Back to Matters of the Heart.๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ๐Ÿ’ž

After two weeks of tirelessly working on perfecting my presentation slides and revising my literature review, I’m back to matters of the heart. This week I’m devoting time to working on my family tree which is a essential part of my MA thesis memoir. A few weeks ago I nervously asked my older brother Gianni to share with me his experiences with anxiety and OCD. You see that is something my older brother and I share. Besides our love for the same foods, pickles anyone!? The same sense of humor and the fact that we look so much alike, and of course share the same DNA from our wacky Italian family, the one thing we also share is our diagnosis of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Why was it important to start with my brother? I chose to start with him because he is the first born in my family. He is the oldest cousin and the very first person in my family to graduate from high school and college. He is and will always be a important branch in my family tree. At the age of 46 he has carved out a very nice life for himself. He works as a PA-C in a reputable drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, is a proud Father, active outdoorsmen, certified personal trainer and a homeowner. He has done quite well for himself and as his little sister I couldn’t be more proud.

I know all of these accomplishments were no easy feat for him because of his battles with anxiety and OCD. He is eight years older then me so I have limited memory to a lot of his sufferings and experiences. Eight years is a large age gap between siblings. We were never in school at the same time and all the milestones he reached I was still far behind. He was always a step ahead due to his older age. Only in our late twenties and when we both reached our thirties did we become closer because the age gap seemed smaller. I finally caught up to my big brother! But from what I do know is that my brother also suffered from the same debilitating symptoms that I did. I needed to know more. I wanted to know more. But of course I was hesitant to ask for fear of being rejected and possibly hurting my brother by awakening old and repressed memories from within him.

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To my surprise my brother was more then willing to participate! He said YES with no hesitation. I was elated! I let out a huge sigh of relief! I told him to write out his earliest experiences with OCD and anxiety. To trace his entire life up until this point in his adulthood. How did it manifest? How did he cope? What were specific memories? The highs the lows? He never hesitated or asked me why these specific questions. He just got to work and a few days ago he emailed me the beginnings of what he wrote. I excitedly opened the email. I began to read my brother Gianni’s words. He wrote it in a casual conversational style. In small paragraphs that gave a timeline of sorts as to when his symptoms started. I was immediately transfixed by his honest and raw account. Reading his words reinforced to me how little I really knew about his issues while growing up. But I knew it wasn’t my fault. I was simply too young to remember. Of course I did have memories of some events and troubles that he faced as I got a bit older but having him write it out in his own words was even more powerful then I anticipated.

After reading what he wrote so far I quickly texted him and said: “Thank you, I already feel closer to you.” He responded with a smiling face emoji. He even asked me if what he wrote was okay. He really cared about this. It warmed my heart as a little sister. Currently he is in the process of writing more and adding to the document. Of course I want him to take his time with it and I hope he finds a catharsis from this experience. I always knew my brother was a talented writer. Ultimately, he chose to work in the medical field but I had read some free lance articles years back of what he wrote about OCD and it was amazing! Yet another thing to add to the list of what we have in common. This MA thesis has taken me on quite the journey so far. A unexpected voyage, not only into research and academics but a odyssey of sorts into getting to know myself and my family better, learning to forgive my troubled past, learning each day to embrace my present and continuing to dream big and have faith in my future. Xo

Chapter #1 โ€“ Drawing Out a Map

I honestly can say that I’m nervous about the coming weeks ahead. It’s a good nervous though, I feel like I’m back in familiar territory, working on a final project (creatively) in a short time-span, reminiscent of my time at Mason Gross. I can’t wait to meticulously obsess over every detail, experimenting and reforming as I go, to let my wild passions run free as I try and find out what it is I want to do. It’s my journey as an artist and a writer, to finally give voice to my thoughts. In any case, I have my working environment ready as I always do before working. I’m playing my creative music playlist, lights dimmed to create atmosphere, sipping a bit of wine, and working from dusk to dawn. Here’s what happened so far.

APPROACH

This was the trickiest part of my initial planning. Ideas popped throughout my head as to what to make this story on. I’ve had experience with Game Maker before, as I’ve used it in a former project. But my time is limited as it is, so that would not cut it. With my experience in visual novels, I also considered using Renpy, a free and approachable program made just for this task, but might prove too tedious for what I envision, for now. I’ll keep this in mind for if I want to expand/remake this project. I’ve heard many people throughout this semester mention Twine, and after properly engaging with it and seeing what is possible, I chose this to be my vessel.

The reason for it? I’d like my project to have some sort of navigation component, which would be too difficult to properly implement in the other programs I’ve listed. Time is of the essence, so I’m prioritizing story/aesthetic over system, and Twine is easy to use on any computer so there’s that too.

I’ve already tinkered with linking and writing, as well as configuring structure and navigation. With this I can spend more time on working on the content within. Hopefully my limited knowledge in coding can assist me in further customizing my approach.

This wasn’t the only thing I’ll be using, I’ve also added on a plugin that will prove crucial. While Twine comes with it natively, I’ve went ahead and installed SugarCube, a program that assists in implementing multimedia components into the project, which is important to what I want to do. It needs a lot of work on my end, I’m having some difficulty getting the images to work, but that’s only minor homework and I’m hoping to understand this as I go along so as to not take too much time worrying.

TOOLS NEEDED

I’ve already mentioned that Twine is my go-to program, that’s one tool.

The reason I’ve chosen to install SugarCube? Visuals are going to be the biggest component to my story, so I’m going to be using my own photographs I’ve taken back in early March. I’ll edit/tweak them in Photoshop, but I’ll be using these images as backdrops to compliment the narrative. All of them were taken with no one around me at that moment, which also ties into the themes I want to tackle (I’ll talk about briefly in a bit). Here’s one image I plan on using:

As for audio, I plan on using a combination of diegetic sounds and silence, used sparingly, to create a grounded experience. I might consider tweaking them to distort them (depends on the story approach I aim for), but it’s something to consider rather than commit to.

STORY IDEA

I’ve been tinkering with two plots that deal with the same themes. I want to talk about solitude and mental health, mainly anxiety and/or depression. These are topics I talk about often in my visual arts, but I never considered finding a way to express this with words, so I’d like to challenge my definitions of these words and see what comes from it.

1.) The first plot (which I was geared towards at first but might drop) is a narrative tale of a silent protagonist in 90’s when mental health wasn’t as discussed as it is now. I wanted to have the story be told in the mind of a quiet person as they observe the world around them, expressing their fears and insecurities in a sea of people that are quick to judge. It is the more serious/grounded of the two ideas.

2.) A surreal depiction of someone who manages to finally cut themselves off from the rest of the world in the pursuit of ultimate isolation. The story will chronicle their days in a deserted area as they come to terms with only the voice of their minds making sense of their situation. It leans more towards the absurd, but hints at underlying topics of depression as the story unfolds. I haven’t decided on the story beats exactly, but I have a few passages I’d like to write down for this narrative.

Isolation, anxiety and depression are topics that hit me o a personal level. Hopefully not to get too sentimental, but I’ve been battling these aspects of my life for many years, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. While I am introverted by nature, many instances occurred where I feel like an outsider to the rest of the world, trapped in only my mind to keep myself company. It’s cramped, uneasy and terrifying sometimes. I’m hoping to use this story to act as a meditative one, where I can get my thoughts on the screen and make sense of what it is I feel. To create a bridge out of my head and learn to open up a bit more. This project will be very important to me and I hope to anyone else who feel the same way I do.

As it stands, I’m still in the early stages, but I’m gearing towards a concrete idea of sorts. I have the materials I want to use ready at hand, but I’ll keep an open mind on what else to add. I’m experimenting with both narratives to see what comes to life, and from there I’ll pick a story and flesh it out. I hope to troubleshoot as much as I can before next class so that I can primarily focus on getting the story made, but we’ll see how it goes. Stay tuned for future updates.