It’s 5:30 AM on Thursday morning, and I am nervous.
This is a weird experience for me. While I am an anxious person, I’m not a nervous one. The distinction is subtle, and I don’t know if my characterization of the two states is in line with their medical definitions. As I see it, anxiety is a persistent state of discomfort. Anxiety is somewhat agnostic of ongoing events. It can be triggered and increased by circumstances, but it’s just as likely to arise out of nothing.
Nervousness, on the other hand, is about a single identifiable event. It’s the contemplation of all the ways that nameable calendar entry could go wrong, and it just won’t stop no matter how politely you ask it to.
There are two reasons I believe nervousness has been absent from my life for years. First, my somewhat absurd experiential background has just put me in a lot of different situations. I’ve had discussions with prominent heads of business and government as a lawyer. I’ve spent my nights on display as a bartender at a packed nightclub. I’ve played single hands of poker for five-figures with a negative balance in my bank account. And I’ve been on the mic and in front of the camera more times than I can count now.
Second, being in a permanent state of anxiousness makes it tough to experience nerves. Why would I be nervous when I can just be permanently and constantly existentially terrified instead? Go big or go home.
My upcoming trip to Indianapolis to cover my first Flesh and Blood tournament has me actually and discretely nervous though. I started thinking through why I feel this way for the first time in a long time, and, unsurprisingly, came up with a list. Once I made a list, you know I couldn’t stop myself from beginning the ranking process.
“Ya know, top X lists hit really well with readers,” said my idiot brain, and like that I was out of bed and at my computer penning this deeply personal article that a good percentage of people are 100% not here for.
That’s fine. We all cope with complicated emotions in our own ways. It seems my coping process involves self-depreciation and public vulnerability. And pie. Never forget pie.
Anyway, here are the Top 5 reasons I am nervous about this weekend.
5. Should I be going anywhere?
I’ve spoken at length about my uncertainty on how to handle the STILL ONGOING Covid-19 pandemic. I do not want to be a vector for the misery that has impacted so many lives during the last two years. However, given broader societal guidelines, I am skeptical whether my personal participation in events like SCGCon: Indy are of any measurable impact.
The world has decided to go forward, and I am deeply hurt that some individuals and most governments did not leverage the two years of isolation I have already given them. Approximately 1/40th of my existence has now been spent isolated, inactive, and in a state of limbo. I lost most of my livelihood and physical and mental well-being. And for what? A decision that masks are too much of an ongoing burden to bear and NFL games just wouldn’t be the same without the fans? A reluctance to get vaccinated for… reasons? An absurd conclusion that millions of dead people represent an acceptable loss?
I do not believe there are solutions left for the ongoing problem of this pandemic that can come from anything other than abject societal collapse. I’m here for that, and y’all are welcome to any spare goods produced by my farm when it all goes down.
In the meantime, I’ve made the decision to do some things as safely as I possibly can.
There is a nagging part of my brain that tells me I am just being selfish. I’m not disagreeing with it. I’m just telling it to shut the fuck up and let me find some joy.
4. Do I know how to be around humans?
Social interaction was already a dicey proposition for me in the pre-pandemic era. I think I often come off as disinterested or unfriendly to people who don’t know me well. I don’t think this is accurate, or at least I don’t want it to be. I’m just socially anxious.
People often don’t read my behavior that way because I’ve gotten really, really good at masking my anxiety, particularly when I’m working. Some folks expect the outgoing, vociferous person they hear talking to them every week, and don’t know what to do when they find out it’s kind of an act–even if it’s a good-natured one.
The truth is, being that person doesn’t come naturally to me. I do think it’s a better version of me, so I work hard at putting myself out there and engaging in social situations. It is hard work though, and it tends to drain me when I do it for an extended period.
So, what’s it going to be like when I’m entirely out of practice at putting on my social engagement-self? I really have no idea. In a way, putting this out there feels like a bit of a relief, because I can clear up any uncertainty. If we know each other, I’m almost certainly excited to see you. Seriously, if you try to be a good person and don’t cheat at card games, I bet I like you. I’m just not sure how good I’m going to be at expressing that this weekend.
3. Are people going to be receptive to Flesh and Blood?
I’m not worried about the people who have played Flesh and Blood. They know the game is legitimately great, and what seemed to many, me included, as baseless hype has now been correctly identified as organic and deserved hype. I am worried about the long time SCG Tour fan who just can’t help themselves from coming into chat and going “LoL fLesH AnD DuD, Y no MaGic?”
I get it. I’m probably among the Top 10 or so people on the planet most directly impacted by reduced Magic coverage, and it truly and completely breaks my heart. Understanding the situation is not hard though. One TCG company sees coverage and the competitive scene as THE indispensable pillar of their game—a thing that may not (or should not) drive most sales, but nonetheless instills an underlying sense of legitimacy and value in the cards themselves. The other company sees it as a small part of what they do, and routinely shares data that justifies that belief.
I’ve talked about this topic forever now, and I’m not interested in restating a bunch of stuff I’ve already said. I empathize with the people who want more Magic coverage. Without a more stable competitive ecosystem, only one Magic organization can justify and subsidize the expense of production, and it is not Starcity. At least not now. I certainly hope that changes, but the only thing harder than building something from scratch is rebuilding it after it crumbles.
I’ve chosen to be grateful that there is a Magic alternative that I legitimately love. I’ve never had that before in my TCG career, and it’s a breath of fresh air. If you’re disgruntled about the state of things, consider taking a deep breath with me.
2. Do I have the chops for another game?
Flesh and Blood marks the third game I’ve ever done commentary for. Obviously, I’ve done Magic events, but I also had the opportunity to do a couple of Teamfight Tactics events with the good people over at Giantslayer.tv. They took a lark on me, a player who had just reached the higher ranks of ladder play for the first time, and banked on my broadcasting experience carrying me through.
I did ok. Only ok though. When I look back at how much I understood about Teamfight Tactics at the time of my first gig, it’s clear to me now that I simply wasn’t ready. Being self-taught, too much of the communal wisdom had passed me by. Now, as I get ready to do my first Flesh and Blood tournament, there’s some part of me that fears the same thing.
A lot of my fear is based around card identification. When it came to Magic, I could tell what a drawn card was based on a flash of color for a fraction of a second. Well, at least I could before there were 100 variants of every card. Now, who knows what it’s like to call live Magic.
I’m not quite as sure I can identify every Shadow Brute card with the same level of specificity. For top decks, I have a similar level of competency as I did in Magic, so maybe the problem will just sort itself out as the metagame does its thing. If a Levia main wins the whole tournament though, it could get a little hairy.
As far as my Flesh and Blood play competency, I’m probably about the same percentile of player as I was in Magic, maybe a little higher. There were always some people that were disappointed that I wasn’t LSV in the booth, but I think I will continue to offer my own unique value to the broadcast, even if I’m not among the best few Flesh and Blood players in the world. We’ll see how that level of competency translates to a new game though, and whether the audience is ready to buy in to the storytelling and hype I attempt to produce in the booth.
1. Can I be comfortable in my own skin?
I have not lost a loved one to Covid-19. I’m so fortunate I can say this. Speaking on the personal impact the pandemic has had on me would be beyond tone-deaf if I didn’t acknowledge that things could be much, much worse.
However, I’ve had smaller struggles. I had a case of Covid in the pre-vaccination days, the effects of which are still with me to this day. Difficulty breathing has made it harder to exercise, and this combined with a debilitating Achilles injury has forced me to retire from running all together.
I started taking anti-depressants when things got bad for me. They’ve helped immeasurably, and it’s hard to imagine where I’d be without them. They carry some side effects though, chief among them for me, weight gain.
I’ve struggled with managing my weight my entire life. Here’s one of the rare pictures I have left of me as a senior in high school.
Granted, that ball necklace is fresh as hell, but it’s hard to even recognize myself there. Current me is trending back in that direction though. I had to buy a new suit for this event. I haven’t been on the scale recently, but I’d estimate I’m up thirty or so pounds over the course of the pandemic.
I want so desperately to embrace body positivity and be happy with who I am. I know I could care less about the shape or size of any of my friends, and no part of me thinks less of anyone who saw their fitness decline during the pandemic.
There’s just this shitty voice inside me though, telling me I should be embarrassed, and that my weight gain will be all anyone will see when I’m on camera this weekend. I already feel better having written this piece, because the notion that anyone cares about the weight of their Flesh and Blood broadcaster gets even more laughable when you actually type out the words. Still though, these emotions are producing nerves that I haven’t felt in some time.
It’s somewhat exciting to be nervous again. So much of my life the last two years has been in a dour but ultimately safe bubble, devoid of the raw uncertainty that is integral to the human experience. Discomfort creates growth, and even if I’m scared, I’m thankful for the opportunity to push through it again.
I hope some of you reading this can take comfort in the fact that you aren’t alone in your doubts and uncertainties. Times are, and will continue to be, weird. The odd stuff you are going through emotionally is justified, and I’m right there with you. And even if I won’t do a good job expressing it, I can’t wait to see you in Indy.