Looking Back On 2023, Looking Ahead To 2024

The changing of the year is both a time of looking back on the year that was and a time of looking forward to the year that lies before us. I think both practices are valuable, and I'm finding myself wanting to reflect on the major events of 2023, while also looking ahead to how I want to focus myself in 2024, with a particular intention towards building on and continuing the places of growth I experienced last year.

Let's begin in the past, then look ahead to the future!

Looking Back On 2023

As some of you may know, I have a Patreon, and for that Patreon, I write a daily diary entry I call Dear Patrons... wherein I share events of the day and things I'm thinking about. I first write these up as a text document that I carefully name to give me a summary of something about that day that was important to me. This served as an excellent resource for reviewing this past year, and it meant I didn't have to try to rely on my memory. Indeed, there were many things I'd done (or that'd happened) that I'd forgotten about until I was reminded by reading through these filenames!

As part of my review process, I wrote down notes of things that seemed important to me and that I wanted to reflect on here. After doing that, I decided to organize them into some larger categories to discuss. In no particular order (other than the one I wrote them down in), these categories are: Gaming, Introspection, Creativity, Community & Relationships, Environment Improvement, and Faith.


This was a busier gaming year for me than I'd remembered it having been! I beat Elden Ring (and played plenty more of it), which also meant I finally watched a bunch of Elden Ring videos on YouTube. I've overall had a lot of fun with the game, though I've had my criticisms as well, many of which I've talked about in videos on my YouTube channel.

Another new game I played through this year was The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. I played this one with my sister, as she likes to watch me play the Zelda series. I overall quite enjoyed it, but I did have some key issues with the game. I made a review of it you can watch if you want more of my thoughts on it.

One of my general goals is to play more of the games in my backlog, and to that end, I played both Darksiders II and Darksiders III. I enjoyed them both, though I liked Darksiders II more as I recall. The series is interesting in that it overall does a decent job of combining elements of other games that were popular when they were being made. However, I personally felt the blend of Darksiders II to be better than that of Darksiders III. I think I only talked about these in Dear Patrons... entries, though, and not here or on my YouTube channel.

I also got back into a couple of games I'd drifted away from. I returned to both of these in the summer: Magic: The Gathering and Guild Wars 2. While I'd been paying attention to the former, I finally began to dip my toes into replaying it when I picked up a few cards that'd come out over the years that I wanted, then finally got back into drafting at a local game store with the release of the Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth set. I've been having fun drafting regularly since! For Guild Wars 2, I hadn't played the game in ages, as I'd found it boring back in the day. However, friends convinced me to give the Path of Fire and End of Dragons expansions a try, and I'm happy to report that I found them quite fun! I always wanted to like the game, but I found combat boring with Core content (and Heart of Thorns hadn't clicked for me at the time it came out; I think it was probably too hard?), so I'm happy to report that between significantly improved enemy design and elite specializations, I've been enjoying the combat. I've been playing it regularly since!

Another game I've been back into, which I started towards the end of the year, is Dragon Quest Builders 2. For those who are unfamiliar, I'd describe it as a mix between MineCraft, The Sims, and an anime. You build stuff like in MineCraft, but that stuff is often rooms and stations for your NPC allies to interact with like in The Sims, and those NPCs are involved in an anime-like story, complete with multiple arcs. I have played through it before, but that was quite some time ago, and there was a lot I'd forgotten! It does appeal to me a good deal, and I've thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it.

Finally, I've gotten back into streaming. I haven't done a lot of streams, but I have done a few since Thanksgiving. I'd taken a long hiatus since my previous computer's graphics card died the year before, but I'll have more to talk about regarding streaming later, especially when I get into what I want from 2024.


There's been a lot of this this year, much of which intersects the Creativity and Faith categories I'll be discussing later. However, a big theme was learning self-acceptance. Truthfully, this is still an ongoing process. I've found that writing about these things is very helpful to me when it comes to processing them, so rather than repeat myself, here are a few links to articles from this year that fit into this category: my poem, Capitalism Brain, is part of my ongoing struggle with my relationship with money and work; these themes are expanded upon in Seeking Tension's Source, an article where I try to understand what things cause me stress; and they're further developed in Wrestling With Manhood, where I process the difficulty of gender roles and societal expectations.

There have also been Dear Patrons... entries where I talk about this stuff. I've still got a lot of growing to do in these areas, but I made substantial progress this last year, and I'm grateful for that.


There's been a lot here: writing that's happened, changes with game projects, improvements to the creative process, and just better respect for the creative process in general.

Writing is something I have had a mixed relationship with. I like it as a way of expressing myself, but it also tends to be quite a laborious process. I don't write a lot, but when I do, I do tend to write a lot, if you catch my meaning. You can look through the archives yourself, but I've written a few poems and articles this year, and I'm glad to have done so! They let me express or process things, and I value that. I have been learning how to be more casual with how I approach the writing process, as that helps me with creative block: the most common thing to hold me up is trying to figure out how to say what I want to say, or what order to say things in. While I'm still working my way through these problems, I've gotten better about them.

On the game development front, I started last year with Psychopomps Are Missing as a main project and Astria, Princess of Light as a side project (I'd have to double check to see when I started working on that latter one). However, I eventually abandoned both and started design work on another project that has since morphed into yet another project.

So what's going on? Learning through trial and error, that's what! I keep trying ideas that sound good, then either discovering they don't work as well as I thought they would or get stuck in so many details I run completely out of steam. My only realistic solution when running into these problems has been to start over, except this is like dying in a Souls game. Sure, I lost a lot of progress, but I got to keep a lot of things, too: ideas, lessons, plugin files, coding techniques, and so forth. I've also better learned how to work with RPG Maker MV, with which I have a love-hate relationship. I am determined to make something with it, but I'm not sure what exactly it'll be. The current project at the time of writing is showing real promise, though! I should make sure to make some sort of postmortum when I do finally finish my project...there'd be a lot to share. (For those not familiar with the lingo, in game development, a "postmortum" is a critical analysis of a project examining what went well, what went poorly, and what lessons were learned along the way.)

One key thing I've been learning about creativity in general is that I'm best served with what I'd call a summary document. In college, I learned about highly detailed design documents, but making such documents is unhelpful for me. However, if I write a summary of what I want to do, this helps me a lot when it comes to actually doing the thing. I both give myself a starting point and writing it kickstarts my creativity without stifling it. I only discovered this towards the end of the year, but I just know it'll serve me well in the future!

Finally, I've been growing to respect the creative process more. In large part, this has to do with how I conceptualize work. In a number of the articles I linked in the above section, I dig into this in great detail, but the short version is that I have a view of work that is unrealistically active. This has led me to discount passive aspects of work, like thinking. A thing I've come to realize is that creativity is like a plant: it must be nurtured and cared for and given space to grow. These are deliberate practices, to be sure, but creativity can't be forced simply by staring at the problem. One of my challenges (that I've made a great deal of progress on) is feeling the need to appear productive to others. I'm still working through this, though.

Still, I've learned a lot about how creativity works, or, at least, about how my creativity works. I need sources of inspiration (playing games or otherwise ingesting media), I need time to process those things, I need space to think, and I need to give my subconscious time to put things together. Often doing the work of creativity doesn't look like how I think work looks, and coming to understand that has been challenging. I've got a ways to go, but I've made a lot of progress on this stuff this year!

Community & Relationships

I'll be talking about this more when it comes to looking ahead to 2024, but community and relationships are really important for us humans, and I wanted to talk some about these things from this past year as a foundation point for this year.

Most of my community comes through church, and while I value this, if I'm blunt, I also find that limiting. This is because a lot of those interactions are structured; they have some organizing principle behind them (for example, the Bible study group I've been in since 2018 is focused on doing Bible studies—shocking, I know). I find I like casual, freeform conversation more in most cases. For the sake of thoroughness, in addition to Sunday morning gatherings and the aforementioned Bible study group, my church started up a Young Professionals group that I've joined (and which I've thoroughly liked, as it's been more conversational in nature—also, the Bible study group predates my current church), and I've also helped out with teaching ESL in the spring of last year (we did it for basically two school years) and with Talk Time (a different aid for English language learners) this last autumn. While many of those are technically social interaction, they're often not the kind I'm craving.

There have been some dinners with friends, but while enjoyable, these have been few and far between, which highlights a major challenge of adult life: people are just too dang busy to hang out. This is a self-inflicted tragedy of American life, and while I do believe it can be overcome, it requires a strong commitment to do so. I have been a driving force behind one of those dinners with friends, and I helped my sister with scheduling another one (well, it was technically a Christmas party for that Young Professionals church group, which we emergency rescheduled and hosted when previous arrangements fell through at the last moment).

The most frequent casual conversation time I have are the walks with my sister (these are more hikes, really). I do enjoy chatting with her, and we've been privileged to see some really spectacular sunsets at the end of the year, including one that also featured a rainbow! That was really special.

There have been some family visits as well, which can be nice. My cousin visited for a few days in April, and a month later, we visited family in the Midwest. It is good to see extended family, but often, we have limited interests in alignment—which is another common challenge with church-based gatherings.

I do have some gaming things I do in community: I have a regular Guild Wars 1 playtime on Sundays (that I've been part of for years) which is good fun, and I've been really appreciating the social elements of drafting Magic again. Though, the games of Commander that sometimes happen afterwards are better for small talk than the draft itself. Streaming is another way to engage with community, and that's what I want from it, and part of why I started streaming again later in the year.

Overall, I do feel like social activities have been up this last year, which is good, but I'm still craving more hanging out with peers. The problem is that I want something that can be casual and unscheduled, and that just doesn't work well with the way American society is set up these days. I can and do lament that, but I also need to find a solution to it, which is far more challenging.

Environment Improvement

This is about making my space (that is, my room) a more enjoyable place for me to be. There've been a few things I've done this last year that helped here.

For one thing, I got glow-in-the-dark star stickers this past spring that I've put up all over my walls (well, mostly along the top half and in between all of the art I've got hanging up). Night time makes me feel lonely and isolated, and these stickers have helped a nice bit with this feeling. I'm really glad I got them and put them up!

I also rearranged my room some. This is something I'd been wanting to do for a while, primarily to move a bookcase out from behind my chair so I could get better access to it (and the binders of Magic cards on it). I was also able to free up a table for various uses (mostly Magic related ones), which has been a great boon. The downside is that I used that bookcase as a place to attach my microphone mount holder thingie. I do have an alternate spot on my desk I can attach it, but it's far more awkward and not a place I want to just leave it attached. This has made streaming notably clunkier, but I think the overall improvements were worth that cost.

Finally, I put up some fairy lights (a.k.a. Christmas lights, but these are more general, so I'm going with the UK term) under my bunk bed. That space is mostly used for storage, kinda (roughly a third of my desk is under it), and it has historically been a dark space. Putting a bunch of pretty lights up under there has been a huge improvement and does a lot to boost my mood. I've actually had them since the start of the year but didn't get them put up until the end of it because I first had to figure out what I wanted to do with them (my mom got them for me on sale on something of a whim, as I recall), then once I'd figured that out, I had to figure out how to actually get them put up. I'm glad I finally did!


This is a big one, though a lot of it intersects with things I talked about previously, especially in the Introspection section (most of the things linked there have aspects of faith woven in with them). One of the things I've been realizing as I reviewed this last year is the need for self-acceptance and love, which is necessary to receive the love of others; this notably includes God's love for me. I'll write about this more in the looking ahead to 2024 section, though, and stick to a few notable things here.

The first comes from mid-April, when I learned that a woman in her early 30s that I knew from the Bible study group had died unexpectedly of what I believe was some kind of medical cause, though I know not exactly what. Several of us from that Bible study group, myself included, went to her memorial service. Such a tragic passing always stirs the doubts within me: why did God permit this? And, personally, if God would allow this to occur to her (and the Bible attests that God does not play favorites), how can I rely on Him for my own health and wellbeing? Of course, this is accompanied by feeling a need to find a reason she died, some failure that I can avoid so as to avoid her fate—as an aside, I believe this desire for control is a key cause of victim blaming. However, when I ponder these things (and abandon baseless speculation), John 21:20-22 comes to mind: we each have our own fate. There is some comfort in that. At this point, the immediate emotionality of that day has passed, though I still think on it from time-to-time.

On a more positive note, towards the end of the year, I had a breakthrough revelation that I referred to as a morality paradigm shift. This is somewhat complicated, and I'm still working to absorb the lesson and integrate it into my thinking. I won't write much here about it, though, for two reasons. The first is that I already wrote an article on it, and the second is that it's difficult to communicate and really requires its own focus to discuss. I do think there's a great deal more to expand on than I discussed in that linked article, by the way; it mostly served to lay a foundation for the topic.

Finally, in November, I followed a link to a Dan McClellan video, which led to me watching many of his videos. This challenged my understanding of the Bible, and put me in a kind of shock. Thankfully, I had recently gotten to know someone via the Young Professionals group at my church who, thanks to that group, I knew would be an excellent person to reach out to about this. I sent him a lengthy email, and he promptly replied with some very helpful links to a variety of YouTube videos, with the primary helpful ones being from InspiringPhilosophy. The big thing that happened here, that I was able to quickly identify (for which I'm also grateful), is that I know almost nothing about Biblical scholarship. Thanks to the indepth videos by InspiringPhilosophy, I've now gained a rudimentary knowledge base of the subject. Overall, I think this was a good thing, even though it was quite challenging at the time. It's better to be exposed to it as I was, when I had time to recover (and a God-provided person to provide a crash pad) than to be blindsided by it at some later point.

A Lot Happens In A Year!

It's easy to forget how long a year is! A lot happened, and I've only touched upon things that I thought were the most important or significant. I've got a few things I didn't touch on, like watching Naruto on YouTube (subtitled and free with ads) or finally reading through Coming Out Like a Porn Star, that I wrote down in my notes. There were plenty of things that didn't even make my notes list!

There's been a lot of growth over this last year, and I hope it shows in what I've written, but I want that growth to continue. So let's talk about what I'm wanting to see from this coming year!

Looking Ahead To 2024

Before I get started, I want to set some expectations. What I'm about to share are desired areas of growth or change. I wouldn't characterize them as "goals" because I don't see them as things to achieve (well, generally speaking, anyway). That means they're things I'm working towards, but they'll require consistent work; I don't just achieve something and am finished with it (unless I get a game done and published).

With that, let's get started!

Better Sleep Discipline

My Patrons are well aware that I struggle with getting to bed at a consistent time, and while there are many culprits, two major ones are cleaning my teeth and, ironically, writing that day's Dear Patrons... entry. This area of growth is about developing the discipline to do those things earlier in the day so that I don't leave them to be things I need to get done when I want to go to bed, as doing that inevitably pushes my bed time later.

Watch Less YouTube (And Game More)

Watching YouTube is easy, and I do get some good value out of it. However, I spend more time watching it than I want, and I'd rather put that time towards playing games, which I think is overall a better activity for me. To be clear, I don't want to watch no YouTube, and that's part of the trick: decreasing the amount is much harder than cutting it out entirely.

There are a couple of notable challenges here! One is that I have a bit of a completionist streak, which makes me want to watch all of however many videos I open tabs for. I'm getting better about this and recognizing when I'm not actually interested enough and should just close the video, so I am making progress in this regard.

Another challenge is getting caught in the middle: the part of me that feels like I need to "be productive" by doing something or other pulls one way, while the part of me that has something it wants to do (this is often something in a game, though not always; it can even be some kind of work!) pulls another. When these pull in opposite directions, I compromise by doing things like reading social media or watching YouTube. In so doing, neither is satisfied.

As I've thought about this, I'd be better off following my emotions, since if I don't attend to whatever I'm being drawn towards and try to force myself to do something else instead, I'm going to be creatively blocked anyway. That said, I am also learning ways to direct that attention. In truth, that's another area to grow!

But overcoming that feeling of needing to be able to present myself as productive (including to Patrons in my Dear Patrons... entries) to avoid the judgment of "lazy" is something I've struggled with for a long time. I'm making strides, to be sure, but there's still a ways to go.

Better Portion Control

Like many (most?) Americans, I want to lose weight. Alas, fat has excellent navigational skills and doesn't get lost easily. (I like this joke, and if you like it too, feel free to use it!) I was trained as a child to clean my plate (they even gave us prizes in elementary school for eating our entire school lunch), and this isn't something easily shaken off. Therefore, I need to be very careful to not grab more food when filling my plate than I actually want. Unfortunately, my brain's calibration in this regard is off.

So it is that I want to develop a better sense of how much food I actually want. There are a number of things that can help with this, such as using smaller plates and waiting longer to get seconds (so I give myself a chance to actually feel full), but all of these serve the same goal: eat less.

I will add that I do want to exercise more in theory, but this is more for overall health (it'd likely help with my sleep, for example) rather than weight loss. Simply put, it's way easier to eat calories than it is to burn them up in exercise, so while it can tip the scales (pun noted) if things are otherwise balanced, the focus here is on addressing calorie intake. Also, a big challenge with exercising more is needing to find exercise that I'll actually do. At present, I do regularly go on hikes with my sister (I enjoy "walking and talking," and have since I was a kid), but I'm not sure what else I'd actually be interested in.

I want to note that I see this as likely to be just a starting point, but it's an important one. I also need to address things like snacking, especially when I'm not even hungry (I've been told there's a Japanese word that means something to the effect of "eating because your mouth is lonely," and I feel that). Learning to work with my body better overall when it comes to eating is going to be an important journey for me, but changing habits that I've built up over my entire life is hard!

Make Substantial Progress On My Game

This is pretty self-explanatory. It's possible that "substantial progress" could mean finishing it, which would be fantastic, but at this point, I have no reason to expect such things. I do want to finish something in RPG Maker MV, but as I said in the Creativity section above, I don't know for sure that it'll be what I'm currently working on. At this point, though, I've come to accept that this is a learning process. It's the usual artist's journey, where your first efforts are terrible as you learn your craft. I take encouragement from this, and recognize that the previous projects aren't failures, they're lessons. The real failure would be to learn nothing from them or give up entirely (another way of abandoning the lessons).

Stream A Few Times Per Month

Another self-explanatory objective, and perhaps the most quantifiable of these. Simply put, streaming is fun, but more importantly to me, it's a way to interact with others. I like that about it. I will likely focus primarily (if not exclusively) on streaming Guild Wars 1, since that game is easy for me to stream and what community I have on Twitch is built around it. I have also found I prefer playing new games for myself, since streaming is a performance that affects how one plays.

There is no schedule for streams, but I am conscious of wanting to stream at times when my European viewers can actually watch, so ideally a starting time somewhere between 10 AM and noon Pacific, though, like I said, that's not a hard-and-fast rule by any means.

Knowing God's Love For Me More Deeply

A theme from this past year was growing my faith from largely existing within my intellectual and rational self to deeper, more emotional parts of me, and that's something I want to continue growing in this year, with the heart of that being deeply rooted in the knowledge of God's love for me. While I have a firm understanding of this intellectually, a deeper knowing of it is required for deeper things, like a solid trust or the ability to live fully within the moral paradigm shift I mentioned previously.

I think I now understand the root of the issue here, which is a lack of self-acceptance and self-love at the deeper, more foundational reaches of my being. This has been hidden from my intellectual mind, but the excavation work done in the Tragedy of Virtue and Wrestling With Manhood articles I wrote towards the end of last year have helped me perceive this. This lacking makes it difficult for me to receive love deeply or securely, causing me to live in fear of losing it and the safety and belonging it provides. Critically, it makes it hard to trust in God's goodness, love for me, and care for me, with a special emphasis on "me" there. How can I trust that God accepts me and loves me for who I am if I struggle to do that myself?

For those curious, I trace the seed of this problem to broader American church culture, particularly Conservative Christian culture in America. This is largely because of what these cultures have cast as their cultural enemies, which in turn causes me confusion about God. After all, for better and for worse, Christians represent God to the world.

Something I struggle with is taking continuous activity concepts too literally. A minor issue here is the idea of "singing constant praise to God," which is not appealing to me—I don't want to spend all of my time singing. There's this idea in American Christianity that you should always be witnessing, and like, if I'm being honest, I want to spend a substantial chunk of my time by myself doing things like playing video games and watching YouTube. I'm not actually sure what "always be witnessing" would actually look like, but if I'm honest with myself, the notion I have in my head of that sounds really unappealing. To be fair, I think what I'm picking up on here is actually a message of being intentional and not failing to witness when you have the chance, a message which I'm inflating into something beyond itself. Nevertheless, I feel like what I want from life and how I like to spend my time is condemned as a waste of time, leading to a source of self-condemnation.

But that feeds into issues of work in general. The "Protestant Work Ethic" and ideas of "work is worship" have led to a spiritualization of workaholism, and this causes me some major struggles. I've discussed many of these before, but to repeat some core concepts: being hard working is a high virtue, being lazy is a grave sin. Thus, enjoying leisure time must be earned through hard work—if this even can be earned. But who is imposing this mindset on me? Is it not me? I've of course absorbed it from somewhere, but can I accept myself as I am with regards to work? I think I'm doing better in this regard, but I've got a ways to go yet—this is a serious area of self-condemnation.

Lastly, and this should be no surprise to anyone familiar with my work, I feel too sexual. I've talked about this in couched language, but to be blunt: my favorite type of art would be called pornography by many. I feel there is a sacredness and a beauty to vulvas that doesn't feel acceptable within Christian culture. I struggle with the awe and wonder I feel when I see an image of one; can their Creator and Designer receive such praise? Sometimes I wonder if God made me this way because He wants someone to appreciate this particular aspect of His handiwork. Nevertheless, due to how American Christian culture treats sex, sexuality, and nudity, I feel a pall of condemnation over this aspect of myself, and that's something I struggle with mightily. However, due to how obvious this pall of condemnation is, I've shared more about it and worked through it more than I have the issues of the previous paragraph, which feel somehow even more dangerous to admit.

I've got a lot of work to do when it comes to fully accepting myself. I'm not entirely sure what fully accepting myself even looks like, but I know I need to learn how to do it. Writing helps, and I expect there'll be more of that in the future. I do trust that God will lead me and teach me how to do it. He's been faithful thus far, after all!

Developing Community & Relationships

Finally, I want to continue developing a sense of community and relationships. I've often lamented the losses I've felt after graduating from college. These losses are two-fold: the loss of a third-place in which to meet people and hang out with them, and the loss of general availability with which to do those things (as I lamented previously, adult life keeps people too busy for them to easily hang out). Frankly, I think society would be better off if people spent less time working and more time developing community, but my personal opinions do little to address the issues here.

Though that does lead into my general challenge: I tend to think in terms of systems, which means I tend to think of solutions in terms of systems. This makes it hard for me to find individual solutions to problems, and that is particularly true of this one.

My pie-in-the-sky dream (though I hope it isn't quite so fanciful as to be impossible) is to live in a big mansion along with a bunch of friends. I'm envisioning around 2-3 couples along with a few adult singles, plus likely some children. I'd want us to have our individual spaces, but also common areas we can congregate in. This requires a high level of commitment to community and relationship, but when working, it sounds deeply appealing to me.

However, I need to focus in on what's practical now. The main things I'm looking towards helping with this are going to the Magic drafts (and further getting involved in that community somehow) and streaming (to an extent, but this is very hit-or-miss—that said, watching more streams can also help here). It's also possible that relationships could form through the volunteering I do with my church for Talk Time, but if such occurs, I'd consider that a pleasant surprise rather than an expected outcome.

I should maybe clarify what I'm looking for relationally. My desire is for friends that I enjoy being around and hanging out with. I want us to be able to talk about things that are important to us, yes (and this includes matters of faith or other deep beliefs, but it does not require we agree on these; indeed, it requires we can disagree without judging each other), but also that we have things we enjoy doing together. This is somewhat vague because there is in my mind a breadth of possibilities, and I would like some variety. Mostly, I suppose, I miss the friend group I had growing up (there were four of us, which was perfect for video games of that era, when systems typically had four controller ports) and the friend group I had in college (built from casual Magic in the cafeteria and Pok√©mon club).

I'm not quite sure how to build the kind of thing I'm wanting these days, but I've got some leads (as mentioned above), and I want to take further steps in this this year.

Past and Future

I see life a lot like a plant in a garden. We grow, but God is the gardener who directs that growth. He prunes off the bad, gives us support, and waters and fertilizes us. He provides us sunlight (and, if we accept it, Sonlight).

A lot has happened this last year, and I expect this coming year to be full of many points of growth and change as well, some expected and some unexpected. I'm grateful for this last year, and I'm looking forward towards this coming one with a kind of hopeful determination. May it build on last year's growth, and may it become the foundation for next year's growth!

Thank you for reading.

You can support Sientir in his creative endeavors by subscribing to his Patreon or sharing his work.


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