I frequently find myself sitting in front of my computer in the evening, not knowing what to do. Quite frankly, at the moment this is because I've grown tired of a lot of the long-term games I used to play--Skyrim and Morrowind, Crusader Kings II and Europa Universalis IV, let alone ones like Space Empires III and Civilization II. I still limp along with my Sims 2 neighbourhoods, at a fraction of the pace I once managed.
So what do I end up doing on my computer? I guess I've moved into more "casual" gaming a lot of the time. Bejeweled 3, Rogue Legacy, solitaire games, Talisman Digital Edition, Sherlock, and Geoguessr. They are diverting, but I don't get the same sense of accomplishment that I get from the longer games. Some of the mid-length games that I return to from time to time, like Discworld or Portal 2, may have reached the point of diminishing returns.
Or I'll go to Facebook, then maybe Twitter, read some webcomics, browse Stack Overflow sites, then back to Facebook again, because maybe ten minutes have passed and something interesting will have showed up. Once in a while I'll even click through on an article.
Or I'll be looking for more music to download, from eMusic (where I still try to use up my 90 downloads a month), or Freegal, or, failing that, sometimes even shelling out on iTunes. I've got over 45000 music files on my computer, which some part of me thinks of as an accomplishment, but I'm beginning to realize that there's no way that I'll ever get more than a passing familiarity with a lot of what I'm accumulating. I still don't want to completely lose touch with the current state of music, and become one of those people who never listens to anything that came out after they were 25, but I still only have the most cursory familiar with it. I try to keep listening to it, hoping some of it will grow on me, but it's probably hopeless by this point. And yet I can't stop getting more.
Part of me thinks I should be trying to actually accomplish something on the computer instead: writing, for instance. But I can't muster the enthusiasm to do it. I've imported a few of my projects into Scrivener, but when I open up a file and actually look at it, to see if I can do something about turning one of my crappy first drafts into a second draft, I can't even think of a place to start. I did actually try starting something for NaNoWriMo last year, but it bogged down and I gave up on it. Or I could work on a programming project; I've had a few of those that I've started on, not necessarily for anyone else's use but my own, but who knows, in these days of open-source software...
Part of me thinks I could turn off the computer and do something else. Like reading, for instance. My reading rate is much slower than it used to be, even though I'm trying to be pickier with my reading, rereading more of my favourites and reading more by authors that I like. Books that I bought years ago often languish on the shelves if they don't look like the kind of thing I'll like (though I don't get rid of them, either, another accumulation problem).
Or I could exercise. I've never been much for exercising, if you don't count that time when I rode my bike everywhere. That mostly came to an end when I wasn't able to bring my bike with me for the first couple of years I lived in Edmonton, and it was capped off when I did manage to get it into town and it got swiped a few weeks later. Sometimes I like swimming, too. I've never really wanted to go to a gym, or play sports, or do pushups, or walk or run. Of course, the result of that, combined with the fact that I rarely watch my diet too much, is that I'm at about 225 pounds right now (down from my high of 238) and mostly just oscillating up and down from there.
Or...I dunno. Doing work around the house? Keeping it clean? Keeping things repaired? Not really something I can talk myself into either. Sometimes the whole entropy of having to just keep cleaning things over and over again makes it seem pointless.
Being social? Going out in the evenings? Being in a play or something? Also seems like too much effort most of the time. I've done karaoke a few times, and enjoy it mightily every time--I like to sing along with my favourite songs, of which I've accumulated quite a list by this point, and I bask in the compliments that people give me after they've heard me sing. I could do it more, but it would involve going out and being organized, so I don't do it nearly as much as I'd like. Plays...the last one I did, back before Simon was born, in the last century, wasn't my favourite experience, and I've just sort of drifted away from it. Up in Grande Prairie it was a different matter, but down here it just doesn't seem as appealing. I do go to the occasional friend's party, especially if there are board games involved, but they all get busy and the parties don't come around as much, and I don't make overtures myself.
Part of me almost seems to be feeling like my life is over, that it's selfish of me to do things that only affect my own brain, because that's not going to make the world any better. What good is it for me to read books and comics and watch TV and movies and not do anything else except consume? When I'm gone there'll be nothing tangible left to show for any of that. So all I'm doing is treading water, keeping myself entertained to keep myself from sinking into depression so that I can go back to work, and the only real fulfillment I get out of work is just to have earned enough money to support my family.
I do have the kids, I suppose. They feel like the only thing I have to offer the world at this point, the only legacy I'm likely to leave behind. Not like I devote all my time to them, but I like to think I'm not being an awful parent. I try to be open-minded, not to fill them full of prejudices and fear. I do yell at them sometimes, so maybe I'm not the most tolerant of when they're being silly and stupid. I can't handle the homework tasks, because it frustrates me painfully when they can't figure out what they're supposed to do. But I'm there, I guess. I think we've managed to successfully turn them all into readers, given them an appreciation of the things we like (you know, board games and computer games and science fiction and fantasy and that kind of stuff).
I'm not going to say much about my job here specifically, because for all I know my boss is going to read this, or some future boss will find it. I'll just say that I've never found a job yet that I really liked going to, so my favourite jobs are the ones that let me spend the least time working. I always keep waiting for that windfall to happen--I buy lottery tickets when I'm feeling particularly down, or the jackpot looks particularly enticing, and so far that's working about as well as my knowledge of probability would let me predict...but it gives me the opportunity to dream for a little while. My wife works hard at her writing, and if there were any fair reward of effort for that, she'd be raking it in, but that doesn't happen either, and I'm sure it's frustrating for both of us. (That's another reason I can't bring myself to do writing--it just seems so futile in the current publishing market. Or at least it makes a good excuse.) I keep reading stories of people recommending Universal Basic Income, hoping that there'll be some indication that something like this is even mildly likely to come about in my lifetime, but I'm not getting my hopes up. Canadian culture may be a little more socialist than American, but we're still not that much farther from the expectation that you only get what you worked for.
If I didn't have to work, if I stayed home all day, would it be better? Would I have more energy to do something with my extra time? Would I maybe go swimming a few times a week, actually fix up one of those broken bicycles in the garage and start riding on it, or at least buy an exercise bike and use it regularly? Would I start accomplishing something of worth in my time on the computer? Given what I did in my previous bouts of unemployment, I bet I'd watch more TV and read more books, stuffing more into my brain.
I'm not sure that I believe in midlife crises, but that may be what this is beginning to feel like. If I believed that somewhere out there was a job that would make me feel more fulfilled, that didn't involve me uprooting my entire life, I'd look for it. Because, of course, I don't want too much change in my life; nobody does, because one gets too attached to the familiar, however much you may claim that you hate it. I don't want to take the risk of quitting my job and trying some half-baked scheme that'll leave the family destitute or make my wife feel like she needs to pick up the slack. I'm certainly not feeling like anything more drastic.
And so, here I am, treading water.