Recently I went to see The Last Jedi for the second time just to make sure my take on the film remained intact and also to carefully observe Luke Skywalker, whose plot line reminded me in more than one way of my own journey with the blog you’re reading.
It’s no secret that Astromono has endured its fair share of reinventions since it was created more than 10 years ago(!) In many respects, this website is an almost immediate reflection of my self at any given point in time, in so much as the topics it handles and the tone it does it in is concerned. Sometimes, I sit on my bed with a cup of tea and I start reading old articles just to see (often times uncomfortably) how my writing and I have changed over the years. It’s an exercise in introspection, and yet it’s a purely banal one, because nothing I find then can help me to improve how I write now. On the contrary, it’s more of a window into all the mistakes I’ve accrued along the way and how to adjust my headlights to avoid them sooner.
In my second go with The Last Jedi, I related to Luke’s plot in particular, because his is a journey of redemption, which doesn’t come easy and, some would argue, never arrives by the time the credits roll.
Luke is a man who sought to create something good in the world. After watching the mistakes of those who came before him, he thought he could train a new generation of Jedi and in doing so keep the balance in the universe for longer. Eventually, his own disillusion with the Jedi doctrine is born out of the disgust he feels after committing precisely the very same mistakes he sought to avoid. This last part is what closest resembles the writer of this piece.
Astromono began as a form of expression. Fueled by boredom, sure, but always looking to the internet for creative stimuli. A digital galaxy far far away, if you will.
Seeing that there had yet to be something similar in Panama, I decided I wanted to inform everyone I could about the trailers, the reviews, the galleries, the interviews and all the other things that made me passionate about video games, comic books and other hobbies. I wanted to do it all and I wanted to do it well, but I never had the faintest idea of how to go about doing that. I simply followed the example of the outlets that inspired me and then adjusted the content to my personality and the tastes of my particular audience: Latin American kids with paychecks, who shared the same enthusiasm I have for these forms of entertainment.
I began to dive into the local community of anime and video game enthusiasts, in the process sharing my joy with hundreds of people I never thought I’d meet. When Astromono began to climb spots in the popular consciousness, I let my ego and my perfectionism dictate many of the decisions surrounding the web site, a crass mistake in the midst of a Panamanian community that was still in it’s pre-pubescent stages. It felt good to receive the attention and validation many paid my opinions, even though some didn’t consider me worthy of such, but I never should have pretended these opinions of mine where the most popular or even the ones that should prevail.
During the time I tried to elevate Astromono’s position to be the #1 source of geek news in Panama, I began to chip away at my life and that of the people closest to the project—my friends, Namake and Sixto. It wasn’t fun anymore. I remember when we weren’t publishing articles, the three of us would clash more than ever in the way we saw Astromono. Many placed their trust in my work, but I didn’t allow myself to do the same in other people’s efforts and because of this I slowly began to realize working on this website had turned me into a bitter lonely man.
On top of this, the Panamanian community who followed this web site and attended events began to fill itself with opportunistic people who weren’t shy about their intentions to hog the spotlight, apparently with the only purpose of selling ads and making money. I always hated the notion that there were opportunities for Astromono to grow around every corner, but that to exploit them I would always need to compromise my integrity or moral compass.
I had several problems in my personal life when I stopped writing on Astromono. A lot of insecurities came from not knowing what direction to take the project in and a lot of guilt came from knowing I had lost the trust of people who really wanted to help me and create good things together. More than anything I felt impotent and frustrated because I knew the problem was mainly in my head. What was broken could not be fixed easily, because it was shameful. It was a personal failure.
I decided to walk away from everyone and tried to fix the mess I made as I went along, but even then I didn’t have the courage to approach the people I wronged, instead choosing to leave messages in their Facebook inboxes and sending apologetic emails. With my self-esteem in the gutter, I stayed in my lane to try and salvage my own image, avoiding being seen at events or even hanging out with people whom at some point I had considered to be close friends. That’s how I decided it was time to leave Astromono for a while and perhaps focus on living a little.
Months later I began to work at the front desk of a hostel and eventually met clients that allowed me to work at a distance while I traveled across the globe. In my head, I was traveling to run away from guilt, but the further away I got from Panama, the more new and exciting things I discovered, further pushing the hour in which I would return to writing for the site. By the time I finally sat down to do it I realized video games and comic books were not the only things that kept me entertained or that I felt inclined to write about.
I perfectly understood Luke’s internal struggle when Rey shows up before him to be trained and instead all she finds is resentment in his eyes. Resentment stemming from all his mistakes and because, in that precise moment, Rey stands for everything he’s been trying to overcome after all those years in self-imposed exile. She’s righting the wrongs he never could and some he caused. That can feel grating even if you know it’s ultimately a good thing.
Coming back to write for Astromono posits a world of challenges that I’ve always enjoyed having, but it also carries with it the immense weight of trying to get over my past, not just in the articles I write but also in how I behave moving forward.
Even though it seems like Astromono starts and then stops again, the fact is I’m always working on the web site behind the curtains. At this moment I’m debating with myself if translating my pieces to English is something worth continuing or not. I’m also thinking about writing long form articles rather than short news blurbs, and whether I should turn my long-in-development webcomic into the main focus from now on.
More than anything I feel like I haven’t yet earned the forgiveness of those I let down, much less my own, but I can also recognize that the Luis that wrote back in 2010 will never return and in his stead there’s a person whose more careful with his words and tries to listen before speaking. Just like Luke, I may never be the same guy many of you met when your geek cred was being built.
I may not be present at events nor write on a daily basis like before, but perhaps during a brief moment of bravery I can still project my image in Panama, across the universe, all the while sitting in an office in Barcelona thinking about what my future holds. With a bit of luck, the forgiveness I seek will find me somewhere between doing what I love and finding the balance again.