Conflict, Strife, and a Burnout Later: An Introspective

I decided to take a step back for this article and share a little about my challenges as a content creator, community manager, and a human dealing with all the real-world stuff that happened in 2020. I hope if nothing else that this piece leaves me vulnerable for a moment and exposes relatable experiences for you.

You may be reading this because you’ve come to know me in the MTG community from Twitter (@ChiStyleGaming) or via MTG finance Discords such as Quiet Speculation, Conviction Gaming, and now BAN.

It is hard for me to predict what your perception of me has been or has become, mostly because my demeanor and approach has, in my opinion, changed dramatically over the years. I started out deep in MTG finance (likely what most know me for), but I have dabbled in the realm of kitchen table EDH brewing & gameplay for the better part of the past 18 months. Most recently, though, I have started crossing lines between my MTG Twitter account, historically meant for MTG all the time, and my personal views towards life, society, politics, etc.

This cross-up is great in that it has allowed me to be me. It has been freeing. Before 2020 began, I drew enjoyment and pleasure from tweets or articles about the latest hot spec or my latest dragon EDH deck. But something changed this year, and the passion for those types of contributions to the MTG community waned. Instead, I grew anxious and afraid for the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ people in our community; afraid for all of us due to the once-in-a-lifetime (or more) pandemic; and afraid for humanity due to the person in control of the United States.

Summed up: like so many of us, 2020 has been a terrifying experience for me.

Conflict

My story begins in October 2019. I had just founded the Conviction Gaming Discord server and began to lay the foundations for a community. I was, at the time, trying to take advantage of an opportunity I saw in the MTG finance world where the existing leaders were fractured and people were looking for a place to turn. Conviction was, by all accounts, not something I started with intention of it becoming a true business; it was merely intended to be a landing-spot for people looking for good MTG finance content and discourse.

That accessibility was maintained as we moved to a Patreon paywall in March 2020. At just $1/month, the Patreon was never intended to turn profits; rather, it was intended to help offset the monthly website and Discord costs and give a handful of people a place to hang out and enjoy themselves.

Within a few months, we grew to over 60 paying members and I began having internal conflict catalyzed by the mounting pressure on me to produce content and value for the paying members. Even though the cost was only $1/month for most community members (some were more generous, THANK YOU if you are reading this), I felt this uneasiness when I could not deliver an article or podcast episode or some form of “perceived value” by my standards.

It did not help that my personal life began to get super busy in March when I accepted a promotion at my job, and things spiraled from there as COVID-19, social injustice, and other “just 2020” type events took hold of my psyche.

May 25th, 2020

The murder of George Floyd was the moment that broke me. I had always known racial bias and social inequality existed in the US, but as a white cis male, I had the privilege of growing up as many arms lengths away as I wanted. I could ignore the strife, conflict, and unfair ways of society which plagued the Black community, among other minority groups, for generations.

As time passed by and I grew up, I had the fortune to cross paths with two black men who took the time to educate me on the issue of racism. In college, a teammate of mine became a confidant on the subject, willing to have very tough conversations, something I naively did not realize were difficult for him at the time. In many ways, I was playing the role of “typical white-guy” who at face-value seemed insincere or in jest. The reality was I cared a lot, but the wounds Black people cope with from slavery and discrimination are still fresh – the kind of fresh that means they are still bleeding every single day – and to that end, I had no idea what I was doing.

By the time I was 25, I was firmly entrenched in my career and was blessed to cross paths with another Black man who to this day is someone I stay in touch with. We share various conversations when we have time to catch up.

In the wake of May 25th and George Floyd’s murder, I reached out to him. It was about eight weeks after the killing happened, and I was honestly devastated at this point. I was feeling a mixture of helplessness, sadness, and anger. I just could not believe the naivety on the topic of racism the white people closest to me were expressing, and I even more so could not understand the lack of outrage by all of America over a police officer being able to murder a Black man in broad daylight.

I was distraught learning that many (most?) white people have a complete disregard for African American/Black Lives.

By August 1st, I had lost all focus and desire for MTG.

… In fact, I was losing focus and desire to do just about anything.

Breaking Free with Conviction

As the protests intensified through a minority part of the Nation, the fire inside me burned bright with them. Due to my high risk if I contract COVID, I was afraid to attend rallies or protests, but I took to Twitter and my friends and family to make my outcry known in the safest, most impactful way I could.

The conversations that followed initially made things worse for me because I was facing the stern realization that every Black person already knew. White people generally do not care about racism, and in fact, many do not believe it exists. In fact, many people I spoke to were more concerned with the protests than the reasons behind the protest.

It was Colin Kaepernick all over again.

The fact that this was all going on yet the world was still moving simply did not sit with me. I could not cope personally, and I was no longer in the right frame of mind to lead an MTG community. It was time to shut down Conviction Gaming and turn my focus to intensifying my conversations about racism with family and friends. I found this to be an outlet for my anger, and it helped me focus my energy into something that satisfied my need to feel like I was helping.

The outcomes were many good and not-so-good discussions, and a few closer friendships and a few others which fell farther apart (i.e. they’re over). But importantly, I broke through with my wife and others in my own family, and that helped me take some solace in knowing I did my part.

But here’s the punch line… I am still doing my part. I didn’t stop at those conversations. I befriended people from minority groups – wonderful, amazing, brilliant people I might add – and I continue to broaden my horizons on this front. No more “ignorance is bliss” in my world; it’s not allowed.

I want to continue to make my little slice of a difference any way that I can, and it starts by being human and realizing the truths that are social injustice and inequality. Whether you believe in a higher power or not, we should all be able to agree that we have a responsibility to each other in life. Humanity is stronger when we are in it together, but we are also our own most powerful enemy.

I’ve taken some additional solace in now knowing that there is hope because many people from all colors, sexes, nationalities, and generations, do think with this same conviction that we are in it together.

I hope we can begin healing in 2021 and that things will improve. I also sincerely hope that we can learn from the devastation that is 2020, and work to ensure the worst elements of our now-history will never repeat themselves.

– CM

You can find Chris’s work here on Conviction Gaming or when he’s not writing, you can find him on Twitter or in the BAN community Discord.

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