At 6:43 p.m. this evening I officially turned thirty. For the last few days — weeks, even — I haven’t known exactly how to feel. Mostly I wasn’t even thinking about my upcoming milestone birthday; I’ve been too preoccupied with how wholly dissatisfying and depressing life seems to have been of late. My wife and I have dealt with a lot of stress: career issues, medical issues, and some that have been a combination of both. This has been going on for months, and is largely responsible for the dearth of posts on this site. On any given day, after I finally get done with work and chores for the day, I don’t want to think about doing much more than playing video games or reading.
I feel like things started taking a turn for the better today, though. It seems odd to say that now, because the first half of the day was filled with little stresses that really got under my skin: incompetence at work; awful seasonal traffic filled with bad drivers making dumb decisions; my doctor treating me like my time wasn’t valuable by making me late for a meeting while he carried on a conversation with his next patient during my appointment time. After that, though, things got a lot better — thanks in part to my wife and family, and thanks in part to my simply freeing my mind, taking charge of things and declaring, “Fuck it.”
I had an impromptu meeting (which I was late for, as I mentioned) at work, during which I received another massive assignment that came out of nowhere as they always do, to design all the user interfaces for a new web app that’s going to do project management, customer management, task management, time tracking, employee management, support queueing and just about everything else. At its conclusion, I pretty much said, “Bye, fragsters.” I hung up the phone, logged off the computer and went to Gamestop. Yeah, no shit.
My wife bought me Heavy Rain (the new PS3 game) and more Microsoft points. We picked up my parents, who are here in town, and went to Carrabba’s for dinner. After a good meal we came back home for some birthday cake, and queued up the Office Space DVD for a few laughs (we’d been quoting it in the car all the way home). It was a great time, and a great way to kick off the next decade of my life. For the first time in a while, I felt like I actually have something to look forward to as that next decade marches on.
I’ve always allowed myself to be taken advantage of to some degree, and I’m about tired of it. If I could make one personal resolution as I enter my thirties, it’s to stop being such a goddamn pushover. Or, if I absolutely must accept being pushed around, to have the balls to push back when it’s strategically advantageous. My company has really put the screws to me over my health care, and since Christmas it’s been one stress after another, more and more bills, confusion and red tape — all so they could save their W-2 employees a few dollars a month while I lose my coverage entirely. For the month of February I’ve paid for two insurance companies at once while my employer drags me through this transition, and most of it I don’t really expect to get back. How bad do you think I feel about “cutting class” early today so I could do something for my own birthday? Not a damn bit, frankly.
I am, however, going to go into my work tomorrow with a clear head, with a renewed focus and energy on my tasks. I finally feel like I’m breaking through into a place where I can actually care about my work again, in a way that I haven’t been able to for weeks upon weeks. At the same time, I’m going to remember that that in this world, no one gets ahead without taking advantage. If you play the nice guy every day, you’re not going anywhere. You just have to know when the right time is to unleash your inner “bad guy.”
So, while I go forward into my thirties with the aforementioned in mind, what else have I got in store for my week? Well, when I’m here at home — this doesn’t apply in Thailand, where I don’t have full control over my activities — I like to bring a little slice of birthday celebration to every day of my birth week. A nice meal, a slice of cake, a marathon session of gaming, a favorite Star Trek episode, or whatever else suits my fancy.
On the gaming front, there’s plenty for me to do. I’m still going through Mass Effect 2, which is easily the most amazing game I’ve played in 2010 — and which I feel will be a Game Of The Year contender, even knowing the kinds of titles that are yet to release this year. It’s the perfect blend of adventure, role-playing and shooting, all tied together by a well-written story with a cast of excellent characters voiced by some real powerhouse talent. If you even remotely like sci-fi space opera, Mass Effect 2 is unquestionably a game you must play.
There’s also Heavy Rain, a PS3 exclusive that I just picked up today (thanks honey!). This is a different type of game — a sort of interactive narrative that makes you feel like you’re playing a movie. Admittedly, there could be limited appeal with such an approach, leaving players to grow bored or complain that they’re not playing so much as watching. But the free demo I tried was actually quite engaging, and despite the fairly wonky controls, I decided it was worth a purchase. I like these “interactive story” type games, and felt like rewarding and supporting the developer rather than saving it for the bargain bin or the rental store.
I almost picked up BioShock 2 today as well, but had to be realistic: I wouldn’t be playing it for weeks to come. I’ve still got Mass Effect to get through, and then — although I am embarrassed to admit it — I still need to finish the original BioShock! It was a game that I got about halfway through before putting it aside thanks to a tidal wave of amazing games that all landed at the same time, and the fact that I missed the first three weeks of the game’s launch due to my Xbox failure. Once I get ready to play the sequel, I may frankly pick it up used. To be honest, I never thought of BioShock as a game that needed a sequel — but I hear that, as a sequel, it’s actually quite good.
As an outro, I’d like this post to serve as a the first in a new line of posts that return to my original theme — commentary on news items, reviews of movies and games, and general gabbery about work, music, life, and whatever else I may be into at the moment. I’ve really let this place go, because in a way I think I really let myself go, emotionally at least. With so much to talk about in the news now that personally interests me, and with my goal to set foot on a new path, now seems like the perfect time to get back to that. Starting tomorrow, I hope, that will come to fruition. Stay tuned.