#54: Getting Real
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2022 issue.
In my annual appraisal recently, my boss revealed that of all my Library colleagues he could see that I was the one who’d struggled most with 18 months of lockdown and working from home. Naturally gregarious, I’m not your typical librarian, IF (stereo)typical means tending towards quiet and introverted. Indeed, my wife often qualifies any description of me to work colleagues as ‘atypical’. You could well have gathered by now, even if you’ve not met me, that I thrive on social interaction and the input of others. I may have written previously about the way in which I feel that CFS/ME has robbed me of some of this and taken some of my identity.
Around the same time as my appraisal, the BBC reported on Boris Johnson meeting Joe Biden for only the second time in “real life”. I guess we know what they meant but I couldn’t help wonder if all that work I’d done for a year and a half in my front room, all those virtual meetings and online teaching sessions, somehow weren’t considered real. Perhaps I had just imagined the whole pandemic and would at last wake up from the Virus nightmare.
As I write this, I’ve just finished our university induction week for all the new students and have been doing face-to-face teaching for the first time since early in 2020. It’s difficult to describe just how much I’ve been energised and enthused and excited by seeing actual students, in the flesh, rather than little black rectangles via Zoom, or Google Meet or WebEx. (Even when invited to do so, I’ve been surprised by just how few students will turn their cameras on.) (And yes, I know there are good reasons why some might not be able to or want to.)
I’ve had much the same frustration with Traveller during the pandemic, both as referee and player. We initially moved our campaign, The Traveller Adventure, online thinking it would be for one session only and then we’d be back in the pub. We’ve never returned to meeting in person and are unlikely to for the rest of the book. The upside here, however, has been getting a know a new friend who can now join us from a distance which was a delightful and unexpected side effect. As a player I gave Virtual Traveller a go and really enjoyed the games I joined in with but was surprised that in every one of them ‘no camera’ was the default; I really missed the human interaction that was only partially alleviated by chat channels, voice and so on.
I’m desperately hoping that TravCon, cancelled in 2021, will return in 2022 and we’ll be able to meet together once again for a weekend of fun and friendship at Sawtry. It’s not that there’s no place for the virtual, it’s been great to still be able to ‘meet’, but when exploring our imagined Far Future I’ve learned that I love to reach out and touch it.