For some reason, people often seem surprised when I tell them that I’m essentially a loner. I mean it. I guess I’m really good at interacting with people when I’m in social situations, but I don’t seek out such situations very often. I love my friends dearly and I enjoy the time I have with them, but I often end up seeking out my own solitude rather than friends or family. I don’t know why. Sometimes I feel anxious even in front of the people I love the most, the people I know who love me the most; and sometimes my solitude is preferable to that anxiety, even though, as I said, I love my friends and family with all my heart.
I really want to emphasize this: I love my friends. But I worry that they don’t know that because my own anxiety in front of the people I love makes me prefer my own company. I rarely get anxious just hanging out by myself. But why is the anxiety there? I don’t know, but I’m working on it. I can tell you it does annoy me, though.
So basically, it’s easy for me to go for weeks without seeing any of the friends I love, interacting only with co-workers or my wife (and sometimes if I’m working at home, only with my wife). There were times, before I was married, when I could go for an entire weekend without interacting with anyone at all. Strange times, those were. Sometimes I felt like a ghost, sort of floating through the world, unable to interact at all. I’d spend my days sitting in cafes, reading books or writing in my notebooks.
Which makes this past weekend even more great. Saturday afternoon, Jennifer and I spent time with two close friends, Z- and E-, neither of whom I get to see as often as I’d like. We talked, naturally, about gaming, though Z-, whose sense of humor is disturbingly similar to my own (pity her — we all do) did end up briefly on a tangent involving elephant ears.
And this afternoon while I was at Borders in Davis working on Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster, my very good friend K- (we were best man at each other’s weddings) dropped by. We talked for a long time, sometimes about gaming, sometimes about politics, sometimes about his adventures as an RA at the art college he attends, sometimes about other mutual friends we haven’t seen in forever. Jennifer showed up, and we went off to Baker’s Square for dinner, then back to my house to watch Battlestar Galactica. Afterwards, we chatted more; K- is a talented artist and brilliant storyteller, and we talked about comic books and about some of our different projects. If you ever get a chance to hang out with K-, do so; he can tell you a story about buying socks at Wal*Mart which will have you giggling hysterically.
Gaming is something I used to do pretty regularly. Heck, there was a five year stretch of time when I was gaming almost constantly, running my own campaigns at least twice a week and sometimes three times a week. Pretty much always with the same people: good friends that I had grown to know and trust pretty well. It was always stressful for me whenever a new player would enter the game: that old anxiety would rear up its ugly head, and I would be sure that the game, which had been entertaining my friends for so long, would suddenly suck big time.
I’ve pondered running a one-shot game at DunDraCon or DragonCon or some other big convention somewhere in the world, but sometimes the idea seems downright impossible. Anxiety would eat me alive, and my own conviction of my incompetence at running such a game would just make things even worse.
On the other hand, when gaming was going well, when sessions were at their peak and the role-playing was intense, those are the times when I would feel the closest to my friends, which in a way is kind of sad.
Now that I’m pushing 40, gaming is far less a part of my life. Most of the people I used to game with regularly have all moved away, have families, have jobs that keep them busy more than 40 hours a week; so as a result, I spend less time with my friends now than I used to.
I’ve talked before about the similarities between gaming and writing. When you’re a GM, as I almost always was, you’re creating worlds for people to explore and interact with, much as you do as a writer. But on the other hand, with writing, you’re not getting the immediate response you would get if you were gaming. If I sit down to run a game session with five of my closest friends, the creative impulse is certainly fulfilled, as is the social impulse; but when I write a story or a novel, the creative impulse is fulfilled, and hundreds (ideally millions) of people will read the story; but there’s no social interaction. So I’m forced to find other ways to interact with my friends. Much as I love them, this can be hard for me to do.
I don’t have much of a point here. It’s late, I’m still happy from having spent time with good friends over the weekend, and I suppose I ought to head off to bed.
Y’all have a good day now.
Oh, and attached is the song "Big Bad World, One" by Jonathan Coulton. Pretty much expresses how I’ve too often felt. Listen, enjoy, then give Jonathan Coulton your money. He’s a talented and brilliant musician, and deserves it.