Looking back on the last 10 years has kind of depressed me, to be honest.
I started this silly little screencap webcomic where people play Dungeons & Dragons in the My Little Pony G4 setting in an alternate universe where no one’s heard of this setting when I was almost 19, on summer break between my first and second year of college.
I remember lamenting not being able to play with my D&D group from my hometown, the ones I’d first ever played D&D at all with. I wanted some way of maintaining and capturing that feeling of enjoying the fun of a D&D group while I went to college, because I knew I probably wouldn’t have the time to find a new group to play with there. (I was right.) Of course I am nothing if not a copycat of better ideas, and I had enjoyed both DM of the Rings and Darths and Droids. Plus my dad was working on a webcomic of his own that I found very amusing (because we share a dry, wry sense of humor), so making a webcomic had officially landed on my bucket list. Then, as I was beginning to realize what a surprisingly great show My Little Pony was, I came across a series of blog posts mapping the main ensemble cast each to a class from D&D. All the pieces fell into place.
I have never been much of an artist, but I had been writing fanfiction and editing/ripping video files for pretty much my entire adolescence. With the help of a program specifically designed to make the panel and word-bubble thing as simple as possible, I had just enough skill to make it happen.
Twice a week seemed reasonable at the start. I got a major boost from the fansite Equestria Daily on my second update, and I loved the rush of validation that came from updates and comments, so on the 10th page I made it double-length to celebrate and updated the schedule to thrice weekly.
And then I just kept going.
A lot of it, I don’t mind telling you now, has consistently been written, assembled, and uploaded the night before an update. Very rarely would I put in a buffer ahead of time; most of the time I’d procrastinate every page to the last minute. (I’ve gotten a little better now. A little.) But this has always been a relatively safe project to procrastinate on. Making one page can take an hour at most, and most of that comes down to writer’s block or scrolling through episodes looking for the right shot. It’s a very easy product to make, all things considered. At best, I can pat myself on the back for knowing my limits and having a streamlined production pipeline on the word go. At worst, I can’t really take much credit for the work because it’s a miniscule fraction compared to most other webcomic creators.
But hey, it’s been updating for 10 straight years now. I took a few hiatuses here and there, and I invited guests to submit pages to keep the update schedule consistent. Goodness knows I wouldn’t have survived this long without that. Gratitude isn’t really enough, but it’s all I have.
I wouldn’t have survived without the support via Patreon either. And every time generous people answered the call when I’ve had to beg for more help because it wasn’t really a living wage and I only had barebones support elsewhere.
…It’s been a rough 10 years.
I dropped out of college because I was going insane from undiagnosed sleep apnea, which also led to me walking out of my first job in a panic attack. I couldn’t afford rent, so I was eventually evicted and had to move back home with my mother, where I promptly sat in a self-pitying fugue state for about half a decade. Eventually I got another job at a thrift store, went on a grand jury, decided to take online classes to become a paralegal, crashed and burned out again, decided to start going to counseling, realized that I’d been ignoring years of old scars, and slowly processed that until it all came out in August 2019 and I had the biggest emotional breakdown of my life, whereupon I had to stop working entirely. I couldn’t cohabit with my little brother in that state, so we sought help from our extended family, who ultimately didn’t take our problems seriously and brokered secret deals to try and solve our issues ‘their’ way, which inevitably became a clusterfuck but by then we’d already moved so it was too late. Then I moved again, this time in a much quieter place, but there was a ticking clock of misunderstanding about how long I needed to recover. When I was pushed to return to work, even when I knew that I would just break down again, I couldn’t step up, and was promptly evicted. So I had to move back in with my mom again.
Only in the last year have things started looking back up. Counseling has been going really well. I’m on a medication that works well for me. My relationship with my immediate family has significantly improved. I’m working on a game modding project, when game dev is something I had wholly given up on because I dropped out of my dream college. I’m learning to value my work and my skills, little by little.
I still have a long way to go, too. I still have massive social anxiety. (In a darkly hilarious way, the pandemic has been a boon for me, removing the expectation of going outside for a nice long while.) I’m starting to think that a ‘normal’ path through life just isn’t going to happen for me. Whatever my new ‘normal’ is going to be, I’m going to have to stake it out for myself.
And through ALL of that…!
I’ve been updating Friendship is Dragons.
I said in the past that the comic’s been a point of stability for me, but that’s kind of understating it in retrospect. Friendship is Dragons has been the one consistently good thing going… despite it just being an easy screencap webcomic about ponies doing nerdy things. It’s been, at the very least, something to keep the days going by, two by two (three on the weekends).
It’s hard to look back on in the context of a decade. At the start of it, I had all my dreams and aspirations ahead of me. I’ve lost and given up so much along the way. And most of what I’ve gained is a better understanding, through the slow and painful autopsy of my life, of why I was doomed to crash and burn in the first place, and why that has to be okay.
I’m sorry if this is upsetting for a 10-year anniversary celebration post. This webcomic is so heavily entwined into my life that I haven’t really been able to separate it. And when I looked back over those 10 years, I couldn’t pretend I felt a lot of joy in the retrospective. So I decided to be honest instead.
The most positive thing I can say about Friendship is Dragons from my perspective is that it’s been undoubtedly a lifeline. And it’s hard to be ‘proud’ of a lifeline. It’s hard to be proud of the thing keeping you above water. Endlessly grateful, certainly, but proud?
At the very least – for the second most positive thing I can say about Friendship is Dragons – it’s helped me keep my writing skills sharp and in practice on a constant regular basis for 10 years, which is why I can say that writing is one of my best skills today.
So here’s to 10 years of the best project of my life, which both isn’t saying much and is saying a whole lot. I’m just continuously surprised and humbled that anyone is still reading it.