Chasing Anna - August 17, 2002

by Joe Ruelos

My, how quickly time flies when you get distracted. So many detours in the the last few months, it's hard to imagine where to begin. As you can see by the date, I've fallen behind in this journal. Three months to be exact. Since the last entry, my life has become rather distorted. I lost my job at the bank (to be discussed another time), I nearly threw my roommate out, I worked at my uncle's 7-11 for a few weeks and hated it so much that I quit, and I entertained myself thereafter with an old addiction (that I had previously dropped, for good reason, shortly after graduating college). You'll be glad to know that, after a few recent attempts to quit, I have now decided to tear myself away from that latter demon.

For those curious minds, the addiction was on an internet text adventure game, a so-called MUD (multi-user domain), in which people play characters (much akin to dungeons and dragons) to gain experience points for increasing their skills/levels and to acquire equipment to further enchance their characters. For those with imaginative minds, fast fingers, obsessive-compulsive tendencies, perfectionist urges, a need to belong, and a way to connect to the interet (as well as many other reasons), a MUD can become highly addictive, extensively time-consuming, and generally dangerous to a person's well-being. The ironic part is that, when in the game, the interaction between other players is often with a misperception of the real world around them. For example, what does it matter if one hasn't showered in a few days, or hasn't paid his bills, or has been late/absent for previously scheduled arrangements, or has forgotten to look for a job today, and so on. Yet, while all these mundane things are floating around in the player's mind, the character(s) have become more important and, far worse, urgent than the person's real life, so much that real life can wait. Fortunately, I had not gotten to an insane point of completely forgetting my real life -- I still went to church, choir practice, I still slept. There are many others in the game who were always on everytime I got on, and I got on a lot. In the last month, during my most extensive playing, I probably spent 75% of my waking hours in the game, and my waking hours were probably around 75% of each 24-hour period. There were also other players who didn't play as much, those who had a sense of responsibility, who probably played a few hours each night after work and did not play during the normal business day hours. And there were others who claimed to be at work, but played anyway. I sometimes wondered if those characters were played by more than one person.

Well, all of that hopefully behind me, I am now left with basically nothing and a lost month or so of my life. I turned to the game within probably a week after I lost my job in early June, a little over two months ago. That was the second time I had returned to playing since "giving it up for good" in the fall of 1996. The other time was for a few short weeks in the summer of 2001, but I easily gave it up after being discouraged at how far behind I was compared to most of my former peers and many other new players. When I began playing again in mid-June this year, I slowly began falling into the rhythm by making new friends and getting help to set my mud career rolling again. It's almost like the bike analogy, once you learn how to ride, you don't forget. I remembered everything in the game as I had played six years ago, and I played good (if not better than before), even with many new changes that were introduced to make the game "more challenging". To take it a step further, it was more like I got on a bike again after not riding for a long time, but I found myself on a gradually increasing downhill; and it that case, it was hard to stop, even though I was previously able to stop. There were a few things that made this recent ride more tempting: I had a high-speed internet connection (unlike previously when I was on a dial-up), I was basically unemployed (especially after quitting 7-11), and I was somehow infused with an obscene work ethic to get my character to a respectable position so as to catch up with my old peers. I perhaps was disillusioned with real life (after losing my job) so much that I had to escape to this world where I could actually succeed and get somewhere. Even though it was hard in the game, being behind everyone else, I still knew what to do to get ahead, and I now had the opportunity (fast internet and lots of free time) to get ahead. Even though I realized that I would soon run out of money in real life, I pushed on. It was easier to think about what to do in the game than what to do in real life. I wonder how this would compare to other addictions. But enough, the time has come to move on.

So, yet another major event (at least for me), during this first year of living on my own. As mentioned in previous writings, these first few months at Watergate Village Apartments have seen many interesting occurences. I'm beginning to think this unit is haunted, or maybe the complex has some fucked up shit going on to fuck up people's lives here -- I've noticed people moving out and others moving in, and the neighbors are less than friendly. Management seems to be a little interested in getting more tenants. Hmm. Maybe this is just how real life is. I don't consider myself highly irresponsible, but what I've done in the short time on my own here continues to prove me wrong. I still go to my parent's house in Eldersburg almost every Sunday after playing at mass, and I wonder just how different things would be if I still lived at home. Maybe I miss my mom's cooking more than I realize, or the reliable safety and shelter offered despite rather unpleasant living conditions (very little air conditioning, to name one). I am still boggled at what would have happened if I was living at home when Elena came to visit. And why did I even move out? I was working in Annapolis and it made more sense to live closer to my job. Although now, it is rather entertaining that I no longer have the job for which I moved out here. Read: isn't it ironic?

However, there is definitely a reason for all of this, why I even took the job out here, why I eventually moved out here for it, why I eventually lost the job, and why I will eventually figure out what I will do next. Even though I've fallen (first by losing my job, then next by wasting a month of my real life playing the MUD), I am certain there will be a tomorrow. I might be starving, or bumming off friends, but it seems the moral here is that a nigga's gotta keep rolling. I am now beginning to feel like one of those young animals who you'll see on a special on the Discovery Channel or Animal Planet. You'll see them leave their mother at what appears to be the standard age, and you'll see them stumble finding their way through life. That's the lesson here, perhaps.

As for as how this even remotely relates to Anna, that cute girl from church about whom I've decided to write these entries, there's probably some glimmer of relevance here. Perhaps once I get off my ass and start making some money to pay my bills and regain the month I've lost, maybe I'll have found some courage to talk to her again. Or then again, I might meet someone else. We'll see.

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