Wednesday, August 26, 2009
228 Days Up - "This fire is outta control, we're gonna burn this city, burn this city..."
While sitting in the waiting room for what felt like my 700th job interview recently, I picked up a copy of The New Yorker and read a great piece by my longtime favorite author, David Sedaris. In it he described a metaphor given to him by a tour guide in Australia involving a four-burner stove. Each of the burners on the stove represents a section of your life: Career, Family, Friends and Health. According to this tour guide, in order to be successful in any one area you had to turn off one of the other burners. And in order to be REALLY successful, you had to turn off two. The woman telling this story had apparently been a great businessperson, managing her own company and being able to retire at 55. But she said she turned off the 'Family' and 'Health' burners as a sacrifice in order to achieve this.
This part of the story really stuck with me, because instantly my mind went to my own personal stove, which quickly expanded to 14 burners: "Exercise! Improv! Cats! My Netflix Queue! Cooking! Curing Baldness! My Facebook Page! My Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess game that I still haven't beat!," and so on. And speaking of video games, they are easily the largest, most consuming burner of them all! You simply can't play every awesome game out there and be a functioning member of society. Loving video games as much as I do, and wanting to play them all thoroughly is the equivalent of turning down every other burner.
However, the bigger issue was that for every other burner I've managed to keep active, I've definitely kept 'Career' on a very low flame, much to my (if nothing else, financial) detriment. I've fought so hard against being the trapped in a cubicle/dead end job/other work-related cliche that I wound up running all the way in the opposite direction, to Funsville, where you get to pursue all the hobbies you want, keep 10 TV show season passes on your DVR, and generally sleep more than most people, all the while your friends and colleagues are looking at houses to buy, and you're just barely making rent (though the lack of job for 6 months thing is a big factor in that). So, given all of this, the scary question I've been asking myself since reading the article is: "It's been 30 years, and I've had a great time in Funsville. What burners am I willing to turn off at this point to focus on my career?"*
This mentality carries a certain morbid association with work. I know the dream is to make a career out of something you already enjoy doing, thus enabling one to 'merge burners,' as it were, and and make better utilization of your flames (yeah, I think I've used that metaphor fully by now). I guess there's a certain fear in making that conscious decision to shift focus away from anything I'm currently enjoying doing with my time, for fear of missing out on something. Even silly things I've come to pride myself on, like being the guy who's great at keeping in touch with old friends. But unfortunately the metaphor, when taking literally, is absolutely true: splitting yourself in 14 directions just makes you 1/14 as dedicated to each area as you could be, if my crappy math is correct.
At the end of the day, I've been down this road before, and the name of that road is also the name of this blog. So maybe it's time to do something like Paused again on an even bigger scale. Pick a direction, and just run with it. Go to business school. Really focus on that job in the game industry. Get serious about my writing. Start going on auditions. Or...you know, I could also just win the lottery. That would also work pretty well.
The aforementioned simple action of reading the Sedaris article in the New Yorker actually led to a moment where I realized that sometimes I really am honest to a fault (or perhaps just stupid). During the interview proper some time later, the interviewer, who thus far seemed to be fairly impressed by me, left an opening for me to get a bit philosophical with her. Since I had the four-burner article fresh in my mind, I started to tell her the story I started this blog post off with, about how I grabbed a copy of the New Yorker from the lobby while I was waiting, and she instantly interrupted me, saying:
"Oh my GOD! I LOVE the New Yorker! It's the only magazine I read!"
To which I could (or probably, should) have responded: "Totes, yeah!" or something perhaps a bit more business-like but equally agreeable. Which isn't even a lie, it's just me not revealing to her that I actually only pick up the New Yorker once in a blue moon, and when I do, I do a quick scan for David Sedaris articles, and if he hasn't written one for that issue, I quickly put it down, which is basically what I said to her in response:
"Actually, I don't really read it as much as I should...I'm just a big David Sedaris fan really."
Why on earth did she need to know that? More importantly, why did I feel the need to come forward with this information? Was I concerned that this small, seemingly inconsequential lie - or more accurately, 'non-revealing of truth', would somehow snowball into a cataclysmic event years down the line? Did I think she would come over to my desk one day, and just before finally giving me that big promotion I had worked long and hard for, reference a recent non-Sedaris article in the New Yorker that I had no idea about, and when I looked at her, mouth agape and a clear look of panic in my eyes, would she stand up suddenly with a seething sense of betrayal and fire me on the spot?
Well, I didn't get the job. So I guess I'll never know. But rest assured I didn't fudge a single detail of that story, loyal readers!
Currently Playing: Almost nothing, since my 360 died. Managed to blow through Flight of the Conchords Season 2 (hilarious), and Dexter Season 3 (fantastic) to pass the time though. Both are highly recommended by yours truly. Tomorrow, if all goes well at the end of the night I'll be home with my repaired 360, and a copy of Batman: Arkham Asylum. Oh, and also Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box, a serendipitous release I'm excited to bring with me to PAX. I'm totally going to make friends (lady friends?) using the tricky puzzles in that game as an ice breaker, just you wait and see!
*The answer: ANYTHING but my Netflix Queue. I've worked far too long and gotten way too far to give up now. But...it just...keeps getting LONGER!!