The Game Developer’s Conference is starting today, and I’m not there. I haven’t yet managed to reach the heights of either profitability or notoriety that make attending practical, so I have to sit out for now.

It’s not a disaster, but it’s something that saddens me, if only slightly, about the life I currently lead.

I’m trying to steer a path between two extremes: On one side, we have poverty, which I have a regular flirtation with but keep at enough of a distance that I can feed and house myself, however humbly. On the other, we have surrender, giving up all of my time to further someone else’s ambitions, flying their banner, so that I don’t have to struggle to get by. Freedom is somewhere in between, but it’s a narrow path.

If I cede too much ground to indulging my own desires, I run into money problems rather quickly – these problems are less immediately threatening to me than they are to many, as I have a number of friends and family guarding my safety. It’s a terrifying thought, to me, how many people have to brave this chasm without such a safety net. This is one way in which I am incredibly lucky. I hope never to be forced to rely on these, though, since at that point I’ll feel ethically obligated to take whatever work I can to regain my self-sufficiency, regardless of how far it may take me from my own ambitions.

It might not sound so bad, taking whatever job, and for sure it’s better than the lives that many people have been forced to live. It is a terrible sign of indulgence that I’m dissatisfied at the idea. However, there’s things I want to do, and if I can’t live a life that takes me where those things are, I really start wonder what the point is. If I spend all my time grinding money to secure a future, what does the actual future I’m securing contain? If I concede my precious time to someone else in exchange for money, what is the money actually good for? What could it get me that would possibly be as precious as what I’m giving up?

I’m hungry for time, hungry for freedom, and hungry for money, but each hunger abides at a manageable level, none too consuming. I constantly worry about that balance being thrown off.

I don’t mean to complain. Even as the balance is delicate, even if I’m poor and lonely, the life I’m living now is kind of amazing. I don’t know if I could keep doing what I’m doing now if I thought I had to do it forever, but nothing is forever. Perhaps all I need to do is hit a certain critical mass of completed work, and pressures from all directions will start to ease – or all I need to do is discover a set of smaller ambitions, closer to home and easier to grasp. But I don’t think it will ever be easy: I don’t think I have it in me to lead a life without wanting to do something at least slightly impossible. The life I choose will probably never be a contented one, I’ll never be able to sleep but to imagine sheep grazing on greener grass, but it’s enough for me that it be one that I chose for myself.

I don’t know what more anyone could ask for.

  1. Tertia said:

    Just yesterday I was reading an essay by the poet Mary Oliver in which she talked about jobs. She said she’s had many jobs in her life but deliberately stayed away from working at anything she would enjoy, because she wanted all her mental and creative energy going to her poetry. For much of her career she even refused to teach, because she enjoyed it. I’m not saying I necessarily agree with her; I’m just saying you are not alone in your fervent desire to guard and protect this part of yourself. That desire will safeguard you if there comes a time when it is needed.

    • Yeah I’m not sure if I would go that far. I mean, if she’d enjoy it that much, how can she know that it wouldn’t, in point of fact, be actually a better use of her time? It’s tricky, figuring out time. I end up resenting time a lot because of that.

      I don’t worry about whether that impulse or that ambition is good or bad or healthy or unhealthy any more, though. It’s just become part of my identity. It’s an axiom by which I devise my own system of navigation.

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