[A Suitable Metaphor]

So sometimes explosions can be helpful. Things did not go well within the EP the other day, everyone was very unhappy, and I came this close to resigning (or being kicked out)… but it made me realize how important the EP is to me. So the next day I apologized and had my meeting with Wakana and told her everything. She said it’s a thing that happens to people who’ve had traumatic experiences and who’ve been enmeshed and whatnot, like I have… I’m afraid to get too close and be overwhelmed, so I push people away. I get anxious about being on the outside so I create the situation where I’m on the outside because at least that’s familiar and oddly feels safer even though it sucks. I told her all about how it’s always been rare for me to feel like part of the group (I feel more like an outsider trying to interact with the group). And I told her all about my friend asking me to be his business partner, and feeling out of the loop, and feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing more, and feeling like I couldn’t do more because of various things happening over the summer and and…

She told me if something’s important to me I need to commit to it and actually follow through, even when it means doing things I don’t want to do, even when it’s work. She helped me realize that I had dropped the ball by not telling my friend that I was feeling out of the loop and didn’t know what to do and felt like I wasn’t doing enough and felt bad about that and so on. I realized that as hurt as I felt about the whole situation, when I stepped out of my own head and looked at the bigger picture, him giving me a much smaller role in the company makes a lot of sense. I’m actually the one who gave myself that role, if I’m being completely honest. Complaining about it to the people who have been working their butts off, instead of talking to him directly, was counterproductive. Well, except that it pulled everything out into the open and provided a valuable learning opportunity.

When I called my friend he was my friend. We he asked me about my efforts to switch programs and I told him how that’s going and he told me how he’s been doing and what he wants for the company and so on. He made it clear that what happened needs to never happen again. I told him how I’ve felt this whole time and apologized. He said that if I need to talk to him about anything I can call him. Overall I didn’t really get everything I wanted from the conversation, but we’re still friends and that’s enough. And talking to him helped me feel a lot more “in” the company.

I bounced back and felt fantastic telling our new social media person she’s awesome (it’s the damn truth!). I took an article about something I wasn’t particularly interested in, learned about it, and was happy. I got to be creative figuring out how and what to write about it. I also got to finally post an article I’d done a lot of research for over the summer, which felt fantastic not just to see it up there and getting views and whatnot (so glad we waited) but there was also the satisfaction of having two things to offer the group. I want to do this work and I feel more a part of the group than before for the first time, thanks to how everyone has moved on from the explosion.

And today we got a request from someone who wants us to interview them and write an article!!! We were all squeeing because this is the kind of thing we were dreaming of a few months ago and now it’s happening!!!

… and speaking of It Happening… I finally heard back from the composition department… around the same time all this stuff was going on, that’s why I hadn’t written about it yet. The chair expressed appreciation for certain aspects of my composing, but said there are other aspects I need to work on – and I agree with his assessment wholeheartedly. He said I would make an excellent addition to the program after addressing the issues he’s concerned about, hooked me up with another faculty member to take composition lessons with, and suggested I take the theory courses so that if I reapply and am accepted I won’t have wasted any time! So instead of waiting until next semester to start I should be able to enroll in composition lessons next week… OMG IT’S HAPPENING!!! And it’s happening now!!!

I’m so excited! but also for some reason I’m kinda fixated on the fact that for the first time ever I’ll just be studying music, not in conjunction with or alongside something somehow related to behavioral science. The form, the relationships among frequencies, the interplays of rhythms and melodies, the sounds that can be made by various instruments, how to intentionally weave all of this into something… well, it depends on what you’re going for. Expressive. Magnificent. Soothing. Arousing. Inspiring. Divine… All of it, right there.

 

And Banji’s home. And my mom is awesome. And I’m getting to connect with nifty people doing stuff we enjoy. And I survived dusting my desktop for the first time in way too long. And everything just feels… balanced. Like right now there’s this perfect harmony going on, but it takes a lot of concentration to maintain and things are going to tip one way or the other, it’s not sustainable as it is, there’s a certain energy and tension and yet calmness, focus, maybe even peace. That moment of silence between the cadence and its resolution. The calm before the storm… Which I guess is oddly appropriate since it’s Mabon (either today or tomorrow), the Autumnal Equinox. Everything is in balance for this brief day and night and then we descend into the darkness and cold of winter. But there’s a certain power and strength and majesty to the darkness that I love and that I can…

okay, let’s be honest, it’s feeling more and more like Halloween. I could go into the significance of Samhain and the sabbats and so on but seriously. HALLOWEEN!!! Who doesn’t love this time of year? I need to stop writing and start figuring out my costume because damnit I’m dressing up this year and it’s gonna be awesome!!!

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Exhales slowly

Potential crisis averted, I think. I had some concerns regarding the code of ethics that was posted for the entrepreneurial project (EP) this morning. But when I shared my concerns in the group chat (which is currently our official means of communication), it didn’t go over so well. I didn’t respond so well either, at first. Then someone wrote something that, to be honest, I found mocking and offensive… but I decided to focus on their last question: “why are you still here?”

I answered that I think the EP is a great idea with a ton of potential and I appreciate the creativity my friend brings to it and I’m proud of what it’s becoming – all true. I want to be a part of it – in particular, part of what we’re working toward. I have to admit, what we’re doing now appeals to me considerably less, and I want to find a role that will help us get to where I want to be, that isn’t the thing I’m not enjoying so much, you know? So I tried communicating with my friend about this, didn’t get a response, felt forced to bring it to the group chat so folks would understand what I was trying to address in my comments on the code of ethics… and yeah, explosions.

The problem I had this morning was with the HR person basically slamming me (I felt), instead of there being the mutual understanding dialogue I’d hoped for when I raised my concerns in the first place… I mean the ethical standards say let’s resolve this amicably, using terms like “collaboration” … I don’t think saying “no you’re this now do the thing you just said you don’t want to” is particularly amicable or collaborative. And then one of the board members basically said “if you don’t think you’re a fit for this company, leave.”

Excuse me? Tempting as it is to say “good bye and fuck you” I… I dunno, maybe I’m just being too stubborn for my own good, but I do want to see this endeavor succeed. I’m trying to challenge them to be less butts and I dunno, develop some people skills or something. I’d say maybe I should be the HR person but that sounds too much like emotional labor, and it’s not what my friend pulled me into this project for. The HR person was kind enough to remind me what that was, so I said “well if you need me you might want to refrain from driving me away” and wished everyone a good day.

Basically I feel like my options are 1) shut up, put my head down, and accept that this will be that soul-crushing job I’d hoped to avoid… oh, except that I’m not currently being paid 2) invest enough capital to be on the board and then I get to tell everyone else what to do mwahahahahaha!!! 3) tell them I don’t want my current position, but they can hire/contract me later as what I want to do… who knows, maybe by that time I’ll have found a better job! 4) walk away.

This is really pointing me toward “I’d much rather just dive in and be an independent content creator,” but I don’t really know what I need to do in order to make that remotely sustainable. To be honest that’s the thing I need from this company, possibly the main reason why I haven’t walked away: if I’m part of the company I benefit from my friend’s business knowledge and the sponsors he’s reaching out to and the equipment he has or plans to acquire… Though most of what I lack is stuff I could learn…

But I’m not even sure it’s something I’d want to do on any kind of regular basis… or if I can do anything on any kind of regular basis, considering my mental health and trying (failing) to be a good offspring / significant other (x3) / family-type person / friend. I think to make content creation work I’d need to be part of a team, so it’s not all on me to be whatever form of entertaining I’m going for… especially if the goal is to post every day. I mean, look at this blog. 😛

But when I think about composing… yeah, there’s gonna be stress in a profession like that, there’s stress in every profession. There will be times when I sign on to a project and things don’t go the way I’d hoped and I have to work with (or under) people I butt heads with… but they’ll be paying me, and I’ll know I’ve been hired as x, not think I’m gonna be q and find myself relegated to z without any kind of meaningful discussion and agreement. I hope. Right?

And I mean everyone needs a day off from everything, but I think composing is something I can do full time and be happy doing. I think. I hope. Though I thought writing would be and to be honest it’s not. Part time maybe. Or maybe I need something that involves a variety, some writing some composing some video-related stuff and something that’s not creative at all because as much as I love being creativity sometimes that needs a break, too.

(Yes, I wrote “being creativity” and decided to keep it because it makes sense in my brain.)

I just… I don’t know. People have told me I tend to latch on to one thing and that becomes my identity and my world and when it falls through or is over or moves or dies or whatever I fall apart. Completely. and I need to not do that. This isn’t worth risking that. Composing isn’t really, either. Nothing is.

“It’s not you, it’s not permanent, it’s not going to solve all your problems and make you happy.” So what is? Is anything? Is it possible to find a something – like a higher power – that can fill that role? Or is that just an illusion… kind of like how the ‘Self’ is the psychic embodiment of never truly being one whole coherent entity, if nothing else because there’s always the person and their concept of their Self, co-existing as two different things. (Jungian something-or-other, I’m not studying psychology anymore.) Maybe I’m just not meant to have one profession or identity or whatever; maybe I need more fluidity than is allowed by typical understandings of careers and whatnot in the U.S. I don’t know, I just have this weird urge to go make something and post it on YouTube.

To Live…

I reached out to the graduate music composition program at my school about 3 weeks ago. They asked me to email my portfolio and said we need to schedule an interview, during which they’ll test my theory and aural skills. I took about a week and a half to prepare my portfolio, which unfortunately meant that the fall semester was already starting by the time I emailed it. Until recently I was still hopeful that I might be able to make the transfer in time to start taking classes, and I was getting very anxious about it.

On Tuesday I let go of starting this semester, mostly because Wednesday marked the end of the add/drop period. That helps somewhat: I actually prefer the idea of starting in the spring and not having to rush. It would be rather stressful to jump into graduate courses after missing the first meeting or two, especially since 1) I’ll be getting used to a new approach to music, new professors and new classmates and 2) it’s been a couple years, I’m feeling a bit rusty…

I’m still anxious about whether I’ll be accepted, though (reading into the lack of response and lack of indication that they’ve listened to my recordings, which I’d posted online, and which were produced by my notation software – will they judge me for that?) and second-guessing my decision (I have literally 2 requirements left to finish the music therapy degree, but I actively don’t want to do them, but it seems irresponsible not to… and even more irresponsible to incur more student debt when I haven’t earned any income in, gods, almost a decade…)

If I’m not careful I start going down the what-if spiral and getting depressed. What if this doesn’t work out? What if I don’t have what it takes? What if I can never find gainful employment? Etc… I’ve started a new game of Skyrim, in part because I love the game but also to distract myself from existential dread (well that’s a bit melodramatic) worrying about something I can’t control. (Thought occurs that studying theory and practicing my aural skills would be a good use of my time, but I’ve been having trouble getting myself to do it… I want to know I’ve passed this first hurtle and scheduled the interview first…)

Speaking of not having control over things, I’m still kinda feeling things out with the entrepreneurial project (EP) I’ve mentioned a couple times. I thought I was going to be one of the people in charge but 1) I feel a bit out of my league 2) I feel very out of the loop and 3) my friend is calling all the shots (which I can’t really complain about since he’s the one who’s actually gotten it off the ground). We’ve butt heads a few times – especially when stuff got posted that can be interpreted in ways I’m uncomfortable with – and I thought I was supposed to be an editor but people don’t seem to respect or appreciate my input and I don’t know whether they consider me a valuable member of the team or a pain in the ass and it’s agitating my anxiety and depression.

It doesn’t help that helping Banji move followed by over a week of basically composing full time+ to prepare my portfolio essentially derailed my level of involvement and status in the EP.

Part of me is saying I should run now, but another part of me keeps hoping it will get better (and doesn’t want to miss out on the profits, should they happen… eventually). And part of me actually does enjoy doing this – especially certain aspects of it – and the people seem pretty cool… when we agree on things…

Maybe once we’re in our office and have x y z set up and I can focus on q and…

I dunno, I’m kinda worried this might end up being like the Green Party all over again. Complete with serious ideological disagreements about how to handle something we’re all passionate about causing me to question what I thought/hope were/are meaningful friendships. Or maybe my appraisal of the friendship isn’t what matters, it’s whether it can survive these disagreements. My friend has gone from “I want you to be my business partner and keep everything on track” to “if you want to be part of the board all you have to do is invest capital…”

He’s known from the beginning that I don’t have capital – I’m investing my time, energy, and talents… that’s “appreciated” but somehow less meaningful? I dunno I respect that actually putting money into this is a big deal – and very necessary for success – but money isn’t everything. It on its own shouldn’t give one person more authority than another person earns through their labor – and we’re all putting in a lot of unpaid labor. (So basically I think we all should be the board, unless someone doesn’t want to be on it, but that’s not in line with the laws governing the type of company he decided to make – they require at least some “liquid” investment to be on the board… does “liquid” by any chance include blood, sweat, and tears?)

Ugh. Why do I do this to myself? (Because the alternative is either living in fantasy or working a job you hate… and there’s drama everywhere at least have it be drama you’re passionate about…)

I. don’t. know.

I do know that the week and a half I spent preparing my composition portfolio was amazing! I got to revisit and rework pieces I wrote back in college and the years since, going through the creative process. A lot of them were in a program that outputs midi, meaning low audio quality and inaccurate feedback regarding things like relative dynamics (to oversimplify, volume). I copied my compositions into another program that uses samples from live musicians playing real-world instruments, made some major edits to most of them (including re-orchestrating one) wrote some new material for some if not most of them, and playing with dynamics… oh, wow, that was a trip! It felt so good starting with something I was already proud of, seeing how I could make it better, carefully patiently meticulously caressing it like a sculptor working with wet clay, and then the magic when it sounds right… oh, by the gods, to do that for a living…

That would be living…

The only thing is, I need to have some kind of snack food by my desk (or wherever I’m composing) so I don’t starve. And I should really watch my caffeine intake, and make sure I sleep decent hours. I learned the hard way that the extra energy and high and creative fervor isn’t sustainable, and the crash sucks…

If I switch programs I’ll basically be restarting my degree: I only have like 3 classes that I’m fairly certain will transfer over. And I’ll have to take another version of research methods and learn a new writing/citation style. And it’ll probably take at least 3-4 semesters to graduate, no idea how much money but almost definitely adding significantly to the student debt my mother has been amazingly wonderful about paying down for me.

On the plus side, the ‘big bad requirement’ that could possibly pose a barrier to graduating is that I’m required to have one of my compositions performed… you mean have my dream come true!!!

And then there’s no guarantee that I’ll be able to make money doing it.

But oh, to do it… I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything this badly.

One thing the EP and composing have in common is that they both point to online content creation. The EP involves it directly, while composing probably doesn’t require it but the program coordinators did ask me to post my recordings online and send them links, rather than emailing audio files… It got me thinking about composing and recording the compositions however I can and posting them online and who knows? with things like Patreon maybe that’s all I’ll need to make enough money to live on. and/or I might get commissions. and/or someone might want to hire me for a longer-term project and/or…

I dunno, somehow the depressive what-if spirals are easier to maintain. Like I have to actively stop myself from going down them, whereas with the positive/hopeful ones I think “woah I’m getting ahead of myself” and just… stop.

“This is all wishful thinking. Go get a day job.”
“In what? My B.A. is in music and psychology…”
“Something soul crushing like everyone else.”
“That would probably kill me…”

And besides, ‘everyone else’ is trying to get out of their soul crushing job…

Ah, well, the composition program will email me when they email me. In the meantime I have stuff to do and look forward to with the EP. Banji’s parents want me to sell some stuff for them, that could be a way to at least make some spending money (and get my butt in their house more often, they’re good people). There’s no reason I can’t/shouldn’t compose just because I feel like it – especially if that will help me practice my theory and aural skills. I can post stuff online and who knows? maybe that will help with my application… it will definitely be adding to my portfolio!

If composing is my idea of living then I should live, and have fun with it. And of course there’s still gaming and my friends and my family and and and… so much good in my life, I choose to focus on that.

Bullet Journal Day – 1 Year of Bullet Journaling!

I’ve been using my Bullet Journal consistently for a year now and I absolutely love it! It’s part planner, part to-do list, part record of what I’ve been doing and focusing on, part continuous work of art. Sto imparato l’italiano, così scrivo i mesi e i giorni in italiano. Anche, penso i numeri in italiano quando li leggo o li scrivo! – bene, fino a 31… 😉  [I’m learning Italian, so I write the months and days in Italian. Also, I think numbers in Italian when I read or write them! – well, up to 31…] I was never able to accomplish that with any language I studied before, but with this it just kind of started happening naturally on its own – to the point where I’ve been about halfway through counting something before I realized I was counting in Italian! I love it because it helps me practice at least a little bit every day.

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Choices

I got to spend several hours with Ron today, mostly just relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. We went for a brief walk on a nature trail and got a late lunch. Ze told me ze has been super busy and very stressed, not getting enough personal time and rest, and everything feels “raw.” I could see the pain in zir eyes and wanted to do something, anything, to help … if I couldn’t take away the pain, to at least be there with zir in it.

“You’re not zir therapist,” a committee member reminded me. I’m having trouble naming ‘her’ – I think it’s a ‘her’ – but she’s kind of motherly, kind of authoritarian, the one who ‘encourages’ me to do the stuff on my to-do list and wants me to get my act together professionally. The one who’s willing to go along with the whole entrepreneurship thing for now, but won’t call it a career until we start making money. In addition to being an important personal boundary, it’s also unethical to provide therapy to loved ones. She was getting at both of those concerns with her comment. “And I thought you didn’t want to do this kind of thing, anyway…”

“I don’t want to do it professionally,” I thought back curtly, “but I have learned these skills. I want to use them to help people I care about. How can I do this without crossing that boundary?”

I basically told Ron I could relate, asked if there’s anything ze can do to create a(n emotional) space for zirself, and listened.  I tried to be as supportive as I could. I chose my words carefully, and it took some effort, but it wasn’t draining or anything. It actually felt good. And I hope it helped… but whether it did (in the way I’d intended) or not, it was a moment of connection that we were able to share. It was real.

If the work I did in graduate school enables me to love the people I care about better, in ways that support my mental health as well, then it’s worth every penny.

I listened and sang along to the Moana soundtrack on my way home, getting into character and dancing and reveling in all the sensations. I thought about how awesome it must have been creating that music, and I can do that too, and even if I don’t do it professionally I can do it for the sheer joy. “My music is for me,” I thought, “I want and need it to be for me.” I felt myself connecting again to the passion I felt for music in undergrad, playing in the orchestra, studying theory, composing – back when I was focusing on the music for the music itself, not so I could ‘use it’ to ‘help’ others. And I felt grounded in who I was a decade ago, who I am now, who I’ve always been… maybe even who I will be. I felt whole.

“You should share your gift. You would make a great therapist.”

Maybe you’re right. But I don’t want to – not now at least. You can call me selfish, but it’s my choice to make.

It feels good to make that choice. I’m grateful that I can, and for the journey, and to everyone who supported me in getting here.

“Life takes you to unexpected places. Love brings you home.”

Right after I’d recommitted to finding an internship and completing my music therapy degree… a friend called and asked me to partner with him in a new business he had been laying the groundwork for for several months, and felt ready to launch. It’s a great opportunity to make a living writing about things I’m passionate about, and he seems to think it has the potential to be quite lucrative. I’ve already enjoyed writing a couple articles for it, and everyone I tell encourages me to go for it (well, except my mom, but she’s skeptical about pretty much everything). I’ll be honest, I’m a bit wary regarding the whole entrepreneurship thing myself – and I’ve made it clear I don’t have the funds to invest in this endeavor financially – but I’m also hopeful: it’s a chance to make more money than I probably would as a (beginning) music therapist, doing something I enjoy, without performing emotional labor. Well, at least it would involve considerably less emotional labor.

Around the same time this happened: my godmother was (still is) slowly recovering from complications from bariatric surgery (there’s a reason spell check wants to change that to “barbaric”); Banji’s dad was (still is) dealing with health issues brought on or exacerbated by treatment for yet another type of cancer (he’s had a few); Fox’s dad fell and had bleeding on the brain; and my mom was diagnosed with stage 1 uterine cancer. I could have maybe dealt with all the other bullshit, but my mother having cancer, after everything else, was the last straw. Since being diagnosed she’s had a hysterectomy and they’re confident they got everything and she’s recovering well enough… but we’re both still scared – or at least I am. My mother had (we’re gonna keep this past tense) my mother had cancer, WTF!!!

I just… can’t. I emailed my academic advisor, thanked him for the work he’d started trying to help me find an internship, and told him I need to put it on hold again because I’m dealing with family health issues. I feel like every time I’m starting to make progress on this, something happens to fuck with my head, I’m on an emotional roller coaster, I’m not ready to start this career that’s all about supporting people emotionally… and finally – FINALLY – I realized that maybe I’ll NEVER be ready. There’s no reason for me to believe things won’t keep happening to rock my boat, and I’ve found the best thing I can do is hang on until the storm passes… I can’t support people through shit like that on a professional level while I’m struggling with it myself. I mean I guess I could, but what would it do to me?

Maybe… and it’s still new enough that part of me doesn’t want to let go, but I think it’ll come around, eventually… maybe I don’t want to become a music therapist, or work in any “helping profession.” The idea of working in a field where I can just perform intellectual labor (maybe some physical labor, but minimal emotional labor) has never been more appealing. There have been signs, like when I flat out didn’t do an assignment for one of my graduate psychology classes because I realized it wouldn’t hurt my grade too much, and I didn’t feel like dealing with the personal/emotional shit it was bringing up. Or when I stopped working on my degree for 2 years to dabble in third-party politics. Or when people started telling me I come alive when I talk about this entrepreneurship opportunity (but not when I talk about finding a music therapy internship). When I think about it I’m like “but damn, I want to finish this degree, have the M.A. after my name that I went tens of thousands of dollars into debt for.” But, I dunno… maybe once we get this thing off the ground I’ll be able to pay off the debt in a couple years and then, well, I can probably still finish the degree, or get a different one, or just say “hey I’m successful in a career I enjoy, who needs a degree?”

(I had a dream in which I switched to music composition… and if I’m not mistaken they’re both “M.A. in Music with a concentration in __________” – so yeah, that might not be entirely unrealistic. But I don’t really feel enough motivation to focus on composition right now to make that work… Right? I mean, yeah, Banji’s moving back home and will be taking classes on the same campus and it would be awesome if we had classes at the same time: we could get dinner and study in the library together wearing matching [school name] sweatshirts and it’ll be almost kinda like being in undergrad together again instead this time we’ll both be commuters and… nah. Being a professional composer is a pipe dream. I haven’t even dabbled in it for years. Yes I know I majored in music because I fell in love with music theory, and I’d absolutely love to take another course in it… I’ve joked if someone’s complaining about having to take it I’ll offer to take it for them… but I just… It’s more debt, okay! I can’t ask that of my mom. Really… Yes I know there are scholarships I could apply for but… well, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to see if it’s remotely feasible, and what the process would entail… I do miss composing, and it could help with branding for my new business…)

Omg what have I gotten myself into? The point is yeah, this is the second time it’s happened. I went into college majoring in psychology and minoring in music, then had a “mid-college crisis” in which I decided to major in music (but finish the psych major as well, I was so fucking close). Then I went into grad school for music therapy (I wanted to be a music therapist, really, it wasn’t that “trying to become a professional composer is unrealistic” – honestly!) and interestingly managed to satisfy all the requirements except the one that involves actually working full time as a music therapist. (Because of the application process, honest!) And I can’t help thinking I could just finish the degree this coming fall semester! if I didn’t have to get a fucking internship and work in the field WHAT AM I DOING? This is ridiculous.

If it’s even possible to switch to composition, I could probably satisfy the requirements in a heartbeat, and love it.

Vulnerability is Strength

As much as I love writing potential scenes between my and another character in my friends’ Exalted (tabletop role-playing / collective storytelling) game, I feel like I’ve been getting too far ahead of what has actually happened in the game. It’s been a difficult temptation to resist, so I tried to compromise by initiating a conversation with the player of the other character – in which I intended for us to discuss how the bond between our characters might develop. I figured if I’m gonna keep getting ahead of things, it’s better to do so with the other player’s input instead of allowing myself to become overly attached to an alternative / inaccurate version of his character.

Instead we ended up having an awesome, rather long conversation that included the friend who pulled him into the game and mostly had nothing to do with Exalted. We geeked out, laughed at ridiculous YouTube videos, and were otherwise very silly together – which was just what I needed, honestly; it was so much fun! At one point the conversation took a surprisingly personal turn, considering it was like maybe my fourth time talking to this individual and the first time that wasn’t primarily focused on gaming. We touched briefly on some of the trauma / loss we’ve each experienced, were honest and supportive of each other, and agreed that it’s important to be vulnerable. I shared that that’s something I’ve struggled with for as long as I can remember: whether it was needing to suppress my grief in order to function in school, trying to “be strong” for my mom because (I thought) she couldn’t handle my emotions, or otherwise just wanting to ignore my depression and have a “normal” life, I have fairly consistently fallen into the trap of what my friends called stoicism and I’ve seen referred to online as toxic masculinity.

Vulnerability is a theme that’s gaining prominence in the scenes I’ve been writing between the two characters. My ‘healer’ character initially wants to ‘fix’ the ‘wounded’ character; they avoid touching this individual because doing so evokes overwhelming emotions that make them feel vulnerable, and that terrifies them. But even in the earliest scenes I wrote they tell their story and literally show their wounds (scars), revealing that in a way the two characters aren’t that different. In one scene they instinctively reach for the ‘wounded’ character’s hand as the latter leads them through the Underworld; the ‘wounded’ character responds by squeezing the ‘healer’ character’s hand reassuringly (and it works). In another scene my ‘healer’ character braves their fear of touch and vulnerability to hug the ‘wounded’ character, with the intention of supporting them through a particularly difficult and absolutely essential milestone. Both characters end up holding / supporting each other while crying on each other’s shoulders; in that moment the two characters are both simultaneously ‘wounded’ and ‘healer.’ It becomes a milestone in both characters’ growth, as well as the development of the relationship / bond.

In the most recent scene I’ve written, the ‘healer’ character is severely wounded in battle and ends up unconscious. The ‘wounded’ character holds them until they awake because that is the only way to keep them safe, warm, and relaxed enough to get the rest they need to heal. Upon waking, the ‘healer’ character is able not only to accept but to enjoy the touch, and is finally honest regarding their ambivalence toward intimacy / vulnerability with the ‘wounded’ character. While explaining this they begin to consciously acknowledge that they trust in the ‘wounded’ character as a result of that character’s actions, which are more important than the character’s status as a Deathknight instead of a Solar. The two are finally able to enjoy being close without the ambivalence / awkwardness that has defined their relationship up to this point. (Of course the scene is getting way, way ahead of the game and relies on my – not necessarily the other player’s – interpretation of how the ‘wounded’ character may develop.)

For so long my whole inner Committee has perceived the Wounded One as needing protection, incapable of fending for themself or really doing anything. We – especially the Healer – haven’t considered the Wounded One’s agency or strengths, to the point that they may not even be aware of them. But the Wounded One was the first out of all of us; they created many if not all of us. Maybe we need to trust them more.