I thought it would be fun to share some old projects before getting around to my newer works…
This post is two different ones combined, both telling my life story from my perspective from age 17-19.
The first project was a prompt from a high school church “small group” to draw something that represents you… I got impassioned and turned it into 13 illustrations sharing the ups and downs of my life story at that time, focused on the themes that were causing me to ache the most. It was an opportunity to shed light on areas of my life that felt very dark and grow from there.
The second project was in a creative writing class in college. The prompt was to simply introduce yourself…but again, filled with passion, the essay evolved into a thorough and revealing account of my life up to that point. The professor called it a “tour de force”, but it wasn’t easy to speak it out amongst peers.
Now i’m pulling both projects back out of the dark corners of my history to share them again. Much has happened since, and MANY of my ideas have changed, (beware, this story is also fairly cheesily written!), but it’s all still part of me, regardless.
I’ve already shared my story in terms of what lead up to me starting AAA Freelancing–What you’re about to read is a vulnerable look, primarily at my teenage years. I’m sharing it to showcase how i’ve been able to use storytelling in both illustration and writing. It’s an extreme example of how i can tell your brand’s story–of course, i won’t be sharing vulnerable details of your story to your audience (and usually wouldn’t recommend it), unless you feel the need to for more authenticity.
Illustrated in February-March of 2014, Written in August-September of 2015:
I’d like to prelude this with the acknowledgment that i do not capitalize the letter/word “I” unless it is at the beginning of a sentence or being emphasized. I’m aware that it’s traditionally grammatically correct in the English language to capitalize “I”, but i’ve also become aware that such reverence isn’t given to that word in most other languages. I find it silly to give such respect to a pronoun representing oneself, while not even giving that same respect to other pronouns representing others. So, not capitalizing it is one of my ways of representing equality and humility to myself (as a reminder while i write) and others (as a statement while they read my writings), that i don’t see myself as most important. I will continue this in all papers and other works of writing, unless told that i need to put it to rest in certain contexts–if that case arises, i see it as more important to respect a professor telling me to follow traditional English rules. I thank you for taking time to read and understand, and i will respect you whether you allow me to continue to write in this way or if you would prefer that i stop.
What is life?
A breath; here today and gone the next?
A gift; to be treasured and used to its fullest extent?
An adventure; with obstacles to overcome, jumping from one danger to the next?
A rat race; filled with illusions of success, only to find in the end that none of it even mattered?
A slow road to death; full of pain to push through until the day it’s reached its end?
Personally, i’ve long believed it to be a large, grand story; a beautiful, though broken, allegory authored by God and coauthored by each individual; a saga by the most masterful Writer, Who gladly chose to involve His children in the process, allowing them to scribble in their own work–a complex tapestry of a combination of divine order and human chaos that, somehow, is always skillfully woven together beautifully by the end.
My own portion in this chronicle begins with this: Two broken people making a delicate promise to forever love, “for better or for worse”.
I was birthed in the Summer of 1996, oldest of 5 kids. Early life was full of adventures; i’ve always felt most at home staring out the car window, watching the world fly by me in wonderment as i dreamt about life; curiosity overflowing as i prayed about what’s to come and what already was.
Life was easily extraordinary as i danced with my dad, read books and made up stories with my mom, put on shows with my sister, Brittney, and found “magical, mystery flowers” growing in my backyard. But my parents struggled to get along, and all i wanted was to see them love.
Around the age of 4 or 5, i found myself in a moment of determination and young understanding as i was listening to music and heard Daddy and Mommy yelling in the other room. I picked up the CD player and firmly placed it and myself between them.
“That’s what love is for,
To help us through it.
That’s what love is for,
Nothing else can do it.
Melt our defenses,
Bring us back to our senses,
Give us strength to try once more,
Baby, that’s what love is for”
I pleaded for them to truly hear the words, but an angry rebuke was the only response.
Despite the disappointment, helping them get past the things that caused problems in their relationship, and learning from their mistakes, still heart-achingly remained among my very biggest life goals.
A very overwhelmed young Alissa, confused and growing heartbroken over not being able to help her parents stop fighting and learn “That’s what love is for”.
Just as Preschool was ending and Kindergarten was gearing up to begin, my parents decided to change course in my education: i would be home schooled. My mom tried to involve me in the decision; did i want to continue with my friends into the public school system, or learn at home? A feeble “I don’t know” was all i could give.
School started out well with my mom’s creative teaching ideas, including things like having Brittney and me run our own “candy store” and “restaurants”, which taught us some math and money management, as well as a little bit of spelling. We had field trips and opportunities to make friends through home school groups; though some friendships perhaps would’ve been better off not had: chauvinistic little boys brought out an angry little feminist in me, who needed to prove that she can one up any guy at anything, and pride being spewed out of a few girl friends (even from church) made me feel the need to change to be acceptable to them. I had my first little heartbreak in my early elementary school years, as my best guy friend at that time started ditching me and spending time with the very girls who made me feel so insignificant.
Young Alissa is rejected by several peers and made to feel lesser. Not pretty or elegant enough by their standards, she feels she must become the fairest of them all. This only brings filth…But her true friends are a constant support despite her inadequacies.
Insecurity grew and festered in my heart, later being reinforced by a fiercely perfectionistic ballet teacher in 2nd grade, who made me cry my way down to a younger class, where i felt uncomfortable and “too old” and afterward decided i must never dance again; and a soccer coach in 4th grade with a grave case of favoritism, who didn’t give me the chance to grow because he was intently focused on his star athletes. I became stuck in belief that i’m “not good enough”.
Things got immensely more difficult for my mom with the births of her 3rd and then 4th children. She became, not surprisingly, less available and more stressed having to chase around a trouble making “Messy-Jessi”-little-toddler and watching after a new baby boy, Princeton, while still struggling to balance in our schooling and caring for her marriage (and my youngest sister, Heather, was still yet to come). Brittney and i had to slowly learn to adapt and become more independent in many facets of our life.
Before 3rd grade even started, after a Summer full of daily, dizzying pages and pages of math “catch up” work that was left over from the previous school year, i begged my mom to let me quit math until she finally gave in. It was completely unbeknownst to me the toll that would take on my entire education.
When i was 10, my family started attending Discovery Church, which became an integral place of growth in my life, especially in the middle school years. It was the first church in which i felt at home and loved, not exclusively by God, but also by those who follow Him. I was able to shed off layers of insecurity and begin growing in confidence, from a deeper understanding of the value i have as a chosen daughter and princess of the King of kings.
In 6th grade i mustered up just enough courage to face my fear of being an inadequate dancer, auditioning to be on their Discovery Kidz dance team. After my acceptance, i rediscovered my love for dance, freshly seeing it as a beautiful form of expression and worship. It was my favorite way of telling God that i love and trust Him, since i would often get weak and dizzy, but would still continue out onto that stage with complete confidence, giving my all into every dance move and every word sung, and finding myself with more energy than i could’ve expected from how i was feeling behind the curtains.
A strong love for people was deeply cultivated in my heart, and a desire for everybody to come to know the emboldening, healing love i had found in Jesus frequently came pouring out of my eyes, and i wanted it to come from my hands as well.
Alissa learns that being a Princess is actually being a servant to the Kingdom. She becomes impassioned in showing love to all who she meets.
Any opportunity i could get to show God’s love, i longed to embrace–from hiding encouraging notes and scriptures around in public places to devoting my life to mission work.
When i was 12, i started volunteering as a Sunday school teacher in the Kindergarten room at Discovery Church, and grew so fond of each kid that i couldn’t bear seeing them off to the next grade, so decided to keep moving up with them, planning to stay with them all the way through their high school years. But that was consistent only until they were in 4th grade, as i became too worn out from personal life.
Around the same time as that first began, i also started an online Christian group to encourage other girls to “live for Christ 100%”, where i was surprised and ecstatic to get to personally speak into thousands of lives, and went through irreplaceable growth, myself. That, too, i thought would last forever–but “forever” was, in fact, just over two beautiful years before the website that hosted the group got shut down, due to what they state as a “change in resources”, which is beyond my knowledge.
In 7th grade, i finally started caring, and even fearing, for my education–enough to take it into my own hands. My desire to learn exploded upon finding a book that attempted to scientifically prove that the world was intricately and artfully invented, not a random mistake in the universe which just happened to work out okay. Thoughts of controversy began to excite and slightly terrify me, so i hoped to gain greater understanding and be able to have an educated, as well as unique, opinion. The movie, The Boy in Striped Pajamas, brought more shape to my curiosity and more depth to my independent studying, causing me to long to understand every angle of any given story and the people to whom those stories belong. “What can make a person believe their way is right, while others believe it to be completely wrong?” was a question that emerged.
The home school group my family was part of discontinued before i entered high school and we didn’t join a new one, so my schooling became that much more independent. It was difficult to learn when my only teachers were the ones i found in books, articles and videos, and what i accomplished depended completely on my own meager, yet growing, self discipline. The need to catch up was monstrous and difficult to approach. Therefore, my middle and high school education was far from perfect and well below genius, but it was rich and every bit of it saturated my whole being. But in a way, i became consumed by pursuit of knowledge; i clung to the time i had with my nose in a textbook, as times changed and many friends disappeared, and i further isolated myself into studying.
Within that time, desire grew in me to see more media–particularly video games, come into existence that are not just inspiring, but straight-forward about the power of Christ, whom i knew had done so much in my own life. Ideas started formulating in my head and, at my mom’s recommendation, i began writing them down, though neither of us originally believed anything would come out of it. I had times where i was overtaken with inspiration, doodling enemies that fight against our minds; conceptualizing a game that could train people to keep their thoughts captive, learn of their value to God, see the connection between their thoughts and actions, and better understand the variety of unique stories that are held by every single individual walking the face of this Earth.
Springing forth from the painful things i saw in my parents’ relationship, came an unyielding ambition to see to it that i, one day, would have a wonderful marriage. My teen years, particularly, were spent striving to learn what a good relationship looks like, and how to achieve it. I was cautious and afraid, while still being a hopeless, naive romantic.
Books, blogs and conferences were fervently sought out for wisdom in these matters. I came to the decision that i wanted nothing to do with dating; courting was the word that must be used, and it’s meaning must be a relationship with purpose. If i was going to have a relationship, it was only going to be one that was planned towards marriage. I conjured up hefty lists of qualities that i found essential and desirable for a potential husband, brainstormed ways i must improve to become a supportive wife, and made many promises to myself about things i would and would not do; i would not kiss, i would not have sex, i wouldn’t even say “I love you” except to my husband. My whole heart would be saved for one person.
“Thine heart is a gift, meant only for one”, Alissa truly began to believe. Anything can damage it–and a damaged gift is a worthless gift.
Little did i know how much those relationship goals, combined with my romanticism (that i didn’t know i had), would actually bring intensity to my interactions with those who caught my interest.
In Jr high, i became infatuated with a boy whom i originally despised for flamboyant arrogance: one of the “star athletes” from my previous 4th grade soccer team. It horrified me that he kept showing up in random places in my life; perturbing me most upon finding out he also went to Discovery.
It only took a compliment and seemingly genuine interest in a hat i knitted with my grandma, for my consideration of him to completely change. My puerile mind made his little, flirtatious acts of kindness out to mean much more about his character and intentions than ought to have been deemed worthy. What was an innocent crush grew to obsessive thought, and belief that he was the one i would one day marry.
You could say this enchantment ended with a chair in the gut; i was infuriated and hurt one night during a dance rehearsal, by him and an old friend poking fun at my dizziness, making me feel weak, and it didn’t end with me remaining in full control of my rage. He did end up being fine, but i was ashamed.
My caution grew stronger and my rules grew tighter. I didn’t want to get hurt, or hurt anybody, so my solution was to not like anybody. All guys must henceforth be seen as brothers; no temptations allowed.
Any time someone would express interest in me, i wouldn’t expect it and would immediately get nervous and disengage from the friendship.
My 15th year rolled in with solid focus on studying and self improvement, and friendships blurred off in the distance. Deep down, i wouldn’t admit that i felt lonely–That is, until i opened up to get to know a young man, whom i came to consider as my best friend. I admired his fresh excitement about Jesus, and his humility to be willing to cry during worship if he felt moved. Conversations were seemingly always about God, and i enjoyed that.
I strived to keep my brotherly-sisterly view of him in tact and, after months of friendship, found myself shocked by a sinking feeling in my stomach upon receiving a text from him about a girl whom he liked. Only after deeply questioning and coaching myself out of disappointment, he sent another text acknowledging his goof, revealing that was a fragment of a text meant to be sent to my sister, about me. At that point, i felt paralyzed with bewilderment; both relieved and desperately afraid of where things were headed.
Alissa befriends a young man, 3 years older but with much maturing to go through… She begins to fall for him, believing he is a Godly person and the One meant to sweep her off her feet and forever walk with her through the hardships of life.
I gradually allowed myself to like him and a three year long relationship commenced, that, because of my formidable opinion of dating, was considered unofficial. We immediately began planning our future, from every angle i could imagine up. I didn’t feel like the 15-year-old i was, playing house, but in essence, that’s what it was. I mistakenly felt grown and wise and well prepared.
It was my desire to save my first kiss for my wedding day, but he grew weary of that and admitted feeling unloved by me for it. So, in believing he was my future husband, i gave up that plan.
Both our families freaked over our commitment, starting a family feud, almost comparable in despicableness to the Capulet’s and Montague’s. His family found any little thing they could to nit pick and hate about my family and me; and my family grew not-so-fond of them either. Eventually we couldn’t see each other in person anymore, and hid our communication from his parents.
Alissa fighting to keep her beloved in her life… Their families feeling almost evil to them for getting in the way of the love they believed they shared. Like goblins, stealing the treasure of their chaotic romance.
At points, i found myself upset, seeing that he didn’t perfectly match my quality lists. I began struggling, realizing i need to learn to truly love unconditionally, but fearing that it may be unwise–i wasn’t sure i knew him as i thought i did. But i was committed to him.
Alissa loses the rose-colored glasses…. He’s not all she dreamed up–but is he really two-faced (or many more…telling and existing as lie after lie) or is her vision messed up? Which face is real? She continues to believe she must be the one at fault, not seeing clearly–they’re devoted to each other and there’s no going back.
Feelings escalated between us. Conversations became sultry. Eventually, the urge to send pictures took over–until that was all that was even left of our “relationship”; no more meaningful conversations, only his desire to see me bare and my desire for him to feel loved. Relationally, i became the epitome of all i thought i could never be.
Drama of all varieties caused us to be frequently in and out of relationship. I became frightened as i began to see parallels between our relationship and that of my parents’, though i had tried so hard to be careful and do as i thought was right.
In desperate need to prove that love does exist, i held tight, struggling to keep the relationship intact. I didn’t feel loved, but was driven to continue loving to the best of my ability; to redeem the well-rooted fear, gained from what i saw in my parents and reinforced by my own life, that true, unconditional love is impossible–to prove that it is not impossible–that it’s real and can bring life and healing.
Alissa waiting for him patiently…which had become so familiar to her….despite being forbidden.
Throughout the end of 2013, my dad kept up and leaving after arguments; leaving us unsure when or if he was coming back. I wasn’t able to fix it. I wasn’t able to fix anything.
I was spiraling in and out of depression, struggling to hold my life together and make sense of it. One moment i’d be bursting with joy, and the next i’d be flat on my face. I threw myself into paranoia, wondering if i have bipolar disorder; and that wasn’t accepted well by my boyfriend, who began telling me i was unstable and too much to handle, and that i need to stop worrying so much. That didn’t help, and i only got worse. I didn’t know how to trust anymore and was constantly questioning every little thing. I wanted to die, and felt that others secretly wanted the same for me. I pleaded for my boyfriend to tell me he hates me, and he wouldn’t, but he got stressed enough to block me on Facebook and not respond to my texts, calls and emails.
Alissa, falling deep into the crevice she truly believed was just an obstacle her beloved would learn through strength from God to carry her over. All the struggle she thought they would walk through together–she doesn’t even get to walk it alone. She’s thrown from the path, lost to the depths of despair.
My dad left. My boyfriend left. Promises to forever love were shattered to pieces by the men in my life who mattered the most. Nothing i did to try to repair the damage through my life seemed to be working, and i wanted the world to be punished for it. I wanted relief. I wanted the men in my life to see that they can’t just do things that hurt people, without there being any consequence.
Alissa, for a long while, unwilling to share her broken, caged heart with anybody. It’s worthless and filthy and hurting like hell…she won’t let anyone hurt it further or see her shame…..but her mom gently persists.
I planned to express this through walking towards my boyfriend’s house and getting myself hit by a car on the busy street closest to where he lived.
I sat that night, waiting for my mom to leave to church so i could leave with my statement-making-life-exit plan, but what instead happened, i see as God’s pen writing on my mom’s mind “stay home”, and her obedience to that. I was unable to inconspicuously head out, so i ended up pouring my guts out on Facebook, where i was surprised to truly find support from my friends, family and acquaintances–though their love didn’t complete me, the truth they spoke into my life helped me have strength to stay and to turn back to God in my weaknesses, where i could gradually get healing.
Learning to conquer depression threw me courageously back into video game conceptualization, where i hoped to teach others to fight the same sorts of things with truth, just as i was growing in doing.
My dad did come back home. My relationship with my ex was never the same. Though i had learned to fight off depression, i was still left with fears and brokenness, needing to learn to heal.
2014 became a year solely focused on game development, especially after graduation. I soaked up all i could learn about the industry and, knowing i was doing things backwards from the way a game is usually made, i pulled together a team of writer friends to begin with creating the characters and stories. It was a time of learning firsthand what does and does not work in managing a team, and adjusting accordingly. I am thankful to have had a friend’s mom, who was a producer at Disney Interactive, step in as a mentor to me.
I went through two teams, losing people to busy schedules and my own need to reset my way of leading; i surprised myself over my own abilities, and lackthereof; i struggled to keep the team on track with our goals; almost faced a lawsuit, due to misunderstanding from a volunteer about payment; and between July and January we completed level design for the first portion of the game, ideas for other levels, 13 characters, half a conversation and beginning ideas for cutscenes and the design of the enemy for the first set of levels. By that point, the development was put on hiatus because there was so much that needed to be explained and re-explained about the process; i felt the need to focus on creating training materials since this isn’t a typical form of writing, or even a typical form of game design, so there was a lot of confusion about concepts that needed to be made clear before we could get an adequate amount of work done.
It got temporarily put off to the side after i got a job. I became busy with work and piecing my social life back together. Became consumed with dreams of adventure and travel. And eventually decided i wanted to continue my education at Moorpark College. So my attention became too divided to get work done on it more frequently than, perhaps, once a month.
What the heck is Alissa going to do??….She has too many interests.
My ex-boyfriend continued to sway in and out of communication with me, and i got to the point that i stopped caring. His word wasn’t true and he wasn’t really going to come back, so i wasn’t willing to waste time caring about whether or not things could be fixed anymore.
My parents continued to express disdain towards each other. My dad moved out on my 19th birthday, planning to divorce my mom. Again, my care felt non existent. I hid it from myself.
If love can’t do it, if i can’t fix it, if effort is futile; why continue trying? And why allow myself to be hurt? That attitude, unknowingly, began to seep into all aspects of my life.
Alissa is left broken, but frozen solid…cold-hearted and unwilling to bleed, unable to feel.
In July 2015, i excitedly attended a ballroom dance class, where i met and danced with a man whom i found myself both happily laughing over and yelling at myself about through the whole car ride home. I didn’t want to fall in love, but here i already strongly admired this guy i had known for just a couple hours. The kindness in his eyes, the ways he conducted himself with humility and gentle, controlled strength, and the little bits of conversation that showed his inquisitiveness left me dazzled. After a few weeks, we started dating.
This point in my life seems to be the ending pages of a chapter, turning over to the next. I want to become an agreeable coauthor, working with God to continue writing a story that is lovely. I want more certainty, once again, in my faith. I want to have a healthy measure of care.
My greatest hope is to help others see the beauty in their own stories; that we can all work together to write a grand story that echoes through this whole Earth.