Everyone loves a happy ending. Good guys win, bad guys lose, the hero gets the girl and rides off into the sunset, and so on and so forth.
This isn’t one of those stories – not yet, anyway. I’m currently stuck somewhere in the middle of act two – the “facing impossible odds and trying to figure out how to fight my way back” part.
A very peculiar thing happened recently with the crew here at GDC. For some strange reason, several of us decided to completely reboot our lives, all within about two months of each-other. Dave and his family pulled up their NYC roots to head south to sunny Dallas, while Sean and his wife went the opposite direction, leaving behind sunny California for rainy Seattle.
These are pretty big moves; in comparison, I only headed south about a hundred and fifty miles or so. But right now, it feels like I’m still driving down, and I can’t figure out which exit is the right one off the highway.
First things first, though…
PART 1: FEAR AND LOATHING
It hasn’t been an easy couple of years for me. There are some things that I simply cannot discuss here; suffice to say that there are very few ‘feel-bads’ that have managed to miss hitting me squarely between the eyes. I’ll take full credit – while some things have been out of my control, many are firmly my own damn fault. Life is full of choices, and somewhere along the way, mine started to end up wrong.
It’s the classic “road to hell is paved with good intentions” conundrum. But I digress.
My standard operating mode has long-been to take the path of least resistance, but as it turns out, the safe choice isn’t always the best choice. I turned 39 last year, and for the first time, I started to honestly reflect on where I was in my life and where I looked to be headed.
I really didn’t like myself all that much, and I was terrified of what I needed to do to remedy that.
But I knew it had to happen if I was going to turn my life around, and I knew that inaction got me to this point to begin with. The writing was on the wall at my employer of over a decade up in Vermont, so when the opportunity arose to transition to an amazing company in the village of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, I discussed it with my wife and accepted the new position. Giving my notice felt amazing, and I found that I was honestly excited about what laid ahead of me.
Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
PART 2: THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD
I keep using the phrase “Lots of moving parts” to describe my current situation, and it really fits. Here’s what my week currently looks like:
MONDAY through THURSDAY:
- Wake up on an air mattress in my sister-in-law’s living room. (She’s renting a 650-square-foot cottage with her fiancée at the moment while they prepare to get married and buy a bigger house. Last night, we had drinks and broke out the tape measure to verify. Thank you for the inspiration, Captain Morgan.)
- Shower, get dressed, make the 30-minute commute into Woods Hole. Stop for coffee on the way in.
- Work from 8am to 5pm. Realize that working somewhere for a decade means exactly nothing when learning a new job, new software, new systems, new people, and so on. Work hard to apply skillsets to the new environment while struggling to learn/keep head above water. Get coffee on my lunchbreak.
- Make frantic phone calls whenever time allows. Realtor in NH. Realtor in MA. Mortgage broker. Daycare. Schools. House rentals. Scramble to pay some bills. Remember (hopefully) to eat.
- Bask in the joy that is on-season Cape Cod traffic. One hour back to the house.
- Hang out at the cottage. Feel bad about imposing on a soon-to-be-wed couple’s personal space. Eat much steak, drink much beer, search madly online for houses to move into, schools to send my son to, daycare for my daughter, job for my wife – who is currently managing job-searching, working full time, handling said children, and keeping the New Hampshire house in show-ready condition. (I feel *awful* about this. I want to make it right so badly by her. She deserves it.)
- FaceTime with the family. Daughter is crying desperately for me to come home. Son is sadly missing me and asking me when Friday is coming. Wife is tired.
- Fall asleep on the air mattress half-watching The Bachelor or something.
- See above, except that once I get out of work, I hop in the car and drive three (or four, depending on traffic) hours home to New Hampshire. Get iced coffee on the way to stay awake.
- Kids are still up and waiting. Scramble to put them to sleep, and mostly fail for a few hours.
- Collapse in exhaustion on the couch, unable to fall asleep (because my mind is racing from the mental strain of it all) and not wanting to wake up my wife, who has passed out completely from exhaustion, with my endless restless movement.
- Start with a mad dash cleaning the house for a showing or open house. Remember to breathe.
- Do something awesome with the family – finally, my Valhalla. My safe place. The carnival, or the pool, or the museum. Playgrounds. Going out to eat. Ice Cream. Smiles, laughs. I want to stay forever.
- Kids to bed. Wife and I sit down to unwind together and watch a movie, talk for a bit, and head to bed. I’m finally at ease, and I can sleep.
- See Saturday…except that come 7pm or so, I’ll be tossing my bags in the car, kissing the kids goodbye, wishing my wife good luck, and driving back to the Cape to start the week over.
. . . . .
I’m displaced, disconnected, feeling out of sorts from bad sleep and long car rides, falling back into bad dietary habits, not getting exercise, and working on a stomach ulcer from all the coffee. I don’t feel like I have a home, and I am depressed.
Still, everyone is helping to make it work – this is the path, and when I’m struggling to get comfortable at night on my little inflatable bed , I have lucid dreams. I dream of the house we’ll have soon. Of signing the paperwork to sell our current house. Taking the kids to the beach, and dropping them off at new schools. Hosting sleep-overs for their friends.
Taking my wife out on dates. Seeing her smile.
Finding myself again.
PART 3: I WANNA BE SEDATED
If you’re keeping score, the one thing in the title that I haven’t touched on is how Magic plays into this all. That’s tough to quantify; since I took this position, I haven’t played at all. I effectively left my old local game store in Amherst, MA for good, since the hour or so to get there from my house in NH is now two and a half from the Cape.
I think, though, that like most times in my life, Magic is the glue that keeps me from falling apart at the seams. Here’s how:
-First on the list and most importantly, I spend a ton of time daily in contact with the GDC guys via Slack and Google Talk. This group, one that came together to post articles about Commander to a small-time blog, has become a group of brothers. We’ve shared a vacation rental at GenCon together, gamed together, explored together, and learned all about each other over the past few years. We’ve been there for each-other through good times and bad. We talk religion, politics, food, drink, cars, games. We poke fun at each other. Magic has given me a group of friends that keeps me connected when I should feel totally isolated and alone. I can’t even start to begin to explain how much I value this.
-I brew decks. Currently, I’m expanding my format boundaries to include Modern; I’m reading about what decks make up the current metagame, and the strengths and weaknesses of the various matchups. I’m piecing together a few lists. I’m also tinkering with my Commander decks in my downtime – fitting Eldritch Evolution into Yisan, the Wanderer Bard, tweaking the Jori En, Ruin Diver Commander 2015 Precon Project further into proper Judo territory, and constantly complaining that I can’t get a damn Scroll Rack or Concordant Crossroads from PucaTrade because of how rampant the stupid “bounty” issue is. (Don’t get me started…)
-I roam. I’ve canvassed the area, from East Wareham to Hyannis, looking for new shops to play at when I can find the time and places to buy cards from on a whim.
-I meet new people. So far, it looks like there’s a little shop in Mashpee about fifteen minutes from work that looks to be my new potential home away from home – Dark Water Games. I stopped in just to take a look last week, and ended up staying for almost two hours talking to the people I met there about moving to the area, finding a place to play, how fun Modern is, how *boring* Modern is, great ways to playtest decks, getting people into playing Legacy, bemoaning draft formats over the last fifteen years, and the folly of local tournaments.
And of course, Commander. Everyone there plays. So now, I’m dreaming up new tweaks to my current decks to fit into a new metagame, and thinking about what to build next. It’s different from what I’m used to, but it feels comfortable. Nice guys, great discussion. That’s a good start for sure.
Time is passing quicker because of Magic. It’s a big part of who I am, and now, it’s a big part of what is helping me to get through the days. Magic gets me back to where I can feel my kids wrap their arms around my neck and squeal in joy. It lets me take my wife out for an amazing dinner/movie date.
It picks me up and carries me forward to a time and place where I can hold my head up and be myself – and be *proud* of who I’ve become; to know that I’ve grown as a person, and made changes that, while initially terrifying, have made me a better person, and made my world a better place for me and for my family.
It brings me closer to love, comfort, confidence, and happiness.
Magic brings me home.