Question asked by Jess Haskins.
Life When did everything in life become a game? Perhaps everything in life has always been a game, hence the board game. It just seems that as I age, everything from interpersonal relationships, to using public transport to shopping requires strategies, acute senses and problem solving skills which fill every decision with some element of jeopardy, negative outcomes leading to a loss of time, a loss of money and sometimes much worse. Without thinking ahead you’ll find yourself saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, missing the bus or inadvertently being ripped off in a supermarket, drip on drip of anxiety which ultimately leads to exhaustion, mental and physical.
Why does everything we say feel like it’s under a microscope and why is every conversation so fraught with danger that every sentence, clause and tone of voice has the awareness of being picked over because we’re so desperate to project a certain version of ourselves, which also changes depending on the people we’re with? Unlike most, I seem to be at ease amongst strangers because they haven’t worked me out yet, I could still be anyone. The worry only descends when those strangers become friends and I suddenly feel the potentiality to be judged and rejected so I begin to question everything, every word, which is presumably why making new friends, proper friends, trusted friends becomes impossible.
Sometimes it’s easier just to bug out, lose a life. As some of you know I work at the weekends finishing at around five o’clock and there are about five bus stops weaving through the city centre until the place where I should wait. When I began this job, it soon became apparent that because it’s only a half hour, it would always be full by the time it reaches me and it would always drive past. For a couple of years I gritted my teeth but the wait was becoming ever longer, pointless, because of the relative distances. Eventually I just decided to get a taxi home those two nights and absorb the extra twenty pound a month on top of the exorbitant bus fair (£1.90 flat fair) it would have been anyway, worth it just to get the time back and reduce my stress levels.
Even something as simple as buying a Christmas tree. Last year we turned up at the seller a week before the 25th, as usual, and there were few trees left and the only scotch pine was more akin to a branch than an actual tree. Charlie Brown’s was larger. So this year we decided to attend a week earlier and sure enough loads more scotches but they were far too tall for our ceiling and mostly bagged. Which is where the gamesmanship comes in. Which to choose? Eventually we came to a decision, having rejected others for being too bushy or having a longer trunk than we required, but the whole process was amazingly tense, despite the fact that any real tree looks amazing in the corner of the room with some lights on.
I tend to win and lose in equal measure I think, which actually a higher ratio than when I used to play computer games regularly and the only chance I had of seeing past the average first level was via cheat code entered using an Action Replay cartridge in the back of the Commodore 64. But life has few cheat codes, bar the odd money off voucher or competition win, no way to turn off sprite detection or have infinite ammunition (at least I don’t think so). I’ve also realised that it’s up to me to decide exactly what “winning” might be because unlike the boxed game, life itself doesn’t have any particular rules. So I’ll just keep playing and hope at some point I’ll escape the Jet Set Willy infinite death loop by myself.