The Opposite of Popular

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The (in)famous "a winner is you!" screen from (knowyourmeme.com informs me) an NES game called "Pro Wrestling"

2016 Week Fourteen: Life Is Not a Game (And That’s Okay!)

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This is a thought I had while brushing my teeth earlier, not something I arrived at through years of careful deliberation (although, maybe?), so I’m not claiming it as a great philosophical breakthrough or anything. I just love a good metaphor*. Anyway:

Life is not a game.

Since life is not a game, you cannot possibly win it. You can’t win it by

  • Getting to the top of a career path or
  • Having a “perfect” family life, or
  • Finding your “true” love, or
  • Being the most popular, or
  • Being the best at something, or
  • Collecting the most stuff, or
  • Collecting the most money, or
  • Anything else

Not only do you not win the game by doing these things, you don’t get any points for doing them, either. That is, those things all lead to rewards, if they’re things you value, or are rewards in themselves, but they are not quantifiable. In particular, they are not quantifiable against what other people have. You cannot tot up your progress through the “career” questline, your accumulated skill points and the value of the contents of your inventory to get a number that you can compare to other people’s numbers to see who is playing the game better.

To be honest, this is a little scary. For me, a big part of adulthood so far has been coming to terms with the fact that nobody is ever going to hand me a piece of paper with a score or a grade or a percentage on it that I can use to prove to my parents or my peers or myself that I’m successful. It turns out that there is no universal definition of success in the adult world. That means no quest markers, no map and no paths to follow (and, regrettably, no god mode). No promises about what will happen if I follow all the rules and do everything “right”.

But, you know what it also means? FREEDOM. It means that I get to set my own rules, make decisions based on my own values and choose my own definition of success. At the moment, that definition is “being as happy as possible for as much of my life as possible” and so far I think it’s the right one.

I’m not saying this is easy. I mean, there’s still the flailing and the anxiety and the self-doubt about whether I’m making the right choices to achieve that success. Also, as someone who used to get a lot of pieces of paper with large numbers and friendly letters and sometimes even smiley faces on them, it’s probably been especially hard to break my dependence on regularly being told that I’m doing great.

But I’m happier than I used to be and, in the future, I think I will be happier still. And that’s good enough for me.

The (in)famous "a winner is you!" screen from (knowyourmeme.com informs me) an NES game called "Pro Wrestling"

source
Pictured: not life

 

*I learned this about myself during a period of counselling. I was knee-deep in a metaphor about chocolate or something and the counsellor was like “You… seem to really like using metaphors?” and I realised that I was explaining literally all of my feelings in terms of things that were not feelings, which was a weird mixture of “impossible to understand” and “really, really helpful (to me)”. I still do it, but I try to keep it mostly in my head. It’s like** my head is a bar of chocolate and the metaphors are a sweet caramel filling…

**What do you mean, that’s a simile? YOU’RE A SIMILE

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10 thoughts on “2016 Week Fourteen: Life Is Not a Game (And That’s Okay!)

  1. But you can collect Achievements, for whatever you deem an Achievement: for example finishing a TV/book series; completing an online, free course (if you want some of these, try the Open University: they have some quite interesting ones, although I have yet to get to the end of one. I just keep starting them;, baking all the cakes in a recipe book, eating your veg more days than not – whatever you like, really. I had an issue at the end of last year when I suddenly realised that I couldn’t think of anything I’d actually Achieved. So this year I’m trying something new…

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  2. Pingback: 2016 Week Sixteen: I found £35! | Victoria Leybourne

  3. I collect achievements in my planner. Did I exercise today? Fuck, yeah, I did. I get a sticker with a little barbell on it. Did I edit today? I certainly did. Sticker with a pencil. Did I write today? Yup. Sticker with a book. And so forth.

    Also? Set your metaphors and similes free! One of my friends and I have conversations that are almost entirely in metaphor. During this process, we also end up naming a lot of fantasy indie bands we might someday have. My current favorite is “All the Wrong Donkeys”.

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    • I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before, but Carl got me a magnetic star chart to record my achievements (mostly writing and housework, because my ability to self-motivate on those is SHAKY) and I get dinner when I reach a certain number of stars! I could definitely find a place in my life for stickers as well, though…

      Consider this my order for an “All the Wrong Donkeys” t-shirt, which I will wear with pride! 😀

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      • OMG. You’re a genius! I should make Roxanne a “All the Wrong Donkeys” t-shirt for her birthday. Or our friendaversary! I should make extras… 😀

        The magnetic star chart is faboo! Carl is wise and wonderful!

        Normally, I hate stickers. I hate them on books, and dvds, and all the things. However, as a reward system in my planner, it totally works. Because as it turns out, I’m still basically a potty-training toddler.

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      • I love the idea of a friendaversary present! You could put the dates of cool things you’ve done together on the back like tour dates!

        I am a potty training toddler too. The magnetic star chart actually came with magnets that had achievements on them, so you could put them on the board and get stars for them. One of them was “used the potty” but Carl wouldn’t let me have stars for that 😦

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      • Tell Carl I said he’s a funhater. 😀

        I love that idea – with the tour dates and whatnot. I wouldn’t have thought of adding that to a friendaversary shirt. Last July, our friendship was old enough to legally drink, so I did a friendaversary blog post about it. 😀

        I made a shirt like that for my mom last year when she retired from the psych department of the university where she’d taught for 33 years. It had her teaching dates and I listed her last semester of classes on the back with the times and my son drew a nifty graphic for the front. It said: Dr. Portko’s Farewell Tour on it. It turned out pretty great. 😀

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      • I will. Because he IS.

        That’s such a cute idea! You are a good gift-giver! 😀

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      • Thank you! Gift giving is one of those things that I really enjoy. I especially love making gifts, but I’m also happy finding the perfect gift.

        For instance, I got a friend of mine these socks: http://www.amazon.com/Sock-Me-Squid-O-Womens-Socks/dp/B00939U0P4/ becasue giant squids are her favorite. She loved them, of course. But when her husband saw them, he was like, “That BITCH!” Because apparently, he’d wanted to get them for her, but Amazon was out of stock. I only felt a little guilty. 😀

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