To the guild, for the new year!

Happy 2019 to the greatest guild in ESO... not that I'm biased or anything!

It's been a little over a year since I last wrote a letter to the guild and much has happened since then.   We've seen many members leave us and we've seen many others join.  And as our roster changes, so too does the color and character of the guild.  2019 will be no different.  "The only constant is change" as the saying goes.  So I'd like to spend some time talking about where we've been, and then touch on where we're going - including some announcements I'm excited to make!


Perhaps the best way to start 2019, and this letter, is with an open-ended question to all of you.  What is the guild's identity, and what makes it special?  Have a think about how you might answer.


It's a question I've thought about many times.  It's a question I've asked many times too, to our officers, to my friends, and to the guild as a whole.  Who decides what Gulda Femina is?  And is it a question that needs to be answered at all?


For those nostalgic for the past, it can be hard to reconcile the Gulda Femina each of us thinks of as the original with the guild we have today.  The constant evolution of the guild can feel like a steady and inevitable departure from something we look back on as somehow better, more pure, more ideal.  It can be tempting to try to hold on to what we remember most fondly.  For those who crave change or are new to the guild, it's very much more natural to look forward, optimistically, and see the guild for what it is today and where it might go next.


As for me, the founder and architect of the guild and its constant overseer, I have a unique perspective that sets my mind on both sides.  It's been a goal of mine in the last year to approach being the leader of the guild in a way different from before, which I think is a better way for the guild as it is today.  And that's learning to appreciate the past while letting go of it, and taking pride in the present and not trying to interfere with it.  Let me explain.


Last May I prepared and published a survey and asked you all to take it.  It was a great way to learn more about the things I can't see, and it has helped me better know the way forward.  One question was "how important is guildmaster participation to you?"  And to my great surprise, the feedback was that for most of you that's very important.  And that's flattering, to be sure.  But I must admit, I still wonder if it's really true.


Putting any value judgments aside and just focusing on facts, you could say that Gulda Femina was most in keeping with the person I am when I began it.  Because there were no other members and I could lay things out however I pleased there were no opinions to consider other than my own.  Essentially, I outlined an ideal and threw the results out there to see if it would resonate with anyone, knowing that I had absolute authority to dictate things however I wanted.  And as I've said many times before, it was magical seeing it all happen.  It astonished me that anyone would be interested let alone feel strongly about it.  I met some great people too, who I would never have known otherwise.


The guild grew and I had a ball, and for a year or so everything was easy.  Trusted friends became officers and there were new adventures to look forward to every day.  In addition to the friends I'd made I had my character Esphal as my constant companion.  Developing her character, writing her story, watching her grow and celebrating her achievements was as rich an experience as almost any I've had in my life.  Richer than any story from a book or movie.  She will forever be important to me, because of how much I experienced through her.


Things were wonderful with Esphal, but as membership continued to grow and we added more and more complexity to the guild I myself started to get overwhelmed.  ESO was taking over my life.  Emotionally it was very intense, and managing the guild was incredibly time-consuming.  I needed help in a way I hadn't needed before.  I started relying more heavily on my officers.  And they stepped up, and picked up the slack.


I will forever be grateful for that.  It was an inevitable step in the evolution of the guild.  And the fact is it forever changed what Gulda Femina is.  It was no longer an expression of my singular vision.  It became a place where different opinions carried weight, and had an influence.


But let's face it, I'm a control freak, and the change didn't come naturally to me.  (It still doesn't if I'm being honest, and I still can't help myself sometimes.)  I wanted to have my cake and eat it too.  That is, I wanted help and input from the guild but I remained inflexible on how decisions got made.  It was still my way or the highway, and I'm sure that tension made things very hard on the officers and made people feel resentful in general.  Guild members and officers were trying to find their own places and trying to shift the guild toward their own ideals, and often I found myself in the way of what other people were fighting for.  And so the mood became increasingly tense, the atmosphere seemed charged, and everyone seemed to have an opinion about everyone else.  More bad than good.


The guild started to fragment.  On a few different occasions people left in groups.  I began to find myself no longer on speaking terms with people I'd known since the beginning.  I got a lot of heat thrown my way and I started to feel more and more alienated.  And worse, I was quite unsure of what to do about it.  There didn't seem to be any easy solutions.  And so I started to do the one thing I knew couldn't make things worse.  I started being less visible.  Talking less.  And sometimes, deciding not to offer my opinion when problems arose.  It's true that many people saw that as me being indecisive, or felt that I was shirking my responsibilities, which was a whole other set of problems to face.  But I had come to the understanding that the guild had reached a critical point.  The point where my opinions were no longer always representative of the majority.


Since that time friends have heard me vent and complain when things have irked me and done their best to offer advice.  "If the guild isn't yours anymore, change it back and don't worry about what people think."  "Don't be wishy-washy."  "Get people back in line."  "You can't please everyone Mix so stop trying to."  Well-intentioned advice, to be sure, and advice I've often agreed with in times of high emotion.  But to circle back to my original point, as time has passed I no longer see the guild's evolution as needing to be in line with my own ideal state, despite my emotions.  In truth it only needs to be in line with the ground rules.  It can be a different place than it was at the beginning and still be a place I can feel proud of and enjoy.


So back to the question of guildmaster participation.  Why do I spend time hidden, or alone?  It's because I see more and more that the best parts of the guild today are not of my making, and changing those things to suit myself is not what's best for Gulda Femina.  What we have today is just as good and admirable a place as what we've had at any time before.  And as more and more of the rough edges get smoothed out I'd argue it's even better now.  I still dip my toe in the water if I see things I know don't serve the guild well, but mostly I enjoy staying back and watching, and appreciating the beauty of what we have.  I know from experience that staying out of the spotlight enables the guild we have today to run at its best.  And I know myself well enough to accept that I'm an introvert who prefers small groups.  Sure, the idea of me attending events regularly might sound appealing, but in reality I question how much me being there really adds.


Of course I DO need to have some fun too... and I have one or two new ways to do that in the coming year that fit me a bit better, which some of you might also enjoy.  So read on!

Our PG-13 rating, and why I'm so stubborn about it.

While I'm getting used to being more passive in the everyday goings-on of the guild, one thing I still insist on is that the guild's charter be followed.  For the most part the rules laid out in the charter are obvious, easy to abide by and understandable.  But the PG-13 rule has always been a tricky one.


I think most of you know that when it comes to indecency in guild chat I'm very inflexible.  Feedback on that has ranged from simple agreement to harsh criticism.  "Stop treating us like children".  "I've always hated that rule".  And so on.  Trying to explain it has been difficult, but I remain determined to keep it in place.  I don't want you all to just follow it blindly though.  I really do want you to understand why the rule exists.  


Hmm.  Maybe an analogy will help illustrate my feelings better.


If you've ever been lucky enough to have dinner at a five-star restaurant then you know how special an experience it can be.  Fine china and silver, incredible food, exceptional service, beautiful surroundings, maybe even a little piano music in the background.  Sure you could argue that only snobby materialistic people go to places like that and you aren't snobby or materialistic, but do me a favor and leave the negative connotations to the side for the sake of this example.  It's a magical experience when it's done well.  It's... special.


You wouldn't wear a t-shirt and shorts to a place like that, would you?


Well... you could.  If they're nice enough not to kick you out the door.  But it wouldn't really be in keeping with the environment.  You might even say it would take away some of the specialness, if everyone dressed that way.


I don't aspire to model Gulda Femina after a fancy restaurant.  But the idea is the same.  And you can enjoy the specialness of the guild for even less than the cost of fast food.  And just because your waitress is wearing a dress doesn't mean she won't wear a tank top and sandals on her day off.  (And believe me I wear some dirty sandals. ;))  It's that everyone there is choosing to put in the effort to make something special, even though they don't have to.  There isn't anything inherently special about a restaurant.  It becomes special because of who is in it and how they're presenting themselves.


Asking for language to stay PG-13 is like asking a man to put on a coat at the Four Seasons.  It's one obvious and easy way to uphold the idea.  It's not the swearing.  It's the effort, and the attitude.  Take a look at zone chat on any given day and ask yourselves how you'd feel if that were the guild chat.


To extend the metaphor, if you show up in shorts I'll ask you to change.  Not to be a jerk.  Not to censor you.  Because I want the guild to be a place we can admire.  It's no more complicated than that.

So what's new with you, Mix?

Hey, thanks for asking!


The last time I wrote I took the liberty of revealing a little about myself, and I got feedback that a lot of you appreciated it.  One person, who I'm sad to say has since left, wrote me a beautiful letter in reply, thanking me for opening up and sharing a little about herself in exchange.  Knowing I'd had an effect that way was very heartwarming.  And since it will also serve as a prelude for my announcements I think a little more is only fitting.


I put a lot of effort into how I write, and what I say, because I know that words are powerful and dangerous when misunderstood.  I also do it because clear communication was a necessary skill to have when I was young.  I'm the product of a home that saw a divorce when I was not yet 10 years old.  My sister, who is older, left to attend high school out of state to escape a mother who was extremely emotionally needy and chronically depressed.  That left me to grow up as my mother's caretaker, always on guard, always the rational one, always careful to say the right thing.  Of course I wasn't aware of this at the time.  Things seemed okay enough.  But like any child I was indoctrinated into my mother's way of thinking and it took time to learn that I have a different way.  Untangling your childhood can be a messy business.  It was in late June of 2015 that I made the decision to end my relationship with my mother.  That was less than three months before ESO, and Esphal.


I speak lovingly about my character Esphal and think of her as if she were real because of what she's done for me since then.  Having an outlet for expression and discovery that I could keep at arm's length from myself was a gift.  I put so much of myself into her.  Too much, in hindsight.  But I knew it was safe.  And all in all I'm better for it.  She got me through an extremely difficult time.  I don't think it would have been possible to stay sane without Esphal.


I've spoken about that before, and god knows my ESO friends have heard plenty about Esphal.  But what I haven't spoken about in as much detail is what those friends have done for me, and meant to me.  Each in his or her own way.  And mostly that's because I can't.  It's private, and I'm behind a curtain, figuratively speaking.  That's hard for me.  My ESO friends have been some of the closest I've had.  Not having the freedom to show how much I appreciate them is the greatest curse of being anonymous.  


If you're anything like me then one or both of these things is true for you too.  Our ESO friends, and our ESO characters, can be very important parts of why we're all here.


For me... those are the most important parts.


And for that reason I have an announcement to make.

I'm proud to present... Gulda Femina's Fellowship!

Starting today, all current members are eligible to join a BRAND NEW GUILD made specifically and exclusively for role-playing, led by me!


Before I get into the particulars I want to make a few things clear.  Nothing is changing in Gulda Femina, I will remain the guildmaster and Gulda Femina events will still happen as they always have.  Gulda Femina's Fellowship is not a "sister guild" and won't replace or compete with anything currently covered by Gulda Femina.  Think of it as a club for guild members who want a way to focus specifically on role-playing from time to time.  


I don't expect a huge number of you will be interested, and that's perfectly fine.  You shouldn't join if you don't have a specific interest in role playing and to get in you'll need to apply first.  But if you do have an interest, here's how it works!


The Fellowship is a “role play only” guild.  What matters in the Fellowship is your character, and everything you do in the guild you do as your character.  Because of that, communication in the guild is written.  There is no voice chat.  And the guild is bound by the world and lore of Elder Scrolls.  That is to say, there is no Earth, there is no internet, there are no electronic devices.  There are some technical requirements that are necessary exceptions... but you get the idea.


I mentioned earlier that you need to apply to get in.  That’s not exactly accurate.  YOU, as a member of Gulda Femina, may join freely.  But your characters must join the Fellowship by asking, and if you wish to use more than one, each must ask.  Don’t worry, there is no test, and no one will be turned away.  It’s only necessary to keep track of the lore and make sure any who join are serious about participating. 


The Fellowship will only have one “prime time” event each week, on Tuesdays.  All other guild activity will be carried out informally, whenever the mood strikes.  And if it does, what do you do?  Simple!  Set your online status to “Away”.  That will signal others in the guild that you’re available!


So what’s the story we’ll be telling?  What is the Fellowship?  Well, it will start next Tuesday the 8th with an introduction by a character of mine who will function as the founder, and from there it will become whatever gets played out.  And that’s up to everyone, not just me.  It won’t be just one story.  Each character will have a story, and your character’s story will be up to you!


There's a lot more detail to come, but in the meantime, if you're interested, ask me for an invite!  You can also check in on the guild even if you aren't a member by visiting http://guldafemina.com/fellowship  


I'm very excited about this and hopefully some of you will be too.  And with a little luck it'll help me come out of hiding a bit more often.  Maybe it'll even make me seem a little more approachable, and I'll stop hearing things like...

"Mix... you're intimidating."

This comment, and others like it, have been coming to me for a very long time.  Even though I don't want anyone to feel this way about me, I'm aware of it.  It frustrates and troubles me.  And so far I haven't found a successful way to change it.


I know I can be difficult.  As I said before I'm a control freak.  I want things done a certain way and I get snippy when that doesn't happen.  And I don't give people many opportunities to get to know me.  I've been less visible as time has passed, for reasons I've already mentioned.


But I also have a personal history that makes me difficult to interact with.  Another personality trait that comes from having a very needy and emotional mother is emotional sensitivity.  Being able to read emotions accurately is a skill I needed at a young age and it's never left me, and I suppose it's helped me make friends I can feel emotionally close to.


The thing is, it's exhausting engaging with people at that level.  In a guild with dozens of active members I can't be a friend to everyone that way, as much as I might wish to.  I have too many other people in my real life who need my attention including a significant other who's also my closest friend.  When you spend your formative years with someone who relentlessly takes without giving back, with constantly escalating expectations, in order to protect yourself you have to establish boundaries.  Consequently as I grew up I became colder, more private, and more resentful.


When I feel safe I'm thoughtful and caring.  I'm someone who can write letters like this and be open.  But when I don't feel safe, or in times of stress, I'm cold and stubbornly direct.  And unfortunately I think it's that side of me that people pick up on.  I don't mean to be intimidating, I just rewired myself to be that way out of necessity I guess.  Despite my demeanor I AM someone who tries always to be fair and open and I want to encourage you all to remember that, and remember that I will happily talk to and support any of you if you need me to.  No one will ever be reprimanded for speaking his or her mind.


But if I'm still too unapproachable I'm happy to announce that there's a new way to talk to me without fear of consequence!

Anonymous feedback is now a thing!!

At long last I'm able to offer the guild a place to submit feedback to me directly and completely anonymously.  Just go to http://guldafemina.com/feedback and fill out the form there.  Doing so will kick an email out to me.  There are no restrictions whatsoever on what you can write, though I would prefer constructive feedback as opposed to "Mix you're a c***".


I desperately want feedback from the guild and I never feel like I get enough.  Nothing you write will offend me.  So please, make use of this tool.  You can, of course, provide your name if you'd like a reply.  But if you just want to pass along your thoughts, rest assured, I have no way of knowing who you are.

Moving on and... shedding weight?

A new year has started and for many people that means making resolutions like "be more organized" or "save money" or "spend more time with family".  I'm starting my year off with a diet of sorts.  It's time for Gulda Femina to lose a little weight.

  

To bring Gulda Femina up to date, beginning today and over the next month all members will need to notify me of their wish to stay in the guild.  It’s easy to do but the message must come to me directly, in one of these ways:


1. Send me PSN mail

2. Whisper me in-game

3. Say so in guild chat when I’m online

4. Send me in-game mail

5. Make or reply to a post on Discord

6. Make or reply to a post on Facebook

7. Email me at esphal@guldafemina.com


Asking for a message to be relayed to me is not sufficient.  You may not reply on someone else’s behalf.  And no one is exempt from this requirement apart from Rose rank.  Members joining in the month of January are automatically counted.


On January 20th I’ll publish a list of anyone I’ve not heard from and will update it daily.  On January 25th anyone who still hasn’t replied will be demoted to a temporary rank indicating they are on the chopping block.  And on February 1st anyone remaining in that rank will be kicked.


So there’s no confusion I want you all to stay.  The only reason I’m doing this is because after more than 3 years we have a lot of members who are no longer active and a little housekeeping is in order.  

Is there anything else new going on?

Of course there is!


In February we'll be launching a contest that everyone can participate in.  FANTASY BATTLEGROUNDS!  It will start with an exhibition phase, in which battlegrounds players who wish to be part of the draft will show off their scores and flaunt a little.  After that, anyone wishing to participate in Fantasy Battlegrounds can draft those players using a predetermined budget and track the performance of their team over a series of battleground events.  There are some quirks to the rules (for example players can be drafted by multiple teams) but it will all make sense when the time comes.  And of course there will be prizes for the best players and the best teams!


We'll be ramping up the frequency and scope of RAFFLES, AUCTIONS and GIVEAWAYS in 2019 with a focus on two objectives - increasing our gold reserves and getting members talking to each other and doing more together. 


Expect to see some new weekly events this year too!  An ACHIEVEMENT-BASED weekly event will become part of the rotation, where groups set out to complete a set of player achievements that wouldn't otherwise be covered.  And we'll be adding a SIREN DAY which will give our Siren members opportunities to shine.


Housing events will continue to be a focus in 2019, including a new way to show off your skills.  Members will be able to compete for a chance to make their home the GUILD HALL for a month!


That's just a taste of what's on tap as of today but we're always looking for more so if you have an idea share it with us!!

Some days I love my job...

Saving the best for last, I'm extremely happy to announce a whole bunch of promotions!


I'm honored to be able to welcome DLR5K to the rank of Sultry.  DLR has been a constant and unwavering supporter of the guild and has always ALWAYS had my back even during dark times when few others did.  He's generous, humble, cooperative, and just nice to be around.  I'm thrilled to have him as a senior officer.  He's more than earned it.  Congratulations DLR!!


Please help me welcome FOUR new members to Elegance rank!  Here they are in alphabetical order.


If you have any exposure at all to the guild's social media then Becca_Boo_Boo82 needs no introduction.  She's one of our newer members but her great investment in the guild makes her an easy choice.  She gets a little scared when I try to talk to her, but I think she'll get over it.  ;)


Have a question about ESO?  Chances are Jmacc8223 knows the answer, and she'll gladly help you if you need it.  Jmacc is a long-time Guldie who's seen the guild go through its share of rough patches and weathered the storms.  If you can accurately guess the full names of all of her characters I'll be quite impressed!


Some of you may remember when Kathlen99 was an Elegance officer the FIRST time around.  If you do, you probably have an opinion about her.  Kathlen is my friend, and as her friend it's been a joy seeing her find happiness and love.  She still has strong feelings about pretty much everything, but nowadays if you disagree with her she's much less likely to bite.  ;)


Taking on a high-stress event like Sewer Saturday is no easy task.  There's a lot to manage, not the least of which is keeping order in a chaotic environment.  So perhaps I should add "cat herder" to the list of ministock21's skills.  Maybe he can make use of it in an even more chaotic environment - officer chat.  ;)


And speaking of officers... thanks to majority votes by our officers I'm pleased to announce that we have FIVE new Siren rank members!  Please join me in congratulating Anwen266, BlackTearsOfHope, fairydust8558, miakuD4 and Spartaxoxo! 

Thanks for the letter Mix but can you wrap it up?

Yes I can!  Thank you all for taking the time to read this very long letter!  I'm wishing you all, and the guild, a great 2019!  :)