Go Forth & Nerd! Ep. 47 - Human Monster Manual
Human Monster Manual
Welcome back to Go Forth and Nerd my name is Jesse Bray also known as Mr Bray and I am your resident nerd!
Today's episode is probably one of the most difficult episodes I’ve done. I’m going to share about how running away from home saved my life. However, like usual I’d like to use some very nerdy illustrations and hopefully a couple upbeat notes that’ll lighten up this episode. I’ve recently come up with this analogy inspired by table top games. I call it the Human Monster Manual. We all have villains in our lives, some far worse than others and some you even love. Whoa hold up, I know just got super heavy there! Let me unpack this nerdy analogy by giving you more details on what a Monster Manual is:
Well if you're a fan of old school pen and paper games like pathfinder or Dungeons & Dragons you’re most likely aware of an important piece of literature that really makes the game possible. It's called a Monster Manual. The book contains a mini Wikipedia of knowledge of every character you might encounter in the game. If you're a serious nerd it's one of three core rule books you can easily get lost in. So how does this relate to interactions with real people?
Before I answer that I'd like to tell a story of how I first learned about a Monster Manual. It was really only about 4 or 5 years ago. It was my birthday and I said wanted to do three nerdy things.
- Watch Empire Strikes Back
- Eat Ice Cream cake
- Learn how to play Dungeons & Dragons
Katie and I we’re hanging out with our good friends Brittney and Bracken on my birthday we ended up spending the whole time just building our character sheets while Empire Strikes Back played in the background. I’m not gonna hold anything back from you it’s a ton of work creating your characters, case in point it took hours. However, it’s also equally a lot of fun too! Bracken was our DM or dungeon master and the dude is a savant at games it’s really insane. Bracken is one of the most imaginative minds I’ve ever known. We went on some epic journeys and I can truly say no movies or video games could compare to those intense adventures. I think every nerd at some point owes it to themselves to at least dabble with some table top games. There’s really nothing like it, where the stories are powered by your mind and the quests are a group experience.
And it was here playing Dungeons & Dragons, later Pathfinder that I started to see some interesting parallels to real life. No I didn’t lose my mind and think I was really my half Orc barbarian named Chuck. But I started to see the similarities that any nerd sees eventually. For example take “Leveling-Up”. Going to school or grinding through chores or climbing the career ladder is such a great illustration for trying to level up. Then I saw another thing - NPCs, or Non Player Character. Where in the game you talk to a character, a blacksmith, townsfolk or bar maid that has limited responses and really has little to no effect on the quest at hand. Perhaps this is your cashier, waiter, classmate or co-worker? You’re side by side them in life but you aren’t sharing a quest with them. Ok I know I’m getting really poetic about this but remember this is called Go Forth & Nerd.
Lastly I started thinking about the Monster Manual - by far my most favorite book in the game. It was the one book that if you could translate it to trading cards it would work perfectly. It got me thinking what if life was like this? What if we knew a person’s motives, stats, origin, weakness, the whole-shebang? How powerfully effective would it be to be armed with this knowledge - to cross pollenate nerdy universes but it’d be like rockin’ Professor Xavier’s mind reading skills and instantly knowing if someone was friend or foe.
But unfortunately life isn’t that black and white. Good people do many bad things and bad people will often do good things. We’re all sorta a marbled ice cream cake of good and evil. Perhaps we’re the best we can be in the morning and as hunger leads on we’re a little less good until we’ve eaten a bagel and a cup of tea. I don’t begin to understand why some people are and aren’t the way they are. But I do have a clue of who I am. It’s called my alignment. And if you’re a nerd you’ll know what I’m talking about. Alignment works like this, good, bad, neutral, lawful, unlawful and chaotic. A simple google search will popup these personalities but of the nine different alignments in the game six relate to playable characters while the three most nasty of the alignments relate strictly to monsters and villains. For example: my character is typically lawful good. So is my character in life. I have a nafety for safety and it makes me a bit of a Magoo. Yes I know I’m a square, heck I failed drivers ed in high school for being overly cautious. That’s right I drive too slow, put my turn signal on way too early and am one of the most passive drivers you’ll met. It’s taken a lot of strain off poor Katie’s mind and our marriage to let her more frequently take the driver seat. Yes, I know I’m a dork. But that’s also why I tell these stories to let the other goobers out there know you’re not alone! There’s dozens of us, dozens!
Ok so back to alignments - I don’t want to rob you of the elevatingly nerdy uplifting experience of learning this stuff on your own but eventually, if not already, you’ll encounter people in real life that are monsters. These monsters might even be people that raised you and that you love. But you’ll know a wolf in sheep’s clothing by its diet when you see them eating sheep. What does this mean, well I’ve shared that my mother is a mentally ill and a harmful person to have in my life, so is my troubled drug addict musician brother. I love these people but I know I need to guard myself from them. I had an in-depth conversation with a counselor friend of mine recently and we talked about how cruel parents can leave these lasting scars. We mentioned how our minds as children can be like wet cement so when someone leaves a paw print while the cement is still wet the prints last a really long time. My mother’s was strongly a part of the scars that drew my brother to drug addiction and she destroyed her family. And I was lucky enough to get out. So as mentioned earlier here’s the story of:
How Running Away From Home Saved My Life
When I was ten years my mother was recently remarried and had manipulated myself and my sisters (as she often did) to pull away early from a Christmas break with my dad to visit her during the holidays, despite already agreeing with my dad to this time let him have us that year. That would be the last time I saw my father for over three and a half years. When we arrived at my mother’s place we met her new husband. I don’t currently feel comfortable telling all the details but this man absolutely hated us and made sport of treating me as his personal punching bag. When you’re punched full fledge as a ten year old by a grown man on a daily basis it changes you in a very deep way. So much so to where every day I looked for an opportunity to escape. My mother and my stepfather dragged us all around the US, leaving before the rent was due. My mother seeking odd modeling and actress jobs, many times just odd jobs while my step father got arrested time and time again for owning a chop shop, thefts, fraud and a plethora of other felonies he committed. The Sacramento, California legal system was a complete joke. Not once while they placed him under house arrest did they take notice of our black eyes, cuts, torn clothes, or malnutrition. They were just concerned that he had his ankle monitor on. Which never stopped him from traveling across the US. It didn’t help that our mother was crazy and he hardly laid a finger on her either. This whole time we were often homeless, living in shelters, sometimes tents, or mooching off the generosity of strangers, or church people. Until I finally saw my moment of escape. In the State of Oregon at the age of 14yrs old you can choose which parent you’d like to live with and while my mother continually tried to paint my father into a monster I knew that while that most likely was a lie anything was better than this. So I took an opportunity and got on a train for Klamath Falls the week of my birthday. I was so nervous I kept feeling like I was going to get caught and have to return to my nightmare. So here I was I making my own personal heroic Oregon Trail to freedom. To this day I will always love trains. To my euphoric treks with my Grandfather to the train museum in Yreka, to the once a lullaby as I’d fall asleep in my partially roofed room in the attic of our shack up in Rocklin California to finally my freedom Amtrak train rescuing me from the jaws of my past. Sure this is all pretty heavy stuff to hear but this is part of my history and nothing can change that. However, what I’ve learned is that when you see someone that’s hurting, nervous, or afraid remember maybe there fighting with there own Human Monster Manual, trying to figure out why someone treated them a certain way. So today I want to encourage you to think about the monsters in your life, some you might love and some you might hate and remember it’s ok to place them in the metaphorical Human Monster Manual if they’ve caused you or others pain. And regardless of the strategy sometimes we all need to escape in the middle of the night and never look back.
Thank you all so much again for listening. You’re all such wonderfully brave and excellent people. Please feel free to reach out and send me an email if you’d like to chat. I alway appreciate your messages. And remember to take courage, take care and to Go Forth & Nerd!