When I came up with a new personal code of conduct this past January, I placed the most value not on what I wanted to accomplish, but how. As such, the most important rule I set for myself was to not be frustrated when (not if) I failed to immediately live up to all my expectations. Having been fueled by frustration for most of my life, I have an annoying and highly self-destructive tendency to throw all my hopes and plans into the dumpster at the first setback. Usually this comes about because I become willingly distracted by some stimulus and forget about all the big things I want to accomplish. The stupidity comes about when this sloth frustrates me into giving up and engaging in further, more depressed sloth. The result of this cycle often becomes that I get so spun around that, when the distractions are all conquered, I’m left with no idea of what to do next. This is where I’m currently at.
I am a junkie, not for alcohol or drugs, but for bullshit. I’m not being melodramatic or romanticizing the situation at all. My sense of obsession is titanic, and rather than use that potentially wonderful quality to fulfill all the big goals I want to accomplish, I derail myself at any given distraction. The title of my stimulus review column, The Designer’s Drugs, is not so much a clever, rebellious name as it is an admission that entertainment can – and often does – become an addiction.
Even now, even as I’ve outgrown a lot of my past stupidity, I’m fantastically addicted to addiction. If I’m playing a video game, I tend to complete every side quest and every achievement. I loathe watching television shows because watching every episode in a series takes too much time and effort, and with TV shows, if I’m in for a penny I’m in for a pound. I spend hours, days, weeks, and months on the internet doing little more than absorbing trivia, yet I find that I don’t know how to turn off the switch. I’m brilliant, in all the wrong ways.
My current theory is that all of this comes from a feeling that all stimulus is there to be consumed or conquered, which isn’t surprising considering that I was raised by video arcades and Nintendo. It’s this line of thought that justifies why I stopped buying cigarettes, as I’d go through a pack a day simply because it was there. It makes much more sense for me to pace myself and steal cigarettes from my friends.
So if I can view every aspect of my life in gaming terms – winning, losing, high scores – is it possible for me to enjoy life as it is? Whether won or lost, a game is over. Life isn’t really like that, as I’m coming to realize.
But strangely, awkwardly, and full of failure, I’m getting better. Sometimes.
My only rationalized consolation for the time I wasted between January and now is that most of the wasting went according to plan. During that period, a few video games came out that I knew would be awesome, including a remake of one of my favorite games ever, Final Fantasy IV. I consciously decided to get these games, and didn’t feel bad about it at all.
Perversely, this is a drastic improvement over the days when I would buy crappy entertainment of any kind simply to get new things. At least I wasn’t wasting my time on consuming something I didn’t even really like. This is me maturing.
Unfortunately, my taste in games runs toward epic strategy games that take weeks to complete, so even my reasoned decision ended up with me playing these games from waking to sleep, for days at a time. I wasn’t frustrated by this, but I sure wasn’t being fulfilled, either.
Equally unfortunate was what happened once I emerged victorious and had no more worlds to conquer. When the last game was finished, I had no desire to get another throwaway game, to watch throwaway television, to drown in the throwaway internet. I was done being entertained, and I had no idea what to do next. Victory had crippled me.
I’ve spent the time since reading, in my conquering junkie style, but I’m not reading mindlessly or gluttonously. Soon the books I’m working on at the moment will run out, and I’ll be in the same position I’m in with all the other forms of entertainment, not knowing how to flip the switch from mindless reception to brilliant transmission.
I’ve spent a month trying to figure out the answer, but in that time I feel like something might be building, if I allow it to. The temporary breakdown of my brain I’ve been slogging through has sucked, no doubt. But it may have been necessary. I’ve always been kind of an idealist nihilist in that I feel that I’m at my best when I have nothing. Maybe this is the nothing I’ve been waiting for.
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