All you need to know about my childhood

December 10th, 2013, 3pm

It was 1°C with few clouds. The breeze was gentle.

Life is cyclical.

I was in the gifted program as a child, and all of the students (and teachers) played a collectible card game called Magic: The Gathering. I snagged a deck, learned to play, and ended up becoming one of the best players in my region. I competed in tournaments. Made a little money.

But the real value in Magic was the social aspect.

Before I discovered card games, I was collecting comic books and action figures; studiously keeping up with the plotlines and doing my best to out-obscure-knowledge the guy who worked at the local comic book shop (never quite managed it, but I felt like I was getting close). My hobbies, as a result, were consistently introverted; I read books and comics, I drew my own made-up heroes and villains, and I organized my collection of geekery in boxes and plastic sleeves. Any time I wasn’t playing a video game, at least.

Living just south of a medium-sized Missouri city, I had to coerce and cajole my parents into taking me all the way across town to buy packs of Magic cards at the comic book shop on the hardest-to-park block of a now-with-perspective-incredibly-sparse-area-but-back-then-what-seemed-like-the-Big-City downtown area of Columbia.

Because of my equal obsession with reading (‘Comics, Games, and Reading’ could have been the title of my biography, if written before I turned 16 or 17), I discovered that an indie bookstore on the south side of town also carried Magic cards. Just like that, a vector for distribution was within range of any errand my folks might need to run. Tiger Tales Bookstore & Espresso Bar became my new home away from home.

After maybe a year of stopping by the bookstore, sometimes more than once a day, I asked the owner if I could start a weekly Magic club there — clear out a small area, pop up a table, and me and my friends could stop in and play. I thought the idea seemed mutually beneficial because it would allow her to sell more cards, not to mention hot chocolates and other teen-desirables. She gave the go-ahead, and the club was born.

To say it blew up would be an overstatement, but over the course of about a year, the club went from just me and two friends to nearly 60 people, all of us showing up once a week, all of us grabbing a hot chocolate, and maybe an egg roll from the Chinese take-out place on the other side of the strip mall. We’d settle in for hours of trading, playing, and posturing for those with whom we might want to trade or play.

The club continued to grow until there wasn’t really room in the store to do much but host us on Saturday nights, but the sales were apparently offsetting that inconvenience.

When new kids (or the occasional twenty- or thirty-something) would show up, I’d take the lead and introduce them around. Make sure they knew everybody, knew what cards were in high-demand at the moment, and tell them which hot chocolate was the best hot chocolate (‘White Chocolate’).

When I was 14, I asked the owner if she might want some extra help around the store — dusting or other simple chores — and was shocked when she said yes. Said that I had displayed a lot of leadership ability by setting up the club, bringing in new people, and ensuring they kept coming back.

It doesn’t seem like a big deal, I know, and in practice that job only really involved my dusting shelves and deciding which books to display cover-forward for about two years, but it was the first time I’d ever considered that I might be someone who was capable of having a social life. Of being sociable in general.

It was one of my antisocial hobbies that ended up hurling me into society headfirst.

I look back and smile at the trappings of my younger self when my parents find boxes of them in a long-forgotten closet or some such. These are the objects that shaped who I am today: a social guy, starting and maintaining things, but still connected to my inner-geek.

Someone who can afford to see that side of myself as both anchor and jetpack, rather than one or the other.

Marcus, Christine, David Wade, Paul and 2 others said thanks.

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Colin Wright

Author, entrepreneur, and full-time traveler / I move to a new country every four months based on the votes of my readers / My work ( / My blog ( / My publishing company (

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