All's well that ends better
Contributing, Collaborating, Committing
My Experience Joining Europeia
Written by Istillian
For many years NationStates has been in the back of my mind, a strange yet strong pull to a community that has always fascinated and appealed to me. After a very long time of delaying and pushing back within my own online comfort zone, I finally made the plunge this year to be a part of Europeia. For those of you who don't know me, my name is Istillian, and I created my nation on May 14, 2009.
In early 2009 I was just starting a degree with a minor in political science when my lecturer suggested to a bunch of us to look into a website called NationStates - I dare say that I was one of the few that actually did this.
I was fascinated by the possibilities of this new world I had been led to, creating my own nation and having new choices every day that would either lead it into ruin or glory. It was a refreshing eye-opener in an era of what felt like a much more limited World Wide Web.
Shortly after getting a feel for the typical "gameplay", I discovered the forums. Through this I saw the sheer volume of region-building invested by people, opening my eyes to something even more expansive and impressive.
Back in 2009 social media websites had just become quite prominent; very little security truly existed on these sites. Many people were beginning to see the effects of online harassment, being bullied by others or having their personal lives put in jeopardy after sharing snippets of information they didn't believe would harm them.
At that time I was also a part of the Australian Army and there was a large emphasis on controlling your personal online presence. For example, soldiers had been found posting Facebook updates whilst on deployment and accidentally letting their location services notify everyone on their social media where they were located (which foreign intelligence would then pick up on). This kind of information started being strongly monitored and stamped down on by military leaders once they realised the harm that it could cause. In today's military social media briefings are standardised in basic training, routinely in-service and again particularly prior to deployments, in Australia at least.
Knowing this back in 2009 I was very hesitant to join an online community to which I could potentially give away any information about myself, my location, or my mates. However, that didn't stop me from looking at the different nations, regions, dispatches, and the world that was NationStates.
The thing that has always struck me and inspired me, though, was how dedicated the people are in this community. Looking through the regional laws, the World Assembly issues, and the constant flow of articles and written content is truly incredible. From my experience, very few places in the outside world provide feedback and reassurance to people in the way the community here does.
In early 2016 I submitted my discharge from the military. Shortly after that I picked up a fleeting interest in NationStates again and discovered Europeia through a recruitment telegram from Mousebumples. I had no other interactions with that user - I just remember thinking it was an interesting name and the region seemed like one I could fit into. I became a member of the World Assembly and voted on the different issues as per Mousebumples' recommendations, but hesitated from joining the forums because of the busy work life I had, my prior military mindset of staying away from information sharing online, and the worry that I wouldn't be able to commit or contribute to something in the way I saw others here rapidly working away. In short, I didn't want to let people down, and I had a fear of connecting with people in this way.
Life finds a way of making people distracted though, as I had just proposed to my (now) wife, and wedding planning topped the list of extra-curricular activities. I would have to wait sometime to remember NationStates and involve myself in Europeia.
In May 2019 I was in Melbourne for a work event, my wife was pregnant and at home looking after my son, and I was feeling a bit disconnected from my family and my life.
I don't know what triggered my memory of Europeia - potentially having delved into the forums many years ago anonymously and thinking of an online community made me want that on and off again connection, I don't really know. But something drove me to re-establish my nation, apply as a citizen on the forums and even join the Europeian Republican Navy (ERN). I coasted somewhat quietly for a period of time, a little intimidated by the sheer amount of involvement and work others put into the region.
In June 2019 I had some alarming news that my wife's water had broken and she was going into labour prematurely by six weeks. My daughter was born after a seventeen hour labour from my wife, needing immediate care as her lungs hadn't fully developed.
I was lucky enough that I had some leave and goodwill from work up my sleeve and was able to take my pre-planned leave off work earlier than expected. So by day, I was happily looking after my son, taking him to his normal activities and trying to establish as normal a routine as possible. He wasn't allowed to meet his sister in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), since toddlers are basically walking diseases. By night, I was sitting beside my daughter in the NICU. She was sealed in an incubator, attached to wires and machines, and I sat singing and talking to her, building up song lists from memory that we might one day listen to, writing stories to read to her, and strangely enough when I had nothing left for her I'd browse Europeia's forums for some interesting updates.
After three weeks in the hospital my, daughter was able to finally come home, meet her older brother and be an absolute bundle of joy to my family (despite the sleepless nights a newborn brings). But being a part of this community had stuck, talking to others on discord about an assortment of topics, or randomly conducting a raid with the ERN felt like I was contributing to others lives in a positive and friendly way. But also I found that I was learning a lot in the process.
After making my way back to work after my leave I joined the Ministry of Communications, and with the help of people like Hez I wrote a few weekly updates - again, I felt that positive impact of contributing.
I've worked in the Australian military, and have since worked in private organisations and other government departments, but honestly, the positive reinforcement, acceptance and encouragement have been second to none in this environment.
Joining Europeia for me was intimidating, as the amount of content produced here and the expectations put on people are quite cumbersome (and I tend to think I have high expectations of myself when I commit to something). But what I am realising now is that the content produced is never produced alone, that there are always people helping push others forward. It might be hard engaging with people outside of your comfort zone, or jumping into write-ups on an unfamiliar topic, but I have always felt supported. At the very least, there's a ton of spam to contribute to, for the newbie, novice or old-hat.
I don't see myself as a largely verbose or outgoing person (although I am kind of vain and overconfident at times...), so being welcomed here with a small voice was unexpected. I want to continue to be a part of this community, to contribute in a meaningful way - something that in the outside world hasn't always been so easy for me to find. I am continuing to learn more about the people here, and I have a profound respect for the hard work that drives many of you - even those less than willing to admit that they work as hard as they do.
I think what my eyes have been opened to now, and my point of writing this, is that there are so many different people behind screens all over the world that have found their place that I am beginning to appreciate. Like me, each person has a unique background and reason for being here, some who stay here for a short time, others who have made it their home and intend to stay as long as there exists a place for them.
So I hope my story can help others see that it's okay to not know everything when you first apply for citizenship, that it's okay to not be a grand admiral, first minister or chief of state straight away, but aspire to get there when you are ready to show your ambition and commitment. I am surprised even now that I remember the names of people that I have had a brief chat to online, or like Mousebumples, a name from a recruitment telegram three years ago to my inbox. These things are now ingrained in my memory, and I'm sure they make impressions on hundreds, if not thousands of others every day. I am fortunate enough to now see that all citizens willing to participate here make this region work, and it makes a big difference to the lives of those people behind the screen. It's certainly helped my fear of being a part of a community like this to subside, and to realise that contributing and collaborating with others is easy when you can jump over the first hurdle to just say "Hi, how can I get involved?"