Sunday, March 26, 2017

The rest of my life

The past while I have been mulling over what to do with the rest of my life.  Of course what that really means is that I need a new obsession for a year or so, it isn't really about the rest of my life, but it seems more interesting if I phrase it that way.

I have been thinking about what I do and the level of satisfaction it brings.  I am a homemaker, but I think I am an odd one.  Most people in that role either really love things about being a homemaker or just love raising children.  They change their artwork on the walls to be seasonally appropriate, bake special cookies for different times of the year, take up crafts, or do other similar sorts of things.

The idea of me changing my artwork seasonally makes me giggle, and seasonal baking and knitting are much the same.  Not that I deride anyone who wants to do it, but it sure ain't my thing.

Most of the time I talk about the things I do as not feeling important.  Wendy gets to run off each day challenging herself, chasing her dreams, learning amazing new things and meeting all kinds of like minded people.

I get to do the dishes.

The dishes are not inspiring.

However, the dishes are a thing that is worth doing.  Some of my previous jobs were almost entirely worthless from a 'making the world better' standpoint.  One even made the world worse.  It made me so frustrated to be doing work that might as well not be done.  The dishes, though, those need cleaning.  It isn't exciting work but I do feel a sense of satisfaction from doing it.  When it is done I know I have finished something relevant, something that definitely isn't making the world worse.  The dishes also don't take up all my time and they leave me room to do many other things.

I know deep down that an awful lot of work that people do is completely worthless.  They attend meetings that bring no value.  They fill out forms for no reason.  They try things they know are counterproductive because someone above them wants to look good to someone further up yet and they don't care if it pans out because they will be promoted by then.  Most people do work that has some real value, but everyone does a lot of totally pointless timewasting crap.

Shopping, doing the dishes, cleaning the sink, these are real things that need to happen.

What they don't offer is flow.  Nothing in my basic duties does, unfortunately.  I can't get into flow because all of the stuff I have to do is trivial.  It won't challenge me.  It doesn't make me push myself to be more than I was before.

This is something I have only just realized.  I need to stop thinking of things as having utility to my mental health in general, but rather as having utility either as being good to do or hard to do.  I need both.  If I spend my life doing hard things but bring nothing to the world I won't be happy.  This is why I would struggle as a professional poker player, say.  I would love the play, it would bring me flow, but I would also feel like I was leeching off the world and being worthless.  Whereas if all I do is sit at home knitting and cooking and cleaning I will not find flow, and though I will be useful I will not be fulfilled.  There will be something missing.

I need both things.  There isn't any real chance of me changing my profession at the moment so I will have plenty of useful things to do.  That is well covered.  I need to shop and scrub the toilet and make dinner.  Those things aren't interesting, but they have real value to me in terms of feeling like I am bringing something to the world.

What I require is a better source of flow.  I am currently playing World of Warcraft a lot, and sometimes that brings me flow but a lot of the time it is just a time sink much like a TV show that is interactive but with a crappy storyline.  An enjoyable time sink, but not something that makes my life better, really.

I remember years ago I spent a ton of time modding Civilization 5.  That was a task that definitely brought me flow for a great span of time.  It was a combination of creating, analysis, and play that was superb.  Other times when I have been building games have been similar.  Perhaps that is what I need to return to - not any attempt to monetize game design, but just pure creation.  I need another game that isn't quite there to seize me and force me to fix it, tinker with it, make it perfect.

The easiest way to achieve this is to start a new game from scratch, I suspect.  In the past my games have always begun with a small moment of inspiration followed by months or years of grinding my way towards completion.

I suppose my conclusion is that I need an intense moment of inspiration, some moment of tremendous imagination, to give me a new thing to smash my mind against.  I wonder if that is a thing I can just create, or if it is simply random.


  1. While I know this isn't the point of your article - what does your Civ V mod do, and is it worth playing?

    Good luck finding your next big thing.

    1. I gave up modding before either of the big new content patches came out. In the beginning my mod was about fixing some imbalances that kept the AI from being competitive. I changed buildings and units so that they were all useful, but made sure that they were situationally useful. In the base game many buildings were flat out never worth building, so when the AI built them it fell behind. Same with some units being basically worthless. This meant that the AI could only be competitive with *massive* floods of units, and I found that game style to be horribly boring. With my balance revamp mixed armies were actually the best (instead of just spamming the one best unit) so the AI was more competitive at lower difficulty levels, and the ridiculous unit flood wasn't necessary to make the game hard. The AI actually played mixed armies reasonably, once the units were balanced better.

      I also changed terrain to some extent so that the special terrain features were better. I liked the idea of caring a lot about which features your city was near like sheep, fish, etc.

      The quick answer is that I made units and buildings all useful, but highly specialized, so that you would make different choices based on game state instead of always doing the one good thing that you do every game.

      However, the new expansions came out after I stopped modding and they are pretty good, so I don't think playing my mod right now would be advisable.

  2. From April to July, join me in trying to win Grand Prix Toronto! It's only 4 months (not even!) - the financial hit won't be *that* bad...especially if you win more than you lose!

    This is a good post with a solid question, and I know the feeling. I was going to suggest that this is like a mini mid-life crisis, but when it happens to me it feels a bit more like I'm just bored with what I've recently been doing, or a bit depressed.

    It's tough to find new things to be excited about. They kind of happen unexpectedly in my experience. If you find a trick to it, let me know. And if I'm inspired by ideas to inspire you, I'll be sure to share them.

  3. I feel like knitting is getting a bad rap here. It has challenge. And it makes my life 'flow'. Also think of Aunt Heather who dyes and spins wool of a certain colour, size and quantity to knit a sweater of her own design, and just now is knitting sleeves in the reverse direction because she may run out of yarn before the end. They can be made shorter at the cuffs but not at the top. All very challenging. And good luck to you in your quest!

    1. I am not knocking knitting for other people. It just doesn't do it for me. I know it can be a challenge, and you can get into it in a big way. Not my jam, is all.

  4. Maybe revive your passion for atheism and get it flowing - someway, somehow???
    Or become the next Lin-Manuel Miranda - write a play about Plato the way he did about Hamilton?

  5. Maybe this will help?

  6. Sigh. And here I am, knowing exactly what I want to do to make things better (by advising people who do good deeds) but not having a position. It's tough being a do-gooder...
    I've ended up with more hands on parenting than I anticipated and time to deal with minor but chronic health hiccups. Adequate time for classes and socializing is happening too.

    I guess I'm replying in part to say yes, I get feeling like you're not doing something you'd prefer.

    I suggest you read or watch The Queen of Katwe. I can totally see you in a mentoring role like that :)