The table. A simple piece of furniture, but one that is recognisable to most people. It is a piece of furniture which can be home to wonderful hospitality, hard work, heated discussion, high adventure, or a combination of all of the above. I’ve mentioned several times on my blog here that I play Dungeons and Dragons, or D&D for short. This is a wonderful game where you can live out epic fantasy adventures with your friends that lead to the most fantastical of stories (pun intended). In addition to that, the wonderful group of friends I play with have helped me discover more about myself than I thought there was to learn. Sitting around a table with each of their beautiful and unique personalities has enriched my life in indescribable ways. The real world is a mess. The imagined worlds we inhabit when we sit around the table are a jumble of messes. The key difference is that when we all sit around that table, and become the characters enmeshed in those adventures, we work together to clean up whatever mess in which we happen to find ourselves, in whatever particular world we inhabit on that day.
We have only one world. This earth is not one we can choose to escape from and find somewhere new to live. In this real world, working together to clean up the messes around us can seem like a pipe dream. There are a plethora of problems which we need to overcome, there are perspectives that need altering, destructive ideologies that need to be changed. In this world it is not as easy as rolling dice and claiming victory when the necessary numbers show up, and I believe we as humans are better for it. The hard work we put in to bring about change within our world makes it more worth it. We get to see the results of our hard work, the little victories along the way that lead to the big success. Plus, whenever you roll a dice in D&D there’s always a chance the number rolled would not be high enough to succeed!
In this world of ours we reap what we sow. I have realised in recent years how powerful a tool the human mind is. One of the biggest problems is not knowing how to harness our own mind to do what we want and need to. Understanding what we can control and what we can’t has been a revelation for me, particularly in this past year. Trying to change something that will never change is like trying to squeeze blood out of a stone. The only certainty there is we will end up hurting ourselves. While playing D&D you can attempt almost anything with your character. Just as we have limitations in our world, so do they in theirs. Sometimes the difference is we know the likelihood of succeeding in this imagined world whereas in the real world trying new things is part of stepping into the unknown. Stepping out of my comfort zone within the realm of D&D has helped me do so in the real world too.
A few specific examples of stepping out of my comfort zone in the real world. I left a job which was not suitable for me, even without having a new job to move to, because it was the best decision for my mental wellbeing. I stopped playing ultimate frisbee (maybe only temporarily, I don’t know yet) because I know my worth is not attached to results achieved on the field. I am putting as much time and effort into writing, upskilling my knowledge of publishing, reading any book I can get my hands on, and learning from great readers and writers around me, because I know it is possible for me to publish my books.
It sounds great, like a world I want to be part of. But I’ll be the first to hold my hand up and admit it’s not that simple. We can acknowledge we don’t have control of everything, and try to put our time and effort where it will make the biggest difference, but that doesn’t make it easier to make the right decisions. Struggling with depression means I know the difficulties that a particular day can throw up, seemingly out of nowhere. Things can be absolutely fine one moment, and then the next everything seems to be falling apart. Along with the dark days I also make mistakes of my own accord. Every day I make at least one mistake, each one providing an opportunity to learn something new. Some of these mistakes are because I tried something new. Others seem unavoidable, built through behavioural patterns I’ve fallen into for years, ones which I am working hard to change. It is a slow, painful process. Most of the time I am unable to see the light at the end of the tunnel. For the changes I’m making within myself, or the changes needed for the betterment of the world. But I am getting better at operating in the dark, at knowing I am never alone, and that each pragmatic step I take is experience I can share to help others.
When we head out into the world we can be a beacon of hope, a bringer-abouter of change. We can move our world forward to where it will be almost automatic to lift each other up rather than scramble over one another to get higher. We can care about each other rather as a way of looking after ourselves. We can engage in constructive communication. All it requires is a bit of elbow grease, and a lot of perseverance.
More and more each day I look at the world and see where I want to be within it with a smile on my face. I know it will be a long journey to get there, but I am taking responsibility for every step—the good ones and the bad ones—to ensure I become a better person.
Next time you are around the table with your friends, sharing tasty meal, engaging in an enthusiastic discussion, writing your next assignment, embarking on a fantasy adventure, or having a coffee, know that you are taking a step towards changing the world for the better.