Moving On

It’s been a month and change since the rug was pulled out from under my life.

I think it’s been the best month of my adult life so far. I wrote back when it first happened that it was time for me to start dreaming again. I’ve since realized that I was completely wrong about a year ago when I stopped writing and stopped telling stories and started telling myself that I didn’t care about those things. I’d simply finally reached the place where my fears were powerful enough to convince me to completely stop listening to my dreams.

Didn’t you know that this world
Is not meant to be dreamt in
But what hurts me the most
Is all the time that we’ve wasted
I’ve wasted all the dreams in my head
I’ll have to move out of this country instead
–Idlewild, “You and I are Both Away”

Dreams require sacrifice. Everyone who’s ever followed a dream has done so at the expense of something. That something is usually a variation on “security.” I’d always envied people who could do that because my fear of the unknown always overrode my desire to follow my dreams. That dream might lead to something down the line. Giving up on your dreams and giving into your fears often leads to something right now, usually the security of a regular paycheck.

Dreams require work. Everyone who’s ever followed a dream has done it at the expense of sleep and the ability to just sit around and watch TV. This is a lot easier when you’ve given in and accepted the security of the regular paycheck. That 9-to-5 (that’s usually really an 8-to-6 and a 7-to-7 by the time you factor in the ol’ commute) really wears on you after a while. It’s easier to just get home, sit down, drink a beer (or six), watch TV, and wait for tomorrow to come. Over and over and over and over again. Ad nauseum.

I’ve been in a state of ever increasing existential despair for, really, about five years now. It started when I finally got my first adult job and moved out on my own. From then on every single decision I made was based on how it would impact my future. As I limited my options and choices to only those things that would be good for my future I progressively narrowed my actual future down to a thing that was forever filled obsessing over my future and the various decisions included therein. The things I wanted to do were never the smart play so I only made the choices that I had to make in order to keep pushing that future forward.

Then that future was gone. It was scary as hell. I felt better waking up the next morning than I had in a long, long time.

Don’t let the old man’s bad luck
Trouble your door
‘Cause you sleep on the right side
Of disappointment
–Roddy Woomble, “Trouble Your Door”

Grand Prix Cincinnati[1] was the following weekend. My buddy and I had been planning on going for a couple months. I had a deck that I was convinced would take me the distance. I went 2-7. It was all the suck.[2]

We were on our way home across the corn swamps of northern Indiana when I said to my friend, “You know, five years from now I’m going to look back and say that losing my job was the best thing that ever happened to me.” I’d been thinking of how much of my life up until that moment was wasted because I’d been avoiding failure. I’d never really failed at anything[3] but I’d never really succeeded at anything, either. I’d just managed to make the easy, obvious decisions.

I’d feared having that rug pulled out from my for so long that I didn’t realize that it wasn’t a failure. It’s an opportunity. It’s an invitation to stop being afraid and start following my dreams.

I’m probably still going to need a day job, of course. That just means I’m going to have to do some of that work and sacrifice I talked about up at the top. Even when I stopped writing and storytelling I never stopped wanting to be a writer and storyteller. So that’s what I’m going to do. Also I’m totally going to qualify for Pro Tour 2016 or 2017. Maybe 2024.[4]

I still believe that the blog is a good jumping-off point. So there’s going to be actual stuff going up here. I’m also going to be working on actually getting published at, like, real places that actually pay and such.

One thing that will be happening, though: I’m going to self-publish a novel right on this here site. Consider it a bit of a test. Further details will be coming next week.

———————-

[1]Grands Prix are the big mamma-jammas of the Magic world. There are usually a couple thousand people trying to grab that brass ring and make it to the big cash prizes and invites to the Pro Tour.

[2]Magic is kinda fascinating that way. There’s so goddamn much luck involved that it’s almost impossible to quantify. The deck I had absolutely crushed Esper Control, which was the deck to beat at Cincinnati. It had a decent matchup against the other top decks but really, really sucked against Jund Monsters and RW Burn and was an unknown quantity against Naya Hexproof. Monsters was on the wane, RW Burn still seemed a bit fringe-y, and Hexproof didn’t seem to be gaining enough traction for me to worry about it. So, of course, I got to face off against Esper Control twice, Jund Monsters, Naya Hexproof, Naya Aggro, and RW Burn. At some point in there I developed a thousand-yard stare and the deck started giving my shit draws (yes, at some point it becomes apparent that the deck itself has intentions and a will of its own and also it hates you and the only way to deal with this turn of events is to set the deck on fire and then jump on the ashes). The absolute nadir of the experience was round 9, wherein I lost to some random kid playing mono green stompy. I was playing black-red midrange, which means I was so heavily favored in that matchup it shouldn’t have even been a thing.

Two weeks later I went to the StarCityGames Open in Milwaukee. I hit a respectable 5-3, then dropped with two rounds to go because I was out of the money and didn’t want to stick around. I’m thinking of starting a series called “Confessions of a Would-Be Grinder,” wherein I document my lack of success at becoming a professional Magic player.

[3]Except for honors algebra my sophomore year of high school. And, y’know, Grand Prix Cincinnati.

[4]My biggest problem there, unfortunately, is me. I tend to insist on being a rogue decker. The deck I was playing at Cincinnati was my baby: an update of the old Machinehead archetype I loved during Invasion/Onslaught/Odyssey. I was so convinced I was going to win all the things with my awesome rogue decking skills that I totally ignored the fact that I had a bunch of bad-to-downright-terrible matchups. I’m actually playing a modification of the deck right now that splits the difference between it and the dominant black devotion archetype and holy crap is it a good deck. Black devotion with a red splash got popular after GP Cincinnati and I kept looking at the lists thinking, “That’s way better than Machinehead but not as good as it could be.” I’d avoided doing things like that because back in the day “netdecking” had a bad reputation (and, I suppose, it still does with some people). The fact is, though, that the internet is a hive mind, especially with something like Magic where there’s a near infinite number of combinations of cards but only a few that can really consistently win. Not learning by studying successful decks, then, is stupid.

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