Gold stars

I was a good student all through school. Even in my high school years, when I was depressed and didn’t care much about anything, least of all my grades. And while I can’t say I didn’t take it for granted sometimes, you do tend to get used to making good grades. You take on a project, you do good work, you get a gold star.

Adult life was, therefore, a rude awakening.

I’ve held a variety of jobs in my adult years, especially since I started freelancing. Of them, I can count on one hand the jobs I’ve had where I regularly received positive feedback. Usually you only hear from your employers when you’ve displeased them. It’s a hard adjustment. You have to either start believing in your abilities a great deal, or stop caring so much what others think. I suck at both these things.

Somewhere recently, I read that the reason guys like video games is because it makes them feel like they are accomplishing something, often in short order — fight a few battles, go up a level, reap rewards. Often with fanfare theme music. I used to game myself, and I can attest to this theory. When life was moving too slowly and the gold stars were slow in coming (pretty much the whole of my 20s), I could go home, turn on the television, and save the world. When my personal life was in shambles, I could play Sims and live vicariously through my avatars.

As of late, I’ve not been playing video games. It feels like such a waste of time for me. I’d rather have something to show for my down time — a clean house, or increased physical endurance, or a project, or simply time with my kids. But I find myself even wanting some way to quantify time with the kids; I create lists of things I want to do with them, teach them, experience with them. I am not big on unstructured time, it would appear.

Upon reflection, I believe this is because I’ve made life into my video game. I set goals, map out how to achieve them, and go to work. Nobody’s giving me a gold star for completion, nor do I get prizes for moving to the next level, but I still feel accomplished for having done so.

It’d be nice if I got some fanfare music every once in a while, though.


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