The Game of Life
I was 33, my second son was six months old, and my wife and I were starting the paperwork to purchase our first house. I was driving to work, to a job I had expected to leave before I turned 30, a job which nonetheless provided me with enough money to support my wife and now my two sons and perhaps the house we wanted to buy. As I drove to work I thought about numbers. I thought about how much more we would pay with the mortgage, about utility bills, about picking up an extra shift now and then to pay the mortgage and the utility bills. It was like a game, these numbers. I was good at games. In games you add up your numbers – the pips on your dice, your hit points and armor class, your batting average – you add all these numbers and at the end you know if you’ve won or lost. It was very clear because your victory is measured in numbers that cannot lie.
I get it, I thought. I see how you could fool yourself into thinking this is enough. This is quite a big game, learning how to survive and provide. It’s a long and important game. I can see how I could spend 20 years playing it. You could be 40 or 50 before you understand that there is absolutely no winning, maybe longer if you’re determined to keep playing. Why, I could do it with this job. It doesn’t matter that I really don’t like the job. Liking it isn’t the point. Winning the game is the point.
I’d like to tell you I turned around at that moment and drove home, but I did not. I had a new baby and a new mortgage and I wasn’t about to leave my job. But I understood then that a life-long gamer like me had to be careful. If someone hands me dice, I want to roll them, and if someone shows me a finish line I want to be the first across it. I can’t go looking for a finish line that doesn’t exist – if I did I’d only run and run and run until I dropped.
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