The Dark Days Of A New Year

Reflecting can be painful as a new year of opportunities appears.

By: Ryan Winslett

Filed Under: Editorial Life Reflections

I’m giving up video games.

Okay, not really. But dirty little thoughts like that always seem to pop into my mind around this time every year. And it’s not just about video games, either. Something about ringing in a new year always seems to get me down on myself. And that depressing-as-hell “Auld Lang Syne” certainly doesn’t help matters either.

I usually start by fondly looking back on the previous twelve months.

“Remember that great board game night? And, man, wasn’t Journey awesome? And how about those trips to play pinball or hit the water park with friends?”

That’s about the time my mind usually turns to the years prior, which were also full of such “frivolous” activities. I start to panic, and then the inventory session begins.

“All of those games, movies, comics and evenings spent goofing off – has anything I’ve done mattered?” I wonder. “Is anything I’m doing right now going to make a difference? Have I just been wasting my time these past 30 years?”

As a kid, my only job was to not break things while playing with my He-Man action figures. As I got older, my goal was simply going to school and getting good grades. Then came college. So long as I was doing well academically and having a good time with friends and family, I felt like I was being successful.

Through the first 21 years of my life, it was easy to fall back on the idea that I was accomplishing all that was expected of me. I was still living in a preparatory state for adulthood and, though the restrictions lessened over the years, I still operated within someone else’s guidelines and time-frame. Mom said I had to be up at 7 a.m. The geology test is Wednesday. Whether or not I was achieving my goals was made extremely clear to me a few times a year with a stack of letters that proclaimed “Yes, you are doing what you’re supposed to be doing. Here’s a B+.”

But then I graduated from college and had to step foot into the real world. There was a real job to do, far more demanding than any of that work I thought I was slaving over in the classroom. There were bills to pay. There was time to manage, which meant it was becoming harder and harder to see those friends and family I care so much about. There was a relationship to keep healthy. I had my own schedule and nobody to tell me if I was messing everything up.

And despite everything I accomplish, New Year’s is a time when little seems to make me feel successful.

The problem is that life no longer gives me those constant reminders that I’m doing okay for myself. I suppose not getting fired is tantamount to getting an A on a report card, but you can’t exactly put the latest paycheck on the fridge to remind yourself every morning that, hey, you’re actually doing just fine.

This, of course, leads to a discussion about how one actually measures success. I don’t like to be so materialistic as to say it’s about how much money you’re raking in or so egotistical as to say it’s how many people read your latest article but, like I said, my mind goes to some pretty cruddy places this time of year. I begin to feel insignificant.

So what is the end goal? What is my objective? What do I need to do in order to feel like I’m accomplishing something?

Usually I would say the answer to those questions is simply “being happy.” And, usually, playing games, being with friends and writing a boatload of articles is all that is necessary to fulfill that goal. But it never feels like enough when I’m standing here on the brink of another year, thinking about how I’ve spent the past 12 months and wondering if these next 12 months will be business as usual or if I will finally…I don’t know…write the next great American novel. Get a hefty raise. Do something—anything—that will be remembered.

It’s times like these I start to wonder if there are better ways I might be spending my time than playing video games or hitting up the local arcade. I start to feel guilty for the things that make me happy since, you know, they sure as hell aren’t helping anyone else out. I’m not actually saving the world when I defeat the final boss. Reading a stack of comics isn’t having a positive impact on anyone else’s life. Laughing my ass off during a night of Cards Against Humanity isn’t helping me leave my mark on this world.

And so I sit and stew and wrestle with a seriously egotistical inferiority complex for a few weeks. It’s obnoxiously emo and, yes, I’m ashamed of it.

But eventually something like Ni No Kuni will hit store shelves, I’ll escape into a wonderful world of color, excitement and joy, and I’ll once again wonder how I could have ever considered cutting the things that make me this happy out of my life. Playing video games, diving into a pile of comics or gathering around the table to enjoy a board game with friends might not be making the world a better place for everyone else, but those things certainly make my world brighter.

[art credit]

Filed Under: Editorial Life Reflections

About the Author:
Ryan Winslett is an Arizona-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a contributing writer for Gaming Blend and his work has also appeared on Joystiq, Gamasutra and Joystick Division. His only crime is loving too much.

4 Responses to “The Dark Days Of A New Year”

  1. nindustrial

    Great article. I don’t necessarily come around to those feelings like clockwork at the new year, but I can relate to the feeling generally.

  2. RyanWinslett

    Oh, it definitely hits me off and on throughout the year, but the new year is always the strongest. Everyone around me is looking back and forward, and I can’t help but get swept up in it, too. Thanks for the comment!

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