The Victory Condition

Christine asked me this morning what I was doing, and I promptly–perhaps a bit haughtily–informed her that I was “making goals.”  She laughed.  Perhaps it seemed to her that I was merely writing things down on paper (or preparing to do so). “Like, life goals?” she asked.  I smiled, “Just goals.”

I suppose I tend to think of such lists of ordinary.  Here, for example, would be a survey of just such a list:

  • Replaced the downstairs smoke alarm
  • Finish your taxes
  • Gym three times this week
  • Put turkey thighs in the freezer
  • Look into car repair costs
  • Do overtime at work
  • Call your sister
  • Finish computer updates

But the truth is there’s been a renewed interest for me in these weekly registers of planned activity.  Since being forced to reckon with some of these aforementioned health issues, it’s gotten me to thinking about mortality.  Mine. Yours. Ours.  I’m not diving off into mid-life crisis mode here or anything, but I’ve been asking myself a bit lately… what the hell am I doing?

I’ve actually spent a lot of time this past year thinking about happiness and what that means or should mean.  A year ago at this time, I believe this was around when I had purchased a juicer and I was diet crazed and soon to be playing four or five different sports each week (floor hockey, volleyball, broomball, kayaking, etc…).  I spent a lot of time thinking then about how things were fine.  Wait, let me clarify, I spent a deal of time then being astonished that things were fine.  I had gotten so used to crisis mode that I didn’t even really know what to do with myself when times were calm.  I played a lot of sports, apparently.  I was in pretty good shape.  (Although my addiction to anything bad for me–pizza from Vito’s primary among them–would do short work of that in the Fall.)

Sometimes I feel like happiness is a victory condition of life.  That’s what we’re taught. Cross X, Y, and Z off of your list of life goals and it all adds up to happiness and–hooray!–you’ve won!

Jesus Christ, what does that even mean?

For context, let me clarify that I’m in a phase at the moment where just about everyone around me is accomplishing major, major life goals.  The Onion even ran a piece a short time ago that ran along the lines of “Obnoxious Friend Won’t Stop Accomplishing Major Life Goals.”  Marriage, children, career… you name it.  I suppose at some point we have to add buying a boat to that list.

I don’t want a boat.  Or maybe I do, or don’t, or I don’t care that much either way. I mean a kayak would be nice.  But what is a kayak as far as victory conditions are concerned? What is a marriage?  Kids?

I don’t know, and I’m not sure I need to know.  But I do keep thinking about time lately.  Acquaintances who it seems were so recently single and young and aimless are now so married and so on their second kid.  Jesus.  A few years go by, and I see them with a whole new life.  How do they see it?  Have the changes been so gradual as to evade perception?  Have they even paused to consider it?  Do they even care?  Or will they be in mid-life crisis mode in a few short years… no doubt while I’m still scratching my chin here, trying to perceive the breeze that time kicked up as it flew by.

I guess I’ve had it with victory conditions is what I’m digging at here. Had it with the life goals and the big ideas… but then what?  Forego any daily activity that could be quantified in an ordinary list and live each day fresh as the last?  I’ve got a mortgage, man.  And besides, planning is in my nature.  It just doesn’t seem that crossing planned items off the list begets any real victory. Just a turned page. A new list.

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