Saturday, 12 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 13

Big old wobble last night. After something jogged my memory I've been reading the videogame blog I started writing eight years ago, and let me tell you, if you want to get submerged in wistful nostalgia for the person you used to be and the person you wanted to become and all the hopes and dreams you once possessed, just read the videogame blog you started writing eight years ago. Christ.

So at first it just made me sad. My skin usually crawls reading back old posts, but enough time had passed that I could see this stuff fresh, from the outside, and some of it was really good. Heartfelt, enthusiastic, compassionate -- you get a sense that the kid producing it was on his way to some kind of career in writing.

Except he wasn't. At the time it may have looked that way to others, I even pretended to myself that I was using the blog as a springboard with which to leap into videogame journalism, but with hindsight now I can see how that was never going to happen.

I was so messed up and broken inside, in so much pain, and the writing wasn't a way to enter the world, but to stay just about alive while hiding from it.

Of course there were reasons. I'd had bad acne growing up. Not just on my face but my back and chest as well, from the ages of 15 to about 25, only clearing up somewhat with the most powerful drug you could take, which came with a whole host of side-effects. Even that didn't heal me completely. And I'd been bullied at school, and my self-esteem was torn to bits. I was suffering severe depression and social anxiety. I had a problem looking people in the eye, I hated attention on me and I blushed all the time. I hadn't had a girlfriend in years. I was so isolated and withdrawn.

Yet when I wrote I became someone else. Separated by screens, by time, I could be confident, assured, funny. I could be the person I had always wanted to be. All the pent up emotion now had an outlet, and the videogames that I had played as an escape were now the fuel for the articles I was writing.

But at the same time I was still that other person. The shadow person. Acne-scarred, depressed, full of self-loathing and despair. For a while these two sides of me see-sawed back and forth in a delicate form of balance -- the blog even started to go somewhere, with attention from some people who mattered on the edges of the industry -- but the shadow-self was too afraid, burning with too much rage, and he dove from the see-saw and sent us spiralling into the sand.

I had a kind of breakdown, I guess. I stopped writing, started drinking all the time, worked a minimum-wage bar job, let the years pass...

- - -

So last night I was in bed on Twitter. I had been planning to read my book, but you know what phones are like when you go to put them down. They call to you, like the fucking One Ring of Sauron -- you find you're not letting the phone go but are instead turning it over in your hands, staring at its sleek curves, polished surfaces. You scroll left and right across the homescreens absentmindedly, your face lit in the display's warm glow.

And suddenly you're on Twitter, and half an hour has gone by.

So I had all this stuff going round my skull about my old blog, the person I wanted to be, how it had never worked out, and I was miserable after work, and sitting up in bed, and now I was on Twitter, and here was a Tweet by a games journalist who'd been coming up around the time I'd started my blog, around the same age as me, a few years younger actually.

I clicked the Tweet, followed it to the guy's profile, scrolled down to see what his life has been like, and scrolled down, and scrolled down.

And, man, I started feeling about as miserable and wretched as I can remember feeling. This guy now does Youtube videos with hundreds of thousands of views, podcasts, website work, hosts his own shows, visits conventions, travels the world -- I know he's not totally happy, has pains, hardships I can barely comprehend -- but he is courageous, fiercely intelligent, motivated, and his life is a varied, exciting and full one. Mine, in comparison, involves scrolling down Twitter at 2am drowning in jealously and black bile. This guy has spent the last decade doing so much. And I've done nothing.

- - -

I slept unhappily. Woke up unhappily. But somewhere around my trip for croissants and my morning coffee today I decided to go the other way with this. The way I've been unsteadily going for 13 days now (for the most part). I stumble, I go right back to the path.

I decided not to spend time worrying about what I don't have, but to appreciate what I do. Not to waste the day dreaming of someone else's life, but to use it living my own.

It's pretty common, I think, to stare over that picket fence at someone you admire and wish you were more like them. That movie star, that singer, that saint. Even that videogame journalist, if you're some kind of masochistic weirdo.

But those spaces are taken. Those lives are being lived, with their own difficulties, their own traumas. You'll never get to be someone else. But if you try really hard you might just about, for a few brief moments, get the chance to be yourself.

Your life is not perfect. It is busted, wonky, horrendously scarred. But it is yours alone, and it is glorious. Go out and live it.

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