Monday, July 25, 2011

My Life As A Rubik's Cube

Here it is. My Everest.

This evening, on my bus ride home from work from Harlem to Astoria, I spotted a young man playing with a Rubik's Cube. It's a rare sight these days, but I'm sure Mr. Rubik would be happy to know there are still people frantically sliding around colored columns and rows left and right, keeping alive the last lingering fad of the 80's.

I instantly recognized that I was watching a pro. The kid rotated each section as if by instinct, barely ever stopping to check his progress. For a brief moment he had managed to claim the entire orange side, and no sooner had he accomplished this than he immediately continued on his mission, sacrificing his reward for a chance at greater glory. And as he casually rotated away what I considered to be any sense of progress, I got a little bit of agita. I wanted to stop him, or at least tell him to soak in the nine nicely arranged orange stickers just a little bit longer. I turned away to leave the boy to his fate, not wanting to relive my own experience with that devilish toy.

I'm a big gamer, and I take personal pride in the number of video games I've beaten over the years. I knocked out Mike Tyson in Mike Tyson's Punch Out!! for the NES, starting the game from the very first fight. If you have no idea what that means, know that this is a pretty big deal (ask any male who grew up in the late 80's/early 90's for confirmation). But I've never even come close to solving Rubik's Cube. And it wasn't because it's more of a cerebral puzzle. I've beaten plenty of those, too, jerks. I'm convinced I never solved more than one or two sides because once I got that far, I was unable to progress, for fear of ruining the sides I had already finished.

Objectively I knew (and had seen) that it was impossible to solve the puzzle this way, one color at a time, never allowing a side to undo itself once completed, but it didn't matter. Whenever I tried it, I'd delicately arrange my moves to avoid the completed side, and I'd get nowhere. Eventually I'd get frustrated and give up. At this point, there was always a part of me that wanted to just remove the stickers (or take the pieces apart) and replace them so it looked as if I completed the puzzle, but I knew this would have been an empty victory, like beating Mike Tyson with a cheat code of some kind.

I turned back to check on the audacious child and noticed that he had completely solved the Rubik's Cube, with every one of its six sides glistening in the bus' neon lights. I wanted to grab it from his hands and shuffle each section around wildly, returning it to him completely unfinished, but I knew he'd just solve it again, this time even faster. So instead, I sulked. After a few minutes, I got over my seething jealousy long enough to do some soul searching. I started thinking about the reality of the incomplete puzzle and what it represented in my life at large. I realized the agita I felt when I watched a side of the cube go from complete to incomplete was the same agita I felt when I tried making any major changes in my life. Creatively, professionally, romantically - the metaphor seemed to fit across the board. I hated making any changes to my life that sacrificed a single piece of what already "fit" in my life. What made me comfortable.

I want to pursue my dream job, but I still have to go to my current job 40 hours a week, right? Then when I get out of work, I can look for a new job at home for a little while, but what am I supposed to do, not watch TV or hang out with my friends any more?

I want to meet and date lots of beautiful women, but I hate bars, and besides, hanging out with my board game buddies is always a lot more fun than going out anyway.

I want to be a writer, and I'm gonna start writing all the soon there stops being an endless supply of awesome video games to play and beat.

The pattern is obvious. In order to finish the cube, in order to get all of those sides to be the appropriate color, I'm going to have to get over this agita, and do what it takes to finish the puzzle. I'm going to have to give up a portion of whatever level of comfort I have right now in order to have a shot at getting everything I want. Maybe I'll only end up with three or four sides of what I want completed. Maybe I'll only get two of the sides, but they'll be the two most important sides to me. Maybe I won't finish with a single side matching - but maybe this new, asynchronously-colored Rubik's Cube that is my life will be awesome in it's own special way, a way that I can't even visualize right now.

There are so many possibilities! But first I've gotta make a move. Any move, really, as long as it messes me up in some way, nice and good. The agita will now be a sign that I'm headed in the right direction.

So on that note, off I go!

Yes, I bought a Rubik's Cube, but clever readers will also notice a few revealing  Easter Eggs here, including how I need a DVD binder, how much I am stupidly willing to pay for shipping, and the last word I looked up for this post.
Ok, so, maybe this move is more symbolic (this blog post was the bigger accomplishment of the day, technically), and not so much agita-bringing or life-changing, but hey, if I can solve this damn puzzle after all these years, on top of also beating Mike Tyson back in the day, what can't I do, friends?

The answer: NOTHING!!! 

Hmm, that double negative doesn't sound so great. Let's try this again: if I solve this puzzle and I beat Mike Tyson before when I was a kid, what else do you think I can do, friends?

The answer: ANYTHING!!!

There we go.


PS: I will definitely post back here if and when I manage to solve it.

PPS: Am I allowed to look for strategies online, or is that cheating? I did take writing classes, you know. That's like, a kind of strategy guide for writing.


void said...

Hi Matt, how's it going?

Your post is nothing short of inspirational and a mirror of my own life, to an extent (as i'm guessing it is for many others). I had exactly the same approach trying to solve the cube and eventually gave up all together, precisely for not wanting to mess up the parts that were already "confortable". It did indeed translate into my life and how i hate to shuffle my life around. Or maybe the latter is the reason we gave up on the cube in the first place :)

In any case, it's good to read someone sharing similar experiences because, hopefully, it will make one think about what can be improved in one's life.

Thanks again,

Monique "Katie" O'Donnell said...

Love your analogy. Beautifully written and stated.

-Monique "Katie"