here ya go. This the path that led me to D&D. Please excuse any typos or grammatical errors. I did not edit this at all. Just wrote it from the heart.
Growing up all I ever wanted to be was “cool.” I think it all started with my sister having this really cool boyfriend named Colin. Colin had a skateboard, a Bones Brigade patch on his bomber jacket, ripped jeans, and wore his hat backwards. He was basically pulled directly out of the Beastie Boy’s video, Fight For Your Right. Colin even introduced me to hip-hop, which ended up defining a huge part of who I am today. Being “cool” stopped being a thing I desired and became a part of who I was. I was popular and my life revolved around activities that would keep me labeled “cool” throughout my life.
During my teenage years I spent the majority of my time skating, doing graffiti, trying to meet girls, and going to raves. None of those things made me cool like I thought they did. They just helped me make really great friends. Unfortunately, I was too blinded by my adolescence to realize it at the time. I was lucky to have all these amazing people around but I was overwhelmed by peoples desire to be my friend. I was overwhelmed because I couldn’t figure out who I should be friends with, who should be a part of my inner circle. Because of this I cut off relationships with people who didn’t seem to be “on brand” with narcissistic piece of shit I was becoming. I was finally self-aware and I became arrogant and judgmental because of who I was convinced I had become. Just as I was at my apex with my head full of trashy, selfish, materialistic thoughts my world came crashing down. My parents sold their house and decided to move. This meant I was either going to quickly find a place to live or I would be moving too.
Days after my 19th birthday I packed up my 95 Toyota Tercel and got into the tiny car with my gigantic brother in-law, Eric. Eric knew what I was going through. He knew how hard it was to be forced to move and helped me feel better, mile-by-mile. But that only helped for a little while as the fear of leaving my home was killing me. I was leaving a place where I had street cred. I was leaving a place where people knew me. I was leaving a place where I was already cool and leaving that scared the shit out of me. We landed in Vancouver, Washington and I spent the first few months alone. My only friend was my cousin and the two of us were clearly growing tired of each other after just a couple of weeks. He was destined to be a small town guy with small town people and that did not appeal to me. I wanted to cross the river and party in Portland. At the time I had a fledgling rap career, a burning desire to make new friends, and maybe meet a girl or two. I started going to school at a local junior college and spending as much time out as I could. The only problem was, I was not making friends the way I thought I would. Everyone I was meeting seemed really drawn to me, which was nice but for some reason none of them fit the mold I had created for my friends. I met Carrie, a free spirited traveler who saw the coast from Washington to Mexico. She had armpit hair and never wore shoes, only Birkenstocks. I met Hezekiah, a joyous character that had similar likes to me musically but his sense of adventure stopped at trading music. We never kicked it outside of school. I also met Michael, Sarah, Joe, and a few others. None of them seemed to get me; none of them had anything to offer.
I was only a few months into my new life and I was furious at how “un-cool” the people I was meeting were. The problem was I had been spending all my time comparing people to me rather than looking at who they were. I wonder now if I ever even asked any of them a question about themselves? I missed out on friendships with these people because I couldn’t see past my own insecurities. It took a visit from my dear friend Andrea to get me out of the house and back in a world of youth and excitement. Eventually we decided to go to a party at a warehouse in Portland near OMSI. House Music, Drum and Bass, dancing, and emotional comfort pulsed through my veins. I finally felt comfortable enough to talk to some people and give a wholehearted attempt at making some new friends. I talked to Andrea before we got to the party. She was so good at making friends and I wanted to tell her about my troubles. She was blunt, “David, you can be a bit of an Asshole. People need to see you with your guard down and you need to let that happen.” She, of course, was spot on. I needed to let my guard down and I needed to let me be me.
In a strange twist of fate I met a girl at that party. The old David would have walked out of the party and not worried about seeing this girl again. But I could hear Andrea in the back of my mind telling me to put my guard down. So I did. Now, nearly 18 years latter I am married to the girl from that party. That moment, that night, changed who I was. I met my soulmate because I let my guard down. My world was changing because I listened to my friend. I met a few people at that party who would become friends and I saw all of them come together week after week. A nerd from Alabama, a drug loving party animal, a DJ from Vallejo, a beautiful private school girl with strict parents, and a “cool” guy from California.
It took nearly twenty years for me to understand that being defined by a word was completely ridiculous. It took me another ten years to genuinely figure out who I was. Over those 10 years I opened my heart and mind up to so many different people that I slowly began to learn about things that I otherwise might know nothing about. That allowed me to grow as a person and walk away from the judgmental version of myself who laughed at the idea of Larping and table top games. Instead I grew to appreciate the fact that people were passionate about something that I knew nothing about. That is the exact reason I started listening to a Dungeons and Dragons podcast. People I admired were playing this game that was completely off my radar and instead of brushing it aside I decided to dive in and embrace it. Even when I fell head over heels in love with this podcast the cool side of me was apprehensive at the idea of playing it myself. Eventually, Mike convinced me to try my hand at playing D&D and the rest as they say is history.
Today I can honestly say that I am proud of who I have become. Thanks to some simple advice from my friend Andrea nearly 20 years ago I stopped letting a word define me and started letting experiences help me grow. I owe so much gratitude to Mike, Ben, Kyle, and Dublin for helping me grow this new passion. To all the amazing listeners of the podcast, I hope you know that your support has helped me blossom both as a player and as a person. Thank you so much for the support. Lastly, to all the folks on twitter, listeners of the podcast or otherwise, I am humbled by you friendship, passion, and love for the TTRPG community. Thank you.