Francis Rubio

Independence and Renaissance

A 2023 retrospective

Oh it’s that time of the year again. The holidays are always a good opportunity to see friends, feel the warmth of family’s love, and look back on the past year. I started making this tradition of listing down remarkable events in my year a few years ago over at my Twitter account before Elon ruined it for all of us.

I have since lost my threads that I kept, so this tradition carried over to this website I made for myself. In this post, I’ll list down seven remarkable moments from my year, from small wins to turning point victories.

The List

7. Antares Programming Videos

Early this year, I started posting again for Antares Programming. this time, I tried my hand again at producing a video. It was fun but also presented a lot of challenges. The biggest one was the filming location. In the years past, I have always aspired to get into video production. But I did not want the public to see the mess that is our studio-type apartment. Late last year, we got into a new apartment that was decent enough to show to the camera with a bit of touch-up. As long as I turned the lights off and used some LED lights instead, it was a good filming spot.

The next biggest thing was branding. I wanted to position Antares Programming as something of high production value. I didn’t want it to look like just another YouTube channel. While I started Antares Programming in 2018 at a time when there were virtually no Filipino content creators catering to the same audience as I do, that is no longer the case. The video I produced this year reflected my new strategy by (1) filming in queer fashion to represent the virtually unseen queer coders in the country, and (2) filming videos that are more than just a screen recording of an IDE and web browser.

I had wanted to make this video production endeavor a regular thing. However, due to time constraints, lack of resources, and constant life changes this year, this goal will need to wait for next year. I’m looking forward to it. I think it will be my biggest goal for 2024.

6. Project updates

I spawned a few projects this year too. First up is the webring I set up for websites owned by Filipinos. Since I read about web rings, I have wanted to join one. But I have not found one suitable enough for my website. So I created one. So far, it now has ten members.

I have also bought a new domain for this website! Since I started a blog in 2018, one of my long-term goals has been to buy the domain. It’s chic, clever, short, and modern. And now I have acquired it through Cloudflare. While I was at it, I had also transferred my domain from Google Domains to Cloudflare because Squarespace already acquired them.

I also redesigned my website early this year, as I do annually. This year, I redesigned it to reflect my Fashion theme of reds and pinks, which I will discuss in more depth in an upcoming blog post. In line with this, expect my website to go through another redesign when new photos from my gala right outfit come out in January.

Finally, I gave a talk back in January. This time, it was about augmented reality. I had fun preparing this talk and just felt nostalgia the entire time as it had me combing through my college thesis for more information. I would’ve wanted to give more talks this year but my exposure was reduced, again because of less time being devoted to projects like Antares Programming. One of my goals for 2024 is to revitalize my exposure in academic spaces and give more talks. I just love getting opportunities to share wisdom with people younger than me.

5. Death in the family

My aunt whom I haven’t seen in 12 years died in November. It came as a shock to all of us as we were planning to come see her next year. This death was a huge blow to our family. I was in a weird position during all this. Of course, I loved my aunt, but I hadn’t seen her in a long time and I was shocked more than I grieved. But there’s also some overwhelming grief either way, and I felt uncomfortable showing it here because I felt like my other aunt should be grieving her more. She’s now the only one out of four sisters still here, and I know she feels so alone and I had to support her through it. And since she didn’t seem to be outwardly grieving, I felt like I had to keep my grief to myself too. Plus I also had to organize a lot of things in a short period because I had to send him to our province to oversee and help with the funeral of her last sister.

I honestly don’t know if I’m over it. Of course, there’s the existential crisis that naturally follows after a person close to you dies. I’ve had my fair share of that, what with all the deaths in the family early on in my life. But also, when my aunt came to the province, I was left on my own to manage the house, take care of my two younger brothers, manage the budgets, keep the house tidy, and all that stuff. And I realized that as much as I wanted to live alone, it is exhausting having to work all day. And more than grieving my late aunt, I realized that I’m missing my other aunt more. She’s become my mother since my actual mother died. And her going away even just for a week just emphasized how much I loved her and how it would be so hard for me when she was gone. She’s my rock and facing her mortality would be one of the things I would dread the most.

4. Formal exit from Watchtower

This year, I have finally exited formally from Jehovah’s Witnesses. I have outlined my reasons in a blog post. I have tried for years to informally leave the religion in an attempt to salvage what little relationship I had with my friends inside the religion. But after changing addresses multiple times and their representatives keeping on finding me to encourage my return to the religion, I have finally decided to write a disassociation letter.

Theoretically speaking, this would mark me as an "apostate” within the church. This will then prompt all members of the religion, family or otherwise, to cut all ties and contact. I was sad to have my friends cut contact with me, but if I were to be free and happy, I have to do it and stop trying to live up to an inhumane standard that is not even upheld by the very people who enforce it. And my conscience cannot bear to have me stay in an organization whose version of godly justice is to prevent rape victims from reporting their rapists and bundling them along with others as sinners.

3. A promotion

Early this year I got promoted to becoming a team lead, and eventually an OIC IT supervisor. This was quite a fast progression even for an overachiever. Of course, it came with its challenges. From a developer job, I transitioned into more of a people management position. I only have 30% of my time devoted to coding and development tasks.

This was quite a huge change as one can imagine and I considerably struggled. Most of the struggle came from the fact that I just did not have enough experience for the new role, which asks me to both manage people and connect to them, as well as become One of the primary tech experts and point persons for when there are technical inquiries.

The good thing about this is that the company I work for, DICE 205, is nothing short of supportive. Throughout this process of role transitions, I felt that I was being set up for success and that I had all the tools I needed. I’ve been in this company for almost two years now, and I never felt that I was just a statistic. My work here always felt like it had an impact, and my efforts are valuable.

3. New friends

I made awesome friends this year. Honestly, they are the highlight of my year. I met them through Discord. I was just looking for servers to join just so I don’t feel ultra-lonely. And I also thought an overhaul of my social life was overdue.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with them. It was like the universe was telling me that there are still people out there who are good and that I can choose not to be alone. They don’t share in my struggles, of course. I’m still going through it on my own. But just having them within my reach and just co-existing with them is a huge help. For the first time in a long time, I felt welcomed by a group of people who wanted to know me and to listen to my story. Of course, I didn’t want to dump on them the first few days about the things I was struggling with in my life, but it felt good to be in their company. They kept looking for me whenever I was not on the voice channels, and really, I just feel less alone since I joined this server.

I have met them in person since then, and they have become one of my closest friends now. I would not trade them for anything in the world. The good things I got out of these friendships I also bring to my other friendships, especially with my best friends from college. Just being surrounded by people and being in a space where I can be myself and not be judged for it is such a blessing and a privilege. I have now built a safe space around me, and I’m glad to be burdened with the duty of being a good friend to all of them, too.

The event of the year…

1. Breakup

It’s a funny cliché when people who go through breakups say that their previous relationship has now become a lesson for them. And I guess I’ll count myself one of them now. In July, my partner of two years broke up with me saying that he no longer sees me in his future. With the pile of issues we had with each other including compatibility issues, I agreed that the relationship had to end and it would be best for us to go our separate ways. We are good friends, and we don’t hate each other. After all, those two years were the best years I’ve had in a long time, and he’s by no means a bad person; he did bring out the best parts of me, and I hope I did that for him, too. But the breakup devastated me so much that it ushered in a period of me having to overhaul many parts of my life.

I knew how to be independent with all the threats I had in my life, but… it was isolation as a defense mechanism. I had to learn independence in a safe environment… to grow a freedom that I loved to have.

Every good thing that happened in the later parts of this year can be traced back to that breakup. I made new friends, I went to therapy, I went to the gym, and I regained passion for my hobbies, and others. One big lesson I had to learn recovering from that breakup was how I’d hold myself up as a single man. I had to relearn independence. I say relearn because before I met my ex-partner, I was already independent. So independent was I that I didn’t want to get into relationships and that I saw myself as someone who’s above relationships, someone born to do things so great I had to be single to death.

But this period of renaissance this year had me unpack all of the issues I had related to that. I was independent, but it was because of the things I had to go through. I had to grow up fast, I had abandonment issues (the kinds of things you learn in therapy, yeah), and I had issues with money as someone who grew up poor. The breakup allowed me to figure out who I was outside of a relationship. I felt like I had to learn it so much that I dated a couple of people and ended them eventually because it was so clear and palpable that I’m not ready yet. I knew how to be independent with all the threats I had in my life, but it wasn’t true independence; it was isolation as a defense mechanism. I had to learn independence in a safe environment and a space that nurtured me, to grow a freedom that I loved to have. My name is Francis after all, and I’m a free man.

The next year

Pluto has been sitting on Capricorn (my star sign) for the past 15 years. Pluto is the planet of elimination and regeneration. I’m not a delusional zodiac astrologer, but I firmly believe this Pluto thing. In January next year, Pluto leaves Capricorn to position on Aquarius. Astrologers say that this will take a lot of weight from people with Capricorn placements. And I’m hopeful because the past 15 years haven’t been good to me. I hope that the next year is finally the year of blessings. Honestly, ya’ll, I’m tired of learning and growing. I just want peace.

Either way, I’ve always been hopeful about new years and new beginnings. This year had been a great time, despite the tragedies it brought me. Thank you to all the people in my year who made it colorful. That goes for friends, families, and of course the lovers I had. I’m grateful to meeting all of you. I hope we all have a wonderful new year ahead of us.

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