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A Work in Progress – Part One: Fiction, Expression, and Self-Discovery

Trigger Warning: Abusive Relationship

Also: Spoilers for Steven Universe and RWBY

spattered paint

After my marriage fell apart, I found ITA. But I’ve also found Steven Universe and the Rooster Teeth series, RWBY (Pronounced “Ruby” – the team name for Ruby, Weiss, Blake, and Yang), since then. The songs, the stories, and the characters helped me see and understand parts of me that hadn’t been clear before. And fan-fiction around RWBY helped me explore some of those issues even further.

STEVEN UNIVERSE

As I was coping with the end of my marriage, Steven Universe let me see my own angst, grief, and pain through its characters.

“It’s over, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Isn’t it over?

It’s over, isn’t it? Why can’t I move on?

Who am I now in this world without her?!”

 

-It’s Over, Isn’t It (Steven Universe OST Vol. 1)

And it helped me hold myself together.

“Take a moment to ask yourself if;

This is how we fall apart.

But it’s not. But it’s not. But it’s not. But it’s not. But it’s not.

It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.”

-Here Comes a Thought (Steven Universe OST Vol. 1)

The character Lapis Lazuli stood out to me. She had been alone for a long time, an observer, and quiet. Her story with Jasper had toxic relationship elements in it that resonated with me. She felt afraid of being with others, but also hoped to join them. I have a fearful avoidant attachment style that matches that sentiment perfectly.

“I know that there’s something residing.

A terror deep inside me.

I couldn’t understand how you could be so bold.

Maybe I’ll find myself smiling on that distant shore.

Maybe I’m not alone.”

-That Distant Shore (Steven Universe OST Vol. 2)

And I was much the same way following the end of my marriage. And as I realized the truth about my family. You see, Steven Universe was a show that I never would have been able to watch around my family. It would have been deemed too girly. The show triggered a memory of my family stopping me from buying a quartz crystal necklace for that reason when I was 9. This memory had an immediate impact on my self-understanding. I considered that I might be trans for the first time that I could remember. I went through a lot that day and the months that followed. Afraid of what my gender would mean for my life going forward, but also gaining a sense of belonging because I knew that there are more genderqueer people out there.

Besides my gender, Steven Universe let me connect with that voice I mentioned in my last post <https://best-friends.com/a-work-in-progress/; A Work In Progress>. That voice was the part of me that is my unconditional self-love. And I was trying to love myself like that repressed portion of me had.

“I could do about anything.

I could even learn how to love like you;

Love like you… Love me like you”

-Love Like You (Steven Universe OST Vol. 1)

I am in a better place than before, I can rely on me to be there for myself. I took Steven Universe’s concept of fusion to help me take that self-love from the other part of myself and make it something that all of me could have. I see it as connecting or ‘fusing’ that voice/instinct/brain lobe in me with the rest of my mind.

“I am made of love and it’s stronger than you.”

-Stronger Than You (Steven Universe OST Vol. 1)

Steven Universe also helped me find other people that have been helped by the show.

Lea C. is “Toon Ruins” on YouTube and has a video about how Steven Universe changed her life.

Steven Universe Changed My Life, and Here’s Why; https://youtu.be/ml_1otbL10Y> (Link Warning: Suicide and Body Image issues)

And the show has more meaning for me and my autism diagnosis. Some of the characters in the show are autism-coded. A video on the Toon Ruins YouTube channel goes into how autism is depicted in Steven Universe and some media.

Autism Representation in the Media; https://youtu.be/aM9bZqyeX8c

Lea C. is also on the spectrum and seems to have symptoms similar to my own. And her video helped me realize that I recognized myself in another character I’d found during the past year, Ruby Rose of RWBY.

RUBY ROSE

“I saw someone with similar traits using strategies that I had used to cope with my autism symptoms.”

Ruby Rose is an enthusiastic, odd, and shy girl. She relies on her older sister, Yang, as a social buffer when they first go to Beacon Academy. And that is more-or-less a description of me. I can be strange and overly enthusiastic about certain topics. For Ruby, it was weapons, Huntresses, and storybook heroes. For me: podcasts, Steven Universe, and RWBY are my top intense interests now. Back in my school days, I always clung to one certain friend as a social buffer. In Ruby, I saw someone with similar traits using strategies that I had used to cope with my autism symptoms. Or to hide them from my family.

WEISS SCHNEE

In RWBY, Weiss Schnee helped me see portions of my own family dynamics. She comes from a wealthy family with a lot of strict rules and a controlling, narcissistic father. I related to her because I had been hiding plenty of traits and interests from my family that I was ashamed of.

“Mirror, mirror, what’s behind you?

Save me from the things I see!

I can keep it from the world.

Why won’t you let me hide from me?”

-Mirror Mirror [White Trailer] (RWBY Vol. 1)

Because my family (especially my narcissistic mother) shamed me for those things.

“And how you’d scold and chide me;

Forever criticize me”

-It’s My Turn (RWBY Vol. 3)

And made me feel guilty just for being myself.

“Shame that it took so long to rescue me;

From the guilt you used to tie me to your family tree.”

-This Life Is Mine (RWBY Vol. 4)

And her story showed me how lonely it is when I had to hide so much of myself. How I had to withdraw from everyone.

“When disapproval’s all you’re shown;

The safest place becomes alone.”

-Mirror Mirror Pt. II (RWBY Vol. 3)

But she also knows that it is not the right way for a family to be.

“You rose, I fell;

Made my life hell;

Anything to crush my soul;

Anything to feel control;

Finally free, I’ve come so far;

Finally see how sick you are”

-It’s My Turn (RWBY Vol. 3)

And that helped me realize how alike my ex-wife and my mother are.

BLAKE BELLADONNA

I hadn’t been able to fully share myself with my family or my ex. I used to blame myself for that in my marriage, but it was because of the abuse from my ex that I felt the need to hide. This is similar to how Blake Belladonna blamed herself for things that were her ex’s fault and felt the need to hide and withdraw from people to protect them.

“You don’t know what it’s like to live in shadows;

Always regretting what you’ve done;

Spending time counting every little mistake;

Knowing it’s always easier to run

Oh, but I will not endanger one more friend.”

-Like Morning Follows Night (RWBY Vol. 4)

Her ex, Adam, had twisted her mind around to do that. Toxic partners need to do that; they need to control people.

Blake: “Adam’s strong, but his real power comes from control. He used to get in my head, make me feel small. But now I see he just wanted to pull me down to his size.”

He promised her much more than he ever was going to give. As my ex had done.

“You offered hope, salvation;

Gave me a place to be.

But your vision of liberation;

Was all about you.

It would never apply to me.”

-Nevermore (RWBY Vol. 6)

YANG XIAO LONG

“I was trying to stay with her, to help her, to be happy with her again.”

But Blake was not alone. She had help dealing with Adam from Yang Xiao Long.

“Don’t be disappointed;

Don’t let your heart break;

Don’t spend another minute in this way;

It’s okay.

Dry your eyes now, baby;

Broken wings won’t hold you down;

You’ll take flight soon, baby;

You’ll be lifted up and you’ll be there.”

-Wings (RWBY Vol. 1)

Yang is a caregiver. She raised her sister, Ruby, and held their family together after their mother passed.

“I will cling, I will clutch;

I’ll hold onto you, I won’t turn away;

I won’t leave, I won’t go;

I will stay with you all our days.”

-All Our Days (RWBY Vol. 2)

“Only I had been sincere…”

I was the ‘Rescuer’ or ‘Caregiver’ in my marriage. I tried all I could to help my ex with her issues. I suffered the verbal and emotional abuse that my ex dealt out because I was trying to stay with her, to help her, to be happy with her again. Yang did what she could to help Blake, but Yang suffered a severe trauma while defending Blake from Adam.

“There’s no waking from this nightmare…

But this is not a dream.

My mind repeats the scene.

I can’t forget it, and it’s torture.”

-Armed and Ready (RWBY Vol. 4)

But she comes back from that after months of recuperating.

“That was before;

But not anymore;

I’ve left it behind;

As much as I lost;

Once I’m across I’ll find;

I’ve found the strength to grow so much more.”

-Armed and Ready (RWBY Vol. 4)

And then stands with Blake to confront Adam.

“I won’t stay a martyr.

It’s my turn to take back what you stole;

And this time I’m smarter.

I made a vow;

I’m not alone;

Not dying now we’re protecting our own.”

-Nevermore (RWBY Vol. 6)

I have written some fan fiction stories to explore my family issues through Weiss and my ex-wife’s abuse through Blake. In the stories, Ruby and Yang act as the other voice in me. My unconditional self-love. I felt a need to write my RWBY fan fiction after a powerful connection I had with Blake and Yang during the scene at the waterfall in Volume 6. The part where Blake promises to stay with Yang. When I heard the last lines in that scene-

[Adam is finally gone. Blake falls to her knees as she breaks down crying. Yang runs over to hug her. Blake hugs her back]

Blake: (tearfully) “I… I am not going to break my promise, I swear.”

Yang: (on the verge of tears) “I know you won’t.”

[They continue to embrace as Blake cries]

-delivered with so much emotion, it drove home a truth that I think I had known but had not fully processed. My ex-wife and I had shared a moment just like that one. But there was a strong contrast because Blake and Yang were sincere with each other. My ex had set up the moment we had. Both of us were crying as she promised to help me while I tried to figure out who I was. It was a huge emotional moment for me. I felt certain about being with her. That I was wanted and supported. That she really cared about me. The truth, though, was that my ex only wanted to keep me around for stability. I handled crises she couldn’t stay calm or effective in, and my career would pay more money than hers. She needed to use me as an anchor and as an emotional punching bag to keep her emotions in check, and she needed a way to pay off her student loans. We had spent 8 years together, 5 of them married, and it had all been for that. She wasn’t in love with me. She wasn’t attracted to me. She didn’t want me or care about me. She tolerated me as the price she had to pay in order to use me for stability.

“The way I feel;

To you is no big deal.

It’s sad but it’s true;

That the one thing I can count on;

Is that I can’t count on you.”

-All That Matters (RWBY Vol. 5)

The scene between Yang and Blake hurt because I saw the moment that I used to believe my ex and I had shared. And it helped me see that only I had been sincere. I had understood my ex was using me during the marriage. She even admitted the truth about the student loans near the end, but I had not really put together how much of the relationship had been a lie. This put it back to the beginning of my devotion to staying with her, to a point before we were engaged. I don’t know how long it would have taken me to realize this without RWBY. Or how much it would still be hurting without the stories I wrote.

If anyone is interested; my stories can be found here: https://www.deviantart.com/zainzyra (Link Warning: Abusive Relationships, Bodily Harm)

Steven Universe, RWBY, their stories, their characters, and their songs mean more to me than any other art that I have ever encountered. I hope that writing about them might help more people find them and be helped by them.

Zachary Ainsley

A few words about me

Zachary Ainsley has been diagnosed with Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder. They use They/Them/Their or Ne/Nem/Nir pronouns.