Learning to Climb: A Personal Reflection of 2021

If there’s one word to describe this year for me, it’d be improvement. In almost every facet of my life there has been a tangible, noticeable improvement I have made that I am satisfied with. The surprising part about this to me is not the improvement itself, but rather my feelings toward it. While I’ve improved in many ways the past few years—I certainly hope I’m still getting better at most things—I’m normally not patient or confident enough to be happy with those results. I always want to be better now and not later, to not get left behind by my friends and peers while I watch them succeed. Of course, this doesn’t mean I won’t aim to reach further heights in the future, but it’s a relief that I’m mature enough now to not discount all the progress I’ve made, at least sometimes.

So what’s changed? Well, since most people probably know me for being a tournament organizer, let’s start there. My progress as a TO is something that I’m extremely proud of this year. At the beginning of 2020, I saw myself as a fluke. I started running offline events a few months prior, and I only held one notable regional event that year before I had to focus on school again. I wanted to prove myself wrong by running more offline events in the summer of 2020 and showing I could repeat that success, but with the pandemic starting in March I was unable to make those strides.

However, since I had been running online events for a few years before COVID, I ended up TOing some of the bigger events when the pandemic first started, mainly the Untitled series. Helping with these weekly netplay events in 2020 was great, but I wasn’t involved with any of the big online majors because I wasn’t sure how to make the first move or if my resume was even good enough for events to want me. I wasn’t a notable TO anyways, I thought, so there was no point in trying. Organizing major online events in 2021 would be really cool but I had no plans to make any moves to get there.

So when I received a DM on Twitter from the Allston Melee account, I was shocked. Instead of having to make the first move myself, Patti made the first move for me and offered me a paid position as an event organizer for the Allston Melee Bender in March of 2021. At the time I knew this was a big deal, working on the team for a major tournament had always been a goal of mine, but later this year I realized just how important this event was for me. Online events were draining for me to organize, as I volunteered my time and in return had to deal with a good amount of negative interactions. I always appreciated and noticed the people who thanked me every week, but it was hard to take those to heart when there was no in-person interaction and other players would be extremely negative at times.

The Allston Melee Bender gave me the opportunity to meet a bunch of cool people and interact in voice call meetings where we could work on making a really cool event. It felt like sitting at the TO desk and chatting at the offline tournaments I missed so much. The event was the breath of fresh air I needed to remind me why I was a TO in the first place and revitalize my drive for working on events.

Without Patti offering me this role, I wouldn’t have had the chance to help with Netplay for Palestine and Rollback Rumble: The Big One since I was close to quitting, and I wouldn’t have met all of the really cool organizers that I know from all over America and beyond who gave me the chance to work on those events. So thank you to Patti, HMW, Jayde, SaveAsUntitled, and so many others for believing in me and having me on their team for the various online events they hosted over the past 22 months.

A brief overview of my tournament organizing resume as of April 2020

With the newfound confidence I had from helping with these online events and the vaccine rollout making it safer to attend offline events in the summer, I also held the return of my local series Run it Back. While I was only able to host it for a few weeks before I started college, it was incredible seeing the support from the New Jersey scene. One of my favorite moments of this entire year was having a completely capped event with 90 entrants between Ultimate and Melee and the energy that was in that venue, especially with the crowd watching the Melee grand finals set between TheSWOOPER and Warmmer.

After a successful but brief return to offline events, I started my first semester of college at Stevens Institute of Technology. Unfortunately, it’s been very hard to get involved as a TO offline while at school. I’m still doing my best to help here and there, making guest appearances to help at locals and regionals like The Nightclub, CT Gamercon, and Fusion (thanks Nico, Gtown, stoc, RJ, cirb, and Big Tasty). Of course, I’m also helping however I can for the Stevens tournaments, but beta holds it down really well and let’s me focus on playing which I really appreciate. As always, I will try to keep working on big events and my info is available if anyone needs a TO for a tristate event, just send me a DM on Twitter.

Now for the part I never thought I’d say, but as a player I made some decent progress this year. I entered a bunch of online events in the first half of the year which helped my growth as a player. Before this year, I was not used to tourney nerves since I had barely entered offline events before the pandemic. While I have locked away any memory of competing online, the results of entering a lot made me go from an 0-2er who might win 2 sets to a 2-2er who might win 0 sets.

When events were held in person again in the summer, I was able to actually go to them consistently for the first time ever. Offline motivated me even more to get better and I was getting consistent results, normally placing my seed and only going 0-2 at a single event since July. These stats would be insignificant to most people, but for me they’re something I’m proud of when I compare them to my results in 2019. I’ve even popped off at some events and gotten wins on players I highly respect, which I never would’ve done with the effort I was putting into the game in 2020. Plus I actually won two tournaments at Stevens this semester which I’ve never done before, so I’m glad to see how far I’ve come as a player this year.

With the goal I set at the beginning of the year to reach higher peaks, I actually accomplished it. I started winning more sets than I lost in a tournament for the first time ever. Of course, my goals since then have changed drastically and I want to become even better than before. There’s a lot of progress for me to make and I am extremely hard on myself at times, but looking back from where I was at the beginning of the year, I’m really proud of myself. So many times I considered not playing anymore because I thought I wasn’t making progress or wouldn’t ever beat players I respected, but I put in the effort and actually got past that point, if only a little. I’m glad I stuck with the game, and in 2022 I plan on continuing to improve by making those high peaks in results more consistent.

This trend of improvement carries over to outside of Melee as well, and it’s these parts of my life that I’m most happy about. At the beginning of the year I was hoping that after I graduated from high school, my life would get better. Between online school, the pandemic in general, and other personal reasons (nothing too serious and the issues are mostly resolved now, please don’t be concerned), I wasn’t feeling great about the present and kept telling myself to wait for college before judging my mental state.

Setting up the future like this was something I knew was dangerous since I tried to hold myself together until I could get to college, where I thought the new environment would make me feel better. Had this transition not gone well it would be concerning, but thankfully I’ve been really happy ever since I moved in at school. I have a great group of friends and I enjoy my classes, plus the change in location to Hoboken has been really refreshing.

Socializing is something I do much more often and I’m able to talk to my friends for much longer without getting tired which I’d never say a year ago being that I’m more of an introvert. I wake up and feel productive on most days, and recently I’ve felt a drive for learning that I haven’t felt in a long time, especially for my computer science classes. I also have more time for creative hobbies like photography and I walk around quite often when I need a break from my work. Overall, I’m more confident and treating myself better than I ever have, which I really needed.

This year has been unpredictable in many ways. Through it all, I somehow managed to thrive and keep working towards my goals. There’s still a lot of work to do: I haven’t reached any of my long-term goals and I know there’s always room for improvement. After all, I’m just a kid trying my best at whatever I set my mind to. Mistakes happen, but now I know it’s a part of the process and not a sign of failure.

Not every year will I make progress like I have in 2021, setbacks are bound to happen. In this moment though, I’m happy. In fact, I seriously believe the past 4 months have been the best stretch of time in my life. There’s a lot of people to thank for that, you certainly don’t get here alone, so thank you to everyone who’s helped me this past year.

I know many people’s year did not go as well as mine. That’s okay. You’re still here trying your best, and that means a lot. Speaking from my own personal experience, life gets better, so keep fighting!

Appreciate you all, stay strong. Don’t forget to keep your head up.


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