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Optimism in Amtgard
[10/04/2004] [Randall]

The idea of attitude has been on my mind lately. It’s got me thinking that attitude in Amtgard is pretty much everything. We can all play the same battlegames and fight in the same ditches, but odds are pretty good that some people will have a good time while others will not. It happens nearly every weekend at every park. Like anything in life, there’re lots of factors at work, but I think we’re more likely to be satisfied with how the weekend goes if we’re optimists.

To a cynic, this is heretical. The essential idea of cynicism is that lowered expectations result in reduced opportunities for disappointment. But is that really true? I don’t think so, and neither do the folks who love Amtgard the most – the newbies. The truth is that an optimist will enjoy the game more not because it fails to meet their high standards, but because it might exceed them. And newbies are the most optimistic of players because Amtgard can still be anything.

Speaking of newbies, I hurt my wrist a few weeks ago because I fell over one. Dark Hold was in town and the ditching was good and solid. One of our kids, a small guy named Ryshad, happened to be there right when I turned around. He went down to one knee and I went over him and landed on my wrist. And since my doctor has a son who’s played Amtgard – Phywren, no less – she knows what the game entails and told me no fighting ‘til it got better. I had a foot injury anyway, so this wasn’t so unreasonable at first. . . but the foot healed within a week, while the wrist remained damaged.

Needless to say, it left me a little twitchy not being able to fight at the warmaster tournament two weeks later. Or the ditches in the weeks in between. Or the battlegames the week before. So this weekend, when I found myself watching people ditch, I couldn’t take it anymore and took to the field with a weapon in my left hand.

Fighting off-handed isn’t too hard with a single weapon, but then they started a battlegame and I figured I shouldn’t play. But the desire to fight was still there, so I grabbed a shield and a sword and went onto the field. The shield didn’t seem like a good idea and I was about to drop it when Finnegin had me take a stance and threw a few shots at my shield side. It felt clumsy, but actually trying to use it made me think it wasn’t so bad, so out I went.

Sure enough, I wasn’t terribly effective. But my attitude had changed from “I can’t do this” to “I wonder if this will work.” And I had a really good time.

Optimism isn’t just important in ditching, either. There’s at least a half dozen things that happened to me in Amtgard over the past few years that I said couldn’t be done, but because someone with a brighter outlook said we should try, we did.

It is with some reserved amusement that I mention Team Jetlag, but the story isn’t about how the team did (badly, for those of you who weren’t at ‘Rakis the last two years). It’s about the team existing at all. After spending a whole drive up to the event telling our newbies that they were crazy for wanting to jug, we caved in and assembled a makeshift team at the last minute. We even won a match. The optimistic attitude of our newbies was infectious and it paid off because we had a great time. And because of that, we fielded Team Jetlag again at last ‘Rakis and played one of the most memorable jugging matches ever. Was it a mess? Absolutely. Did our team lose? Twice. Heck, we even got red-carded. But we had a great time, and there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll be playing again next year. If we weren’t optimists, we’d have quit by now.

More and more often in my own experience, I’m coming up empty when I tell our younger members that something can’t be done and they ask why not. And I’m certain that my experience isn’t unique. Because of the urgings of those who believe it can and will be done, we’ve had a great time at Amtgard and we’ve done some great things. We’ve dreamed big.

An optimist might fail halfway towards his goal, but a pessimist won’t even try. If you expect failure and fail, you’ll throw yourself off your game. But if you try your best, fail, and get up and try again, there’s no telling what you might accomplish.

So take a weekend and be an optimist. Make some weapon you’ve been reluctant to try. Run a battlegame idea you have. Learn to sew. Become a reeve. Start that project you’ve been thinking of. Try a new class, pick up a new fighting style, form a company, build a household, enter a tournament, run an event. Do something, and remember that adversity doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It just means you get to think, “Okay, I wonder if this will work.”

What will you do this weekend?

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