On the road again. Somehow I keep managing to get sick almost every time I leave to some place for various reasons, be it holiday or business. Last time was a violent cough heading towards Utrecht for the Standard GP. This time it’s a mild cold heading to Köln to see a friend and also to discover the city and see if it wants to make a good impression on me. Who knows…maybe one day I might just call it “home”. So two Grippostadt and a Guaranna tea later, with my hoodie on and my laptop connected to the god given power supply from the IC train I’m ready to write my long overdue blog entry. There were a lot of hiccups with my website and when it comes to writing for the blog, I am a full on procrastinator. I try to get things done, but always end up not finishing the entry and it ultimately ends up being another draft on my website. This time though, I have 5 hours of train travelling with no internet except on my phone. I could watch gifs of cats or I can write the blog entry. Tough decision. Innitially I wanted to write a more finance related entry with all the bans that happened in both standard and legacy, but eventually ended up having a more personal touch on it all. Here’s what’s up and what has been going on in the past months.

Self-search: fetch, lose 1 life, find nothing. Go.

I have had terrible moods in the past. Constantly asking myself if everything that I do, is worth doing. People kept telling me that I am on the right track, yet it always felt to me that I am realistically not moving forward. What is it that I was looking for? Financial stability. That’s the name of the game for most people. You want a roof over your head without fearing being kicked out and food on the plate so you don’t starve to death. I did have those but with specific drawbacks that I might discuss in a future blog post. For now let’s just say that my home situation isn’t the greatest. Being in such a spot and not being able to get enough money from my job to actually afford living like everyone else threw me into a downward spiral of despair. I questioned my motives on opening the store in the first place. I was outraged with myself for believing in such folly. The inner voices of doubt started getting momentum constantly jabbing me left and right with “you’re a failure”, “you won’t be any better than others”, “go back to being a nobody”. Frustrations were peaking high, with my crumbling relationship culminating my exhaustion and my already glowing depression radiating towards everyone I was getting in contact with, I was ready to throw the towel in and call it a day. I defeated myself, giving truth to the age old cliché “”you’re your own worst enemy”. So I gradually started drinking myself into oblivion. Perhaps some of you saw me drinking a beer here and there. Then it started to become more and more of a daily routine. It got to the point where I was already drinking at 3 p.m. It wasn’t even the respectable 5 p.m., but it definitely was 5 p.m. somewhere in the world and that was enough for me. I didn’t care anymore. About the shop, about the community, about myself. My job became a task. A must, that had to be done because I was tied to my contracts and debts. Everything was turning to shit around me. A horrible take on Midas’ touch. I felt infected with gloom and a frighteningly strong sense of negativity. My compass of self-worth became twisted and I disrespected my body and mind numbing them both out with vapors of alcohol that seemed like the only way out.

Until one evening.

Finding that “it”: untap, draw, upkeep, I gain 1 life, main phase one.

I was boozed out of my mind asking people if they want to invest in my store. Since my desperation was getting higher I was searching for outside solutions of course, thinking that it’s the way to solve problems. I did however find exactly that. The general rule is that true change comes from within. But not always. I met by chance a person who actually took me seriously. Apart from the fact that I looked and acted drunk, I did have a point about the Arena: it’s the only shop in Ingolstadt that offers such events and has a community based on trading card game players. It was perhaps enough for this person to get a little bit hooked on the idea that the store can tap into hidden potential and grow bigger. I suddenly woke up from what seemed to be a constant nightmare. I was doing something with the store that someone else believed in. Then I asked more people if they would like to invest. I found to my total amazement that I had only positive replies although most were “I would if I could, but I don’t have the money”. So I was on the right path, I just couldn’t see it. I mean, why would people want to invest in my business if it was as sucky as I thought? I was also ignoring the numbers heavily. It didn’t cross my mind that I should check out what was actually happening with my stock. To be fair, it’s embarrassing to write this now. I am both ashamed and startled at my incapacity to assess situations correctly. I was investing all my profits into the store. I mean, everything. For years. A few months ago I started taking out money for myself for personal use: travelling to GPs, buying a new computer, real life stuff that I desperately needed, but was too blind sighted by everything else that was going on in my life to be able to pierce through the smoke and mirrors. I never could realize what I was doing: depriving myself of life. I became a robot. And booze was my oil. My store was actually overflowing with products, albeit the wrong ones. I was making money, but I was investing it in the wrong items. Being alone in a business has some strong benefits, but also disadvantages. Reflecting on current situations, past mistakes and future ventures is a one way street. Nobody can constantly hit home runs over and over again. Sometimes mistakes happen and then one learns from them. I knew something was wrong, but I was also too stubborn to think that I could be wrong. Having a business partner means sharing profits, but also responsibilities and advices. There are some unique people in this world that can go at it alone. More power to them. But I can’t. I need to have something to lean on. It’s the necessary factor in my development. I have always been a team player. I have always loved to work in the background sometimes stepping into the spotlight, but not too long because I never did like the attention as much as others. Maybe my final form is a confident, independent and determined guy. Maybe I will always be in need of a crutch to balance out my own polarized thoughts. We will just have to wait and see.

Regardless…

Fight or flight: combat, attack with everything.

I got ahold of myself since the start of 2017. It slowly dawned on me that things weren’t as bleak as I painted them out to be. For the entirety of 2016 (and let’s just agree that that one was a very shitty year overall) I was singing my sob story to myself, trapped in this vicious cycle of self-pity and self-hatred. Fortunately that became a bad habit that I was crawling my way out of. I realized that my life was actually the dream that most have. From the outside everyone saw the guy who has to go to work at 1 pm to play cards. No pressure since he is his own boss. Easy life. It wasn’t and isn’t all that. It’s much more complicated as you might have previously read…But that’s the impression people have. I can influence that in various ways, but regardless of whatever I do the truth will only come out here, in this blog. It’s where one can truly understand my thought process regarding the shop and parts of my life. I asked myself before writing this, how much private information am I willing to give out. It’s a bit too late for that now though. I opened a few pages that are becoming a chapter. If this helps you to understand me and my decisions regarding the shop better, then that’s great. If not, that’s also great. See…this was a problem. I am certain most people have it as well: how they are perceived by others. I stopped being like that a while ago, although not entirely. What people say and think about me is none of my business. This will seem relatively dumb but I was always self-conscious about my German speaking abilities. They are crap. I have never had the pure feeling of wanting to learn this language at an advanced level. I know as much as it is needed to get by and have a basic conversation. I still make mistakes and sometimes I flat out butcher everything I say to the point where it’s not possible to understand anything that I say. I should improve on it for sure, but I won’t spend too much time on it either. Why? I want to live life expressing myself in English. It seems counterintuitive considering where I live. This may strike a sensitive chord with some hardcore people, but I am not sorry that I won’t live up to your expectations. It’s my life. My time. Someone recently told me something very beautiful. “Time that I don’t do something I like or not spend with someone I like is wasted time”. I like English. I love it. I believe I am better at it than I am at Romanian…The reality that I created for myself is built on the English language. Everything I did up to now with the shop has been a direct result of me knowing English and using it to my advantage. I am not disrespecting the German culture by not wanting to always speak German, because I am in Germany. I am a citizen of the world, of Earth and I should damn well be able to speak whatever I want to in my spare time. Not what anybody else wants me to. It does hurt my ability to talk to customers about certain games in German. I can’t express myself properly, but thankfully for me, 90% know English at a decent level (good job Germany’s school system).  You should also be aware that I don’t really plan on being a salesman for the rest of my life in my shop. I like doing what I do, but I can do a whole lot more. Time will tell how much that can really be. But for now, I want to not waste time.

On that note.

Enjoy the ride: main phase 2, draw 3 and discard 1 at random.

This has been a recent topic in my life: the passing of time. I am 31. Not getting younger and the things I do now will echo in the years to come. Choosing one way will lead to a very different path than my other choices. That’s logical, but still problematic when you think about it in depth. What is the right choice? Of course we all don’t know and we’ll struggle a lifetime to find out anything that comes even close to definitive answer. Getting more specific. What is the right choice for me? I shook a lot of my fears off of me and got the confidence that what I am doing and how I am doing it is working out. Now the problem for me is where. I believe that Ingolstadt needs a shop. But as a person I don’t need Ingolstadt. It is not what will bring me to what I consider happiness. I could be wrong and a great future could be just around the corner but I am failing to see it. So what’s the plan? Continue in Ingolstadt for the foreseeable future, with a later plan to move away. Find a new space, bigger, brighter and well positioned. I strongly believe that Ingolstadt’s gaming community can thrive if it has a platform to develop. Being hidden in that small room away from pedestrian traffic has not been doing me any favors. My total lack of promotion has also led to many disappointments. There is much to be said about how I handled some issues…but it would be not worth the clicks on the keyboard…Things always need to change. I’ve been repeating myself for months, perhaps years, now. That there needs to be something different happening to make a better future. I think I found it in the form of investors. If everything goes right, September will be a great month for the Arena. If things go wrong…September will be a horrible month for the Arena and for me. I have my eyes set on a spot, but it’s a gamble. It’s much more expensive than what I currently have, but boasts a lot more space and better positioning overall. However I would need to increase profits quite a lot. That’s not going to be easy if I simply do what I am doing now. There is no way that I can still stay at the same level money-wise if I literally just put everything in my current shop in the new one. It will look prettier with a lot of space left over to be able to properly move through the store…but way too expensive to be able to motivate the price tag. I won’t beat around the bush too much and just tell you that it will cost me 1000€ more than what I have now. It’s maybe a mistake. Maybe I should stay in a space such as the one that I am in now, but that leads to stagnation. Growth is the only way out. Evolving to the best possible version of me is what I dream of. This goes for my shop too. When I started this I always hoped that it would be more of a cafe board game store. Not just a store. Not just cards and not just boxes filled with some strange and confusing games. I had high hopes for a more social environment, boasting a variety of people with different interests but with a common gaming goal. The line between Magic the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh! has become blurred. I started playing YGO! recently…and surprise. I loved it. Next is a legacy player who is currently investing in a competitive YGO! deck. And he likes it. YGO! players are playing Commander almost every time they are at the store. The YGO! League boasts weekly tournaments of 14-25 people. FNM is a forgotten topic, existing only on digital paper and as a topic of a Magic the Gathering Utopia that may never exist in Ingolstadt. I’m not throwing shade at the MtG community. It’s how it is. Lack of free time, jobs, wives, kids, girlfriends, you know…life in general. It’s ok, but sad for the community as a whole. I would most likely be much more hyped if there would be an FNM with 14 people playing Standard or Modern or Legacy. I love Magic with all its flaws and glorious over complications when It comes to layer rulings haha J  I would love it even more if I would have a way to explore it even further in Ingolstadt, a place that I have been calling home for several years. Maybe things are just getting started now, after almost 3 years. Maybe now is the time to press on and not give up, embrace the past for what it was, learn from it and step into the future.

Getting a grip on things has never felt better.

Regeneration: end step, trigger token with vigilance.

A few months ago my brother came to Germany to start what would have been a new chapter in his book of life. Unfortunately he missed his family too much and decided to go back with the promise that one day he will return to Germany to stay for a much longer period. In the time that he was here though I had a series of revelations that I desperately needed to go through. Everything in this entry has had a chaotic time line, with some events happening in the spring of 2016 others at the end of 2016…I am sorry if I confused you or some things appear hazy. I guess there’s too much that I have to write about that I simply blurt everything out however I feel it coming in my head. It’s 11:02 now and I am somewhere in the mountains where there’s some absolute scenic beauty. This also isn’t helping me focus on finishing this blog entry. So my brother made me realize once and for all that I am in fact living the dream. I started out as a poor Romanian boy from a broken home, with a rebellious adolescence and an ignorant early adulthood. I have a more matured thinking now, a focus on what makes me tick so that I can balance it out with the tock. I feel like I can take on the gaming world with my ideas. Dream big, otherwise you’ll never get there. But the first step is setting up a home base in Ingolstadt. Here’s the reality though: things will be more expensive in the new shop so I can afford to pay the rent at first. It sounds awful I know. But you know what’s also awful? Me making an average of 1200€ per month as a base salary for working at the store.  Some months I might make more, but some months I make considerably less. If I open the new store and things stay the same I would normally have to give up on my salary to keep everything afloat. But that would mean that I won’t be able to afford a proper flat where I could finally live in my own privacy, with my own life no longer attached to a semblance of a reality that should have been let go for way too long. Would I yet again sacrifice everything for the store?

Yes.

Rise high: cleanup step, discard to hand size.

I get asked a lot by people why did I do this. Why did I start a shop? That with my obvious broken German too…Sometimes I wonder that right before I go to sleep or when I open the door to my shop on a rainy day, walking in and looking around in total silence and amazement that all of what is inside the store is actually mine. That I have created something from nothing, that I did what I had to do, be it good or bad, in order to get to this specific point in my life: on a train to Köln writing all of this for you to read and for me to reflect on. What will happen next is a mystery to me. What I hope will happen is that the investors will pull thorough and the store’s trajectory will be towards the sky. I am getting close to my destination and I realize now that I have been writing, deleting and re-writing for the past 4 hours. I have more to tell you. I will later on, whenever this later on will be. What you can take away from this all is that I won’t give up on my dreams. Neither should you. If you’re going through hell, keep going. Churchill knew what he was talking about. Sacrifices must be made to get to where you truly want to be. Be vigilant, but go all in when needed. Playing safe is a trap that most of us fall into thinking that’s the only way to achieve what society defines as normal, standard and happy. Trust in people around you. Open up to them about what you want to achieve and who you really are. That’s how I got here now, by believing in others. Some of you give me the strength to believe in me and what I do. I know it may all sound like an overrated drama, with an undeserved Oscar (*cough* Moonlight *cough*) in its pocket. Finishing up a blog entry always feel so definitive. This one took a lot out of me and I probably said more than people expected me to say. I am done hiding behind my own thoughts and I am done not giving 150% for the store and for my life. I do what I love. And that’s worth more than anything else right now.

See you in the Arena!

Your turn.