Thursday, November 29, 2018

My Order of the List Experience

by Nataliya "Shader" Kostenko

Hey Realms squad, picture this: 

Five years ago. It was my third, maybe fourth event. I was but a bright-eyed, wee Oaken Guard Newbie, just come to the (metaphorical) big city for Order of the List. In a totally not dweebie way, I thought all of the competitors were SO COOL, and I wanted to be just like them. (I even later asked to squire to the winner of that year!) So then, while I was watching all the super fast shots flying back and forth, I heard my name get called for the newbie tournament. I was all like “yo, this is my chance to start down that path!” So, I walked over, squared up against my opponent, heard my fellow Oakies cheering for me in the background, aaand 

Lost immediately. And then I lost the next fight after that. And the next one. And the next one. And then I lost again, and again, and about a thousand more times after that. And then a couple more resounding defeats and several crushing losses. For a while you wouldn’t even have to hit me, I’d just flinch away from a swing, close my eyes, and accept my death before I felt anything touch me. It pretty much took me until the next Invitational’s newbie tournament--a whole year--to learn to keep my eyes open when a sword started my way. 

So that was year one: learn to keep my eyes open. 
Year two: get my arms strong enough to be able to swing more than like once in a row. 
Year three: lift a shield for more than a minute? 
Year four: Step forward? Stand on one leg? Be more aggressive? (Just kidding, I can’t do any of those yet--still working on them.) 
And each one of those years I tried my best to get into the Invitational. First, no points. Then, not quite enough points. Then even back to no points again, though I entered every tournament I could make it to each of those years. 

Progress was slow and frustrating. It’s still slow and frustrating, as I’m sure my awesome OOTL coach Mike “Panther” Palumbo will confirm after having to watch me make some of the same mistakes over and over in almost every fight (don’t worry, I’m sure by around year 15 I’ll be able to back up in a circle). 

So why am I telling you all of this? Not because I have a lot of time on my hands, but because I think you shouldn’t give up. If you’re a newbie, or young, or a girl, or maybe older, or not particularly athletically gifted, but you’ve always wanted to get better at fighting, I think you should try. Even if you’re none of those things. Even if what you want to excel at is some other aspect of our game--casting, feast-o-crating, crafting, throwing events. If you aren’t naturally predisposed to be gifted at it, or if you’ve never tried and don’t know, you should give it a go. You won’t get to the top in a month, or a year, or maybe even ever. There will be lots of frustrations, off days, difficult moments, stressful and nerve-wracking situations. It won’t be easy, but I guarantee you will get better than you were when you started. 

I know you will. 

Aaand you’ll make new friendships and strengthen old ones along the way as your fellow Realms community members step up to help you out. And they will--I know this too. I had so many people help me along the way: countless trainers, supporters, cheerleaders, coaches, role models, and rivals. And I’m thankful to them all. As just a small sampling I’d like to thank my knight Eldritch, who coached me and trained me tirelessly through lots of frustration and poor listening skills; my day-of-coach Panther, who handled everything but the fighting so I wouldn’t have to worry and often trained me at practice as well; all my Ashenmark fellows, who have trained me along the way and supported me, whether from nearby or far away; Aeston, who called in with a motivational speech to help me get over my nervousness (is this in character? Did he send a raven or something?); and Kyntela, Gwen, Illy, Lupa, Kiira, Umbra, Keela, Phoenix, Freesia, Kite, Kara, Nhadala, Quinn and all the other amazing women who excel in leadership and combat and inspire me so much (that’s by no means an exhaustive list). 

Then you have all those people to celebrate each achievement with along the way. At first they’re gonna be small--keeping your eyes open, holding our shield up--but then they’ll get just a bit bigger--getting faster, making top 16, coming in 8th at the end. You gotta take the time to celebrate with your friends, but try not to let it make you late for next week’s practice. Don’t worry, just show up with the hangover. 

And then, who knows what next year’s accomplishment will be? Maybe improving my armor game for me, and probably something even cooler for you! I look forward to seeing what we all accomplish, yo.

Photo by Rachel DeRosa

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