Back in my younger days, wearing a Star Wars T-shirt or debating DC vs. Marvel weren't kitschy activities for hipsters, artists and people who enjoy all types of entertainment — those were surefire ways to get your ass kicked.
There's strength in numbers, but as the saying goes: "If they talk like nerds, act like dorks and socialize like doofuses, some overly macho lunkhead bullies is bound to find happiness by beating asses."
So there were things I felt I wasn't allowed to like, love or play. Until about 2014, I never played Dungeons & Dragons.
I've always loved making adventures come to life and hanging with my friends. My Catholic high school didn't ban the game. While I certainly wasn't a "cool kid," I still had enough friends to form an organized group.
So why didn't I play D&D? First off, I didn't need any more reasons to get bullied in junior high. Every day of my adolescence, I hoped Godzilla would smash the bus to the bad part of town.
When we reached high school, my friends and I thought eating pizza while crafting adventures and chatting was dorky, lame and stupid. Instead, we did what we thought was "cool" — instead of doing something creative with our nerd muscles and neurons, we'd drink as much alcohol as we could find.
I'm still angry at myself for how late I believed that only "losers" played D&D. I thought, "Don't those guys have anything 'cool' to do on a weekend? Hmm, would I rather A) spend my weekend inside with a bunch of geeks? Or B) go party my ass off and possibly get laid?"
How did my attitude on tabletop RPGs change? Basically, I shut up and opened my mind. But it's not that black and white. Honestly, I thought my friends and I would play D&D one time, make fun of how stupid it was and then never mention it again.
However, we played and had an amazing time. Then we played another time. And again. Next thing I knew, D&D became what I looked forward to doing. Eventually, my clan and I tattooed 20-sided dice on our bodies. None of our tattoos look remotely the same. Mine is the best (of course). My skin is covered up with tattoos, but some of my D&D party members experienced their first ink because of gnome barbarians and elf wizards.
Some people share softball teams, fantasy football leagues or garage bands — and the old version of me would judge them on that. I understand now, though. D&D is MY hobby. I don't care what other people do for hours over the weekend. It's THEIR weekend!
I feel so happy and honored that I was able to share so many new things with my D&D BFFs. One couple got married, a few of us found our true callings, and we unfortunately lost one member to cancer. However, I think we all learned that being friends and happy is more important than being cool.