I’ve wanted to do an SCG Daily series since Ted came up with the idea, but I’ve never been able to figure out what I could say for five days straight. Others have done great jobs with mini-doses of strategy, or Magic history, or just plain funny…. What could I do to capture your attention?
Then Craig put me on the spot by asking me if I wanted to do a week. I said “yes,” without knowing what I was going to write about, because I figured the brain-shattering pressure of A Deadline would do me good.
I thought about what I could write about that no one else could…. And it occurred to me that as the Editor-in-Chief of StarCityGames.com, I probably had experiences that no one else did. I could relate what I had learned in my tenure as an editor, and give some of the life’s lessons that SCG has taught me along way.
This isn’t about Magic, or StarCityGames.com, or even necessarily me – it’s about the ways that editing this site has made me a better (and hopefully wiser) person. So if you liked Mark Rosewater “Life Lessons” articles, here’s a different spin on it from a different man.
Today? I’m going to tell you how I became the editor of this site, and how my writing saved me from a lonely existence.
It’s a little scary, leaving almost everything you know behind… But that’s precisely what I was doing when I boarded the plane to Anchorage, Alaska, sliding the cage that held my two ferrets underneath my seat.
All of my worldly possessions – my VHS tapes, my Magic cards, my computer – were now loaded onto a truck that was slowly winding its way up the Canadian roads, where they would theoretically show up six weeks later. My Mom and Uncle Tommy had come out to help me pack my apartment away into cardboard boxes, and I knew the reason they had driven out to Michigan was because neither of them were in the shape to take the eighteen-hour flight to distant Alaska to visit me. My family wouldn’t come to say hello, my friends waved a happy goodbye, my work had cut me my final check.
The only thing I knew in Alaska was my wife. And I had known her for a sum total of three weeks.
Oh, that’s not strictly true. I’d known Gini for well over five years, but that was online – and even though 1999 is only six years ago, back then the words “online marriage” were about one step up from “mail-order bride” and one step down from “arranged wedding.” My wife and I had sent each other tides of emails, burned up ICQ chat logs, sent hundreds of letters….
…But could we translate all of that online love into a real-world relationship?
I didn’t know, but I had to try. Gini would have moved down to Michigan to be with me, but she was a divorcee with two kids, and she couldn’t just abandon them. Thus, it was up to me to wander up North to be with her, and so I left everything.
And for the first five months, it was an isolated hell.
Gini was loving and wonderful, of course, but I barely knew her kids. I had no friends. I had no job. Left to my own painfully shy devices, I wandered around the house in a daze while she was at work.
You don’t really think about how much your environment reflects you until you move into someone else’s space. I thought it would be cool, moving into a fully-furnished house (since I’d lived in various apartments for the past five years), but in reality it just made me feel like an outsider. It felt alien, because I hadn’t had any input into anything that had been placed here.
The rug wasn’t a color I cared for. The couch was a little too hard for me. It was a perfectly nice house, but everything had been chosen for me long before I arrived, and we didn’t have the money to change it.
It was homey to Gini, of course – but she’d built it up over the year she’d lived here, and she was surrounded by all the little knickknacks and purchases she’d made. To her, this was home, a place accreted from the hundreds of memories and choices she’d made over the years.
To me, it was a very foreign place. There was nothing that I had made.
The house was emblematic of everything that was troublesome with Alaska; Gini had a rich life here, going back twenty-someodd years, but I was the outsider, fresh and new. I liked her dog, but it wasn’t a dog I had grown up with. I loved her daughters, but they certainly weren’t the kind of daughters that I would have raised, and they found me new and strange. She had friends, but all of them were on-the-go people who had no time for silly games like Magic.
Our house wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t me. And I felt more alienated as each day passed.
If I had been able to get a job right away, it would have been a lot easier for me to fit in, but Anchorage is a reasonably small town, and I had big-town skills. I had purchased books for Waldenbooks, deciding how many of the latest Dummies book to distribute among Walden’s 900+ stores, and I knew how to buy product for just about any big chain store that would have me. But not surprisingly, there aren’t a whole lot of big chain headquarters in Anchorage, so I threw out a lot of resumes on jobs I was kind of suited for.
Being out of work for five months will erode your sense of self-worth. I worked up alternate resumes and reviewed some books for Amazon on the side – they paid good money in those days, so I wasn’t starving – but every day I woke up and wondered, “Why won’t someone hire me?”
You start to wonder whether there’s something wrong with you. I kept reminding myself that Alaska was a small pond and I had very narrow skills, but still.
I felt completely adrift.
I loved my wife and was glad I was with her… But the rest of the world was drifting away from me. I couldn’t find any friends in Alaska because I was painfully shy, and my lack of a job made me embarrassed to go out in public, so I retreated increasingly to the bedroom where my computer was, trying to ignore the fact that I was really alone.
One woman is not enough to hang a life on. I needed something else, but I didn’t know where to find it.
And I realized that I had to do something.
I’ve suffered from depression all my life, and the one thing I’ve learned is that when you feel like all is hopeless, you need to get out and do something new so you feel like you have a sense of forward motion. Go out and take dance lessons. Sign up for that fencing class. Start jogging. But do something so that you can feel like at least you’re accomplishing something in at least one area of life.
It sounds stupid, but checking off one task makes you feel infinitely better than checking off none.
Me? I decided that I had loved Magic back in Ann Arbor (even though I hadn’t played since I got here), and I loved writing, so maybe I should try writing about multiplayer for a site. I liked StarCityCCG.com because they were really casual…. So instead of moping about and idly surfing the net, I sat down and wrote no less than five articles on multiplayer politics.
At the time, I thought that was standard procedure. If you wanted to show an editor that you were worthy of a regular column, you had to give him enough to see your writing style, right?
I sent them in… And lo, I got published on the mighty SCC! It made me feel good, and I got a couple of positive responses – and soon enough, other people who played Magic in Anchorage told me where the good games were. Now that I was invited, I showed up, and from there I met some real friends, and from there I began to once again cobble together the beginnings of a social group.
But wait. Things got better, of course. A few months after I’d started, Omeed Dariani (the then-current editor) left, and because I’d had such a clean writing style and a knack for getting an audience, they hired me. It was a part-time job, but a fun one…. And eventually, it paid enough as a part-time job that I quit my day job and became a full-time writer.
Then they hired me on as a full-time editor. And now I have one of the best jobs I could ever hope to find.
When I talk about my job as editor-in-chief, some people say it’s all due to luck – and I bristle when that happens, because I know damn well that I did get lucky, but the reason I had the chance to get lucky was because of me. When I was down and all seemed helpless, I could have just figured that heck, there’s no sense in trying out for SCC – just surf some more and shut up.
In that moment of ennuistic depression, I could have just dropped it all… And I never would have become a Featured Writer, chained into an Editor, got promoted to Webmaster, and begun to program. I never would have been able to quit my dreadful job as a pen buyer in Anchorage to get my own books published, and I never would have had the joys of working out of my home.
Instead, I took a chance on something new – and it paid off. Which is the life’s lesson for today: when you feel like all is hopeless, go out and try something you’ve never done before. It’ll make you feel a little bit better, and you never know where it’ll lead.
P.S. – I never thought about it until Geordie Tait told me that I could do it… But this daily thing means that I can plug my comic every day! And indeed, my comic Home on the Strange is the new thing that I am trying this year to stave off my depression. Check it out, if you’d like – and blame Geordie for the plug.