Can you be alone but still have a community? One man’s venture into online role-playing.
“…I’d rather be a functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me … ” Fleet Foxes, “Helplessness Blues”
Not too long ago I had friends in Mexico, Canada, England, Ireland, South Korea, and a couple of islands where people actually understand Rastafarianism. We were a close-knit group of guys (and a token girl). The type of guys you always see at the same booth at the same bar, laughing at the first half of a joke because we all know the punch lines already. Think “How I Met Your Mother” (we even had a Canadian).
Groups that tightly bound usually have names for themselves to signify their “in-ness” and distinguish others’ “out-ness.” We called ourselves Team Pink Death. We raided castles together, stormed fortresses, fought ice trolls and other sorts of fell beasts. We shared items—an ax for a warrior, a staff of death magic for a necromancer—and we also shared a deep bond. We were a guild.
You see, my girlfriend had just walked out on me and taken our friends with her. I was embarrassed to slink back to the guys I had ghosted on in favor of my girlfriend’s friend group. It would seem that I wasn’t a very good friend or boyfriend. What I was good at was being a Healer Monk. I was in the upper-echelon of badass.
Now if you put much stock in armchair psychology (and I do), it seems pretty obvious why I would choose to be the most desired and necessary character on any mission.
Alone in my basement eating hot pockets (I know, I know), I had remade myself into someone that others quite literally couldn’t live without.
But was I actually alone? I had a friend in Mexico who helped me with Spanish class. I had heated political debates with a staunch libertarian. I had a crush on a female Ranger who, statistically speaking, was almost definitely a guy.
We problem-solved together. We disagreed. We shared.
Can it be solitude simply because I was the only one physically in the room?
I later rejoined the ranks of society. There were no TV news anchors nor was I enveloped in flames upon re-entry. I simply slipped back into my friend group (and my job).
I don’t know if it was true solitude. What I do know is that the rest of the world and I needed some time apart. We needed to figure out what we wanted out of the relationship. Apparently, I just needed to be needed.
There’s a lot to be gained by questioning who you would be if you could decide right now. And why aren’t you that person? I think that sort of reflection might take some time alone to figure out.
Who would I be? I’d be the lust-child of Langston Hughes and Qui-Gon Jinn. People would say, “Don’t invite that Jedi warrior poet anymore; every woman instantly falls in love with him and he drinks all the booze. But dammit, he’s a pretty alright guy.”