I went to bed earlier than usual (which is probably the time I should actually be going to bed regularly, at around 10pm), and I found myself awake around 230am or so, and hungry. Had a peanut butter / milk blended drink and came back to bed, and I’ve been having a bit of difficulty sleeping so I thought I might as well fire up the laptop and write another vomit. It’s interesting to pay attention to how words just flow out of my brain through my fingers and onto the screen with barely any conscious effort whatsoever. I’ve pretty much mastered the art of typing in English on a QWERTY keyboard. It’s a strange thing to consider, that I can do this without even thinking about how I’m doing it. I suppose I can do similar-ish things on the guitar by just moving my hands around, and all of spoken language and thought is more of the same thing. I find myself thinking, what else is like that? What other behaviors? In a sense, opening Chrome and then Googling for something is sort of the same thing, a sort of subconscious behavior-pattern, a habit. And to change that sort of thing would require really slow, tedious, deliberate effort.
Anyway. There were a couple of things on my mind. One was video games again, for some reason. My very first vomit was about video games and productivity, I believe, and about how gamification should be a plausible way to approach the dreary bits of life. While I was lying in bed (I’m still lying in bed, but now I have my laptop open) I was thinking that it’s so strange and almost sort of sad (not in a “that’s pathetic” way, but in a sort of wistful, weird way) how many hours I’ve spent throughout my life playing video games. I found myself thinking about Battle Arena Toshinden– I downloaded a demo off the Internet, a version that only had 3 available characters unlocked, and I must’ve played that for hours. Then I thought about some unnamed Playstation fighting game that I played for hours too, where the commands for the characters were remarkably simple. Then I found myself thinking about Street Fighter, and hitboxes, and how there was a particular character’s voice that was stuck in my head and I couldn’t place which game it came from (I realize it now as I’m typing this– K’ from King of Fighters).
I wonder, what did other people do with their lives and their time, as children? I’m guessing more accomplished people did things like sports, piano lessons, maybe spent more time with their families. I had a friend who, at the age of 14 or 15, was incredibly good at the guitar. I knew others who were dancers, others still who read even more than I did. I played video games and I wasn’t even all that good at them. I wasn’t that disciplined. I tended to fuck around. I recall some odd motorcycle racing game that I used to play– and now I’m remembering that there was a drummer from another local band that was insanely good at Need for Speed.
What a strange, suboptimal use of a childhood. I suppose there must have been many others who have had it worse. And I suppose the very idea of optimizing one’s childhood is a little silly and a little sad. But I find myself thinking now of the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and how the two girls that Amy Chua raised were high-functioning kids who went on to really good schools, and were able to play music at a high level of proficiency. Those are skills that stay with you, they are force multipliers that heighten your appreciation of everything else that you do, everything else that comes afterwards, even if you end up completely rejecting your childhood and your upbringing. Even if Amy Chua’s kids hate her (and they don’t), they would be exceedingly articulate in their hatred thanks to their upbringing.
So I do sometimes wonder what my life would’ve been like if I had been brought up by overbearing parents rather than sorta-lackadaisical ones. I suppose I would have a whole other set of competencies, but I’d also be totally different from who I am. It’s an interesting thought experiment, but the most it can do for me is remind me of the arbitrary nature of the configuration of all things, and how everybody has different contexts and entirely different ways of conceiving of reality.
And the thing about that thought experiment is– if for some reason or another I feel like I missed out in life because I didn’t have some insane structure imposed upon me for me to develop discipline in, well… I can impose that on myself. I can still do it. And while life isn’t a competition, I can’t help but think that there must be a large group of people who “do well” early on because of the structures they around them, but then go on to resent those very structures. I find that… I’m coming to sort of resent my own lack of structure, maybe. When I recognize these thoughts arising I recognize that the proper thing to do would be to dismiss them. They’re provincial, simplistic. Life doesn’t need to be so tribal– I can and I should expand my perception to transcend superficial, petty competitivenes (what is that even for, anyway? What petty greviances am I allowing to consume me when I entertain these thoughts? These fellows my come along to knock at my door, but I’m not inviting them in for tea.)
Nothing lived ever goes to waste if you’re mindful and kind. I truly believe that. Everything that I’ve experienced- even the seemingly boring and mundane and frustrating and wasteful– all of it is clay for me to work with. I recognize that things will never fully settle down in some sort of hyper-orderly calm, but I do believe that I’m making progress towards a more effective management of ebbs and flows. Breathe in, breathe out.