Growing up, I was told that roleplaying was a loser thing to do. That the only people that roleplayed were 40 year old wack jobs who lived with their parents in the attic and never had a relationship with a real person. My parents were both popular in school with no knowledge of what roleplaying or cosplaying was actually like, as were the rest of my family members.
I was also told that I had to suppress many key parts of my personality because men would find them undesirable and I would never make friends like that. So once I left high school and began my journey of self discovery as every 18+ year old does, I ran into a major problem.
I had no idea who I was.
My entire identity was crafted by my parents! Down to the very core pieces of my personality, none of it came from me. The only truths I knew about myself was that I liked music, and I wanted to be a good person. The question “Who am I?” plagued me like no other. My first year of college came and went, and I found God and decided that I was a Christian.
Then during my last week of finals, I had everything in my life come crashing down around me. I lost my friends, my scholarships, my home, my parents, all my money and my grandfather. I then decided I was a nobody, just another worthless loser living on a bench in the park or under an overpass.
I picked myself back up and about a year later I found myself married. Okay, makes sense so now I’m a wife. Then a year later I was a mom. During that same year, I became a tutor. Throughout all of this, I picked up the mask of whatever I was doing at the time and made it my identity. My personality was empty save for whatever I spent my time doing. I had no hobbies aside from writing and listening to music, I didn’t continue my education in any aspect, and most of my opinions were just kind of following that of my friends. They did their research and we all shared a similar moral ground, so surely they would be the same anyway.
One day, my glorious husband suggested something that changed my entire life: Dungeons & Dragons.
Yes, you heard me right. Dungeons & Dragons, the world’s best tabletop roleplaying game ever.
I had never played anything like it before, so naturally my first character was just an extension of me. Zero personality, talkative, and a bard (can’t forget, one of my two truths was I love music). I played for about eight months and in that time I learned a lot about what I was lacking. My character wasn’t all that fun to roleplay. She was boring, her personality shifted with every session and she never seemed all that happy to discover anything.
And then I made Laurel. I spent a lot of time on her, days of agonizing and planning and character building went into her. I didn’t want to make the same mistake I made with my first character, so I scrapped everything and made a character that was just fun. She was intelligent and fiercely loyal, always researching and learning about things she enjoys. She teases her companions in a light-hearted manner, and is always ready for a good fight. She doesn’t have much in regards to grace and she’s weaker than your average person, but damn if she can’t tell you everything you wish to know about Bloodgrass or speak six different languages.
In the two and a half years I’ve spent playing Laurel, I have filled out my own personality in ways I never knew existed. She’s not a one-for-one portrayal of me (which is good, cause Laurel is a little evil and not very moral), but in creating and roleplaying these characters, I’ve discovered long suppressed pieces of myself that I had forgotten were there. I am confident in who I am, and working hard at finally reaching a solid goal of who I want to be.
If I had never played Dungeons and Dragons, I wouldn’t have learned that I really love languages! I’m working my way through Japanese right now with a couple of friends, and after that I’m hoping to tackle Korean. I have my own opinions about current events and actually do my research on them. I play games of all kind, on my PC, on my Nintendo Switch and SNES Classic, on my dining room table (tabletop RPGs and board games), etc.
I’ve always known I’m a really social person, but I always had a lot of self hate and image issues. While I still struggle with that, I can now start conversations with new people without feeling like I need to apologise for being who I am every five seconds. I can now confidently hold conversations with people whom I’ve just met thanks to having to roleplay conversations with Non Player Characters (NPCs) as Laurel, who’s insanely charismatic and charming.
Roleplaying really helped get me out of my shell and be confident and comfortable with who I am as a person around other people, as well as myself. I’m forever grateful to my husband and our friends for introducing me to Dungeons & Dragons, and I would highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who just needs a little push to be themselves.