What Is Role-Playing and Can I Do It By Myself?

I am a latent visitor to the world of the Internet, a late bloomer in the cosmos of websites, chat rooms and Amazon dot com.  In a world where five-year-olds surf the Net and download information, I didn’t stumble upon the magic of instant gratification until my mid-40s.  Suddenly I went from frumpy bed and breakfast owner to info surfing mama.  I mean, can you imagine talking in real time to people in Australia or England or Japan?  Can you imagine finding answers to everything you ever wanted to know but had no idea where to look? The Internet became a fountain of information — and a cauldron of trouble.

There were a number of downsides to instant gratification and the collection of useless information on my way to insight and intelligence. I spent too many hours chatting and too little time cleaning rooms and answering phones.  I wasted too many hours surfing medieval and dragon sites and far too little time at Web MD or Dictionary dot com. Eventually all the websites looked the same and all the chat rooms buzzed with the same, repetitive drone.  I had worn out my welcome, or rather the Internet did. But one of the positive things to come from my aimless wanderings was role-playing.

What is role-playing, you may ask?  According to Wikipedia, role players “adopt and act out the role of characters (real or fantasy), or parts, that may have personalities, motivations, and backgrounds different from their own.”  In all reality, that sounded at first like something a lot of us do every day. But back to point: from role-playing came a reigniting of a passion I had long forgotten about — writing.

Not that I didn’t write before, but putting pen to paper was never on my list of top ten things to do on a Saturday afternoon.  I had kept a diary years — and I mean years — ago.  There were a few short stories written in my junior high years (mostly about me and the Beatles), a few high school and college required papers (dare I ever share the story about the alien who landed in the marijuana field?), but nothing more.  With the advent of working in downtown Chicago and getting married and having two kids and a large network of crazy family members, there never seemed to be enough time to write anything but grocery lists or Christmas cards.

Through the initial excitement of wandering through Internet worlds, I stumbled upon chat rooms where people typed to each other as if they were face-to-face.  Interesting.  I didn’t have to fess up that I was a 40-ish year old housewife/innkeeper; I didn’t have to admit I was 20 pounds overweight or that I just finished scrubbing the toilet. All I needed to do was make up a name and race and I belonged.  Can you imagine the doors that opened for a writing goddess like me?  Role-playing was like a video game with instant feedback.   I could write my own dialogue, fight with swordsmen, disappear or have flames shoot from my fingertips, all with a sentence or two.  I could make up galaxies I’d visited or space captains I’d met or dragon lairs I visited and everyone would nod and react in their own character’s way. For someone who was already starting mid-life in a whirling dervish, this was just the outlet I needed.  It was so much fun making up characters and histories and names like Tulip Stormbringer or Lieutenant Ru.

Of course, it wasn’t all creative fun. Story lines didn’t always go where you wanted, people blabbered out-of-character about nonsense, and I spent more time looking for interaction than finding it. Not to mention the fact that you often left your family (and your life) on the back burner. Not smart.

Although that time was brief and scattered, I learned a lot about who I was and who I wanted to be.  The English language called me back home, and my naturally wandering Sagittarius nature encouraged me to step out of the box and write about a myriad of things. In those make-believe worlds I learned that age and sex and size and career didn’t matter. 

Most of us tend to hide behind our preconceived notions of self.  We limit ourselves by our own skewered judgment of what we think the world thinks we should be.  Like any other creative outlet, it was the discovery of a fourth dimension that brought delight and growth to my life.  The first three dimensions, (length, width and height), tumble into parameters conceived by physics and mathematics. What I call the fourth dimension is an enlightened plane of experience.  It can be found in any activity that requires creativity: building, dressmaking, crocheting, reading, or gardening.  The end product is independent of us — it takes on a life of its own as it is being created.

So it was with my flirtation with role-playing. It was no substitute for getting together in person with friends or taking a class or meeting with the local library group. But unlocking those doors brought in a flood of new experiences to both my mind and soul. And I can tell you today that you don’t have to be a role-player to find that power within your very genes.  You can find that personality explosion within yourself.

Don’t be afraid to try something new, or bring your old love out of the dusty past.  Give your passion — and yourself — a chance. You will find that you are not as off-target as you think you are.

Just remember to take your wings off before you get into the car.  They can help you fly, but they can also get hooked on the seatbelt, preventing you from flying to Atlantis and attending Michelangelo’s next art show with Obiwan Kenobi.

Just imagine how sad that would be.

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