I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine today at our lunch. We had been talking about the year we each had and how difficult things had been. I think it was more a free therapy session for me, but he was kind enough to indulge my venting. While we were talking I jokingly said that right now my life feels about like the Eastern Plaguelands looks. We laughed and soon it was time to return to work. I sat there the rest of the day thinking about it and realized that the journey of this past year truly has resembled the journey that Ruhtra has taken in WoW. I wish to share this as a way of letting some things go, but also as something I hope will provoke some thought and perhaps help someone who may be going through a rough time by letting them know that there is still so much more to explore and see on this journey, both in the game and in our every day lives.
I remember when I first created my Paladin as I hit the button to begin my journey, I was excited to see what awaited me. I watch intently as the introduction played. Listened carefully to the narrator tell the story of the Blood Elves. Suddenly, the screen focused on my brand new character. Ruhtra stood there tall and strong. His hair was flowing and white as the clouds above. He was standing in a new world full of mystery and surprises. Ruhtra quickly learned the basics and completed the starting area. He longed to see the beautiful woods of his homeland; however, things suddenly appeared so different from what he remembered. Old friends that tended to the nature itself were now corrupt and had to be dealt with. Those who were once allies, were now enemies and those that were called enemies, were now called friend. The world around him had changed. As he ventured forth he discovered the great path of destruction. Half of his home, was left in ruin. There were even rumors that their blessed leader had gone mad. Only time would tell for Ruhtra what truly was going on.
I felt this way at the beginning of this year. I had accepted a new position at a new company. I felt I had gone as far as I would be able to go at the time with my current company. I could tell change was on the horizon and felt my best course of action would be with a new company. So I started out on a new journey. I was full of hope that the decisions I made were the right decisions for not just myself but my whole family. I had no clue what was to come. I had some doubts, but who does not? I had noticed that people I worked with that I once could trust were now focused on getting that next promotion and were not the least bit concerned who they needed to step on to get there, while others whom I had known seemed to be the ones who had the right idea of how to act. They appeared genuine in their actions and concerns about where the company was going. In essence, just like Ruhtra, people I once knew I could trust had changed. I knew I did not agree with decisions made by management and feared that staying would result in a stagnant career or worse, job loss. So I made my decision and went for the new job. It was during the first week of the year I noticed cracks in my stable and structured life were appearing. Someone who was very close to me had become ill. They swore it was nothing and because of how they had always been healthy, no one suspected anything else. We could not have foreseen what dangers were waiting for us.
Ruhtra had accomplished everything he needed to and stepped across into the Ghostlands. The place was filled full of sorrow. Where once there was a beautiful forest and thriving towns, now death awaited. The undead walked the land (both good and evil) and even nature itself had been tainted by the darkness that had invaded. The only town that was left was built more out of vengeance than out of an attempt at renewal. These Forsaken desired only to further their own goals but offered the means that Ruhtra needed to advance his own quest. The inner struggle existed every day here between right and wrong. The Blood Elves were attempting to revive the area while the Forsaken wanted to exact revenge on those who had taken everything from them. This was not a place for the weak of heart to dwell. Ruhtra had to fight every day to maintain control and not give in to the hopelessness of this place. To end the struggle, he had to face one of the most difficult struggles thus far, he would face the enemy that represented everything he hated. The final quest line to take out the leader of the Scourge for this region.
Much like Ruhtra I started out the year with high hopes, but a week or so into the year, a close loved one passed away. It was unexpected and caught me completely off guard. I too went into a very dark region of myself. In this area I struggled to maintain control of who I was. I fought daily to make sense of what had transpired and to reason things out. As Ruhtra had to fight daily not to fall to hopelessness, so too did I. The struggle was waged long in my soul and in the end I had to face my own personal demons.
Tirisfal Glades and Undercity
Ruhtra soon found himself preparing to embark on a journey into the Undercity to turn in a small token of the past of the leader of the Forsaken and to show that the Blood Elves did in fact belong in the Horde. He gathered all that he had, for he was alone. All of his friends were either farther ahead in their journey or had not even responded to the call to action. He journeyed forth completing this quest and renewing his personal journey of redemption. As he left Undercity he traveled through Tirisdal Glade, once a calm and peaceful region. The very pinnacle of the human spirit and kingdom, but now it was but a shell of its formal self. Things had changed in this zone and as much as Ruhtra would like to say nothing effected him, it did. He had grown stronger, but at the cost of seeing death and despair. He continued his journey heading for Silverpine forest and deeper into the depths of despair and hopelessness.
Again, I compare my own journey this year to that of Ruhtra. I continued to struggle on the inside, all the while on the outside keeping everyone at bay. I would do the things that I had to do. Make enough appearances to let people know I was still here, but not enough to reassure them that all was well. Even my relationships resembled Ruhtra's journey. I would speak with them, but hold them at bay, knowing that some could not understand the struggle internally I dealt with, while others had been through this struggle and were farther on down the journey of life. I would love to say that I came through this the same person as I was before, but this would be a false statement. I too had been changed by what had transpired. It was not the loss, but the self reflection and long hours spent thinking of all that had gone on that changed my view on things. During this time it truly felt like I was in a dark city far out of site of man. Left alone to my own resources (even though this was self imposed). I soon knew that even though this struggle was one I had to deal with, I also knew that I would need to return to work. So I had to prepare for the next phase of my life. A new time where I knew I had nothing to fall back on but myself and my own resources. (Again, my friends and family would be willing to help, but I do not open up and I never ask for help. These are areas that could stand to receive improvement, but that would be a whole new conversation.)
For Ruhtra this was the part of his journey where there were decisions to be made. What path would he take? Did he wish to wield the power of the light and heal those in need? Would he pick up the shield and sword and become a stout defender for all and protect those who cannot defend their self? These were both worthy thoughts; however, he longed to punish those that committed atrocities so he chose the path of retribution during a time when no one of the Paladin order thought highly of the retribution path. Every enemy that he met, he launched out at with righteous fury. Unleashing powers that could have been used for mending to destroy and tare down the wicked. All the while struggling in this dark forest with his own inner demons. He was learning new skills and learning how to apply these powers to his daily life. A time of growth in a place of decay.
Just as Ruhtra, I had decisions to make for my own personal path. Would I allow the sorrow to overtake my own life and retreat to the safety of my dwelling or would I decide to go back to work and apply my knowledge of previous jobs to this new career path? I did return to work. I was blessed with a good solid group of individuals that I work with. I was also fortunate that at this point, some of my friends were working within the same company. I struggled every day at first. Many days not feeling well, but this was not a result of loss, but rather the lack of focus. I had dealt with the inner demons and now I had to deal with the real ones that were presenting their self. Those demons were relationships, finances, and work. Each day was a struggle to stay from falling back into the darkness, but each day I worked was a day that I grew as a person. I learned some new skills and grew as a person, not because of the hardships of life, but rather in spite of the hardships. I was determined nothing and no one will ever be able to drag me this low again, not even myself.
Hillsbrad Foothills, Stranglethorn Vale, The Hinterlands and Beyond
Ruhtra was now steadily every day growing stronger. Learning knew skills. Fighting everything and every obstacle that came in his way. He had made friends and formed bonds that would seem to last a lifetime. There were days that were rough, but instead of relying on his own ability to pull through, he called to his friends. When he called, they came. None of them asking for favors in return, just simply helping an alli out of a rough spot. There was much time spent in the struggle to level and with each obstacle came the reward of overcoming it. Ruhtra had changed much since that first day on Sunstrider Isle, but at the core of his being, he held fast to those beliefs and principles that had helped him all this time.
Much as Ruhtra grew and changed, so did I. There were days where I did not feel so great, but rather than hiding those feelings, I found myself some close friends and would rely on them for support when at work. When not at work there were other friends and family who would offer support. It is a daily progression, but one that has turned out quite well.
The Take Away
I know that his was a lot of information, but I found it interesting that the phases of my last year could be summed up in a game that we play for fun. In all honesty one could probably paint this picture using a myriad of different images and stories. My true hope in this is really to provoke some thought. What phase of the World of Warcraft do you find yourself in. I must admit that currently I would say that I am truly in the Wrath of the Lick King at the Howling Fjord. I have overcome a lot of personal issues and stand on the brink of the next chapter of my life. What new things await? What challenges lie before me? Only time will tell, but I can promise all who read that I will, at the end of it all, still be standing to tell of the journey and offer some words of encouragement to those who may be at an earlier stage.
Wherever you find yourself in your journey (regardless of situations around you) remember that someone has walked that road before you. The road may be long and filled with danger. There may be times where you do not see the road at all. Remember though, that there is always another day and hold fast to the things that make you who you are. Struggles of life (in game and out) will always be there, but it is how we react that matters most.