College is a Lot Like Laser Tag…

…And other graduation speeches I won’t write.

Last night a group of friends decided to race to the nearest Laser Tag arena after work. Unfortunately, most of us had work, so we managed to only get there an hour before closing. I’m sure the workers were more than delighted to see nine very loud and foul-mouthed college students come pouring in the door just to catch the last session.

I’d thrown out the suggestion that we go play sometime at the beginning of the summer, and found myself incredibly nervous to actually play. I’d only gone once (a birthday party where I believe I was the only girl) and the combination of not-knowing, imminent possible physical activity and tiny children was a sure-fire way to get my anxiety going. 

Needless to say, we got our collective asses handed to us by a group of kids and their parents, who seemed to take even more delight in just following us around constantly tagging our vests while their kids ran into home base. You know the arrogance of a child that knows they’re truly good at something? Like they aren’t being pandered to by adults or let win? There were approximately 800 of them there and they were all running and yelling in the dark while fog machines went off and ALSO there were lasers.

It was when I was leaning against a wall, four tiny kids constantly shooting at me with their later guns, laughing hysterically as I heard my friends yelling things like ‘HAVE WE STARTED?” and “I DON’T KNOW HOW THE LAZER WORKS” that I realized something. Lazer Tag is a lot like college.

At the beginning, you’re funneled into a dark room with a assorted group of people you don’t know, told to get somewhere, given vague rules and sent on the way. You enter into a confusing maze of walls, and don’t get a starting bell. On our team was a mom who had to tell us that the game had started, right as three of us got tagged immediately. There’s also the imminent fear that you’re doing nothing right (we weren’t) and there’s no real point to it (there wasn’t) but it was extremely important to us suddenly to win (we lost both games). To add to the metaphor, people younger than us seemed way more qualified to be playing and knew way more about the game than we did (in my convoluted metaphors, these are high-schoolers). The parents are bored alumni who sometimes helped us out but mostly seemed to have fun watching us mess up. There was also a employee who would intermittenly  wander through and offer advice to me that mostly constituted of ‘gotta say out of the lasers’ and ‘listen to the team leader’. The team leader, in our case, was a small child nick-named Panda who enjoyed screaming incomprehensible  numbers at me regardless of whether I was firing, moving, or standing still. I’m not sure where he figures into the narrative of college, but I’m sure he’s there. 

On the other hand, it was incredibly fun. Sure we lost, but it was incredibly worth it – and I’m not embarrassed to admit it. Those kids were ruthless, and earned their victory. It’s always fun to do new things, especially because I don’t know the next time I’m going to just be able to run into a laser tag arena. When we left, all of us were doubled over in stitches remembering highlights from the adventure.

It was great getting out of the comfort zone and doing something a little silly, a little embarrassing, and yes, childish. But that’s what being an adult is about! I can choose when and where to play laser tag, whenever I want to. Oh, and also I can drink. So I do win in the end.

XX

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A Quest’s End.

Hold onto your seats, because it’s about to be a nerd-fest up in here.

This past Sunday I said goodbye to a world that I’d been creating for nearly four months. After a brutal 6 hours of playing, my dungeons and dragons team solved the mystery, saved the world, and got the girl. Or grumpy, four-armed mechanical dwarf, as it were.

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My amazing friend created these moodboards for various characters of the campaign.

It’s always a little embarrassing for me to tell people that I play DnD. Probably left-over survival instincts from high school, where anything that I deemed as nerdy (which were most things I enjoyed) needed to be hidden as much as possible. I’ve gotten better about embracing things I used to cringe about talking openly, but it’s still a hard time for me to admit that I really enjoy reading fan-theories, or fiction, or that I like to pretend for three hours on Friday nights that I’m an elvish fighter who is on a quest to avenge her dead husband.

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My first character – Bonameah Larkspur. 

For the summer, I asked if I could lead the DnD group. Most of the original members would be around my apartment, and it seemed easy to make up a short campaign that would fit into two or three months. It didn’t have the same amount of stress that a longer semester campaign would, and I was eager to see what it would be like to lead and craft the story, as opposed to simply participating in it. By that point, I’d only been playing for around two months, but I’d gotten the bug. As I try to explain to my friends who don’t play (and who listen to me natter on with an air of gracious bemusement), that you have to actually play to understand why people like DnD so much. It’s everything I love – story-telling, acting, hanging out with friends. It’s not a surprise by the second session I was sucking it up and admitting to the DM ( a close friend of mine who was kind enough to run the first part) that yes, I got it. DnD was super – freaking – fun. Only I didn’t use freaking.

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Prince Boo – a particular favorite NPC of mine…

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…And Daphne of Barns.

Planning a campaign was infinitely different from only playing. I had to create a satisfying story, enough mystery to keep them engaged and thinking, and also run and remember a whole host of different characters – each with their own voices. I admit, I did eventually get tired and nearly every other NPC was just vaguely serene-toned. It was super fun getting to create the world – and incredibly nerve-wracking every time I DM’ed, hoping that the party was having a good time and trying to split my attention evenly between players. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was incredibly nervous for the final chapter. I wanted everyone who’d been kind enough to play with me (and suffer through my bumbling on stats) to leave feeling like they’d heard a good story and it was worth their time. In that way, DnD’s a lot like writing. The only thing you can do is hope people like it.

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Philomena Burke – the party’s resident Sharpshooter.

As we wrapped up, I was hit by a sense of melancholy. It would be the last time that we played in that particular sandbox – although plans are already being made for the next story and characters. Still, saying goodbye to my NPC’s was surprisingly hard. As their creator, it sucks that I won’t get to talk or interact as them anymore. In a weird way, it was like saying goodbye to friends who have been with the group for nearly two months.

Or maybe I’m just being a giant nerd about it. It’s odd how DnD can draw you in. But then again, humans have always loved telling stories.

Also – I owe a huge thank you to my friend Allegra, who helped guide me through the process and also created the amazing sets of photos in this post. I couldn’t have done it without you!

I’m so glad I got the opportunity to DM. I’d be surprised if I did it again, but it was a treat to create an interactive story and try to keep things interesting. Luckily, I have a wonderful party and their support and kindness were integral as we journey into the world I’d built together. I think over the process I’ve grown as a collaborator and a storyteller. It’s definitely opened up news ways and opportunities than I had before playing DnD, and honestly y’all? DnD is the nerdiest thing I’ve ever done, and I love it to pieces. I’m so excited to start playing again and seeing where the next story takes me.

XX.

 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: a Novel.

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I’ve just read the oddest book, and I adored it. It’s been such a long time since I last truly loved the voice and feel of a novel (admittedly though, I have only been binging romance novels – which, while necessary and very enjoyable, are rather anemic when it comes to solid plot and characterization).

Eleanor Oliphant is narrated by Eleanor herself, and according to the blurb it’s about ‘when Eleanor and a stranger save an old man’s life, and they rescue each other’. But it’s so much more than that. From the get go, Eleanor establishes herself as one of the oddest voices I’ve read in narrative fiction, both incredibly grown-up and reflective, but naive and emotionally neglected. I’d say it’s a little like if an alien had to navigate the real world, but that would be undermining her incredibleness. It’s just such a pleasure as she grows and develops through her interactions with the world – indeed, her navigation of the beauty and fashion industry is a particular joy. One of my favorite bits was when she visits a Bobbi Brown store multiple times and seems very confused as to where Bobbi is.

The plot of the book follows Eleanor as a series of chance meetings inspire her to shake up her existence and venture out into the ‘real world’, although I’m sure she’d take umbrage at my words (isn’t all the world ‘real?’).  Watching her manage the changes to her set schedule (hour for lunch, crossword, repeat) doesn’t ever feel tedious or boring. Instead, the reader is left with a sense of natural development and her journey towards loving herself is so well written, there’s never any sense of dragging.

The revelations of her past – and her attempts to deal with it – are also very well handled, and it never feels like emotional trauma porn for the sake of it. Yes, you do ache for Eleanor, but it never feels like the author wants you to wallow in it. Indeed, it’s one of the more refreshing and (although this may not be the right term) healthy takes on trauma and moving on with your life.

All in all, this was one of the most charming books I’ve read in a while. It was delightful getting to immerse myself in the voice of Eleanor, and figuring out exactly what happened to her was legit anxiety inducing, in the best way. It also featured one of the nicest developments of friendship I’ve seen in a while. There’s no character that really stands out as amazing, and it’s honestly part of the charm. Every person who exists within Eleanor’s world feels like a real person. Which, while not always fun to read (one needs some romance novel men after all), it’s certainly one of the most refreshing books I’ve read.

I’m so glad I picked it up on a whim. It’s the first book in what I’m hoping is going to be a long spell of reading for pleasure again. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an unusual, well-written character piece.

Xx