Keep Moving Forward

posted in: Personal | 1,343

At some point in your life, there’s a chance you’ll find yourself spending a different sort of time with someone. Maybe it’s a night, or a weekend. Maybe it’s a little longer; a couple weeks. A year. Sometimes it can take a decade to really decide, to know your true feelings and commit.



When two people enter a marriage, the underlying agreement is a mutual desire to spend the rest of your life with that person. To wake up every day tangled in their warmth and kick them out of bed when they tickle you awake. There’s something about the soundless language between two people who resonate so singularly with each other that every movement is like a rhythmic dance, from squeezing around each other in the kitchen and unloading groceries to the tooth-brush-sink tag-team; picking up where the other leaves off, all without missing a beat.

Something happens to you when you share yourself so wholly with another; they hold a part of you the way you hold a part of them, and slowly, over time, you start to lose a sense of yourself because everything becomes us. Because you share the most intimate moments, the loudest frustrations, and the happiest accomplishments in every aspect of your lives together.


As many messages I’ve received have started, I first found out about Monty through his Dead Fantasy animation in 2007. The only way to explain what I was witnessing was realizing I was fluent in a new language that I had just found out about, and that this person who put this together could communicate perfectly with me if given the chance. The rhythm, the camera, the choreography; each of that in itself is impressive, but as a package deal it sparked something in my mind.

When I was 5, my father let me pick out movies from Blockbuster. I watched My Neighbor Totoro about 17 times that weekend, completely enthralled with something I couldn’t fully understand yet.

Maybe it was my conservative schooling, or where I grew up, but I found very little support in pursuing a visual arts career. So I found myself turning towards literary and performance arts, creating binders worth of fantasy worlds, escaping all of the, “You can’t”s and, “That won’t work,”s that reality kept slapping me in the face with.

But it stuck with me. I found myself going back to his works in first year, approaching my film professor and receiving a grant for an animation school. I thought, “He did it. Why can’t I?” By no means did I have any plans of becoming Monty or following in his footsteps. It was his drive, his passion and determination that I wanted to embody. It’s very easy to believe there are things you can’t do when you grow up in poverty; you learn quickly how hand in hand money goes with opportunity.

During my year of thousands of drawings and crinkled papers I made friends with a RoosterTeeth fan. I would often roll my chair over to her desk whenever she’d literally laugh out loud, trying to explain to me something funny they were talking about on the podcast. I didn’t understand what the point of podcasts were at that time; too many more important life matters popping up. Or so I convinced myself.

Being in a class of 21 students with only 3 of us from Canada, she was hellbent on getting me into RoosterTeeth. She saw her opening after I commented on the 2D concepts she’d printed out that were done for RvB in 2009. I’d played Halo when I was younger, but I never had a taste for First Person Shooters; not enough story. She didn’t let that deter her, though. Had I heard of RoosterTeeth? Well that’s a dumb name; what do they do?

Cue Season 8 fight.

I had not seen any RoosterTeeth content prior to that date. I didn’t know the premise for RvB, what machinima was or why people liked it. But the moment I saw Tex enter the fray, the chatter of the classroom fell to a low buzz behind me and I’m sure I felt my eyes dilate, even if just a little. I watched maybe a minute before I asked her, “Does a guy named Monty work there?” She was so confused; how could I possibly know of Monty without knowing RoosterTeeth? It baffled her.

I spent the next year unemployed, shotgunning resumes to malls and restaurants while barely scraping by on freelance illustrations. I was beginning to feel so defeated; a failure, doomed to never escape the situation I had been born into. I decided to google Monty Oum. I found his blog, read about him, investigated where he was now. “I’m not him. I can’t do this,” I thought. The industry in Vancouver was over saturated; I was 5 years too late, too young, too inexperienced.

I was convinced I needed more schooling, so in 2011 I returned to learn 3D. Since I had spent my 2D program focusing on effects and animation, I decided early on to focus on modeling and texturing along with rigging. Thoughts of Monty were far from my mind now; everything was riding on how well I rubbed elbows here, and how much I was able to take away. While my classmates would leave after class for beers down at the pub, I would deafen myself with a song on repeat while I remained unblinking in front of my monitors for hours on end.

The summer after I graduated was an arduous one, finding myself repeating the same downward spiral of self doubt. I’d spent thousands of dollars and hours on my education, and yet there were still no jobs to be had. Oh, but that RoosterTeeth fan? Her studio had an opening! I thought, “I’ll prove myself here. Once my foot is in the door, I’ll show them what I can do.” Within the first two months I was being told to slow down. I told them I didn’t know how to do that. My coworker overheard and had the idea that she wanted someone to talk to about these funny Minecraft videos that she was watching.

That’s how I found myself getting into RoosterTeeth. My eyes wandered over Monty’s name, something about RvB keeping me from clicking. Good for him; he still works there. Must be a nice accomplishment after everything he’s done.

Winter was upon us, and from between my scarf and hood I saw a trailer being spammed across every social media outlet that I was not supposed to be looking at at work. I told myself I’d wait until lunch to watch it. It had been several years since I’d seen something that Monty made, but I can still recall the shivers I got when the first few notes played, that same hair raising attentiveness when his name appeared in the moon washing over me like a gentle tide.

There was plenty of criticism revolving around the video, but none of that reached my ears. Something within me thought, “This guy keeps coming back into your life.” The first time, I sought him out. The second time, a third party played their hand. This time, this meant something.

It wasn’t until the White trailer that I made my decision; I was going to meet Monty Oum. I had to talk to him; I had to figure out what this feeling was. I knew my art wouldn’t work, and I had no outstanding animations to capture his attention. I found out through twitter that he would be attending a convention that I was going to be at. Desperate to speak to him, to secure his attention the same way he had mine all those years ago, I turned to my hobby; costuming. Weiss fought elegantly with a figure skating style, something I spent 7 years doing when I was younger. It took me about a week to break it down, pattern and plan her outfit.

A week before the event, he cancelled. I started to think, “What’s the point of going now? Should I even bother finishing the costume?” But then I realized; I shouldn’t hinge a project on such an unpredictable variable. I completed the project, attended the event and, lo and behold, photos found their way to him! It was not long before he contacted me, much to my surprise.

It was shortly after that moment that I realized what it was I had felt so long ago. There is a story–a belief, maybe–that each person is soulbound to their true love by a red thread. It can be tangled, it can be pulled, but it cannot be broken. No matter how many obstacles or years it takes, when two people are bound together, they will find one another someday. Now, with this very person directing his attention at me, a feeling of being pulled to the surface washed over me. Like a fish hooked on a line, things were in motion whether I wanted to stop them or not. And I tried! There were plenty of obstacles and outside influences, but at this point, there was almost nothing that either one of us could do to stop the inevitable.


After half a year of intense conversations, arguments and intellectual prodding, we finally met in Seattle. I was so surprised to find how shy he was, afraid to make eye contact. I took some sort of pride in that, teasing him to no end and making sure everyone at the booth knew we knew each other.

That weekend was eventful for more than one reason, but the most memorable part had been our first kiss. Monty had told me he wanted to see the water, and though it took me three hours to orient myself, I finally got us there. My heart did not flutter and my knees did not become weak. Instead, I felt a swell, as if that thread that had been pulling me for so long, from one profession to another, to undertake a difficult and risky project with no idea of the outcome, to try and reach out, to finally tying this knot that was, well, us. We were making it a tradition to return each year.


I didn’t want to believe it. When I went back to work the following week and our story was sort of told on the podcast, my coworkers immediately swarmed me, prodding me for an explanation of that weekend. I guess my being unable to wipe the grin off of my face wasn’t really working in my favor, either.



He made arrangements to visit me shortly after. We discussed the future, what my plans were and so many things fell into place like a tetris puzzle on level 1. My contract finished and I found myself moving. At first I missed my friends, I was scared of the people at RoosterTeeth and there was no useful public transit. Having to be so dependent on him terrified me, but for the first time in my life I felt safe. I trusted him. I could see several years into the future with him, if not further, and that was a sort of comfort I couldn’t explain, I could only understand it.

I love him.


Our marriage was not glamorous, it was not expensive, and it was not broadcast. When he proposed and I realized I wasn’t afraid of spending my life with him, sleeping erratic hours and pouring every waking moment into work and having fun with him while doing that–it was obvious. Picking the date almost came easier; May 10th. But we didn’t have the time to tell our friends and family before the date, those precious to us being scattered all over North America.

For us, two people for whom money has never been a luxury to have, we decided we didn’t need a big celebration. “Next year,” we said. Mentioning it offhandedly, we realized our public date would be 5/10/15. How fitting! It must be meant to be. With that decided and out of the way, we carried on, happier and closer than ever. We made plans to invest in a house; a place we could call home and be comfortable in.


Then somehow, we found ourselves with Noodle. At first, she was a scruffy, scrawny parking lot tabby, hungry and wary but had her heart set on Monty. Before we knew it, after the second thunderstorm since “knowing” her, she came soaking wet and crying pitifully to our door, too shy to actually cross the threshold. Without even realizing it, our family was growing.


I was terrified of the situation, well aware of Monty’s allergies with cats. I would immediately change out of clothing after picking her up and washed my hands so frequently I felt like they were wet more often than dry. Extra air filters ran 24/7 and everything was lint-rolled daily. But the fact that this cat helped my husband destress while he was working was phenomenal and more than worth it. She loved to splay out across his lap while he animated; still probably faster than most with only one hand, but so happy.


There are days she hears me stir and steps all over me, trying to wake me up for feeding time. I find myself struggling not to resent her, not to blame her, as irrational as it is. But then I remember how we found her; helpless, scared, hungry and alone. How gentle and caring Monty was towards her, how drawn she was to that. I could never put her back in that situation. So I’ll carry on and take care of her, as Monty had for me.

 January 22nd, a cold rainy day in Austin, Texas. The last words I offered my husband were,

“Okay, I’ll wait here. I love you. Come back to me.”


Everything from thereon felt like a sparkling brook running muddy, reality itself obscure as I tried to grasp what was happening, what was going to happen, and desperately wishing to turn back the hands of time. I played the “What if..?” game for 3 days. I wretched after countless days of nothing but water and soda crackers. The mind is often much more adept than the body, and my body was not having any of this cruel situation.

I had been given an ultimatum, one I know Monty never wanted me to make. We discussed these things in the car one day after nearly being hit in an intersection.

“What would you do? What would do?”

“I never want to be your ball and chain. I want to help you spread your wings; you should fly. Shine bright and soar.”

February 1st. Everyone had come to say their peace. I was in sore need of a shower and warm food. Not 5 minutes into my hospital waiting room meal does the code alert sound over the speakers.


Somewhere, deep inside, I knew. I think I’ve always known. My husband, my dear, sweet soulmate. Hurting me is the last thing he has ever desired. Even in such a situation, he kept that burden off of my shoulders, knowing full well what that would do to me, carrying that decision with me for the rest of my life. So he didn’t wait for that to come to pass.

His biggest fear was leaving me behind, no longer being able to protect and love me. My own words echoed in my head for weeks; he didn’t come back, he didn’t listen. But in that time, I have seen so many faces of the people he’s touched, received countless messages from the lives he’s inspired and had time to think about the kind of person my husband is. For every person who came to pay their respects, they also shared their experience with me, and in doing so, brought a little bit of my husband back with them.

Monty is someone who gives without question. If it’s within his capacity, there’s no reconsidering. Whether he’s here in body beside me, holding my hand and wiping my tears, or in my heart giving me the strength and courage to face the endless tomorrows, or even in the spirits of all the people around me who refuse to allow loneliness to take his place in my life, Monty will continue to give.


They say a person can die but their memory will live on for as long as their name is not forgotten. It is in being forgotten that we truly pass from this world. So while I gave my husband a parting kiss in the physical world last Saturday, I know he’s with me in spirit when I wake up feeling warm after a dream spent with him, when I can feel the same passion and drive in our friends, and when I know the physical body is only a tool we pilot here and now.

When two people enter a marriage, the underlying agreement is a mutual desire to spend the rest of your life with that person. And he did that.

Monty Oum spent the rest of his life with me, and that’s a priceless transaction I will never refund.


Cheers to us, honey. May 10, 2014.

I love you. I’ll see you again.

Sheena Oum

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