When I was little, I used to play this board game with my friends called The Game of Life. For those not familiar with it, there’s a long wiggly track that your car shaped piece has to travel. Along the way, you go through life’s milestones in a typically linear fashion; you graduate high school, acquire massive debt, get a college degree, find a job, get married, buy a house (more debt), have kids and retire. (They left death out; a rather massive oversight.) Whoever retires with the most cash wins. Not so different from how many people think, is it?
Of course, being the sort of person who just can’t accept expectations, my strategy for the game generally was to roll the dice (well, a spinner) in such a way that I avoided college debt and getting a job entirely. Such limitations were just not for me. I would then careen around the board, making deals where I could, making certain that if I had to get married that it was a same-sex marriage, and avoiding having kids if possible or — if not, making sure that I had so many that they could barely fit in my car. As a strategy, this worked out well. Unless an opponent managed to become a doctor, I nearly always won. I was happy (and hilarious) in my Bohemian lifestyle.
Last summer I played the newest edition of the game and I discovered that they’ve now made it impossible to play with my strategy. You cannot get out of the first section of the game without acquiring a job. Harrumph. I lost, despite avoiding college debt and my perfectly respectable salary as a policewoman.
I found myself thinking about The Game of Life the other morning as I was climbing out the subway steps at Wall Street, as I do five days out of seven. This is the moment in my commute where the upcoming work day really becomes inevitable. Being a train commuter, my brain is my own until then. On my more motivated days, I fill it was the artistic stuff that I feel like I never have enough time to do. I write or knit or read. The days I write are the most satisfying; it’s what every adult in my childhood told me I should do with my life and a big part of me still feels like a failure for not having made a living from it like I was supposed to. Shouldn’t I be published by now? Living in a big house in the middle of nowhere with my car overflowing with kids and no nine-to-five?
And so I sighed and turned the corner, tucking my artistic side inside myself until the commute home. I put on my business face and walked into that skyscraper, into that office filled almost exclusively with men, and I conquered. I was good at it. And yet…and yet, some days I wish I had taken that Bohemian lifestyle, that I had settled for less stuff and less security and insisted on doing more art. Every day feels like a fight to blend the two and some days are just more successful than others.
Perhaps, some day…