Solitary Soundings

Musings of a solitary gamer. "The advantage of conversation is such that, for want of company, a man had better talk to a post than let his thoughts lie smoking and smothering." (Jeremy Collier) Comments welcome.
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Off the Beaten Path

p55carroll
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"‘Well, at any rate, the Dormouse said—’ the Hatter went on, looking anxiously round to see if he would deny it too: but the Dormouse denied nothing, being fast asleep. ‘After that,’ continued the Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter—’"
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"‘But what did the Dormouse say?’ one of the jury asked. ‘That I can’t remember,’ said the Hatter."
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Microbadge: 2022 RPG Geek Play-by-Forum Initiative participantMicrobadge: Solitaire WargamerMicrobadge: Live and let liveMicrobadge: I speak SpanishMicrobadge: I completed the 2022 VGG challenge: played 25 video games or played for 250 hours
Thought I'd change tack here and sail off into a topic that's not strictly game related: How does the title of this blog fit other aspects of my life?

Well, the "Solitary" part suggests a lone wolf--somebody who's somewhat isolated or who chooses to lead an insular life. And the "Soundings" part might refer to exploration or curiosity--something like that. In my case, it mostly means introspection.

Workout Personality

As a matter of fact, I do tend to be a lone wolf. Just the other day, I found a short article and quiz from the Mayo Clinic on "your workout personality." It covered a few points but ended up roughly classifying people as Self-Motivational, Team Players, or Spontaneous. I turned out to be decidedly Self-Motivational, and I knew that before I took the quiz.

One thing I've never been is a team player. I'm team conscious--when I'm part of a group, I tend to think about what's best for the group, and I'll usually go out of my way to contribute something useful. But I'm extremely hesitant to join any group. And when I do, in some way or other I often end up in a leadership role. Yet I'm a very standoffish, behind-the-scenes leader: I mostly just expect others to do their part, and I'm lousy at cheering people on or building their motivation. Basically I expect others to be as self-motivated as I am.

Furthermore, I hate it when anyone cheers me on or offers me an incentive of some kind. I shrug off rewards, blush at thanks, and am more repulsed than driven by what others call team spirit. All those things strike me as attempts to subordinate my individuality to some kind of group consciousness, and I refuse to do that. Individuality comes first for me--and I figure it does for everybody else too.

As to spontaneity--the other classification in the quiz--I don't have a lot of that either. Spontaneous people like to do things on the fly, at a moment's notice. They tend to resent rigid rules and fixed routines. That's me in only one limited sense: I don't like being on a schedule or having any appointments on my calendar; I much prefer to be entirely on my own time, free to do as I please.

However, what I choose to do in my free time is almost always very predictable. I do the same things at roughly the same times, day after day. I even eat the same meals most every day. It could be said that my whole life is one big set of routines. Still, I'm reluctant to commit myself to getting up at a certain hour, going to bed at a certain time, or putting anything I do on a calendar. Anything on my calendar feels like a weight on my shoulders--a big imposition. I may happen to do a physical workout at the same time each day, but it's always because I feel like doing it then, not because it's time to do it.

Of course, routines build into habits, and the things I feel like doing tend to come around at predictable times. So to an outside observer, it probably appears that my life is running like clockwork. And I guess I am almost the opposite of spontaneous. Nevertheless, on the inside I strongly resent clocks and calendars. As much as possible, I avoid setting a time and date for anything.

Relationships

The pattern, or attitude, I just described has affected my relationships (along with everything else). If I spend time with someone, it's because I feel like it--because I like that person and the feelings seem to be mutual. And whether we're in close contact every day or living apart in distant cities, in a way I feel we're always together--there's always a heart-to-heart connection. And a lot of times that's enough for me. It's nice to be face-to-face and talk or do things together, but it's not essential. What's essential is just the mutual feeling of affinity.

In my youth I was shy. Though full of romantic feelings and strongly attracted to the girls or young women, I'd hesitate to act. It all seemed too important to me; I couldn't bear to risk rejection. Hence, I never actually dated (in fact, the whole concept of dating seemed to somehow cheapen the intense feelings I had inside). I was in my early thirties when I met a woman, fell in love, and got married--all in less than a year. And we're still married--for thirty-five years this August.

No children--and maybe that's tied into my nature too. I was big on getting married but didn't care about children one way or the other. When we talked about it, we agreed on zero to two. And for the time being, it would be zero, because we were both finishing school. She also wanted to start a career and get a house of our own. Then the years passed, and before we knew it, too many years had passed. She started regretting it a bit, but by then I didn't feel up to dealing with kids. And so, it's just the two of us. Which is fine with me.

I suppose our marriage is a little odd, compared to what I imagine is the norm. That is, we don't find many things to do together, and we don't always have much to talk about either. There's a lot of love between us, but she's more of a "team player" and also more spontaneous, and she's strongly interested in many things I have no interest at all in--such as gardening, weaving, and nutrition. She doesn't like biking or boating, both of which I've been into at times. We both like games, but she'd rather play a single-player computer game than any two-player game; and I can't be bothered to arrange gaming sessions with other people anymore; so we end up just playing games individually on our separate laptops. I get roped into helping with gardening or barbecuing, and sometimes we shop together or watch a movie or something. But we're both introverts, and most of the time it works for us to just do our separate things. Now and then, though, that feels too weird, and then we have to make an effort to spend more time together.

My relatives are scattered--those who are still alive, that is. My dad died when I was in my teens, and my mom passed away in 2013. I keep in close touch with my only sibling, a younger sister, though for a long while it has been via email. Aside from that, and a wayward nephew, there are just a bunch of cousins (and the odd aunt or uncle) who never met me or met me only a few times--and not for a long time.

I don't have a big network of friends and acquaintances either. I'm not exactly a recluse; I interact with people at work, and I'm always communicating with people online or sometimes on the phone. But there are only three or four people I'd call real friends. And it's rare that we visit one another or even talk on the phone.

I'd say I'm actually a "people person," as contradictory as that might sound. I like people a lot and depend on perceived affinity with others. However, I prefer that communication be at a distance and mostly in writing. Up close, I tend to either clam up or joke around, as I get self-conscious and also place so much importance on the relationship that I start to worry. I want to say and do everything just right, even though I know friends will be forgiving.

It works best for me to me to share the company of others for short periods of time. I love my wife being around the house all the time, for instance, but it'd drive me nuts if she insisted on talking and doing things together most of the time. Years ago, I was in social situations where small groups of friends would just drop by every few days, and I hated that; it was too much of a frequent intrusion. But I very much enjoy having coffee with someone, sharing a meal, or visiting someone I haven't seen in a while. Being around people I like is great--as long as it doesn't crowd out the time I need to be alone.

Job and Career

The pattern holds true for my work life as well. I had a few low-end jobs when I was starting out, once in a factory. There I got along with most everybody very well, but I was happiest when I was left alone to work by myself. In fact, I shone at those times, impressing my bosses and others by doing an especially good job.

Mainly, I always want to feel my work is meaningful. I need money like everybody else, but I'm so antimaterialistic that money has never been a motivator for me. Even at the factory, I liked to believe there was some higher purpose to my work--that I was contributing something of value to the world, even though I was only bundling up garage-door components.

In 1981, I took a position with a nonprofit organization--a spiritual/religious group I belong to--and I'm still working there today. I didn't plan it that way; I thought I'd do it only for a couple years. But it suited me, and I guess it turned out to be my calling. I started out in Shipping and Receiving, then moved on to inventory management, then proofreading, and now I'm an editor.

I'm part of a team, of course. There are fifty or sixty of us working together in the organization's headquarters. But the bulk of my work takes place at my own desk, and as senior editor I get to do most things my way. I mark things up the way they need to be, and others take it from there. Suits me perfectly: I'm on my own, and yet I'm contributing a valuable service to the whole organization. And I believe the organization is doing something good for the world.

Because of that, I have no plans to retire. I'm old enough for that, but I want to keep working as long as I can. It's a job I love, so why not?

Spiritual Life

Speaking of religion and spirituality, that's another area where this solitary, introspective pattern of mine shows up. I grew up Catholic, but by the time I reached my teens I was a seeker. It had been enough for my dad to belong to the religion he was born into, but it wasn't enough for me. I didn't particularly want to belong to any group. And I also started questioning things.

After some soul searching, though, I made up my mind that there is a God, and I wanted to find my way home to God. So for the next few years I explored various religions and spiritual paths. And at age nineteen I hit upon one that felt exactly right for me.

My evaluation of it didn't change after that, either. It's proving to be a lifelong thing. I've even become a member of the clergy.

Politics

Then there's politics. I cared more about that in my youth than I do today. But in this area, too, I'd never have been content to just align myself with the Republicans or Democrats, like everybody else.

Instead, when I was in my teens, I got fired up by the revolution that many young people were advocating at the time. There were always people marching for civil rights, demonstrating against the Vietnam War, or just trying to overthrow the establishment. It was heady stuff, and they were exciting times.

But when the war ended and the Watergate trial passed into history, everything settled down. And then, to my mind, it all got too materialistic again. People were right back to money grubbing and trying to impress each other with wealth and power and status. And politically minded people all wanted to harness the power of government to their own ends, so they lobbied for this, that, and the other thing.

To me, it was a complete turn-off. I learned about libertarianism and took a strong liking to that philosophy. It's based on individuality, but--at least to my mind--it's not at all selfish. It's a live-and-let-live attitude, where it's uncool to make a federal case out of every little thing. Where you don't call upon the government to heavy-handedly solve all the problems of society.

I even joined the Libertarian Party once, for a little while. But I let that go. I generally agree with their philosophy, but I'm not much interested in all their wrangling to bring down the two-party system.

I'd describe myself as an independent centrist with libertarian leanings. But that's just how I think and vote. In day-to-day life, I suppose I behave more like a socialist. I grew up in a working-class family of Democrats, so I've got the stamp of Marxism on me whether I like it or not. (And I think a lot of people do, whether they know it or not. It's just part of the way society has evolved.)

Recreation

I guess the other big area of my life is recreation or hobbies. And yeah, I'm solitary and introspective there too.

For some strange reason, I've loved games all my life. It seems strange to me, anyway, because games normally involve interaction. Solitaire games have existed for a long time, but before the home-computer era, they were a niche thing at best.

Yet even when I was a kid, I asked for--and got--lots of games for Christmas and on my birthday. And when I was old enough, I started buying them for myself. It was mainly about immersion, though; to me a game was a gateway to an imaginary world, much like a novel or movie. So, over time, I grew to care less and less whether anyone else was playing games with me. And nowadays, there are so many single-player PC games around that I'm spoiled.

When I'm not playing games, I'm writing or reading in my free time. I'm much more a writer than a reader, though.

I also like to dabble at languages. In my third year of college, I briefly considered majoring in linguistics, but I chickened out and picked history instead. I thought learning languages would be too hard. It can be hard; I've never developed fluency in any language (I even struggle with English sometimes in everyday conversation). But I like to dabble and pick up words and phrases and such. I can get by in Spanish, and I have a basic reading knowledge of a few other languages.

Again, that might seem like a strange hobby for a solitary person. Language is all about communicating--interacting with others. But I almost never try to converse in any language I know. I have no desire to. I just like knowing that I could understand a little and struggle through if I ever had to. Meanwhile it's good mental exercise--and fun.

Games, writing, and languages take up most of my hobby time. And they're all intellectual pursuits. That has always been my focus. I've never had much of an inclination to enjoy physical activities. I resented PE (physical education) classes all through school, and I grew up with the odd attitude that anything physical was beneath me.

Yet, because my body cries out for exercise sometimes, I have found a few activities I can turn to.

I used to be big into bicycle riding, but I've been mostly away from that for years now. Partly that's because I dislike mechanical gadgets. I like bikes because they're simpler than cars, but they're still not simple enough.

I got a little kayak, and I've been having fun paddling around on local lakes for the past couple years.

Also, just last year and this year, I've taken up walking as a favorite pastime--just taking walks by myself. I started out with short walks, but my average is now about three or four miles. On a weekend I'll go eight or ten miles sometimes. Even bought a pair of nordic walking sticks, which I use occasionally.

But what I do daily for exercise is simply exercise. I have routines of calisthenics and stretching and such, and I do a light workout in the morning and a somewhat longer one in the afternoon. I've modified the workouts over the years, adding this and omitting that, but I've kept it up for at least twenty years now.

That works for me because it's all self-motivational. I make up my mind to do it, and I just go do it. I wouldn't do it if I had to make a trip to the gym or coordinate it with other people. That'd be more time-consuming and also much more of an imposition. Some people get enthused by things they can do with others, but I generally don't. To me, most anything physical is just work anyway, so I'd rather do it very directly and get it over with. Then I can get back to playing games or writing or studying a language.


So there it is--a long detour off the beaten blogging path of reflecting on games I'm playing. Introspective as I am, I suppose I end up inadvertently telling my life story no matter what I write about. But this time, I thought I'd just go ahead and describe the key areas of my life. Next time, back to gaming.
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