Be You, Find Your Community

I was teased and bullied a lot as a kid, so for most of my life, I got the message that I wasn’t good enough. I withdrew into myself and became extremely nervous to share with anyone what I really liked to do (because, let’s be honest, reading fantasy books and playing board games and D&D are not the most socially accepted hobbies).

It has been a long-standing battle for me to be okay with telling others my real interests. Graduate school was the first time I ever shared my hobbies with a colleague/coworker. Even then, I made them swear to secrecy that they wouldn’t tell anyone else. I didn’t tell any of my fellow faculty at my last job (though I did tell a few students which led to my brief time as an advisor for a college fraternity, but that’s a story for another day).

Telling my coworkers at my new job has been like a breath of fresh air. Sure, they tease me for it, but it’s in a very loving way. It’s the same way I tease them when I’m at a conference in Florida, texting them pictures of palm trees and sunsets over the ocean while they’re stuck in the Ohio snow.

Going on the JoCo cruise this past March (basically a nerd cruise: was one of the best things I ever did. The entire boat was full of fellow nerds who accepted me and liked me for my hobbies and interests rather than despite them. It was an amazing experience and deserves an entire blog post of its own. The bottom line though is that it taught me how amazing the nerd community is. It felt like being home.

I had never been very involved in the nerd community, because it’s hard to find other like-minded people when you are not willing to tell others what it is you like to do. Coming home from the JoCo cruise made me realize that I want so much to be a part of that community- one full of like-minded people, for me: nerds. I was the only one standing in my way.

I recently solicited my friend to teach me how to play a game called Magic: The Gathering (what prompted me to do this was actually someone I met on the JoCo cruise!) The Magic community seemed really friendly and I wanted to find ways to meet fellow nerds near me.

When my friend came over, he not only taught me how to play, but gave me an entire deck, a couple booster packs, a mat, and some dice (translation: Magic stuff). I thought it was extremely nice of him and was really excited to have my own Magic stuff.

Last night, I went to my local game store for a Magic event. It was a more advanced event, so I just watched. But the players were really nice- they let me interrupt their game to ask questions, let me look through their decks, and in general gave me advice as to how to get into the game. I talked to the store owner, too. I let him know I was new to Magic and asked him what to buy to get started. He gave me some recommendations and 5 free mini decks designed for new players. I was really grateful. I bought a few booster packs and some purple card protectors (translation: Magic stuff) and on the way out, he told me there were two stacks of Magic cards by the door and I could take all of them.

“All of them, are you sure?” I hadn’t seen the stacks, but I felt bad taking everything.

“Yes, all of them.” They were cards left behind by advanced players who didn’t want them. Not the best or most exciting cards, but perfect for a new player trying to start out.

There were about 500.

I went home with a big grin on my face. I couldn’t believe how amazingly nice everyone in this community had been to me. I felt like I had finally found what I was looking for. I was home again.

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