I was about halfway through another blog, completely devoid of my usual "back in the day" vibe tangled with personal reflections and soul searching. I know, I know, it would have been a nice break. Bear with me for a moment while I hike my plaid pants back up to my chest for another view at a topic through the prism of my "old timer" experience.  Events have happened recently that have given me cause to reflect upon why I no longer partake in some of the nerdier activities I once enjoyed heartily. This isn't as much directly about gaming as it is about the sect of society that gaming culture is a part of. Some of you may read this and get defensive. It isn't meant as a slight in the least.

Gamers know who they are. We can easily identify the phonies. I'm including the guy/gal who has played only 3 other games besides Call of Duty or Madden. There is nothing wrong with these games per se (I'm an admitted Madden junkie myself), it's the lack of a more extensive videogame résumé that is the issue here. Gamers aren't just into videogames, however. We enjoy a wide variety of activities and hobbies. Some of us enjoy sports, others don't. Some like cosplay, some don't (and there are some that would like to get into it but couldn't work a sewing machine or glue gun to save their lives). The larger point is that we aren't just mindless zombies that sit in front of a screen entranced by the flickering lights. We (ok, most of us) have lives beyond the controller and keyboard. 

Lumping people into a category is not my style, but let's face the facts. We are nerds. Pump your breaks, sit back down, just hear me out (well, I guess you're not really hearing me, but there's a reason "read me out" hasn't caught on). I'm not passing judgment on anyone; society does enough of that already. However, if you know what d20 means, have a collection of comics or a knowledge of comic book series and characters, you can name 20 or more characters from either the Star Trek OR Star Wars universes (I have to separate the two because the hardcore fanboys on either side of that debate would not appreciate being lumped together), you have a desire to know what makes things "tick," and can speak and type coherent sentences you may want to start being honest with yourself. Truthfully, I wish I had been.

Childhood memories are a mixed bag for me. Some are fond. The rest are littered with ire, discontent, and despondency. I wasn't like 90% of the other kids. When I was in first grade, I was placed in the GATE program (Gifted And Talented Education). It was an after school gathering of the schools brightest progenies. It was an hour long session of tinkering and exploration of what the world around us was made of. Advanced placement classes came soon after. Bullies don't really need much of a reason to pick on you, but you can imagine my status in these programs did not make me invisible to them. Going to school was very much like walking through a mine field.

Videogames, tabletop RPGs, and comic books were the sanctuary of my youth. I delved into science fiction and immersed myself in the paranormal. Videogames were obviously my drug of choice. Mercifully, these mediums provided me the means to escape my reality, even if it was only temporary. While this proved to be a euphoric approach to dealing with the problems I was having in my daily social interactions, I discovered that I was becoming less and less like the other kids as I further plunged into the rabbit's hole. Fantasy worlds are where I felt better about myself, but reality was inevitably thrust upon me no matter how much I tried to avoid it. Escapism wasn't working. With every passing day/week/year, I grew more exasperated by the constant fights, taunting, and ostracism at the hands of others. Being a highly analytical person, I began to devise a strategy that would change things for me. 

It was the summer before my freshman year in high school that I decided I would no longer take AP courses. My once comforting shelter from the storm of life, the sanctuary of my childhood, would have to be demolished.  Those walls I built to guard myself from life would be brought down brick by brick. Only gaming, the foundation upon which that sanctuary was built upon, would remain a part of my life. Martial arts, weight lifting, sports, and a lexicon full of profanities and slang would replace them. I did, however, join the drama club and debate team. Come on, I was still a nerd after all. Besides, those other activities bought me enough "street cred" so that others would let those two activities slide. Since my grade school was far from the high school zoning boarders, I was starting with a crop of mostly fresh faces. Who I was before didn't matter.

There I stood, a chameleon amongst those who would have shunned me if not for my ability to look and act as they did. I made a lot of friends, and had few enemies. I had studied and observed the behaviors of different social groups, and adapted my speech patterns and mannerisms so as to become more acceptable in their eyes. I masterfully crafted tales of my past that were complete fiction and more in line with what everyone else talked about. Stories of my own life based in reality were not for sharing, as I fear of having my ruse discovered. On the surface I was a popular teen with a place in several different social "clicks." Underneath it all laid white hot embers, waiting to be fanned to life in an explosion of vitriol and venom. Amongst all my perceived success, I was slowly but surely becoming less and less happy with who I was becoming. 

After I closed the high school chapter of my life, it became apparent that I made more than a handful of mistakes. Scholastic achievement, something that was once so important to me, fell by the wayside. Instead I partied, experimented with drugs and participated in the debauchery of youth as often as I possibly could. The result was less than worthy of fanfare. My natural intelligence salvaged a 3.1 GPA, but I never took the SATs. I was cutting school when those exams took place. I wasn't interested anyway. Graduation from high school is one of the first major crossroads in life. I stood at mine not knowing how I even arrived there. My once bright future had dimmed considerably. I thought I finally had what I wanted. What I really was left with was regret. I grew bitter.

Betrayal is one of the greatest sins we can commit against others. Greater still is the betrayal you commit against yourself. Those that I referred to as friends were not really friends at all. They didn't even know me. I never gave them a chance. Still, the resentment I felt was directed towards others at first. After all, it was their fault I had to lie. They were to blame for my beloved sanctuary's destruction. I had sacrificed all of me for all of them. Years would pass, and my acrimony only grew. New walls would be erected to keep others out. Rage, resentment, and cynicism became my new barriers against humanity. I was alone. 

I immersed myself in gaming very heavily around this time. It was my one remaining fallback. I married my high school girlfriend. That was a mistake. She didn't marry me; she married the person I said I was. My use of videogames to drown out the world infected our marriage as well.  It was over before it began. This cycle of self-loathing and hate would continue on, although I got much better at hiding it. Many events happened that would change my life since graduation. 9/11 caused such a visceral response in me that I enlisted in the military (I saw Al Qaeda as the embodiment of the ultimate bully). I was divorced by 25. I later would marry my best friend. Samuel Woolley was born 4/2/2007. That was the day that caused me to reflect the most.

Managing my anger was proving more and more difficult as more seasons changed. Finding the root of it would be my only chance of overcoming my biggest obstacle, me. After some soul searching, the events I described to you (with many details left out, but these aren't my memoirs so I decided to keep it more to the point) all came racing back to the surface. The analytical part of my brain finally kicked in, and I knew I was my own worst enemy all along. "No kidding Adam, is there a bigger point here?" Why yes very blunt and impatient reader, there is. I actually like who I am.

Sadly, the only reason anything said or done to me became an issue was because I allowed it to. I never had guidance on the matter. Instead, I put up walls. Being called a nerd should have never bothered me in the first place. I was unique and exceptional. There was a hunger for knowledge, whimsy, and imagination that I should have stoked instead of choked (sorry for the rhyming). Others will try to keep you down, but why let them. Now, I pity those who bully. There is little to no redeeming quality to a bully. I have regained much of what I squandered. I'm almost done with my degree after deciding to return to college. I have reconnected with my inner nerd, and still enjoy some of the activities that brought me much joy in my youth. The only thing I can't recover is wasted time. Even so, I choose not to regret it.

I'm not the only one who reacted to the bitterness of others in the wrong way. With a high degree of certainty I can predict many more will follow in my footsteps, or go along a similar path. While it's better than going to that much darker, more violent place that gets pasted all over the news, there are still better ways of approaching the tests life throws at you. We live in a day and age now where those of us who have been labeled nerds are no longer as isolated. Lean on each other. We need not feel isolated. Furthermore, when you have to deal with less than desirable individuals and events, you can look at them as I now do; annoying side quests and resource gathering. That's right, instead of hiding behind videogames use what you know about them within reality.

Life is far shorter than you believe at a young age. The rewards for living your life the way you see fit are enormous. That's the main quest. The main storyline of your life, if you will. Side quests can be fun, and should be enjoyed when they don't disrupt your goals. As for the hurt...it's just another side quest. Only it's the one you can't skip over. View it as the annoying part of the game that ultimately shapes the hero, you, into something more than when they began. In any good game, the protagonist must face conflict. Just as that game protagonist, you need to just grind it out sometimes. I wish someone put life to me this way. It's easier for me to understand. Hurting sucks. Writing this out brings up a lot of emotions, and exposes scars. But if you learned something or even if you gained a little perspective, the tears I endure are worth it.

Bloggers Note: My words are not empty. If you need an ear (or eyes in this case), feel free to contact me. I offer wisdom, not judgment.