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The Accidental Podcaster: Welcome Wagon
My sister is about five paces in front of me, her blonde pigtails waggling behind her as she runs up to launch herself into the next puddle. I frown at her, partly because I know Gram will be angry with us both (her for jumping in the puddles, me for not stopping her) and partly because pink saddle shoes are even less good for puddle jumping than her My Little Mermaid sneakers. And I really like puddle jumping. Puddle jumping would be just another tick on my list of what made up my Best Day Ever: I found a quarter on the way to school, I had an egg salad sandwich in my lunchbox, we got a new Weekly Reader, and the school librarian said if I wanted to, I could start borrowing books from the big kids section AND still get books from the little kid section to read to my baby brother. For a seven year old, this was very exciting.

But the most exciting thing was we had a new girl in our class today. She arrived at the end of the day, brown eyes peeking from behind her mother's skirts while Mrs. B announced we would form new learning pods on Monday. At one point I made eye contact with the girl, but she just blushed and ducked out of the way.

We manage to make it up the street to our house without my getting splashed (though lord knows my sister tried). My mother is home early, and I excitedly tell her about my Best Day Ever and my new book privileges (she seems sufficiently impressed, which pleases me). Then I tell her about the new girl joining our class, and she asks a question that gives me pause:

What is the little girl's name?

Um. I don't know this.

Didn't you go to introduce yourself?


No.

Did anyone introduce themselves?

I shift uncomfortably. No...

Don't you remember what it felt like last year, when you were the new girl in the classroom?

I nod my head, feeling somewhat ashamed I didn't think of that myself.

She smiles at me, tousling my hair. It can be scary to go into a new situation on your own. Don't you think it would be easier to take on with a friend?

*****
I'm not very good with meeting new people. Verbal conversations were never my strong suit, and social interactions in general have always caused me anxiety. Part of this is because (believe it or not) I am incredibly shy, and partly because I've never believed myself to be a good conversationalist. Small talk bores the hell out of me, and growing up, my voice was never heard in conversation- I was always talked over, and those rare occasions where I did push an opinion or correction were usually ridiculed with such vitriol that it wasn't worth the argument, even when I was right.* Unless there's something specific to ask or talk about, I'm the one quietly sitting to the side while others chatter away. I've always been like that.

But sometimes, life requires us to be braver than we really are. One of the biggest roles I play at RCM is in outreach to other streamers and personalities - getting to know people in different communities, spreading awareness of RivalCast, and building relationships to advance interests on both sides. For a very long time, I'd argue that I was probably the least qualified person on staff to be doing this kind of work, but it was necessary. Both On Tap and the writing department require the continual song and dance of introduction and relationship building in order to keep growing. Likewise, those venues are often the first interaction people have with RivalCast as a company, so it's not just me I'm representing, but also Baron, Killer, Bio, Vampy, Dee, Varyar, the web ninja, and all the streamers, writers, and backstage staff that make our fledgling enterprise possible. So I damn well better represent as best I can.

And that's where the interesting thing comes in. In a good chunk of the interviews I've done over the past month in the name of RivalCastia, the creators I spoke with - novelists, game streamers, bloggers, podcasters, journalists - all said very, very similar things. We're the shy ones. We stick to writing because we're boring to have at cocktail parties. Our stream personalities are well more over the top than anything we'd ever be in real life - we play characters, not ourselves. And then, the bit that flummoxes me most of all: you're one of the few to ever reach out for an interview, to talk about the behind the scenes.

A few weeks ago over lunch, when my friend Sam and I were discussing this very topic, he gave me a very sage piece of advice: one gets nowhere by sitting alone in the shadows. It ties back to what I mentioned earlier about being braver than we think we are, because let's be honest, most of what we fear and let hold us back is so much worse in our own minds than it can ever be in the greater world. Things won't always go smoothly, and sometimes we'll have to take it on the chin. But other times, I think back to that day, twenty five years ago, when my mother made me go back and be a one-person welcome wagon to a very anxious little girl (her name was Cassie, by the way).

Turned out, we had a lot in common.

*****

*One of the weirdest things for me to get used to when I first came to RivalCast was in staff meetings, when the guys would ask me about ideas or how to do something and then actually wait to hear my answer. It sounds stupid now, but there were a lot of times at the beginning where my ideas were a little disjointed primarily because I honestly kept waiting for someone to either cut me off or tell me how ridiculous it was. I was very surprised when they never did.
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