’m going to get published, and I know, in my heart, I’ve known ever since Alex (see: my university tutor and mentor) told me right before the final submission, that building a career as an author is hard and it takes time.

And I believe that.

Or –

I try convince myself I believe it.

I try to convince myself I’m not ready, my writing just isn’t there yet, and I can tell, right, because that’s what I just spent three years learning how to do. Isn’t that right? 

And as the anxieties of actually, for real this time, this isn’t just a trial run anymore, becoming an adult, run me over, and I go through my post-uni, post-moving-back-to-a town-I-hate, out-of-money, out-of-purpose depression, I begin to ask myself – was it really worth it?

Did I really make the right choice?

Graduation Blog

“I’ve always had a crush on you” I said to the girl whom I’ve always had a crush on.

A year ago, no, three years ago (the amount of time I’ve had a crush on that girl), I couldn’t have done it, even if I was drunk. It would almost certainly have resulted in a weekend-long panic attack and shutting myself off forever because who says this kind of stuff.

And I was drunk. I was hit with some end-of-uni courage and I went for it. Obviously, it didn’t go anywhere. She thanked me and I left to find my friends who I’d lost in the party crowd.

So me graduating from university is officially a thing that happened. And it got me thinking of the last three years, about how I’ve grown and changed. Do I even know who I was when I started university back in 2014?

Eren three years ago was a complicated person. She was a traumatised social justice warrior. She wasn’t a great writer, but she made up for it with motivation and a powerful urge to improve. She despised watching movies, but burned herself out on anime. She played a lot of bad video games. She tried to be social, but was awful at it; there were many unfunny jokes. She wanted nothing more than to make friends, but during her lectures she was too shy to talk to anyone. She had a personality, but no way of expressing it.

And now? Where do I even begin? I’m not sure who Eren is anymore, though I don’t mean that in a bad way. Her personality is a mystery to me, but perhaps that’s how it’s supposed to be. She writes every day, and I like to think she’s improving with every word. Going to the cinema is in her top five list of activities to do, and she’s an avid film and anime critic (like, she spends most of her time writing reviews that no one reads). Even now she plays bad video games, but she’s given up trying to defend them. She’s still not funny but she can laugh. She’s talked to so, so many people over the years, made some friends (and enemies), and she’s better at it than I give her credit for. She’s still shy, but ask her about anime or writing and you’ll never hear the end of it.

I’m endlessly grateful for the past three years. I’ve walked a lonely road, battling depression and social anxiety, at times thinking there was no way I’d be able to complete my degree. But I did it. Despite the obstacles I faced, despite the panic attacks and the loneliness and the breakup and the continual existential crisis, I pulled through it stronger than I ever imagined I could be. For every new challenge I overcome, I grow better. Every time, I think this is it, this is the one that’s going to break me, but it never does. I always win.

I’m not where I want to be. But I’m a lot closer than it sometimes feels, and I know that. As long as I’m writing and talking to people and watching anime, I am happy. I just spent £50,000 plus interest on an arts degree and it was so worth it. Because I had the time of my life, both the good and the bad, and I graduated with a first class honours degree and I love writing and that’s all there is to it.