The Particular Finest

Presented by aurynn shaw

The 2010s

I wanted to write a retrospective on the 2010s, a summary of everything from moving to New Zealand (It’s been about a decade! How weird!), the games I’ve played and the books I’ve read and maybe some rumination on my career and the life I’ve been having.

And I can write some of that retrospective, since the 2010s were deeply affecting in so many ways.

I started my own company, which was a deeply pleasing thing to get to do and experience. I love being able to do this, and I’m thankful every day for those around me who make it possible.

I launched Cloud Island, which makes me so proud.

I gave a lot of conference talks, and got (what I think of as) good at doing conference talks. I found that I really love public speaking - it’s fun to craft a talk and build on my ideas as I present them. It’s fun to get up in front of a crowd and step into the speaking” mode in my head and let the words flow through me.

I picked up my entire life and moved to New Zealand (and got permanent residency (and can apply for citizenship now, that’s just weird)). I fell in love, and had the best relationship I’ve ever had1.

I got to fulfil a long-held dream to work in visual effects, at Weta Digital. I met some amazing friends there, and cherish the time I spent there.

I made so many amazing friends (You know who you are 😘).

I played a lot of videogames. I found a deep well of love for Destiny and Destiny 2, the first MMO-y games I’d played since the late 90s.2

I came out publicly as transgender, which was a huge step in terms of bravery and ability to feel safe being trans in public.3

I mentored people, and I’m so thankful for the opportunities I’ve had to do so.

I started permanently dyeing my hair teal.

I was able to finally start treatment for ADHD.

I wrote a lot of words on this blog thing that you’re reading.

I wrote Contempt Culture, the most important and influential piece of writing I’ve ever composed, that has shaped the conversation around tech culture in innumerable ways. It led me to discovering how amazing and fascinating sociology is, and how much it has to say.

I read so much amazing fiction.

I made three different, amazing books of photography, each of which I’m so deeply proud of.

I didn’t die.

But I keep coming back to

The last few years have been steeped in darkness and despair as my mental health spiralled well out of control, a back injury stapled me to my house, and my career has felt like it is falling to tattered ruins, slipping out of my grasp.

I write those retrospective thoughts but that shattering is what comes to mind, the sadness and despair and black sea of broken dreams.

It’s tempting to post yet another oh it sucked but it’s getting better now!”, but I’d be lying? To you, but more significantly to myself. Things are getting better, but they’re not good yet. I don’t know that they’ll ever be good again, and that’s a bit saddening to think on. What if it was as good as it gets already?

What if it’s all downhill from here?

In so many ways, my life feels like I keep watching a black sea wash over the slowly eroding skyscrapers of an abandoned city. Sometimes the tide will be high and all I can see is the rusting girders, skeletal above the waves.

Sometimes the tide recedes, and I can see the memories of dreams they used to be and I feel the regret of what I once thought I could be.

Sometimes the tide recedes far enough that I can see the beach again, the ground start to dry and the darkness leach out of the sands. I start to feel hope, then.

I write those retrospective thoughts and what I remember isn’t the good times, but the way it feels when that dark tide starts rolling back in and the brilliant lights of these amazing things start to dim and fade in the distance, until I’m left with a black sea all around me, and feelings of regret.

The 2010s have been really hard.

We got to see the power of social media through Arab Spring, and the power of social media through the rise of uncontrolled (and algorithmically promoted) fascism. I’ve spent the last 6 years terrified that I’m going to be watching people I know and care about in the US die of fascism.

I had to watch someone I cared about so much, Kathy Sierra, get chased off the internet for a second time4.

I was shocked to learn that unregulated speech can only be harmful.

I had to face how deeply unsafe the internet has become. The internet! I’ve been on the internet for almost my entire life5 and it’s given me so much. It helped me discover that I was transgender, and what being transgender even is. It gave me community when I desperately needed it.

And I got to watch that idealised view crumble.

And I keep coming back to

I burned out so hard in 2013 and 2014, and I still haven’t recovered.

My mental health, for every time I’ve written a oh it’s better now! happy I can feel it!” it’s been a temporary reprieve at best.

There’s been so much darkness and so much coiling up in myself and withdrawing. Sometimes it’s all that comes to mind.

I think about all the times I desperately needed to hear from someone, and I just couldn’t reach out because there was too much darkness, and it would be months between hearing from anyone.

I come back to how very, deeply, crushingly lonely I’ve been.

I want this retrospective to be positive, to be light and airy and shouting my meaningful accomplishments. I can’t escape the depth of its darkness.

The 2010s have been really hard.

  1. I married her, but not until the 2020s.↩︎

  2. Stay tuned for the Destiny 2 has finished breaking my heart” post, coming … eventually?↩︎


  4. Miss you so much Kathy. Miss your ponies so much.↩︎

  5. I hate this flex, it’s so very classist in so many ways.↩︎