I was born in 2000 as the first child of two parents in West Allis, a suburb of Milwaukee in the US state of Wisconsin. Four and a half years later, I gained a sibling.
The earliest memory I can recall is a very young me suddenly waking up alone in my parents' bed. Filtered sunlight seeps through the covered windows. I stare into the mirror placed at the foot of the bed and think, I will remember this. Thus began a tendency to remember strange and specific details that largely do not matter.
In 2005, I was enrolled at a Catholic school in the neighborhood. The school had merged with multiple other private schools in the past and had two campuses. In fourth grade, the campus I was at closed, and my class was merged with that of the other campus. Strangely, all families but one who had already been sending their children to the surviving campus pulled their children out. My class size shrank to the single digits by the time of graduation at the end of eighth grade. I remain close friends with most of these folks I had known since kindergarten.
During this time, I had been socially averse. While I had the occasional visit at a friend's place and was involved in forensics (the sport of speaking) and track, I had kept largely to myself at recess and found excuse after excuse to not go places. I spent my evenings using the family computer. While I battled a low opinion of myself, my mind sought an understanding of how the computer worked, followed by how everything else worked. I begin to pick up the basics of programming through MIT Scratch. From approximately 2007 to 2010, I was very active on the Scratch forum boards under an alias I no longer use, constantly seeking to create grander and grander projects that never really got finished. This era ended with a well-deserved ban from the website for being an asshole. However, exposure to people who preached the benefits of open-source software planted the seeds of community-focused thinking that would sprout later in life. I had a brief interest in speedcubing that did not last long.
Funnily enough, the one permanent bodily injury I have came from grade school forensics. Feel free to ask how. x)
From 2015 to 2019, I was enrolled in one of the two major public high schools in the area. The culture shock was immense but sorely needed. Over the four years, I shed the hateful and discriminatory beliefs I had picked up in my youth, and I began to come out of my social shell. I accepted that the doubts I had about Catholicism constitued atheism. I was active in both cross-country running and track, but by the end of my senior year, I began to shy away from the sport. I had a brief stint of lucid dreaming to try to explore my life-long fascination with transformation, but this was largely unsuccessful.
During this time, I understood I wanted to be a software engineer. I sought to improve my programming abilities by finding a project that would keep my attention for at least a few weeks. I began to pick up the basics of the engineering side of software development as I struggled with the hairball architecture of my rapidly-growing bot for a popular instant messaging service. Eventually, I gained the confidence to begin contributing to established software projects, first in the form of trivial patches to the Xfce project. Meanwhile, I had gotten sucked into an MMORPG. My guild was a great place to get comfortable socializing and learn leadership skills, but my struggle with low self-esteem often got in the way. I also began to contribute back to the online furry community I had been aware of for nearly a decade, primarily in the form of short story writing.
I moved to the City of Milwaukee proper to attend the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Unfortunately, many struggles came to a boiling point in the first term: an unrelenting pace of coursework, learning how to live by myself, an uncomfortable lack of privacy with my roommate, figuring out how on Earth I was going to pay for my education after the first term, my persistent depressive symptoms... and a horrible realization that there was this growing discomfort with my body that I could not identify the source of.
Two things allowed me to survive this challenge. The first was my determination to get comfortable with getting around on my own. With my bicycle, I acquired a sense of direction and a sense of place; I credit my grandfather's preference for the bicycle for giving me the idea that this thing I had traditionally used for fun could be a legitimate tool. The second was the chance discovery of the local furry community. Here were a group of people well-versed in many of the problems I had been struggling with, especially with body image, and I could talk to them when I couldn't to anyone else.
By early 2020, I had a good thing going. While low self-esteem kept knocking me down, I greatly expanded my circle of friends and buddies. I learned to assert myself when necessary. I managed to secure an all-year internship while being a freshman. I had arrived at an answer to my discomfort that I was okay with, which (among other things) led me to start growing out my hair; I refuse to ever cut it. Another chance enounter started the old computer collection I had always wanted to curate. The goal of life, as I had understood, was to cast as wide of a net as possible: to get to know as many people as one can, to learn of and participate in as many experiences as one is comfortable with. Anything was possible so long as I possessed my courage and my bicycle.
The pandemic shattered many of these. I strongly practiced isolation, sometimes not stepping outside for weeks, for if I could keep all my friends alive, we would have the rest of our lives to celebrate. However, the many groups I had found homes in began to crumble. People not seeing each other brought increasing amounts of strife. The political climate, which I had largely ignored until now, became horrifying. My mind unraveled, and I became a doomer. There was no joy left in life. Our self-wrought destruction was at hand. How could one believe otherwise? The one handle of hope I held onto was that I could one day safely see the people I cared about again, until it was violated by the sudden death of one of those good friends. It was time to lie down and die.
But I learned there is power. There was power in the act of mass protest against systemic injustices. There was power in learning that, yes, the reasons some things are the way they are can simply be arbitrary and able to be changed. And, the powers that be have names and faces. They were people too. I became involved in local affairs, learning as much as I could about the state of things and how I could push the relevant people to improve them. The release of vaccines allowed me to become comfortable seeing the people I cared about again. Though I may keep slipping back into the pit of despair, each time I climb back out, I remain above water for longer. I engaged more deeply with my hobbies, becoming a maintainer of part of Xfce, expanding my old computer collection for the purpose of research, and commissioning a fursuit. I began to travel to meet folks I had known online for so long, and in doing so, I became an urbanist. The people around me began to look to me as a symbol of actionable positivity, though my successes have mainly involved the installation of bicycle infrastructure. I also accepted I am pansexual.
In May 2023, I graduated as a bachelor of science in software engineering with a minor in mathematics.
After graduation, I went full-time with the company I had been an intern at for the previous three years. I bought a property in Milwaukee and do not plan to move away from this city. I care about it deeply and am bullish about its future. I don't think I'll run for local office, but I keep in contact with those in office (and have seen tangible results).
My old computer collection grows, and the documentation side of this endeavor has stepped into archival of documents and information that are increasingly difficult to find.
The local furries and I help put smiles on people's faces with public fursuiting. I hope we can eventually be able to branch into raising money for charity with our antics.
Bicycling continues to be my main mode of transportation. If I can't get from here to there by bike, I will take a bus or train. Not having to own a car has saved me an immense amount of money.