As an introverted single mom who works from home, my life didn’t change very much when the pandemic hit. However, in the warmer months I usually drive from Upstate New York to Massachusetts to volunteer and dance at Native American powwows, and that gives me a much needed dose of social interaction. That isn’t happening this year and it’s left me feeling especially isolated and disconnected.
At the powwows I volunteer to help the organizers of the event with setup, running the booth, and take down when the weekend event is over. I have several friends I love interacting with at the powwows and I really missed them this year. I also love dancing to the beat of the drums in the circle wearing the shawl and moccasins I made. But I won’t be experiencing any of that this year and that makes me rather sad.
Fortunately, thanks to the group of Warcraft players I’ve met through Twitter, I’m able to interact with people and share fun experiences. Although it’s not physical interaction, it helps fill the void left by a lack of the few social activities I had in my life. Aside from running Ny’alotha to learn raiding and have fun, I’ve run some dungeons with members and participated in the Auction House Dance Party on both Horde and Alliance sides.
While participating in Nya runs, dungeons, and in-game social activities, I experience feelings similar to those I feel at powwows. The feelings of being part of something bigger than myself, of being among like-minded individuals, and being with those who appreciate whatever help I can give. But something else I feel is nervousness. Nervous that my mistakes are even worse than I think and that I look like a total idiot.
Such feelings aren’t new to me, I’ve felt them my whole life. I’m not entirely sure why and I don’t have the money for therapy, so that’s that. *Shrug* Regardless, I know from past experiences that I can overcome some of my nervousness and fear over time. As an example, even though I dance in the circle at powwows now, it took me several powwows to work up the courage to do so. I owe my bravery in large part to two very nice Elders who always encourage everyone to come into the circle and dance, even if they’ve never done it before. Those two Elders are always kind to me in the circle and they tell me I’m a good dancer and it always lifts my spirit!
The thing about dancing in the powwow circle is that you have to be able to feel the beat. As the Elders say, it’s like a heartbeat and you have to feel it inside yourself. The beat of the powwow drums move me whenever I hear them and I have to dance in the circle or I just don’t feel complete. It’s such an uplifting and empowering experience dancing in the circle and I somehow forget that there are strangers watching me and that there are much better dancers in the circle with me. I’m just lost in the rhythm and I feel at peace.
Odd as it may sound, I can find parallels between dancing in the circle and being part of a group in Warcraft. For a long time, I felt like I was standing outside the circle of those players I consider “the cool kids” on Twitter. I saw what they did and I wanted to be part of it but I didn’t want to be an interloper. But eventually I was brave enough to step into that circle and join in the social events. When that group developed into a group to run Nya, I hesitated at first because I’d mostly given up on end content and didn’t feel like I could contribute. Once again, I eventually mustered my courage and joined even though I was under-geared and inexperienced.
Being under-geared and inexperienced is similar to my powwow experience too because when I started dancing, I didn’t have a shawl and I’d dance in bare feet. Someone was nice enough to loan me a shawl when I first danced in the circle and eventually I “upgraded” and made my own shawl. Dancing in bare feet worked fine for a while but then I burned my feet on hot sand in the center of the circle. By the next powwow I “upgraded” by making my own moccasins. My experience grew as I danced and I became more confident moving to the beat and rhythm. I imagine in time, something similar will happen with me upgrading my gear and finding my place in the mechanics of the Warcraft group.
Although I feel the beat when I’m in the powwow circle, I feel very off the beat sometimes in the Twitter group. We’re all learning and figuring out how to work well together, so I’m sure I’m not the only one struggling. I do always seem to be one of the first to get squished though so I know my steps are off in that regard. But at least I make the best of it by taking screenshots from my vantage point.
Unfortunately, my nervousness will probably never go away. As much as I want to be part of something bigger and despite how much I enjoy contributing, my anxiety always rears its ugly head. My heart beats like crazy, I sometimes forget to breathe, and I get frustrated or confused when I’m with members of the Twitter group and I do something wrong in a dungeon or when I get discombobulated in a horrific vision. I know it’s “just a game” and I shouldn’t take it so seriously, but it’s also my connection to the larger world in these times and I want to be useful.
I do know that the reality is that I’m always going to be me. I’m always going to be Sri who gets lost, turned around, confused, stands in the wrong spot, talks too much, wants help but is afraid to ask, etc., etc. I’ve been like this in real life my entire life and in Warcraft since 2008 and it’s not going to change. But hopefully eventually I can find the beat inside me and it can sync up with everyone else and we can all accomplish amazing things!