2023 What happened with me?
- 18 min
This year has been a year of inward reflection and discovery. Content warning for discussions about mental health.
Laser Hair Removal & Transition
The big event this year saw me start laser hair removal. I've never really spoken about it before on the internet, but I'm trans. I've been out for five-ish years and have been presenting full-time for nearly as long.
I'm the kind of person who doesn't like to do things unless I am 100% certain. I will build a list of pros and cons and research things to a silly level to try and be as certain as possible. This is particularly true of "irreversible" things. I'm not sure why this is; I suspect some part of this is because I struggle to make even trivial decisions, and some part thanks to working with computers; nothing I do there is truly permanent and could be changed with enough effort.
As a result, I put off making actual progress with my transition beyond socially transitioning and changing my name. I would like to apportion some of this delay to the pandemic, which took away all of my momentum. I would also like to apportion some of the blame to apathy generated by the NHS's ridiculous waiting times. It's hard to be motivated when you know how long that list is.
I am naturally quite a hairy person. I have thick, black hair all over my body. This is incompatible with how I want to look, so I had to remove it. This led to me shaving every patch of visible skin on my body. Thanks to the speed and darkness of my hair growth, I had to do this almost daily. This led to me needing to spend nearly an hour shaving my face, arms, and legs daily. If I did not do this, I felt I could not leave the house.
This daily shaving and inability to leave the house led to many problems. It's a massive time sink; I'd hate to think how many hours I lost standing in front of that mirror. This time cost had several effects, including causing fights with people over bathroom access and internal debates of "should I forego shaving my arms/legs and hate it or should I just be late to X?" if I was running slightly late.
I also found that if I left less than 20 hours between shaves, it hurt more, and I got a worse result. This often left me caught between a rock and a hard place, especially with more fluid plans. If there was any risk that I'd have to go outside the next day, I'd have to make sure today's session was timed not to hurt tomorrow. This often led me to not take part in things I wanted to because I didn't know I was going that day and hadn't timed the previous day to make it work. This made meeting people and making impromptu plans almost impossible.
All this shaving also had a surprisingly high cost. I estimate I was spending around £70 a month on shaving products alone. I know there are cheaper products available, but I used what worked for me. The make-up also costs a lot and still does, though hopefully that will stop soon.
The feeling that I had to do all this just to leave the house often caused me to procrastinate doing it and grow to hate doing it. This hate towards doing it got increasingly worse as the years went on. I found it increasingly "unfair" that I had to do all this just to feel able to go to the shop, whereas most other people could just get out of bed, slap on some clothes and go.
I'm not sure what finally tipped the scales, but I booked myself in for a laser hair removal appointment earlier this year. It was very nerve-wracking. I knew it was going to hurt, and I knew it was going to be expensive.
My consultation went surprisingly well. I had initially asked for a consult for my face, chest, arms and legs. After the initial test patches looked good, we got around to discussing what I wanted. The technician quickly worked out I was trying to optimise their pricing matrix and that I likely wanted everything, and made some suggestions. I am grateful to them as their matrix is vague, and between us, we managed to work out how to get everything I wanted as efficiently as possible.
Since then, I've had five sessions as of writing and couldn't be happier with my results. The first session wasn't fun, and I looked bad for days afterwards. I was expecting the red and dryness of the skin, but I was not expecting the hair to become and stay dark for a few days before it started falling out. The second session was the worst so far. It completely drained me of all my adrenaline and left me exhausted for a good day or so. Since then, it's been no worse, though I still wouldn't call it fun.
I am currently at the point where I still have to shave my face every day, but it's much faster, and the shadow is much easier to cover, to the point where I have to relearn my colour correction techniques after every session as they're too strong. The rest of my body is a sort of weekly affair, which is amazing.
If the progress continues as it is, then I estimate by summer, I should be at the point where it's just maintenance shaving, and I can leave the house without having to shave and put on make-up. A time I am very much looking forward to.
Starting laser has left me feeling a number of different things, some good and some bad.
One thing I've always found hard to reconcile is the differences between me and some of my trans friends. For many of them, transition is their primary focus, and I get it, whereas I treat it more as "I need to get on and do it", almost as if it's some kind of boring admin task. I kind of wish I was more driven/focused about it, but I'm not.
This difference has led to me avoiding talking about things because I find it hard to explain why I took so long to start. As I mentioned previously, the fear of making the wrong decision is strong, but every time I have spoken about it, it led to awkward conversations about "what if I'm wrong?". Conversations that have in the past made me push back and delay further.
While this "what if I'm wrong?" question still lingers, I think my outlook has changed. So what if I'm ultimately wrong? These feelings aren't new and aren't going away. If doing X makes me happier, I should do it and just deal with the consequences later. I've dealt with the consequences of delaying it for a long enough time, any consequences that come will at least come from me doing the right thing for me.
This change in outlook has been good. It's left me more open to talking about things, which has been good. Previously, if people asked me things like "How did you cut your arm?" when I've nicked myself shaving or something, I would make up lies to get the question over quickly, but now I tend to tell people the truth, often leading to interesting and meaningful conversations.
Because I've started to make actual progress, it's brought up a lot of internal anger over not starting sooner. Silly feelings, I know, but they're there. However, this has made me push to progress more, so it's a double-edged sword. I hope to continue to use this as a force for good in the coming year and do everything I've been delaying.
This year has been very neutral in terms of my health. I've not made much progress on getting healthier, but I also have not been less healthy. From Q3 onwards, I started doing weekly meal preps, which has helped a lot in saving me time and money and helped me make healthier choices. It turns out it's a lot easier to make sensible decisions once rather than six times a week when you are tired after work. There's still a long way to go in terms of both improving the quality and reducing the quantity of the meals, but I'm glad the habit has stuck as well as it has.
After buying my house last year, I started the year with having to get the roof fixed. I knew it was coming from the survey, but it was still a pain and expensive. But very glad to know it's done and dealt with. Since then, it's been a slow grind to get unpacked and more settled. There's still a lot to do to make this feel more like a home, but I'm getting there. It turns out that just keeping a house running is a lot more time-consuming than I imagined.
This year's been a weird one for me and programming. I came to the realisation that a lot of my self-worth is tied to my performance, specifically with programming, which leads to me being in a bit of a spiral of getting stuck and starting yet another project. This really came to the forefront when, in a discussion about unfinished projects, I calculated I have in the order of 70 unfinished projects.
Since coming to that realisation, I've stopped starting any new projects, and it's been a good change for me and has led to me having much more time for things I enjoy more. I discuss this more in the Advent of Code post.
Having never attended a hackathon before, I attended two this year.
The second was a more private event that was run by a friend. The theme for this one was "Silly Interfaces". I did this one solo and created a mazed-based interface that you navigate by balancing your phone. I wrote about it here.
Advent of Code
This year, I tried Advent of Code for the first time. It started off well but ended up being really unhealthy for me, so I stopped.
Earlier this year, I finally settled on a colour scheme and lore for my Space Marines army. I then got the Leviathan box set and set about building it. I discuss more of this in my First games of Warhammer 40k post, but my goal last year was to paint and play a 1k points army. While I missed that goal, I'm still happy with my achievements. Hopefully, this year, now that I'm not spending ages faffing with finding a colour scheme, I might be able to paint a bit faster.
Over the summer, I started to make my way through my build queue. It was a lot of fun to get back into the hobby. I initially planned to display most of the models in my living room, but I vastly underestimated the size of some of the models. Fortunately, I have a room in my house that, while not suitable for a bedroom or office (it has no windows and was previously used as a walk-in wardrobe), makes a great Lego/Hobby room. After careful planning, I got a series of IKEA PAX wardrobe shells and shelves and made my own display cabinet. Why not IKEA Billy shelves? A few of the models I intend to buy are too deep for them (looking at you Rivendell).
Another bonus is that while this room is quite small, I have to walk past it to get to my office from the rest of the house, so I see them much more frequently than I would if it were in the living room.
I resurrected my gaming pc this year. It had been out of commission since I moved house last year, mostly because the power supply had started making some concerning noises, and I didn't want to mess with it. I did put in a very good service for eight years, of which four of those saw it almost never being switched off.
Since rebuilding it and sorting out some new peripherals, it's been nice to be able to game with my friends again. I've particularly had a lot of fun playing Lethal Company. I'm not a fan of horror in general; things tend to replay in my head for weeks, and as my friends will attest, I'm very easy to make the jump. But this game is different, and I'm glad I took the risk; it has its scary moments, but really, it's a comedy.
The year started out strong with me going to see short-eared owls twice. I got very wet and very cold getting these photos, but they are fantastic. I'd never seen a shorted-eared owl before and only heard about them by luck.
After that though, I didn't really get much of a chance to visit my regular spots or events. I missed both the Jersey and Bournemouth air displays, and the few other times I did get out with a camera, I saw little of interest.
I did take some photos on my summer trip back to Jersey, but I still haven't processed or uploaded those photos yet 🙈.
After buying my French horn in late 2022, I came across some teething issues. While the manufacturer was very good and offered to collect and deliver the instrument while it was fixed for free, I took it as a good opportunity to do a day trip to London.
This was my first solo trip to London, and while it was a little daunting, I had a lot of fun. When I dropped my instrument off, they weren't sure how long it was going to take, so I thought it a good idea to stick near the tube. As a result, I ended up going to many of the large stations and having a great time. It's no secret that I love trains, and I am a fan of architecture, so this was a match made in heaven. I managed to get to St Pancras, Paddington and King's Cross before having to return, of which St Pancras is definitely my favourite.
After collecting my instrument, I then went and did some shopping. I started at the Warhammer shop (surprising, I know) but decided not to go in as it's huge, and there was no one else in there bar the staff. I then did the classic Primark, Hamleys and the Lego store. I managed to be relatively well-behaved and only bought some small things, including a lovely London bus.
Overall, I consider it a successful trip. I've always wanted to go to London on my own schedule, and I'm glad that this provided the opportunity, as I don't think I'd've done it otherwise.
I went to Jersey twice this year, in both the summer and for Christmas. There's not a lot to say about the Christmas trip, but the summer one was interesting.
I haven't been to Jersey in the summer for a number of years. My family all work in education, so they have the summer off. This, combined with my brother and his girlfriend being away, led to a window where I could go over, and it be quieter than normal. I was very fortunate; the weather was practically perfect every day, if anything too good for someone who struggles with heat. I wouldn't say it was a relaxing holiday, but I did a lot of things.
The highlight of the trip (bar a silly number of bbq's) was the Battle of Flowers night parade. I haven't been to the Battle for a long time. The last time I went was probably about 15 years ago, and my parents even longer ago, so this was a treat for all of us.
As a quick tldr; The Battle of Flowers is an annual event held in Jersey where teams from various places on the island create a float using real and/or paper flowers. The floats are then brought to the main avenue in the early hours of the morning and featured in a parade. Then, the next night is the night parade, where the float gets illuminated and displayed again. A lot of fun comes from the fact the floats come from a wide range of skill levels and, more importantly, budgets. They can range from a small cart with wooden structures and paper flowers pulled by a freshly washed tractor to a custom-built 40-foot frame with an untold number of dyed real flowers.
The Battle is important to me and my Mum. When she was young, she helped with her local team for multiple years and has many stories about being up at silly hours to pick flowers, roping in family members to make paper flowers and sitting in still-wet glue on the float for the parade. When I was younger, a farm near me used to host a few teams, and I eventually joined one of the teams. I have fond memories of crawling around under and in their float, helping with the wiring work, getting covered in dirt, running home for a shower and then being tasked with folding a silly number of flowers.
I remember the Battle being good, but I heard rumours over the years of it slowly becoming worse, and that, combined with the knowledge that my memories are probably a little rosy, I was a little concerned it'd let us down. I was wrong. It was great. The atmosphere was great, the floats looked good, and overall, it was a very good time.
A friend and I went to see Extreme Robots in Guildford. We were both fans of Robot Wars, so we thought this would appeal to both of us. We paid extra for VIP tickets so we could go backstage and see the robots and competitors which was great. I knew the robots weren't small but they were surprisingly big. Overall I had a good time, though the whole event was a little on the expensive side and I'd be hesitant to do it again.
I read (listened to) 6 books this year, all Warhammer-related. After starting with a highly recommended Slaves to Darkness book, I then started the monumental task of reading the Horus Heresy series of books. So far, I've been surprised about how good they are and just how much I didn't know. I hope this trend continues.
For the first time in far too long I finally went to the theatre and saw two shows; Little Shop of Horrors and Rocky Horror. These are great and I'd like to see some more next year.
This has been a good year for me and social media. I've always been a bit weird about sharing too much about myself with people. I got better at it in person, but I always resisted doing it publicly. After seeing how other people post about their hobbies and such, I decided to give it a shot, and it's been very rewarding.
It's been freeing to be able to share my things with other people who find it interesting and have some great interactions around them. It's also been great to have a better record of my activities for my timeline.
As a result of me joining Mastodon and enjoying it much more, I decided to leave Micro.blog. It's just not the service for me. My biggest gripes are mostly around discoverability.
I had a very hard time discovering people posting about things I was interested in, the inability to search by tags/categories makes it hard to find things. Sure, there's a search function that will search the body of the post, but if I'm posting something like "painted my terminators", unless I search by "terminators", it won't find the tags of "Warhammer" or "Space Marines" which is really how I or someone else is likely to be searching. As a result, I ended up playing buzzword bingo to find people with interests similar to mine or relying on the Discover feed.
After tentatively joining Mastodon last year, it turned out to be one of my better decisions. I suspect my enjoyment comes from a few areas, though mostly the improved discoverability (being able to follow a tag is great) and the availability of some top-notch apps.
As a result, I ended up posting more this year than I had on any previous social media platforms combined. It's now the only social media I engage with (except for their respective messaging services), and it's been great.
I was worried I'd grow overly conscious of engagement, but I don't think that's happened. I'm posting for myself and to show others the fun things I've been up to. I suspect the lack of an algorithm to beat helps with that.
Much like last year, I'm not making any traditional resolutions. But I do have some things I'd like to aim for:
- Spend more time on things that actually bring me joy
- Paint and play a 2k point game with my Confessors Space Marine army
- Improve my health