I mentioned a few posts ago how you shouldn’t have to answer for anyone about what you do in your free time… and now I’m here to completely contradict myself!

Okay, not really. But I want to bring up something I’ve been thinking about for a while, which is: what defines what is worthwhile to you?

My boss recently said something that really resonated with me. “The thing I like about being in my 30s is that I know what I want to do with my time.”

At its core, I really like this sentiment. For better or worse, healthy or unhealthy, if we make a dinner and don’t like it… we can throw the entire thing in the trash and get a cheeseburger. We can stay up all night if we want, and no one can tell us not to. We can drink on a school night. We can sign up for a gym and never go.

BUT. I could barely type any of that without the consequences, which is another byproduct of being in your 30s. You can throw dinner in the trash, eat a cheeseburger, and ignore gym memberships… but do that long enough, and you’ll waste a ton of money and be unhealthy. If you stay up all night, drinking or no, you will be sleepy or feel ill at work, and if you take the day off, you’ll lose precious paid time off, IF you get it at all. Adulthood!

As with everything, however, there is freedom in letting things go, and I need to learn to embrace it.

My mind was blown a year or so ago when bought a book, hated it completely, and told myself it was okay to stop reading it! No parent to tell me I’d wasted money, no teacher to tell me I had to finish it for a grade. (I still haven’t thrown it away. We’ll work on that next.)

Where do you draw the line of investment vs. satisfaction when there are no rules?

Here is what I’m trying to get at, and I didn’t know this personality type existed until I met my husband and circle of friends. One weekend, my husband Tyler was pawing through our video game library and picked out Final Fantasy 12. Now, it’s not my favorite, but it’s the last FF I finished — more on that later. “Pay attention to the slums there in the beginning,” I warned him. “There are 3 secret barrels throughout the game you’re not supposed to loot, and if you don’t, you get a mega weapon later in the game.”

“Well, where is it?”

“I can’t remember. I played it 6 years ago. It’s in a corner. Looks like a barrel. Actually, it probably doesn’t matter. It’s one weapon at the very end, and I never even got it now that I think about it. Just get all the loot while you can.”

But he didn’t listen. I wouldn’t have either, but I have issues, and he’s usually the sane part of our relationship. He got out my Strategy Guide (2006 was a confusing time for us all), and he spent all day Saturday and Sunday doing everything by the books. We didn’t leave the house.

By next weekend, he’d dropped it. Before he met me, he’d also dropped Portal, Mass Effect, Bioshock, and Fallout 3, for who knows what reason. It was only when I picked them up did he suddenly want to play, and I think he only even picked them up and stuck with them after overhearing my shrieks of fear, emotional controller-throwing, and end-game tears that piqued his interest from the other room. (By the way, game companies — my playing your games is apparently GREAT marketing, so if you send me free games, I will play them in front of my husband and then he will want to play them… also for free. Don’t overthink it. This is a great idea.)

I got my friend Robin into Fallout 3, and she loved it. She said she played every night and all day on weekends. A month or so later, I asked where she was, and she was only at the second quest of the main storyline, because she’d spent so much time traversing the world and doing side-quests. I begged her to go back to the main storyline — at least for a little bit — because I didn’t want her to get overwhelmed at the vastness of the world before experiencing Tranquility Lane, one of the top 10 best scenes in video game history, in my opinion.

My friend Chris played the entire “Mass Effect” trilogy… except the last 4-5 hours of the final game. He got L.A. Noire on my recommendation and abandoned it around the same time I did, but I picked it back up a year later and have been trying to sing its praises, to no avail. Around his birthday, he got Tomb Raider and Bioshock Infinite at relatively the same time, and I’ve been bursting at the tears (lol, get it?) trying to get him to finish the games so WE CAN TALK ABOUT HOW AWESOME THEY ARE AND HIGH FIVE ABOUT IT. If he gives up on either of them, so help me…

I just want to shake these people. How can you be so invested in the story of something and not follow it through to its conclusion?!

I have not finished exactly 3 games that I would argue I spent a reasonable amount of time on (30+ hours), and they still haunt me, mocking me from the dusty shelf.

Final Fantasy 13, Dragon Age, and KotOR 2.

For Final Fantasy 13, I felt personally offended and quit on principal after playing for almost 40 hours to discover I had ONLY JUST THEN finished the tutorial and was able to roam around the world and I guess save it or whatever. 40 HOURS. So I’m fighting my third or so battle in the “actual game,” some horse monster in the desert — ONE monster — and the battle took 5 minutes with my most powerful spells. Did the math in my head and calculated that at this rate, I would be 87 by the time I finished the game, and hit eject forever.

Dragon Age, I have no excuse for quitting. I started playing it before moving apartments  and then things were packed up, and after we moved, they were still packed, and moving had depressed me because they charged by the hour, and I have all the furniture, so I bought Mass Effect 2 and Portal to cheer myself up, and suddenly I can’t even remember what’s going on. I do intend to pick it back up again soon. I do. Alistair.

Knights of the Old Republic 2 was also an affront to my senses when so little started making sense that I hopped online to see what was up and learned that the developer was so stunted by deadlines that I was literally playing an incomplete game with a laughable ending taped on like Poochie from the Simpsons tottering back to his home planet. I stopped playing right then.

There are definitely some games out there where I’ve dragged a broken leg across the finish line to complete just because I thought I had to. Being unemployed when Grand Theft Auto IV came out probably added to my burnout, since I played it every day, and by the end, I was just like “Yeah, yeah, rocket-launch a helicopter, kill my girlfriend, BORING.”

Books, too. Beautiful Creatures, World War Z, City of Bones — I’m just flipping the pages like, okay, okay, yeah, magic, scares, get on with it. But I read them for some reason, because I already put so much time into starting, I need to reach the conclusion. For some reason.

Is someone who forces themselves to finish something they may not enjoy a bigger fool than someone who really enjoyed something for a time but gave up for whatever reason?

Here’s a more harsh comparison. I wrote 50,000 words of a novel in November 2008. It was terrible. I’m embarrassed for myself, and I unabashedly attend Renaissance Faires in full period clothing.

In 2009, I was ready to start anew. Redo my book. I spent 2 days on it and gave up. The rest of my month was so freeing. No late nights! Not a care in the world! But I wasn’t creating.

Which month was time better spent? At the end of both non-consecutive months, I had the same end result: nada. But was the first month a valuable learning experience for the craft of writing? Was the second month welcomed and necessary free time where I could actually take the time to read books, play video games, watch TV, spend time with friends?

As is usually the case with these blogs, I don’t know the answer. Both?

I was joking at the beginning — I’m not contradicting myself when I say you shouldn’t have to answer to anyone for what makes you happy, because of course you gotta do you. I just personally have trouble deciding what that is for myself sometimes. Tearing my hair out with self-loathing while writing…does kinda make me happy. When I’m done. I feel a sense of completion when I finish a game that dragged on a bit. And I feel like a strong independent woman when I give myself permission to give up “Revolution” because it’s going nowhere and there are just no likable characters, guys.

Free to be you and me, friends. Please finish Bioshock Infinite.

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