A big thanks to Ben Myers for the domain name suggestion. A few people said they would have liked oftim.net more, but I figured it was time to embrace the name of the blog. Maybe we’ll see oftim make a return somewhere else, though.
As unpredictable and tempestuous as my emotional state can be, I’ve never had cause to question the depth the connections I have with my family and friends. Even at my most self-absorbed, I could never bring myself to say that no one in the world cares about me or loves me. Perhaps my greatest mistake over the past years has been giving legitimacy to feelings of loneliness. Which leads me to conclude that the loneliness I’ve experienced has very little to do with a lack of companionship, but a discomfort with being alone. It would be easy to pass that discomfort off as me just being a social guy, but I think the existential crisis demands a more complete explanation.
To bring this back to the original question a little bit (what’s my reason for living?), my investigation into altruism as a way of life has already shown me that I need more than just to live for other people. I wouldn’t be satisfied to look back and say “yeah, I was a pretty good friend/brother/son/husband/father” while the rest of my life stayed in relative stasis. That dissatisfaction would eventually overpower whatever drive I had to keep strong with my relationships. The discomfort I feel while alone is, I predict, a foreshadowing of what I can expect in the future if I don’t start to fill in the gaps that no one else can fill.
I used to believe in the existence of soul mates, until a conservation I had with a good friend in high school about arranged marriage. She had a very simple stance: with time and effort, most people can learn to love each other, and that love will be no less legitimate or genuine than the spontaneous love that we value so highly. Our culture craves choice and shuns the idea of something as significant as love being chosen for us, but I see a very similar situation when it comes to how we make our living. We often approach careers from the standpoint of “what am I supposed to do?”, as though there is an optimal answer to the question. I’m beginning to suspect that what we end up doing in our 9-5 is pretty arbitrary, in the end. It doesn’t so much matter what we do – what matters more is how we do it (not always true – I’ll address the exceptions to this more in my next post).
I have wished, on more than one occasion, that I had been born and bred for a specific profession. Imagine the life of a blacksmith in the middle ages, for example. Apprenticed into the trade at a young age, he would be learning, performing, and mastering his craft for the rest of his life. There would be no question about what he was meant to do or why he was doing it, because the answer is very simple: he’s a blacksmith because that’s what he knows how to do. He would, with time, probably learn to love what he does and find satisfaction in his work. He would adapt, or suffer for the rest of his life. Assuming he isn’t a masochist, the choice is obvious.
Growing up, I always hated being asked what my favorite subject was, because I was one of those kids that liked all of them. I’d usually end up picking whichever subject I was best at. I’m a competitive guy, and I take a lot of joy in being the best at practically anything. A consistent trend in my past has been to pursue whatever I’m doing the best at. Much of the time, that’s ended up being video games.
I’m gonna take a second here to discuss video games. Feel free to skip the next two paragraphs. If you don’t care.
Competitive video games are amazing at bestowing a sense of accomplishment. There’s an interesting personality metric for gamers called the Bartle Test, which describes player behavior in four ways: (A)chievement, (E)xploration, (S)ocialization, and (K)illing. I always came out as an ASKE because I primarily focused on achievement, usually through socialization and, at times, pwning other players. To illustrate this, in SK, my character’s primary job was as the high priest of his religion (a social position perceived as high achievement), but he was also the leader of a country involved in multiple wars (a social and killing position, also perceived as high achievement).
The way I played WoW followed the same pattern. Anyone that played with me will quickly remember how obsessed I was with maintaining top DPS (and my constant announcing of crit records – I was such a rogue, lol). As a final example, the way I play HoN would also classify as very achieving/socializing. I’ve made a lot of friends during my time playing, and I’ve spent a lot of time just toying around with the social dynamics of the game. My favorite games have been those where I would turn the tide by raising the morale of the team. I think my favorite game of all time was one where I was playing extremely poorly – by far the worst in the game. I knew we could still win, though, so I relentlessly made fun of myself and the other team to bring the focus away from bitching at each other. It worked, and we won. Far more satisfying than any of my kill streaks, in the end.
There – done with the video game segue.
Unfortunately, I can’t play video games for a living, but I wouldn’t be happy doing that anyways. Professional sports, in my mind, are just another branch of entertainment. Entertainment is nice, but I don’t believe it adds real, long-term value to society. I imagine I would begin to feel very empty if my craft primarily enabled people to distract themselves away from more important matters. Above all else, I yearn to make a lasting impact on the people I meet. That means going deeper. You know. Inception-style.
Next post, I’ll explore the challenges of choosing amidst a sea of frustratingly interesting possibilities, the pros and cons of the “Renaissance Man” in an age of extreme job specialization, and why this is a problem that’s only going to get worse as the internet enters more and more into our daily lives.