Thursday, June 13, 2019

Having a Whale of a Time


This post is intended as informational.  It is an attempt to share my experience and to let others in my life know about some of my struggles.

Background:

Dissidia Final Fantasy: Opera Omnia is a mobile game. I have been very avoidant of any game on my phone for a couple years now. I find that whenever I have a game installed that requires constant attention I obsess over completing it, earning points, checking in daily and playing for several hours a day. I have a friend that is super excited about this game and was looking for more people to join him. I didn't take a lot of convincing, and I didn't express my obsessive tendencies clearly enough to warrant a second thought.

I started playing on April 18, 2019. This week I've completed all the permanent content that has been made available.

Permanent Content: 
  • 28 Lost Chapters
  • 13 World of Illusions 
  • Maxed 10/12 Summons (Chocobo and Sylph are at 18), 
  • Act 1 Chapter 1-11 + Interlude 
  • Act 2 Chapter 1 & 2

I've maxed out on all in game resources. All my characters are a minimum of "Crystal Level" 50 and I've unlocked all chests for all 79 of my characters in ultimate Ifrit.

For anyone who plays the game, you may have a sense of how many hours of content and grinding I've condensed in the past two months. I'm curious how long it would take to complete the same amount of content casually. The friend that introduced me to the game started playing over a year and a half ago. He is still working on some of the permanent content if that gives any perspective. In addition, there is new and time limited content that is released weekly. So the story and other elements are to pacify you while they are working on development and it offers the user a way to "earn" in-game currency so they can still have their "free-to-play" model.

So what do I enjoy about this game?

The story is somewhat engaging and the content is somewhat challenging. My friend has played and enjoys most of the Final Fantasy franchise and is excited to talk about and share the experience with me.This game is very reliant on nostalgia and also is a way to get players interested in older games in the franchise.

What is challenging for me? 


It's mindless enough that grinding for hours keeps just enough of my attention that I can get some other things done poorly while playing. The "Hard" content needs slightly more focus and resource management. The "Heretic" quests, which are time limited, need powerful boosted characters or game knowledge and resource management. Most of the game is mind numbing and repetitive with little need for skill and more focus on time and money.

Weekly there are daily rewards, new and time-limited challenges, which require the weapons from the weekly draw to succeed. The new items cost in game currency, you can get this currency by completing content or spending money. If your objective is to beat the new challenges then spending in game currency is a must.


This game revolves around gambling. 

This is a gacha game. Also referred to as "gotcha game". Gacha games are Japanese mobile RPGs that follow the same principle as capsule toy machines "gashapon". To operate a gashapon you put in money and you get an item or a set of items. The items are limited and exclusive, you have a small percent chance to get a "rare" or "ultra-rare" item that no-one else or a fraction of the player-base has. If it is a physical item the resale value is high (think thousands). If it is a digital good there is no legal resale option. Instead it comes with a status, prestige, or sense of accomplishment.

Since I started playing in April I have spent $419.77. By spending over $100 a month for the two months I've been playing puts me a "whale" status. Which isn't a great thing.

Whales are gamers who spend roughly $100 a month on micro transactions. While a smaller percent of the population they make up a large portion of the revenue for game industries. There is shame and disdain that follows the title. Some players want to have all the same items and feel cheated, some get mad at the irresponsible use of money. There are a plenty of stories about players generating thousands or tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt. There isn't much of a positive angle, generally the accounts are locked to a person and resale is against TOS. So the money goes into the game and there is no way to cash out or resell without getting into some trouble.



So what have I leaned?

These style of games are not positive influences in my life. They take my focus and energy and I receive a temporary feeling of accomplishment seeing a "Complete" status or getting the newest item.

I have willpower, determination, and dedication for some aspects of my life and complete lack of control and reason in others. I go through phases of control and chaos. Some periods are better than others. Sometimes I catch myself and recoup, other times I need an intervention or a loss in my life to shock myself back out. At times a loss or shock will drag me in, as a way to relieve whatever anguish I'm looking to escape or avoid.



What now?

Since I've manage to reach my goal of completing all the set content in the game my hope is to move into a less obsessive amount of gameplay. I can play the new content and it shouldn't take up as much of my time. I'll need to either pass on the shiny new thing and be ok with that, or stop playing before I dump thousands of dollars in to the game. Sharing my experience and putting more thought into what I am doing and why helps me to process and tone things down.

Feel free to ask questions or share your own experiences! Have you gotten sucked into a gotcha game or stepped away from one?

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Complexity

Here is another installment of the inner workings of my mind. I would like to think that I'm in a frame of mind that (mostly) chills me out and helps me find perspective.

As I have been working to write it out and make sense of it enough to share, it seems ridiculous. But I'm alright with that right now. 

I acknowledge that death is inevitable and with what I know, there is no way to avoid the end for myself or those around me. I'm not going down the whole "what is the point" path of despair, or "you only live once" flippant attitude. I work to be present in the moments I share with others and with myself. To immerse myself in activities I find valuable or fulfilling, knowing that my feelings, opinions, and experiences will most likely change.

This isn't too say I've mastered this, it is just what I strive for.

In my last post I talked about how I feel people lack perspective and empathy, how they are the superheroes in their own story, and ... actually if you haven't read it, I recommend you do. This post may make a little more sense with all that in mind.

I feel that where we disconnect from those around us is our unconscious process "othering". We may be able to agree that we are all individuals trying to survive conceptually, but as we make decisions and process our daily lives I would argue that we don't generally process all of those around us in our lives.

The process of making someone else an "other", a disposable character in our overarching life, seems to be an unconscious act. If we treated everyone as a primary character and interacted meaningfully with literally every person we crossed, it would be debilitating. When I take the effort to pull outside of my own head and my own narrative to see the person next to me, or the person who I feel may have hurt me, it changes how I choose to react. It doesn't change my feelings, I still feel hurt, confused, happy, or sad. I see feelings more as a hard wiring that I may not be able to change. But I can come to a place of acceptance and be more deliberate with my actions.

So, how can we acknowledge the perspective and struggle of others without taking from our own? My answer, I don't know.

There are so many layers and elements to this thought that I find myself stumbling over concepts, and I feel like I need to clarify or explain further. I get caught up in my thoughts. How do I clarify a point when I don't know what questions will follow? Am I able to re-explain? Do I just trash the whole idea? What was I explaining anyway?

I've found my mind makes those around me different, now that I've identified it, I have been working to alter it, to tweak it, to attempt to expand my perspective. It has changed how I interact with others and I feel I am able to better connect, though I may never understand why something was said, or why an action was taken. Its been a hell of a trip.

I spoke with a friend (thanks Dave!) about these thoughts and he helped me to find a word to sum up the experience:
sondern. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.

This can be a bit jarring, yet feel obvious. I would say it is the opposite side of the spectrum is believing that everyone else in the world is a robot, which is a whole different bag of complexity and concern.

So what now? It is unclear to me, but I'm OK with that. I value those in my life and will do what I can to be intentional with my time and theirs if they choose to share it with me. Also, accepting that I'll faultier and forget. 

For those who choose to other me and account for only themselves. They can continue to live in their own world, I don't need to be a part of it. And I'm good with that.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Calmer Than You

So I first approached this post as, how do I find calm? As I thought through it and picked through my brain it morphed more into personal truths. With that said, here is where I'm at currently in my life! If there are any items you would like me to expand on leave a comment! I could turn just about any of these items into a post on its own, but I have been working on this for a few weeks now and wanted to get it out there.

Everything is bullshit.

Everything? Yes. The why may become clear after reading through my other personal truths.

Facts are only facts until new data proves otherwise.

A lot of what people state as facts are personal antidotes or personal experiences that are applied to a all future experiences. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, it is how we navigate the world, how we learn, and how we stay alive. But I accept that I don't know everything and that there is more to learn. As far as I know, science is based on the scientific method. At times a new discovery shakes the very core of what is known and unknown. Keep this in mind when arguing a fact, dig into the research, look for bias, find perspective. Be open to new or conflicting ideas. That isn't too say reject everything, don't be a dick.

You don't matter, none of this matters.

Who can really see and process "the big picture"? We can't all step into The Total Perspective Vortex and grasp the full gravity of the universe without having our brains melt. I don't see my actions or ideas shaking the known universe or altering the future as it stands. I guess you could take it as a way to be humble? I don't try to place myself in the universe, I like to believe that my life has value, at least to myself and to those around me who care for me.

No-one deserves anything.

We can earn things, we can inherit, make opportunities, pay for things, but nothing is deserved. When we feel obligated and pressured to give our time, attention, love, energy, or any part of ourselves I find that it feels bad and it isn't something I want to do or entertain. Why would I put that pressure on anyone else? So I don't.

Age alone does not make someone an "adult".

For most of my life I've seen adults as another entity, another organism that demanded respect. As I've grown, my body and my mind has shifted, adapted, absorbed information. Now I see people I've grown with in the same lifestyle and mentality that they had in high-school or college. Never moving from that stage of life. I've also seen others grow into brilliance. Being older does not demand respect, it should be earned. Getting older does not make anyone wiser, stronger, or anything other than older. Growth takes time yes, it also takes energy, focus, and effort. We can learn from experience or ignore it and stagnate. I prefer to learn.

People lack perspective and empathy.

Ever get frustrated because someone seems to be acting irrationally given a situation? 
Ever feel like someone doesn't get what it feels like to ___? 
Wouldn't it be nice if they had more perspective? 
Wouldn't it be great if I had more perspective? 
Lets focus now on things we can influence.
How can I gain perspective? 
What other angle can I see this situation from? 
It doesn't mean that I'll make sense of the situation, or that the other view-point is more correct or even rational! Not narrating myself as the victim helps me to deal with the decisions of others without getting as frustrated. Hard times, bad experiences, happy experiences, strange life moments, all are opportunities to gain experience, moments we can develop empathy to share with others. To experience part of a similar emotion. When I had my first migraine I was crying in darkness thinking about how bad it felt and how, at the end of it, I would have a tool to help empathize with others who told me they were experiencing a migraine. The experience will not be the same, but I felt my own pain and loss of function to possibly better assist others.

Everyone is the hero of their own life story.

Everyone has a story about their lives where all of their actions are justifiable. While to others may see the decisions as detached from reality, logically flawed, morally questionable, or outright destructive the hero in this story may only be able to grasp their perspective and experience, completely ignorant or blind to how their actions affect the lives around them. I take this into account when trying to parse the actions of others. While this doesn't ultimately justify or make every action "correct" it provides me with some perspective. I can then choose how I react and how I interact with them in the future. If someone is always pulling out the extraordinary self-justifying story, I'll distance myself best I can.

Everyone should see a therapist.

We see doctors for our physical health and are encouraged to do so regularly. We encourage others to see family doctors, dentists, gynecologists, eye doctors, allergy specialists, and a long list of medical professionals to keep our body running. But what about our minds? What about mental health and well-being? This has been a way for me to get a reality check and to get a professional view as to what level of crazy I'm at. It has been a great reset or re-balance of perspective and has helped to pull me out of some dark defeated experiences. I encourage others to seek therapy and actively speak against those who bash or talk down the idea of mental health.

Lets talk options.

I'm a big fan of options. Knowing what my options are or thinking what other options I can come up with. These may be terrible ideas and options I would not choose, but a brainstorming session helps me to generate more ideas and options that may be more favorable. I get frustrated when I hear "this is the ONLY way", I see it more as "this is the only option I'm willing to consider". This turns a conversation into a battle and stunts ideas and exploration.

Your feelings are valid.

While feelings don't make a lot of sense a lot of the time you can't control them, acknowledge them, I can feel whatever I'm feeling without bashing my emotions and things I can't necessarily control.

You can't choose how you feel, you can choose how you act on those feelings.

I don't know about you, but I can't turn my feelings off. Am I feeling depressed and can't identify a source? Well alright, that is fine I can feel that. That doesn't mean I beat myself up and decide to change what I feel. No, I feel it, accept it, then move forward when I am able to. I covered more of this concept in my last post about The Happiness Trap. If you haven't read it or the post, check it out! If you think your feelings control you, this may help shift that.

Be comfortable with silence.

While we can't experience total silence (breath, heartbeat, wind, birds, trees) I push myself into moments of silence and sit with it. Not having every moment filled with music, conversation, and noise is maddening at first. But I have come to appreciate breaks in conversation, moments of mostly quiet, enjoying the breath and heartbeat of others. My mind may still race, but I don't feel anxiety when I can't find words to fill the space.

That's all I have so far! Thanks for sticking with me to the end there! A lot bouncing around my brain all the time here. It is challenging trying to identify how I can best translate my feelings into words. I'm not exactly sure why this makes me calm, but I'm happy to have had the experiences that got me to this state of mind.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Book: The Happiness Trap

The Happiness Trap was recommended to me a few months ago by my therapist. I recently collected and shared some of my thoughts with him, and wanted to post them for others who may be interested.

If you would like to read this book you can get a free digital copy from The Internet Archive! Just click the link and download the format that works best for you in the download options.

For some background, The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris, is a book that follows the ACT method. The tagline is "A guide to ACT: the  mindfulness-based program for reducing stress, overcoming fear, and creating a rich and meaningful life". It comes off like a hoax or a lame get rich quick guide, but lets move past that and get into it.

The ACT acronym in this case stands for: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. This is a form of counseling and a branch of clinical behavior analysis. Learning about this method was significant to me because I feel I have been practicing a form of this in my life. It was positive for me to see this as a more coherent and tangible resource I could share with others, rather than fumbling through my thoughts for an explanation. 

I like that The Happiness Trap focuses on self awareness and acceptance. There is a constant reminder to acknowledge and accept our feelings and emotions. Not to change, reject, overcome, or shame them, but to accept. Being able to take our feelings as they are, emotional responses, and to take control and ownership of our actions is empowering and challenging. Taking the time to observe how our body and mind react, to breath,provide space, allow the sensation and feeling to be there. These concepts have helped me to grow and become more comfortable with myself and my thoughts.

The author discusses how to view our interactions with others. We can feel trapped or overwhelmed by friends or family that are constantly negative or toxic in our lives. The focus isn't to manipulate or control them, but to focus on what we can do. A reminder that staying true to our values and asking for the respect or space we need can help create a more positive experience. The author reminds us that being helpful, loving and supportive to others doesn't mean subjecting ourselves to abuse. While it may seem like an obvious statement, I find the reminder helps me assess my connections honestly, rather than providing excuses for others.

Overall The Happiness Trap helps to acknowledge not only our feelings and experiences, but the feelings and experiences of others. I feel this allows those around us to feel heard and validated. It doesn't state that certain feelings are right or wrong, but acknowledges them. This can help us move forward or dive into the underlying fears with less resistance or defense. 

Half way through the book they take time to explain that ACT is a tool that helps to accept the pain that inevitably comes with living. The author makes a point to distance from religion or religious like practices. I feel they set fairly good ground work and really push to adjust perspective and perception of our emotions. The intention isn't to create a cult or law, but to remind us that these are guidelines and that we will struggle. Some concepts and exercises will work for you, others will not, use what works. There isn't a definitive end to our journey of growth, keep moving forward, and know that sometimes you will fall back.

Something that stood out to me was the author breaking the fourth wall several times. It is almost humorous and feels cheesy, but it provides a reminder to take the time to try and experience the exercises. This also acknowledges that the aversion to trying them is common and expected. This book wasn't designed to speed read or skim for highlights. It attempts to provide some practical application to really get you into a space with less stress, fear, and more meaning.

Overall I found the book to be a positive influence on my brain. There were some sections and stories that I reacted with a cringe or a sigh, but I found the message and concepts in this book refreshing and empowering. Finding "happiness" or striving to "be happy" is not a goal I have. Identifying and living by my values sounds a lot better.

"True success is living by your values"

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Musings

I find myself moving constantly between hyper focus and distraction. I have activities that I'm exploring, but there is a constant struggle for me to stay involved in my work or have any interest in what I do. I don't talk about it much, generally when I share my experiences or feelings, the response is "everyone feels that" and "oh, that is normal", then why the fuck does everyone do something that feels bad? I've talked through some of this with my brothers. I found that if I wanted, I could get an official diagnosis and get medication that could calm my mind. I'm not sure what I want to do with that yet. I'm keeping it as an option.

So why do these expressions really grind my gears? I recognize that we all have our own experiences and perspectives, I am happy to empathize and to share my personal feeling if they may help someone feel less alone or provide encouragement, I don't intend to share to degrade, downplay, or dismiss. I take care to communicate that, take feedback, and do what I can to adjust. Sharing the assumption and dismissing my personal experience makes me feel ignored and mocked. If you feel the same way about your job you can share that without passing me off as an idiot. Something like "I have experienced that too" is better, and you could even offer some positive advice if you moved into a better situation "and here are some things I did to improve".

To expand on the struggle, I feel emotionally drained from work. Over the years I've leaned on dance to energize, fulfill me, and push me through, but now I've burned out on dance. It is hard not to jump into the next hobby with all my remaining energy, further ignoring my discontent with work. I'm trying to be mindful and explore my options, it is a struggle. I have some things I can work toward to supplement my income, like cuddling, which I mention later. I also want to minimize and de-clutter my home. I feel that getting rid of the "stuff" that I've been moving with and living with can help remove some of the mental weight those items bring. If it doesn't give me joy or serve a purpose, I can live without it. I still have a vision or hope to get into a space that is closer to a tiny home, this will help that as well.

That was weighing on my mind more than I expected. On with the update!

I've dabbled more with streaming, Currently I have a regular Monday schedule (8pm-11pm) with my brothers, now we have found a streaming service that lets us share the experience together! Having regular game nights with my brothers has been a positive experience. Even though we are spread out across the country we get time to talk, connect, and have some fun together. I don't expect the stream to grow quickly without some marketing or exposure push, but if we can keep our schedule consistent something could happen. Even if it doesn't I'm happy to have time with them.

I feel pressure to create marketing materials for my professional cuddling service, it would be more cost effective and less stressful if I was to redesign my personal website to better reflect where my focuses are. There are resources available for me to use and grow with, I haven't set the time to focus and embrace this as a regular form of income or a larger portion of my time. I intend on taking a few days off of work in the upcoming weeks to work on my cuddle marketing as well as selling some items in my home that I've been moving around but not using. You can follow my e-bay account if you are interested in what I'll be posting!

I enjoy interacting with the growing non-monogamy community in the area. The regular Poly Cleveland Meetups have been positive. One of the newer leadership members designed a logo for the group! It has a nice mix of Cleveland and an endless love heart design. It is a great addition to our image and has a positive response. The growth over the past year has been wonderful and very encouraging. Nancy has been contributing a lot of her time and organizational knowledge to keep things moving smoothly. It will be a challenge to keep things growing without burning out individually. Right now we have a good mix of events and participation, I'm happy to see the successes we have had so far. I hope for more positive experiences in the future!

I've started bouldering, this was an activity I dabbled with months ago, and I felt that it was something that I could spend a lot of time and energy on if I let myself focus on it. With that said, after going to 3 different bouldering gyms in 2 different states I decided to purchase official climbing shoes, I am very happy with the purchase so far! I went to the Cleveland Rock Gym on Sunday and my muscles are just about recovered. Its been challenging and I'm happy to get in the exercise. I'm going to need to manage the cost and muscle exhaustion, but it seems like something that I'll enjoy. As far as I have been told it is a very social activity, I enjoy pushing myself and advancing, I have less interest at this point in having conversations while I'm out, I assume there is some ideal of balance of climbing and rest, which is where the social angle would come in.

I hope you enjoyed the update! There are plenty of other things going on in my life and new people that I'm growing with, I don't have the energy to share all of that today. Thank you for your time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Student Loan

So I payed off my student loans this week. Its been a work in progress since 2003, so for 15 years it has been a weight pressing down on me. Student loans always felt like a black hole, something that was just always going to be there sucking the life and income from me.

For those of you who don't know or are interested, I graduated from The University of Akron with two bachelor degrees. Information Systems Management and e-Business Technologies. As well as a minor in Management. That was about 6 years of school while working full time. 

I've gone from deferment, to income-based repayment, to blowing all my savings to pay the high interest loans. I know this is a burden for a lot of people and that others have stories more grueling, disheartening, and are in despair. For those of you, I am sorry, I don't have any insight or hope that I can offer.

Thinking through how I got to this point. I made it through with help from family, friends, and luck mixed with opportunity and action.
  •  I took several years and lived with my Mother paying a very reasonable rent
  • Worked with Nancy to strike up a payment plan that didn't feel overwhelming
  • Set up automatic payments from my checking account (I don't remember if it lowered my rate or qualified me for something, but it was strategic)
  • Took a friendly loan with little interest to pay off high interest loans (6.55%)
  • After 72 on time payments Great Lakes was kind enough to drop the interest rate of my low interest loans from 2.28% to 0.28%

Anytime I saved up money I called the company and had to ask them to apply the payment to specific loans (there were 13 of them). After the payment posted I would need to call back and ask them to apply the payment correctly.

My mind is still trying to comprehend the idea of no longer paying for a student loan. Each month I'll have money not going to these loans that were with me since 18. Just typing that out breaks my brain. This loan has been on my mind and part of my budget since I took it out. I don't imagine it will be hard to adjust to living without it, I look forward to not looking at my account balance every month to make sure I have enough funds to ensure the automatic payment clears.


Nancy suggested that I get my payment history and calculate how much I saved paying off my loan early. If I have the energy for it I'll make the calculations and post an update later.

Monday, January 8, 2018

2017 What Adventure

It has been a while since I've written, I can't say that I have nothing to write about, but I haven't felt driven to write. I feel like I've been on a bit of an emotional roller-coaster, just like everyone else.

2017 has passed, a lot has happened in the past year!

I purchased my second duplex, traveled to burning man, gained and lost friends, hit a fitness goal, did some cosplay, lost my gains, started a Meetup group, did some personal growth.

Looking though my photo folder it reminds me of happy and sad times in 2017. I traveled to Saint Louis, Massachusetts, Nevada, Texas, and Colorado.

I've had quite the range of experience this year, without my photos I would have difficulty remembering the breadth of experience. Generally I feel that time goes quickly because my memory fails me.

To share some of the more current things in my life. I am planning a party for my brothers and I for our 33rd birthday. A friend suggested it to me last year and I figured I would run with it. I rented out the "Silver Room" at a dance studio I've been to on and off for a few years now. I'm not sure how the range of friends will interact, having such a diverse set of interests across three different brothers, but I'll do my best to enjoy myself. With plans to remember the night.

I purchased myself a treadmill from Craigslist this week, I spoke with my friend Dave and he suggested it was one of the best times to pick up a used one, right around now the New Year resolutions have gone into full fail mode and the exercise equipment that seemed like a great gift can't get out of the house fast enough. The one I ended up with retails around $350 and had been sitting in the basement for two years with minimal use. I rented a truck from Home Depot for $20 and picked it up for $140.

It feels like a good investment to battle the weather and the desire to remove the fat feeling. I considered signing back up to the gym at work to run, but I don't want to be in the office any longer than necessary and If i'm just running the treadmill costs the same as 4 months in the gym. I also avoid the feeling of dread from walking into the office off-hours or on my day off.

So what is on the horizon for 2018?

  • I'm becoming more active with the non-monogamy community in the area. 
  • I'm working with a financial adviser to see what options I have investing in the future! 
  • I've been seeing a therapist to find opportunities for growth while working through sad feelings. 
  • I've set myself up to run 3-5 times a week (with my newly purchased treadmill), this is something I enjoy doing and can help regain some aspect of fitness in my life. I would like to get back to my zombie photo shoot level of fitness ... hopefully while maintaining more of my sanity this time!
  • I'm gearing up for a few travel adventures (I'll make some update along the way).
I have a quote sitting on my desk that helps me when I'm looking back on the past.
"Time holds too many possibilities. It is madness to try and re-live the past -- we must accept it and go on. What is ... is ..." X-Men Oct '96 #36
How was your 2017?