I have just turned away from a super early morning of sitting on my couch, drinking coffee and researching/playing Knives Out (a mobile platform game). I am not a gamer per se, though I wish I were. I love completely losing myself in First Person Shooter and RPG games; challenging myself to get into the top ten a few times before (maybe) tiring of it. ‘Knives Out’ is different because I have struggled over two years to become a solid player.
Until lately, that is.
I used to be shocked and angered that someone would find me within seconds of landing on the game field; it meant I spent more time staring at my slow-motion death, than playing. I would spend countless minutes in the pre-game arena, trying to get used to controls, following people, hoping to find a trick or secret, and they’d just end up running against a wall. This felt so futile, that I just stopped landing in big cities and trying to keep up with people obviously more skilled than I was. Which meant I started making it five, ten, fifteen minutes into the game, finding the gear, making it to the airdrop; if I died, I wasn’t so angry at myself. I started playing solo, asking Aisha to play so I could get further, with someone I could rely on. Can you see the comparison coming?
At 35, almost 36, I have only just realized that I’ve played this game of life like I’ve played Knives Out these past two years.
I have spent a lot of time being shocked and angered at my moments. I do not look back with regret, sadness or any negativity – but things that have happened have molded me and if you’re reading this, you should know about them. So, here goes:
One of my first conscious memories or feelings is of being absolutely terrified for my mother’s safety. I was somehow completely convinced that if she were alone, out, she (not my sister, aunts, grandmother – no one else) would be hurt. This is the first time I became aware that my emotions can easily get way out of my control, and that that isn’t comfortable for people – but I could not give that fear up.
My interest in sexual attraction came late. I remember early on in grade six, but in the half near my birthday, my friends asked me who my crush was, and I admitted I didn’t have a crush on a boy. Well, imagine the confusion I couldn’t begin to process over losing all my female friends that I loved so completely, fiercely – just because I didn’t have a crush on a boy.
I tried dating some really nice guys to avoid experiencing that again, (I can’t thank you enough nice guys, for real. I hope you know who you are) and I did really like them. But I also figured out that I needed to start pleasing people socially because shit was about to get real. And I’m pretty sure I figured that out before I knew I was gay.
Making new friends was hard, but I did it. People more like me; sensitive, artistic … delayed? I don’t want to be rude or judge because I love them and was them, but we were the kids that were still playing innocently at 12, 13, 14 – not really experimenting or pushing boundaries. Our parents loved us, and our friends, because we were wholesome.
At sweet sixteen, my father became a quadriplegic who still had feeling sensations. This happened on a family vacation – it was terrifying, and unfortunately, one of those situations that starts out bad but ends up getting convoluted with other bad stuff and gets way worse. How could me and my wholesome teenage friends work through that, amidst all our hormones and angst and navigation of grade ten.
So, I lost those friends too, made new ones but ultimately, I was very lost in high school.
University was actually a saving grace. I excelled and was genuinely able to have an amazing post-secondary school experience; met some amazing and some not so amazing women; lived with my cool older sister in a Super Cool Toronto Apartment. Toronto was also good to me, gave me a fledgling gay community (still didn’t know how to interact with them, but hey, I had them) and the opportunity to find out a lot about myself.
I want to suggest something before I go ahead: I honestly don’t think anyone in my life knew how desperate I felt. How uncomfortable I was in my own skin. I had been popular with women up until this point, pretty much falling into serial short-term-monogamy. My mum and sister were around, and we traveled and have pictures; I had friends and have amazing stories about what I did with those friends. But those friends aren’t in my life now, they haven’t been for a while, and I think my ability to isolate myself so often attests to the fact that I haven’t really invested in the people meant for me.
My dad died when I was twenty-one, and I ended up weighing 285lbs.
But then … something happened. I simultaneously made a big decision to move to Nova Scotia, and to go with a girl. Not just a girl, but in all honesty, I don’t want to talk about people I can’t consult with first about including (in detail) here. While the resulting storyline has brought me to Aisha and this life I love, I believe my one regret is not having gone on that adventure alone.
We moved back here only a ‘season’ after, and I went back to school at twenty-eight. I met some amazing people, I learned about wine and viticulture and how to dazzle people outside of the wine industry with our knowledge and Je ne sais quoi; but it exacerbated my natural tendency to become aggressive when subconsciously unhappy, my depression, my problem drinking and my ability to make profoundly bad decisions.
Those decisions, in short look like this: proposing to ‘the girl’, then breaking off the engagement but quickly falling into the arms of a married train-wreck, who ultimately left her life to be with me, but also tried to keep her life the same.
(NOTE: I proposed to this ‘train wreck’ because I had truly loved her and thought we could do it. I still think her positivity and brightness is needed in this world, just not in mine)
Friends, this was the kind of crazy I needed to get my head out of my ass. I lost/left my industry in a comet-like blaze, moving through five jobs in four years, losing friends and becoming wholly unsatisfied with my life. And I lost everything, including my gallbladder.
Why did I let it get this far? Why didn’t I prioritize myself sooner, go backpacking, take some ‘me’ time? Well, I would have, except I seem to have a severe type of FOMO.
Remember way back, near the beginning of this article and I confessed to having developed a habit of socially pleasing people? That is my ‘FOMO’. When I am in my worst state, I am so afraid of missing something – especially the bad things, that I can’t and won’t do anything for myself. How could I possibly go focus on me, when you have shit going on? And the worse you are – the more I want to be involved.
So, I allowed myself to stay in a three-year relationship where I was placed below the ex who threatened, stalked, hit and terrorized me but was continued to be hailed the fallen hero; and yet I was ‘welcomed’ into spaces I did not belong in. To be fair, I deserved this landslide. I had done a terrible thing, and it wasn’t the first time. But I also watched people do a lot worse, be worse people and receive less criticism and bad karma than me. I know why – it is literally the classic lesbian Pulp Fiction storyline. It didn’t matter that he was a he (and fifty?), and I was me (early thirties); or that she had been my teacher and was never to blame. I’m the butch!
I ended up shocked and angered, yet again, that people were catching me out faster for doing bad things and punishing me for it, but the other players were able to get away with worsebehavior. Why can’t I get away with it?
The best I can figure is because I am the person who has known my whole life that it is my responsibility to be more responsible. Because I am the person that confuses and embarrasses you on the street, (usually resulting in fear because my gender isn’t identifiable) I am the butch who steals good house-wives away in the night; I lure teenage girls into the woods too, you know.
I didn’t tell you she was my teacher to get additional pity, because I felt like a stud dating the hot prof. I’ve told you that, because even though this contested dynamic is usually identified as an unbalanced power dynamic and prone to bad influence, I did not feel manipulated. Confused? Yes. Overwhelmed and scared? Definitely. But the post-breakup scene, is the result of our socio-economic power dynamic. She is (professionally) thriving, I am (professionally) spinning.
And yet, it was this situation that finally forced me to change my M.O. So the fact that I am obsessed with a game that has a 0 to 10 intensity potential, and I choose to play at a 10 but my aim has been to stay undetected seems ironic, no?
I play Knives Out differently now. I take aim more confidently, and I don’t pick every target. I am comfortable waiting in an empty, kind of scary space, knowing that I’m not necessarily the prey; if I end up getting picked off, I smile at the skill of the other player.
In life, I thankfully started working on changing this M.O almost three years ago. I am doing well divesting myself of these terrible habits. I am getting healthy. I have stopped putting myself in the way of people that are working on a level that I am not on, I have stopped trying to be good at things I am obviously not good at and working off rules that aren’t very clear to me.
How? I had to let go of the constant reflection and what-ifs. I spent my whole college career missing and resenting leaving Nova Scotia. I spent my entire time working for a corporate company I had a world of opportunity with, constantly comparing them to the industry I had happily left and had grown to resent.
I used to go into a situation with the best of intentions, hoping to share and learn and grow but somehow only ended up showing the worst sides of myself, and then getting furious with the people that couldn’t, or wouldn’t, see me.
So, where does this leave us? Well, I personally have a whole new appreciation for Knives Out. But in all seriousness, it helps me be mindful of the effort it may take some people to achieve what seems easy to me. It makes me try and be patient towards situations that seem like one thing – but usually, end up being something else. It also allows me the space to become keenly aware of where I do need to grow. It may have taken a lot, but it is a worthwhile lesson.
“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
― Mother Teresa
We do belong to each other. I don’t know who my tribe is yet and I’ve made a lot of mistakes trying to find them; I hope some of the people who are semi-connected now, stay connected. But I know that somewhere there is a tribe for me and my family. But we all drift. I hope you haven’t drifted too far, in this life. I hope you feel connected and have ties to what formed you. I am so grateful for the growth I have achieved, for what I have yet to achieve and for the few people that were there.
But I wish I hadn’t had to feel so alone to do it. And hopefully, maybe, in sharing with you, you won’t feel as alone either.