Sunday, October 28, 2007

Twenty Years Ago...I Behaved Badly

Twenty Years Ago...Aegis took a week off!

In writing these remembrances of the Aegis roleplaying game campaign, I'm pleased that they bring back memories of good times, but I'm also reminded of behavior that I regret. Back in those days, I was very brash and outspoken, and tact was a four-letter word to me. I was proud, aggressive, and arrogant. I know I pushed away far more people than I attracted as friends. Playing my character Silverwing as a true-blue patriot helped with that. I thought at that time that I could never live up to his ideals of justice and fair play as I wrote them. Occasionally I played other characters whose darker sides more accurately reflected my own personality. I didn't know why my personality was so dark at the time, but I sure do now. Abuse at the hands of my stepfather had left long-lasting scars that were very deep. I didn't know how deep until about ten years ago when I got a second chance at making a life for myself.

I had spent eight long years teaching high school in Gary, Indiana. I took the job after two years of trying to find a teaching job in Kalamazoo where my then-wife's family lived, but to no avail. Gary was hiring during a tough stretch of teacher surpluses. We looked at living in Michigan City, which was a half-hour drive from Gary, but also a 40-minute drive to my friends in South Bend. It worked in the short-term, but I wanted to get closer to where my friends were so I could do more than just game once a week with them. Most of them went to the movies and things together too, and I wanted to be part of that circle. But, I stayed in Gary entirely too long.

Most people think that when I speak poorly of working in Gary, that I'm referring to the students or the parents there. Nothing could be further from the truth. I had students there who worked their rear ends off to make something of themselves and I'm proud to say that I had a part in helping them succeed. No, when I worked there I saw corruption that goes beyond anything I had seen before or have seen since. I saw teachers who didn't show up for classes. I saw computer equipment for which I had helped write a federal grant stolen by administrators and given to their children who were going off to college. I saw a teacher wipe his nose and clean his finger off on a doorknob so that students wouldn't ask to use the restroom. When I was head baseball coach I was threatened by a person who had applied to be my assistant because I had him removed from consideration because he didn't stay on the field during a cold game and got back on the bus while the kids and I stayed out to finish the game. His defense for his behavior was that I was a racist. The final straw was when I attended graduation and two students were shot at the Genesis Center.

To say that I was happy to escape that den of corruption and incompetence would be the understatement of the century. I started work in Elkhart and things really turned around. I began to feel better about myself and I moved to Mishawaka, South Bend's bordering city. Suddenly I was able to see my friends whenever I wanted! We would go to see movies, play disc golf, and have dinner together. It was just what I wanted, but something was still missing.

A year later, nine years ago tomorrow, I met the most wonderful woman I could ever imagine. A year and a half after that, we were married. Magi (pronounced mah-ghee) put things into perspective for me. She showed me that I had value, and that I was not damaged beyond repair. She had faith in me, believed in me, and has never, ever let me down. I wish that I was as good a husband as she is a wife. I'm always trying to improve, but she sets a really high mark. We built a house outside of South Bend, and now with most wonderful daughter in the world I have the life I never thought was attainable only 10 years ago.

I have had to work hard to prove to people that I have changed over the past several years. I still have the same tendencies that I had before, but I am quite a bit better than I was. I am certainly going to continue to improve myself in that regard. I like to think of it the way the Question once did in his comic book. I am "becoming." That is to say, I'm a work in progress.

I am about to start playing in a new superhero game. I no longer have to try to understand a character who believes that good things can happen. I can relate personally to that belief. In 1993, I had this convention sketch drawn by Matt Feazell of my character Domino to prove to my skeptical friends that he would not be one of my typically dark self-portraits. Now, in 2007 when I play Domino, it will be true.

Tomorrow: Attack of the Corn Cannon!

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