To whom it may concern,
The nineteenth of October 2014 was a Sunday. I was lying in the same bed I’m typing from now, browsing the internet on an old crusty laptop my school had loaned me for the year. That summer, our computer broke and we had no funds to replace it. I spent the summer watching YouTube on a tiny monitor through my PlayStation – and mourning my lost world in Minecraft thanks to our damaged PC.
On the first day back to school, I begged my teacher to loan me something so I could do school work at home. That laptop was a grandpa. It ran Windows 7, had the slowest processing speed known to man and crashed unexpectedly. The touchpad stuck, the graphic’s card sucked and some of the keyboard letters were flaking off – but, I was grateful. There was no way my mother had the money for another computer and it became a consistent worry in my life that eventually, we’d have to give it back.
2014 was a particularly hard year. In April, someone I considered my best friend was in a car accident, then a coma, and the experience resurfaced my depression little by little and inch by inch the wave engulfed me. I found myself struggling silently. I’d gotten used to not being alone anymore and all of sudden I was drowning in solitude. When summer came, the relief I felt was immense.
After our computer broke, I spent the summer on my PlayStation 3, Hamish. I’d gotten the name from Sherlock’s A Scandal in Belgravia:
Sherlock: Oh, you’re rather good.
Irene Adler: You’re not so bad.
Watson: John Hamish Watson. Just… if you’re… looking for baby names.
I was playing through The Last of Us, a game that is so integral to my life that you do not want to get me started on how perfect it is. I’ll save that for another post. I will say, it took me eight months to finish that game.
My mom bought me Hamish, my PS3, in Christmas 2013 and after taking a week to finish Beyond Two Souls, I then preceded to fall madly in love with a video game. Before that, my love was reserved for Professor Layton, but this was different. I had anticipated playing this game for half a year.
I discovered Felix’s channel in summer 2013 just after finishing my GCSEs. My mental health was poor. I was suffering with general anxiety disorder and depression and I left lower school feeling numb. I’d spent the year alone and counting the days down in my diaries till The Day of Escape. So, when I found Felix, I just saw it as something else to do to pass the time. I didn’t think much of his content honestly, it wasn’t my style – that was, until he played The Last of Us. For two weeks I craved that game. I waited everyday for a new episode, falling deeper and deeper into Joel and Ellie’s world and after it was over, I knew I needed to experience the game for myself. I never realised that video-games on consoles like PlayStation could feature such personal and intimate narratives. Naively I believed they were reserved for first person shooters like Call of Duty; games like that do not interest me at all.
I was very used to Nintendo. My gaming history went like this: I begged my mom for a DS because everyone else had one. My class would play Nintendogs on coach trips and I was immensely jealous. Before seeing them, my gaming knowledge was limited to playing Catz on our monolith PC in the 90s and early 00s. Buying a console when I was younger wasn’t an option for my single mother. I begged – and begged and begged and begged for around three years. But in 2008, Mom bought me my baby, a little green DS that still works perfectly today. My first DS game was MySims Kingdom and for two years I maxxed that baby out. I’m a simoleonaire. Around this time, my uncle sent me an R4 card for my birthday and it came pre-downloaded with around forty games. Thirteen year old me felt like she hit the jackpot. Professor Layton was one of those games and that started my adoration for the series. I own every game; I’ve memorised nearly every puzzle; I have a strict process on how to tackle the games; I know all the lore and theories; I’ve watched all the Professor Layton YTPs; my mom bought me a red 3DSXL merely because I was desperate to play the next trilogy; I once played through a title for 19 hours without sleep. I’m a disgustingly hardcore, proud Professor Layton fan.
That was it until The Last of Us.
Eight months. It took me that long because I didn’t expect the world to look and feel so real to me. Every time I failed a battle and that cut-scene would take over to show the character’s violent death, I would feel genuinely responsible. Swiftly, I’d switch it all off and avoid the game for monthly intervals because the guilt was too much. As a result I managed to make a sixteen hour game last over half a year.
I was relying on a lot of outside factors to keep me emotionally and mentally sound. That friend, The Last of Us, Professor Layton, Felix, YouTube, and it wasn’t healthy for me.
Sunday 19th October 2014: I sat in bed, still, and I just cried. Not soppy tears, not sobs, I wept. I wept because I felt empty. It’s not a feeling I like to remember.
So, I created Birdlessly.
There were, and are, many other things that contributed to my dysfunctional mental state but at the time, I felt like I needed to deal with one of them the most; my father. My first blog post was an open letter to him. It’s private now, and I’m not eager to revisit that letter, but I do remember how free I felt after writing it.
You see, the meaning behind Birdlessly’s name is derived from the state of mind I was stuck in, and it’s not a happy word. When you’re feeling ‘birdlessly’, you’re feeling imprisoned; I felt like a bird in a cage, wings clipped, unable to fly. However, funnily enough, the name slowly evolved into someone more light, radiant even. Now when I think of Birdlessly, I’m reminded of that girl, stuck at school, stuck in her head and I look at myself now and see how much I’ve changed.
Birdlessly is hope. Being ‘birdlessly’ is recognising that it will get better; and it has. I would have never expected that my melancholic diary would transform into a start-up business and a professional digital magazine with me leading a team of twenty people. I would never have guessed that a creative collective like Wildabout would be supporting it.
This month, although it’s cliche, we’re focusing on ‘Beginnings.’ I’ll be introducing the wonderful women running our new POC partner YouTube channel through a series of interviews as well as our new team of writers, artists and filmmakers. From our creative writers, we have prose, self-love poetry, a personal interview, the beginning of a thrilling new story and a music inspired short tale. Our journalists are writing about fandoms, video games vs identity, introspection, Ibeyi, teenagehood, Princess Nokia, and mental health. Our house artists are creating watercolour cartoons and self-reflective illustrations. One of our filmmakers will also be releasing a new film series featuring interviews with women of colour discussing their hair journeys. Additionally, we have a few guest creators who will be contributing to the September issue.
Although I didn’t see it at the time, my struggles were the beginning of something better; my low points contributed to my journey. Without them I would have never discovered Felix and my love for video games. I’m going to be studying game design because of him, because of The Last of Us. If our computer hadn’t broken – and lost my Minecraft world – I would never started Birdlessly on that old laptop in bed two years ago.
If I didn’t confront my depression and my negative feelings, Birdlessly would not exist and I wouldn’t be writing this to you today.
A lot of positive beginnings in my life were conceived from shitty situations and in those moments, it feels like a weight on your chest, like it’s impossible that anything luminous could blossom from this darkness. My whole life has been a series of lotus moments. It is possible.
This month I have the greatest pleasure to say Birdlessly begins anew and so do I.
Lots of love,
Banner © Livia Fălcaru