Knowing When It’s Time To Let Go

It'll make sense in a minute, I promise.

It was my brother’s 25th birthday party, over seven years ago. We had only a stay-at-home affair planned – my Mom had baked a cake and we’d had supper in. It was just myself, Mom, and my brother’s (current, this is important, trust me) girlfriend, and my brother. We hadn’t yet actually had the food, or the cake, when the doorbell rang.

The girl at the door was his ex girlfriend. She arrived without having phoned beforehand. With her, she brought three things:

  • a birthday card
  • a framed photograph of her and my brother
  • and a gigantic cookie she had baked for him.

Needless to say, the following hour was not a comfortable one. It was so uncomfortable, in fact, that my Mom likes to remind  me that I phoned up a friend on the sly and said, “Hey, want to go for coffee?” and then pretended that I’d planned to go out all along as I sped out the door with a breezy, “See you later!”

I remember leaving them all sitting at the kitchen table, current and ex girlfriend on either side, and my brother in the middle.

Say it with me now:

Awkwaaaard.

I don’t bring this up now because I’m the world’s meanest person, or I want to reflect on the feelings that would drive someone to come across as so, well, let’s face it…desperate. She knew my brother had a new girlfriend. They’d broken up over a year before, but she chose to drop by, hoping to…win him back? Remind him how awesome she was? I’m not sure. But I can relate to the feeling of clinging to something that’s probably run its course. In fact, when it comes to WoW it can be all too easy to do.

Friends

Very strong ties can be forged online, I think (I hope) we’ve all experienced how great it can be to play a game you enjoy with people you’ve met. But as Voss is constantly reminding me, the internet is a nebulous thing. In the two years that I’ve played WoW, I’ve had good friends, and they’ve gone on to do other things. Sometimes it’s harder when you don’t get any closure – someone just goes offline, or server transfers without a word. It’s not like there was a huge blow-up or fight, but they’ve clearly moved on. My unofficial rule is one point of contact, and then it’s over.

When we “split” with our former server and transferred to raid on another, not all of our friends were too happy about it. I hoped we could stay friends, but some reactions were pretty unpleasant. I did send an e-mail or two, before I realized that it was pointless to pursue something that really had no future. The biggest thing we had in common was the game – why belabor something that had run its course? It was better to just let it go. Even now I occasionally miss some of those people, and I think about e-mailing or dropping by their server to say “hi,” but I always stop myself. The friendship can’t exist the way that it did, and so it’s better for all of us to just not go there.

This isn’t to say you can’t stay friends with people if your server, guild or even faction affiliation changes. Sometimes you can, and sometimes it’s better if you just don’t. The trick is to learn to discern the difference between the two.

Guilds

This is somewhat related to the previous point, because naturally you often become good friends with the people in your guild. But the guild exists separately from the friendships, an entity unto itself. Whatever the guild’s focus is – PvP, PvE and raiding, or roleplay – people change, and so do their goals and wishes within the game. The casual, friendly guild you joined to level up when you first started playing may no longer fit your burning desire to raid end-game with like-minded people. It doesn’t mean you suddenly hate everyone in the other guild, but you may have to make a choice to change in order to do what you want to do.

It’s not an easy decision to make, but in the long run both you and your former guild mates will probably be happier for it. If you’re staying in a guild out of a sense of obligation or inertia, people around you can sense it. If you leave before things start to sour, there’s still a chance you can retain the friendships you value.

Activities

Maybe it’s that arena team you agreed to join, or the raiding you were really gung-ho about, and unfortunately you found out that you don’t enjoy it the way you thought you would. I don’t advocate leaving people in the lurch – if you’ve made a commitment, you should honour it. But your first priority should be yourself – if it’s not fun any more, set an end-date for it, or talk to the people your decision will affect, and try to come up with a compromise. Don’t keep making yourself do something you don’t want to do. It’s a game, and you should be having fun.

Naturally this can intersect with either of the previous topics; you joined a raiding guild, so you can’t really get too bent out of shape to realize that… it requires raiding commitments. But if it’s not working for you any more, most raiding guilds have some provisions in place for social members. You can always step down from the active roster but remain in the guild.

Blogs

Most people who write blogs are usually avid blog-readers. I’ve definitely heard an ongoing complaint from other bloggers about their massive, unwieldy blogrolls. What I have to say might sound a bit callous, but I’m going to say it anyway: cut that thing down to size! Feel no guilt. I think the problem is that we tend to associate a blog more with a person than content. So taking them off the blogroll might feel a bit like, “I don’t like you any more.” It isn’t, though.

I don’t know about you guys, but my work and other commitments can severely limit the amount of time I have available to read blogs in a given day. I have to be pretty ruthless about what I take the time to read, and it was an adjustment for me. When work wasn’t busy, I had all the time in the world, I could read any blog I liked. Nowadays, I’m pretty judicious about new blogs I add, and I do sometimes regretfully remove (usually inactive blogs) or blogs that aren’t speaking to me any more.

It’s cliche, but “It’s not you, it’s me,” really applies here. It could be a blog about a class I don’t play as avidly. Speaking from my own point of view, I’d rather someone not read my blog than feel they have to read it but it’s kind of boring to them. I get that you don’t hate me. It’s okay.

Even when I don’t actually remove a blog – I’ll admit, I use “Mark all as read” liberally. Some blogs update more often than I can keep up. I might skim to see if a topic really interests me and then read more in-depth and comment. I know everyone loves comments. But when there’s no time for that… there’s always Twitter, right? (140 characters is just right for small procrastination breaks).

No, Really

So whatever it is… if you feel you might be clinging to something that’s just over (or should be), take steps to rectify or change the situation so that you can have fun again. It might be something I didn’t cover here, I don’t know, but I suspect you will.

In the situation I described before I left a bad situation on my old server, the stress and drama was making me physically ill. I had recurring, painful migraines and bouts of inexplicable nausea. Yes, I know, it’s “just a game,” but it can have a way of making itself pervasive. We can all take this game pretty seriously sometimes. But your subconscious often knows what’s best  for you, and it’s telling you somehow or other. Don’t be a “quitter,” but don’t jeopardize your own health and well-being either.

And don’t drop by to visit any ex-girl or boyfriends. You’ll thank me later.

I'm so over you. But you don't know what you're missing!

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20 responses to “Knowing When It’s Time To Let Go

  1. I think I can summarize my agreement and appreciation for the post with the sentence, “I would stop reading your blog if I didn’t like it”.

    So.

    I would stop reading your blog if I didn’t like it!

    But I do, so there we go.

    Anyway, had a similar experience though without sour notes, when I realized I’ve (slowly) lost contact with two friends who were instrumental in my first two years of WoW. Since then, my motivations, my focus and (twice, back and forth) server has changed, and we stopped exchanging mails after all pleasantries that did not include WoW were exhausted.

    It’s not an insult to realize you’ve little to talk about, and stop massaging the dead llama.

  2. I hate to admit it, but i used to be really sticky when i was a kid. >.>

    It’s not like I knew it was awkward or anything. Eventually i learned that people just need their space. Too much of one thing is never to good, I guess.

    • It’s definitely a lesson that takes time to learn. I’ve definitely been in situations where I’ve been more clingy myself, and let things affect me. For some people it’s easy and they might wonder, “What’s to write about? Just stop doing xyz.”

  3. Oh. My. God.

    I honestly don’t know what to say about that little incident.

    Did your brother shoot lasers out of his eyes when he saw you go?

    Okay, outside of that, sound advice, Vid.

    • See, Redbeard? I know when to just cut my losses and go… :D

      And you know, the oddest part of the whole story is he professed not to have been uncomfortable/bothered by it at all. He’s a bit obtuse and/or emotionally stunted. She was persistent, too – I hear she stayed another hour after I left!

      • See, Redbeard? I know when to just cut my losses and go… :D

        I see you read my entry about the Old Kingdom. ;-) Boy, have I got a doozy to report from last night. I don’t know what it is about Gnome Warlocks that spells trouble, but man….

        And you know, the oddest part of the whole story is he professed not to have been uncomfortable/bothered by it at all. He’s a bit obtuse and/or emotionally stunted.

        I vote obtuse. We guys tend to be that way at times; look at all the role models we have on television! :-D

  4. You know Vid, I feel so related to your blog post. Now the game doesn’t affect me as it used to. But there used to be a time when it did, when i was looking for the perfect guild for me. It was a long and hard journey, and when i did I thought had found my home away from home. Which lasted 4 years, in that time i build about 2 friendships that extended themselves outside the game, because this people allowed me to enter their personal lives and get to know the “person” past the character.

    And though one of them quit last year we still keep contact, to the point that she visited my country last year, and i am going to be a guest at her wedding in October this year.

    I really feel myself lucky, because thanks to her, I really understood that it wasn’t about what others wanted, but what i really wanted to do. Though it has lend me through some really odd decisions that at the time didn’t seem like the best idea ever, but as time passed I realized it was the correct decisions.

    I now have 8 level 80s, of which half of them are in a guild where i forge good friendship and people still like me, even though i dont regularly raid with them anymore. I still support them in what i can (without being an officer just being just as vocal) if count administrating their forums… The other half -2 are escape characters, and 2 are in the raiding guild i currently raid in.

    Raiding guild that does not have the best atmosphere, as almost everyone is trying to be someone they are not, but i guess they need their masks in order to be asses and pricks almost all the time.

    Its weird, I tell you, and i am not used to it: the hard joking, the black humor, how everyone just seems to insult you, and the way how a guildie keeps explaining that “Americans” way of liking a stranger is insulting/joking with you. Must be the culture difference I guess. Because its not how i was raise. But i stay because hearing their banter in vent is very funny.

    Conclusion: This game makes for strange bed fellows.

  5. /nodnod

    I can’t really add anything to the post, except I know what you’re talking about and I agree and I AM nodding.

    I should apply this to my blogroll. Seriously – SO huge and I don’t have time to keep up with it all.

  6. The one thing that I have to add to all of this is to not let memories hold you back from doing the right thing now.

    I had a lot of memories associated with my old server, but for reasons that you’ve gone through above, they were just that: memories. I think over time I let that cloud my judgment as to what I should do with my characters. I had rejoined an old guild of mine, hoping to relive some of the happy memories. That crashed and burned when the reason I left that guild resurfaced. Then I had an opportunity to move on from the server, but I held myself back because of the memories.

    Those things can cloud your mind.

    I feel like you’re writing this not necessarily to me but with me in mind because you know of the changes I’ve made recently. And yes, it’s necessary to let go and move on. Maybe I’ll visit my old server once in a while, not as an ex-girlfriend would, but just as a friend from out of town, happy to visit but with no intent to stay.

    Real ID should help things, too. I’m hoping it will help me keep in touch with the few people on my old server I’d really like to keep in touch with.

    • You’d actually be surprised at the number of people lately I’ve been reading who are going through these sorts of things. I had thought of you but it wasn’t targeted, and I wasn’t going to mention you specifically… There are many examples and it’s usually me. I’m guilty too of wanting things not to end. I’m having to (try) and learn that I have to enjoy things when they are happening, and realize that they probably won’t last that way. I certainly hope you don’t think I wrote a big ‘how-to’ authoritative post with a giant “LISTEN UP, TRAXY” sign on it. It was truly not my intention.

      • Oh, no. I was speaking metaphorically, like how a speaker with a crowd of a thousand listening can say something that hits home to one of the listeners in particular — the listener feels like the speaker is speaking to her. It’s like that.

        It’s useful to read. Thanks!

  7. Yeah, it’s true people can feel this way about WoW in general too. I do remember when it used to be this way or that way, but really I know that I can just be happy I had a good time then, and then move on to have a good time with the “new WoW”. Don’t get me wrong – I do wish some things were this way or that way, but wishing that stuff never ever stops me from having fun with the game now. I don’t sit there while I raid going “this is unfun because it’s not like _ used to be in vanilla WoW”. I think that’s all people need to realize. Are you still playing? Why? Is it fun? Then what’s the problem!? :D

    Also, lol about that story. It’s situations like that which ruin it for the rest of us Exes :P I think it’s perfectly acceptable to come and wish an old friend Happy Birthday, in fact I feel it’s more mature than simply excising someone from your life. Insisting that you stay and forcing yourself on them and their family though? Definitely awkwardddd! And no one deserves to have an awkward birthday.

  8. I do keep in touch with a few people from my old server. It’s a far cry from the friendship we used to have, but I do send the occasional “how’ve you been?” email and I still enjoy hearing bits of wisdom from my old guild’s raid leader. I read their forums once in awhile and I get genuinely excited for them when they down a new boss.

    I don’t see why I should shut them out of my life just because we don’t raid together anymore, but at the same time, there are certain bounderies I wouldn’t cross. I wouldn’t post on their forums, I wouldn’t offer them unsolicited advice, I wouldn’t move an alt to the guild and I wouldn’t make an email more personal that “how’ve you been?” unless I was particularly close to that person.

    I guess it’s the same for exes. I was happy when my most recent ex told me he was getting married and I send them my well wishes, but I had no desire to go to the wedding or even see pictures of it. Another ex and I leave each other a “hi” comment on facebook once or twice a year. Like former guildies, I don’t *do* anything with them or expect anything from them anymore, but I still carry a certain fondness for them and I’m thankful for everything they’ve added to my life.

    I think there is a middle ground between shutting someone out of your life and randomly showing up at their birthday with excessive gifts.

    As for blogrolls… I use the excuse that I want to have a list for all sorts of paladin references. I only have a few listed that aren’t paladin blogs. My list does need to be updated, though, so many blogs have come and gone since the last time I worked through it.

  9. Nice, thought-provoking post.

    I do wonder, though, what happens when Blizzard’s new Battlenet buddy system comes out. The one that lets you add people to your friend list and you’ll see them even if they’re off playing Starcraft or in another realm. It may be a bit easier to keep up a friendship then. You may not be able to “see” each other in the game, but you’ll still be able to chat up a storm while doing your daily activities. So it’ll mean a little less letting go? :)

  10. And your big cookie picture made me want one. :(

  11. So right.

    One thing though, it is easy to assume that this is a result of e-friendships. But the same happens with normal ones. You drift apart from people you know and like. Eventually it feels too weird to contact them. Then finally it is time to clear out your phone book. I think wow friendships are quicker but not necessarily different.

  12. Oh my God, that’s so awkward. I’m aware that there’s content to this post but I can’t over the initial awkward. I’m actually cringing. First of all, what would possess her to do that but also *to stay*. I mean, if you do turn up on your ex’s doorstep, drop the cookie and ruuuuuuun the fuck away.

    On topic: I have an insane number of blogs on my reader but they’re, uh, ordered into strict but secret hierarchies. Not because I think some blogs are better than others but simply so I have a sufficient priority list that I can actually read and comment places – without just freaking out and hitting “READ THEM ALL NO HONESTLY HONESTLY TAKE THEM AWAY.”

  13. That giant cookie story is AMAZING. I don’t blame you at all, I would have wanted out of there too! OH UH LOOK AT THE TIME. Your brother’s actual girlfriend must have been so pissed, too.

    As for blogrolls, sometimes there’s just too much to read! I’m horrible at pruning. I just keep adding and adding to my list of blogs I read. Twitter is even worse! If someone adds me on Twitter, they get an instant add back. Sometimes (though not usually) I don’t even like their tweets! But I keep on adding people and not removing anyone. I feel obligated and don’t want to hurt their feelings, haha. After all, I can just *pretend* that I’m reading them…right? >_>

  14. This post spoke to me alot. I’ve had a few instances of having trouble letting go of guilds or friends in game.

    I once left a guild about 6 months after I should have because I had trouble letting go. A guildie really upset me about not going to a spontaneous raid because I had plans that day and things were never the same after. I became really bitter and unhappy and left late one night when nobody else was on. I still think bitterly about that whole time in my WoW life.

    I server transferred my main just about a year ago now and it was a decision that was long in the making, but when I decided to do it, it was done pretty quickly. I’d been on my old server for about 4 years and had many friends, guildies (ex and current) and memories associated with it. Every time someone said “Hey, you could transfer Endy over and raid with my guild”, I always said no. But after the drama llama reared her head once again, I’d had enough. I had officially reached my limit. I was barely logging on, and when I did, I’d sit in Dalaran and contemplate my navel. I was not happy and easily could have walked away from the game.

    I came to the conclusion that I was playing this game for ME, for FUN….and if I wasn’t having fun, I should quit or do something about it. Fortunately, a RL friend who plays WoW reconnected with me and was in a raiding guild on another server and that time, when the transfer question came up, it felt right. It was hard ‘letting go’ of the server and friends I’d made, but it was the right thing for me.

    I still keep in touch with a bunch of my old server mates. I still have a few toons there and I made another pally Endy and am leveling her up in a guild a bunch of them made after the drama. I kinda feel like I’m having my cake and eating it too. I’m happy with having transferred, but can keep in touch with the friends I made elsewhere.

    Knowing when to let go can be hard, and probably more obvious in hindsight. But sometimes you have to, for your sanity or peace of mind.

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