Learning to Do Hard Things

This isn’t one of my posts digging at the bottom of my existentialism, but its definitely a lovely trip to the shoreline of my wandering thoughts.  Let’s have a picnic!

I’m still searching for the thing I want to be doing.  Not sure what I want to do, or what exactly I want it to do for me, but I definitely feel like I’m searching for my next big thing.

So I’m about to GM my 15th session of Rogue Trader.  That is nearly three times as long as my first attempt at GMing.  But I think I’ve found my groove- I’ve know what I want the campaign to be, I’ve learned what systems work best for my players, and I’ve compiled the tools I need to keep the campaign at a nice, semi-immersive level.

I really want to keep doing this.  When I’m in the right rhythm, and my players are nice and interactive, its a lot of fun.

It’s been giving me an outlet I didn’t even know I needed.  I’m a daydreamer.  I listen to music and think about cool moments or short little tidbits.  And I’ve always done this- in fact, if I listen to a lot of music I used to listen to when I was young I remember what I used to daydream about.

So running a Rogue Trader campaign has sort of made me evaluate the idea that maybe I want to be a story teller.  Maybe I should write a book, or pursue GMing professionally, or perhaps try and become a game designer.

It’s also made me wonder whether it would be fun to be an actor/voice actor.  I have a lot of fun play acting the characters.  Practicing their voices, writing their stories, and trying to really refine how they feel.  During Rogue Trader I really want my NPC’s to come across like living, breathing characters.

So writing and acting both sound like a lot of fun.  But now I have to learn to write and act.

And its going to be hard.  It takes years to get truly good at these things and I get discouraged that I’m discovering these things so late in life.  I did my time in college, and now I have to start over.

But I mean- that’s what I wanted to find.  Something that I wanted to do and I’m willing to start on the ground and work my way up.  I’ve been getting books on writing, and listening to podcasts and stuff.  I just have to start actually doing it.

I need more time in the day.  I need to take the time to take the time.  Things are hard, but the hard things are worth doing.

 

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Everyone Should be a Zombie


I am terrible at stepping outside my comfort zone.

As I said in my previous post, I’m not a very impulsive person. I absolutely hate leaving my comfort zone and trying new things. I need at least a month to consider even the smallest decisions and more often than not I spend that month considering it and then never making a decision anyway. Change is scary. Putting myself out there even more so.

But you know what, life doesn’t work that way. In order to get anywhere you have to take risks and change is necessary, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. At the risk of sounding like a motivational poster on a guidance counselor’s wall, life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

As I said, since I graduated college I’ve gotten better at taking risks. I’m still incredibly over cautious, but I try to listen to the little voice in the back of my head that tells me to do silly things like run 5ks, get tattoos, and ask for better projects at work. It was that little voice that told me I should volunteer at a local haunted house as a zombie this past Halloween and, you know what, it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

Let me set the scene for you a bit. Not only am I an over cautious person who hates putting herself out there, I also hate being the center of attention. I hate having everyone stare at me, which coincidentally was the reason I cried at my wedding. Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband with all my heart and it was an emotional experience getting married to him, but walking down the aisle took every ounce of willpower I had, which just demonstrates how much I actually love him. Anyway, because of this I’ve never considered acting. Get on stage in front of a crowd of strangers and pretend to be someone else for an undetermined amount of time? Welcome to my personal hell.

I guess I didn’t make the connection that being a zombie at a haunted house would require acting in front of strangers when my coworker first asked me if I wanted to help out, otherwise I probably would’ve said no. It also helped that two of my friends volunteered for the same night, which meant I would have backup. So against all the odds I said yes.

The actual anxiety of pretending to be a zombie in front of strangers didn’t actually hit until we were in the car on the way to the haunted house. We had to drive about fifteen minutes north of town and the whole time I was having doubts. This is going to be awkward. I’m going to be a terrible zombie. Will there be an easy way to get out of this if I’m absolutely miserable?

When we arrived to do make-up my doubts were fading. Well, it’s too late to turn back now, I thought to myself. Let’s give this a try. Our job as zombies wasn’t too complicated. Walk around outside the haunted houses and scare the people waiting in line. No talking, no touching people, stay in character. Easy peasy.

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Got lots of compliments on my hat.

When I finally got out onto the street everything changed. My doubts were completely gone, all I was thinking about was who I could scare next. I instantly fell into character, which I had decided was a college student killed while out camping with friends. She was slow, shambling, silent, and didn’t quite understand she was dead. She wandered into crowds and followed people around, desperate to connect with people.

I walked up behind people and waited for them to turn around and scream. I stared at people, not blinking, until they got uncomfortable and tried to get away from me. I followed people who shied away from me, reaching out to them with gray, bloody hands.

It was so much fun. I was in full make-up and in a setting where people wanted to be scared. It wasn’t awkward, it wasn’t scary, it was just fun and something I would do again in a heartbeat. I am so glad I listened to the little impulsive voice in my head and volunteered and I would recommend that everyone volunteer for a haunted house at least once.

Being a zombie just confirmed for me that life does start outside your comfort zone. It also taught me that stepping outside your comfort zone doesn’t necessarily mean going to the extreme. Waiting until I had the opportunity to cover my face in make-up and scare people in a completely different town to try acting doesn’t mean I’m a coward or that it “didn’t count,”  it just meant that I had found the first step outside my comfort zone.  Also, when you play a character it’s not your responsibility to make everyone happy. It’s your job to stay in character. It’s the audience’s job to respond and set the mood. If the person acted scared, I would play along. If they didn’t respond or were jerks about it, I walked away. No harm done.

So I guess what I mean when I say everyone should be a zombie at a haunted house is that everyone should be a little impulsive and try playing a character. You could take it further and actually try out for a play or you could play it safe and just goof around with friends.

All I know is that for one night I got to be someone else and it was liberating, exhilarating, hilarious, and just plain fun.

Give it a try.

-EMS