Thursday, April 23, 2020

Kai McDragonfist And Impostor Syndrome

Around 2017 I changed my screen name on most online platforms from gamercoon, a name based on a nickname I received in high school that I never wanted, to Kai McDragonfist, and the shift might have seen kind of bizarre for those who noticed. Even more bizarre to consider that I based my screen name on something I didn't even like. Honestly, the easy answer there was I was hoping that, by morphing it into something I liked, I could settle for the fact that I was seemingly stuck with it if I ever ran into someone from my hometown who still insisted on calling me by that nickname, but it never fully sat right with me. So, naturally, when something better came along, I had no qualms about ditching it.

That something better, of course, came in the form of a crass, mouthy young monk, my first character in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. I get that that sounds incredibly out of place for a monk and I'd be lying if I said I planned that from the beginning, but he was a character that I slowly grew to love the more I stepped into his shoes.

It all started one evening in late August, 2017. My friend David offered to host a few of us at his place to play Dungeons & Dragons. Of course, this was a sudden invite to play a new system, and we weren't sure how to pull that off. It might just be because I'm slow but character creation in other tabletop RPGs tends to take forever for me, when it comes to following the exact procedure, making sure all numbers are filled in correctly, and in the worst cases, turning back and forth across the entire book to find all the information I want (thank you, Shadowrun). So I figured we'd spend a while making characters and then come back maybe the next day or the next week to play.

However, instead we were introduced to the website D&D Beyond, a fantastic service. It greatly streamlines the process of character generation. In fact, you can completely generate a character from step one with recommended stats and abilities in a few clicks, and while it isn't perfect for creating the perfect character, it is absolutely wonderful for beginners. We had the first-level characters within in a snap, only needing names to get started.

At this point, it was just expected to be a one-off, so I felt like I could get away with giving him a stupid name. His name literally was the first thing that left my mouth. And that's where I stopped, since, again, this character was likely not coming back, and because I was 100% certain whatever name I came up with next wouldn't top this one anyway.

So anyway, that one-off became a campaign that lasted nearly a year. And over the course of that campaign he quickly became one of my favorite RPG characters. Whenever I play a character in an RPG, I usually base their personality off of some aspect of my own. I use it as a bit of meditation on myself and a chance of self-expression, and I think Kai more than any other character I've played exemplified my feelings of impostor-syndrome.

This is something I've struggled with for most of my life. It doesn't matter what it is, but until very recently I've had trouble accepting my successes as anything but flukes, but holding up my failings as a shining beacon to the fact that I have the entire world fooled, that I didn't deserve to be where I was, and it was only a matter of time before everyone clued into that fact and put as much distance between themselves and me as possible. I recognize now that that line of thinking is preposterous and dangerous, but that's just the nature of how my brain has worked for most of my life, and I think Kai is a perfect example of this.

On the surface, he's super impressive. May not have the best social skills, but he's tough, dependable, confident, and only the smallest bit smarmy. However, this is all a shell to hide some really deep insecurities, jealousy, and fear of being abandoned once his many flaws are brought to light.

This isn't particularly groundbreaking writing, as many fictional characters wrestle with this sort of self-doubt, but I think my favorite thing about playing Kai was the fact that, no matter how he ended up feeling about his situations, he kept going. No matter how impossible the challenge he was facing was, no matter how grossly he was outmatched (which was a lot in this particularly campaign), no matter how many times he was knocked down or how hard he was hit (including being trampled by a horse and buggy...twice...within minutes of each other), he got back up. Like, it's the most basic anime protagonist nonsense, but dang it, it was inspirational. And that's kind of how it is, living with depression, anxiety, and impostor syndrome.

Not that one in that situation shouldn't seek aid, as therapy and medication can do wonders in that state (I've been on meds for over a year and my life has improved drastically), but, at the end of the day, those things are tools to help you with the actual battle, which is getting up when knocked down, hanging in there through the everyday ups and downs that life throws at you. While in real life, you're less likely to find yourself facing down master swordsmen, doomsday cults trying to summon demon dragon goddesses, or angry demigods enacting their own war against the heavens, that doesn't change the fact that the battles we do face in this life can only truly defeat us if we let them. As the Japanese proverb says, 七転び八起き (Fall down 7 times, get up 8). You got this.

By the way, I will be sure to write up some of those stories I referred to.

No comments:

Post a Comment