Rambling — The Lack of Long-term Goals

I was talking to a friend the other day (a game developer who’s been working closely in the industry for a few years), and I told him that if I had had my way, my ideal career would be writing up the storylines to video games. My thought was that I could be the lead writer for an indie company, because that avenue has been growing more and more prevalent over the past decade. It wasn’t his intention, but he said something that was really disheartening, which was the fact that the project that he’s currently working on has over forty developers and zero of them are just “writers”.

Now, the thing is, I’m not sure how well his situation translates to my ambitions, because the project that he is on is unannounced, and therefore he can’t tell me about it. It sounds to me like the thing that he’s working on is very mechanic-driven, with little to no narrative. (I’m struggling to avoid using the term ‘game’ here, even if that is almost assuredly what he is doing). You don’t need a narrative for a game like Chess, after all, and for all I know he’s just making Super Chess.

I don’t like facing the fact that he’s probably right—there’s very few careers for a writer in the video game industry, meaning they will be hard to get and more than likely, none of them would be exclusively writing. (I love brainstorming, but there’s no way in hell anyone would pay me to sit in an office 40 hours a week to brainstorm with people and string story threads together.) But the problem with that is that I have no other marketable skills for that industry.

The vast majority of the time I do a pretty good job at not worrying about the future and just live in the present. Building towards and preparing for my life in two years is all well and good, but looking much further than that doesn’t tend to yield very accurate results.

What concerns me here is that I have no real passions. I’m sure that’s not uncommon with a lot of people my age, and so I should count myself lucky that I tend to be competent at most everything I pick up, but what I don’t want to do is be sitting in the same spot 10 years from now wondering when I can start calling myself an adult.

It’s stupid, I know. I’m already an adult and my life started decades ago. Some people live their whole life waiting for it to start, but if nothing motivates me into kicking myself into gear, what is there to do?

I used to think I’d be a published author by now, well into the first few novels of a fantasy series, but as it turns out I get bored with long-form writing and burn myself out. I have this irrational (if commonplace) fear that every aspiration I turn to will yield the same results.

They say not to make your hobby your day job, but my only hobby is D&D, and I already consider it a load of work. Ho-hum. Rambling over.

Me — How to Find Your Energy

I had a really heavy workload last semester of school, as you might have guessed by my unprecedented absence from this blog. I was working a lot, directing a play I wrote, and doing what I would simply describe as a mini dissertation for one of my classes.

Towards finals, I was starting to get really stressed. I would get home from work or class, and based on the schedule I outlined for myself, I would often have a single two hour chunk of free time to get work done before it was due in the morning. Problem was, I would get home with no energy to do any of that; the only thing I’d want to do is sleep.

This problem was surprisingly and miraculously solved when I watched a video from one of my favorite “public” figures: Day9. He’s a streamer (known for Starcraft) that I’ve talked about a while back, an old post of which I did not re-read, so browse at your discretion. He has a very casual and sociable persona, and he’s one of the people I admire most because of that.

That video was a snippet of one of his streams; just a conversation where he’s talking about this very thing: How do you structure your life in a way that allows you to get the work done with the time that you have? You can watch the video with that link, it’s about 9 minutes long (he does occasionally curse, though). But I’ll also just talk about it in my own words.

The solution is actually alarmingly simple. You can start tomorrow, in fact, and you don’t need to prepare. You’re not going to like what I have to say, but let me tell you, all it takes is the discipline to commit to your own promises and the ability to restructure your day to day.

All you gotta do is wake up early and do all the extra stuff then. If you’re trying to learn a language, write an essay, whatever doesn’t matter, don’t set yourself up for failure by pretending today will be different. It won’t. You’re going to get home from work exhausted like always and then you’ll hate yourself for looking at Instagram or Reddit for two hours after you get home.

But let’s say you have work at 9. Here’s what you do: You get up at 5am. Yup. 5. You cry a little inside, maybe take 20-30 minutes to get up and you curse me for convincing you to do this, but then you get up and get ready for your day. By 6am you’ve showered and eaten, you’d be ready to walk out the door now if you had to. But now you have 3 hours to just do stuff. The house is quiet, nothing going on, you’ve got the whole day ahead of you, and now that you’ve woken up you’ve got the energy to work.

That’s when you write that essay, or go to the gym, whatever you want to be doing more. You devote some time in the early morning, and by the time you get home after work, you’ve already done the stuff you want to, so now you won’t hate yourself for wasting the rest of your night. Maybe you’ll go to bed a few hours early, but who cares? You’ve already done the things you need to. Plus, if you go to bed early, it’ll make getting up earlier that much easier.

I tried this in the middle of a work and school week, throwing caution to the wind, and it changed the way I did my day-to-day. I’d get home with so much more energy because I wasn’t dreading the work I’d still have to do after work. And because I got up at 5am every week day, sleeping in on weekends meant getting up at 7-8am. I felt like every day suddenly and magically had 3 extra hours.

So, that’s it. Watch that video if you’re not convinced. Give it a shot. Trust me, I know waking up that early is awful. But if you can do it, you’ll feel better, and every day after that will be easier and easier. Especially if you’re a morning person like me, sleeping in until even just 10-11am feels terrible because there’s no morning left.

I wish you the best of luck, and as a farewell note, I highly recommend doing things that wake you up immediately. Shower and eat right after you get out of bed because there is no being tired after that. If you jump out of bed and immediately start working on an essay, you’ll just fall back asleep and you’ll hate me all the more.

Me — Saving a Hummingbird

I like to tell people that I’m not a nice person. I don’t believe in altruism at all, in fact. Altruism would imply that somebody would perform an action that provides no benefit at all to the self, but this simply does not happen, because even at the inconvenience of the supposed “selfless” person, the act of helping raises one’s own self-esteem.

The funny thing is, I think being nice is just a convenient way of being selfish. Often, when I do a nice thing for somebody it’s not because I actually care, but because I will internally be able to tell myself that I’m a good person. I often look at situations and think “How can I get the most out of it?” and this often takes the form of seeming selfless. By doing the right thing for it’s own sake, not for fame or monetary gain or anything else, I allow myself to think I’m amazing.

So it was that my friend and I found a hummingbird sitting on my driveway, wings splayed out and breathing heavily. Now, I should tell you that this was on a very hot day. Nearing or above 110°F, because who doesn’t love Southern California, am I right? So with the hummingbird sitting in the shade, my first instinct was that she was just trying to cool off. So I pulled out a cold water bottle, filled the cap, and laid it in front of her so she could drink. When she didn’t even look at it, something seemed off.

I told my mom and she said it’s strange that she would be sitting on the ground for shade instead of a tree, which made me think that something was wrong. We went back outside and I noticed that her eye was messed up, and her feathers were ruffled on her head. In fact, I couldn’t even see a right eye, but it might have just been the feathers getting in the way. Either way, this was definitely the cause.

I’m not sure I’ve ever touched a wild creature before. At least not something I would consider an “animal” rather than a bug. I was tentative this time, because she was very small and her wings were extended. I was afraid she’s fly away if I was too careful, and afraid I’d hurt her if I wasn’t. She did try to fly away, and she seemed to be able to fly just fine, but she didn’t fly far. Maybe her eye really was gone and she couldn’t see very well. So with more courage, I picked her up and put her on our front porch where she’d be safer from local cats (which might have been the culprit to begin with).

My mom got a good look at her and told us we should take her to the vet. I was a little discouraged by this. My friend and I were planning on binging Avatar: The Last Airbender, and neither of us had eaten in a long time. Plus, my car currently has no AC, so getting in the car and driving, regardless of distance, would be pretty miserable.

We drove to the only vet in town I was familiar with (the place we took my cat nearly two years ago) and told them what happened, and they explained that they aren’t certified to treat wildlife. The only place nearby that is is about half an hour away. More driving. Ugh.

On the way there, I shifted the subject away from the hummingbird and the blistering heat to talk about a story I’ve been working on. Both of us needed the distraction, and I think it worked moderately well. I even think I figured out the bump that’s been discouraging me from writing (that particular story, at least, my ‘spark’ is still missing).

When we finally got there, we got out of the car just as an older couple was walking out and getting into their car. They see a young couple with what is pretty much a shoe box, and the lady says “Oh, what’s that?” We tell her it’s a hummingbird, and her eyes light up. She explains her friend owns a hummingbird rescue, and asks us to hang around while she calls her friend to explain the situation.

The coincidence here is astounding, so we wait while she talks to her friend on the phone, and then when the conversation is over she offers to take the bird off our hands. She even shows us her business card to prove that she’s legit. She probably mistook us for a couple that cared deeply about animals and the environment and whatnot, and don’t get me wrong, we do, but one dead bird is not going to change anything. I honestly didn’t care if the bird made it, I just wanted to put her in hands more capable than mine, and this was a serendipitous moment.

So, we ended up getting home and actually settling down nearly two hours later than we intended to start watching, but a story came of it, and I did the only logical thing. I couldn’t have just left the bird there knowing I could help, and the last thing I would have wanted was to try to forget I saw her and then see a dead bird in the driveway the next morning.

Me — Unlocking Your Own Secrets

I’m a very introspective person. I’m constantly thinking about things and framing my experience into sizable chunks, and a lot of my life is characterized by the need to constantly improve myself and my personality.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that we as people do things for the wrong reasons a lot, even when we ourselves don’t realize it. I’m constantly trying to better myself, but I often misdiagnose the problems in the first place simply because knowing who you are isn’t always simple.

Let’s imagine a person, we’ll call him Jack. He’s very extroverted, pretty attractive, gets along with everyone. The kind of person that goes to lots of parties and has a huge social media presence just because they’re so sociable. Jack has a problem, though. He never makes time for specific people. He’s too busy hanging out with and being everyone’s friend. He might say he’s too busy with other friends to actually spend time on any one person. His best friends are just the people that he hangs around most when he goes to these parties.

But what he doesn’t realize about himself is that he doesn’t make actual, meaningful connections with people because he’s scared. His mom left when he was a kid, and he never understood or overcame that. He doesn’t want to get close to anybody because he’s terrified that if he allows himself to be vulnerable, that person will leave him. He may not realize it, but the brain has a way of doing things even if you’re not aware of it.

I’m not going all Freud on you, I promise. But even when we try to learn why we are the way we are, we may not be able to find a solution. You have so much baggage surrounding your life that it’s hard to parse what is and isn’t relevant towards for determining the reasoning behind your behavior. It gets even harder when we rationalize actions based on false information to unconsciously hide ourselves away.

I wish I could know every objective truth behind me and my actions. It’s a lot like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle of your brain, only you don’t know what the picture is supposed to look like, you just have a pile of pieces with no edge to work with.

But when you tell a friend about your troubles, they’re not looking at the information the same way. They don’t have all the baggage that comes with your life, they’re just thinking about the information you give them. Imagine them watching you struggle to put this huge puzzle together and they say “Dude, the box is right here, why don’t you just look at it?” The answer seems so simple that it’s hard to believe, but the more you think about it, the more you realize they’re right.

Of course, this is what psychologists and therapists are for, but sometimes a good, close friend can do the same thing.

Self discovery is a quest never finished, but it’s a much longer journey when taken alone.

Me — Kindness Towards Strangers

I was driving around the other day. One of the two days we had rain in the last several months. I had just gotten gas, and was on my way to a friend’s house when I noticed a girl using her backpack as an umbrella as she walked down the street. The high school had just gotten out of class, and I imagine she was probably walking home.

This situation upset me a bit, because as a person, I’d have liked to stop and give her a ride home. I wasn’t in a hurry, and her walk seemed rather unpleasant. But society has taught both me and that girl that that is inappropriate. I could not be kind simply because it would have put me in a position of power, and were I a worse person, something bad could have happened. There was nothing I would have been able to do to help her outside of driving to the store, buying her an umbrella, and bringing it to her.

The worst part is, if I had pulled over and managed to convince her I was trustworthy, the conclusion to draw from that would be that she is too trusting a person. Sure, I would have just driven her home (or wherever she was going) and been about my way, but wouldn’t that give her the impression that the world is a better place than it actually is? If the person pulling over to help her was anyone other than me, whom I would claim to know somewhat well, I would advise against getting in the car. So if I had helped her, and everything went well, I would only teach her that it’s okay to do that, when it’s not, because any time you put yourself at the mercy of a stranger is an extremely dangerous risk.

I think the takeaway here that our society (at least where I live) is very distrusting of strangers, and in some ways that’s a good thing. But in this case, it means that kindness cannot take the simplest, most direct route. It’s a shame, but it’s probably better this way. I imagine any times and places where this situation would be innocuous would also end up getting a lot of people hurt.

Obviously, I’ll say that kindness is something our world could use more of, but I think that statement will always be applicable. We simply have to find appropriate ways of doing it that don’t teach strangers the wrong lessons. Also, another thing people don’t seem to realize about helping strangers is that it makes one feel better about oneself. This is another can of worms, but I don’t believe in altruism. I think people do selfless acts because it allows them to feel better about themselves. At least, I know that’s why I do nice things.

So maybe helping people shouldn’t primarily be about forcing other people to trust you in order to prove your intentions are virtuous. Maybe we should focus on doing little things that allow both parties to walk away happier.