Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Blaugust Prompt-a-Palooza Day #5: My Time in the Spotlight

It's my day in the sun! The wheel of Promptapalooza has turned it's terrible gaze to me. The eyes of Belghast's Blaugustosphere empire rest upon my humble blog. Will I seize the provided prompt? Will I provide a response that leaves the masses weeping with joy in the streets? Or will I scribe a dithering dump, to the eternal ridicule of my blog peers?

That's perhaps a bit dramatic. Let me start over.

Yesterday, Roger at Contains Moderate Peril discussed underrated media and then passed the baton to me for my turn in the Promptapalooza relay. I have it on good authority that he's both a handsome and clever man. He's also been a fixture of my RSS feed for longer than I can remember. You should read him if you haven't.

Anyhow, let's get to today's prompt. I was bit longer winded than I usually am. Apologies in advance.

Everyone has specific rituals that they follow, tell us about one of yours.

My favorite ritual is staying up late on an autumnal night, collecting bits of salt, spice, and incense in a purpose-made basket, and walking a lush, green, forested path to an ancient monument that overlooks the neighboring valley. From there, I sacrifice a virgin and say a few words to satiate the RNG Gods so that we might have yet another bountiful raid for our tanks, who are squishier than a bag of bread.

For the record, this is not true. I don't even live near a valley anymore. Or raid for that matter.

An earlier version of this prompt actually asked about routines. I'm not sure why the wording changed, but it had me thinking about the difference. When I think of routines I think of habits. When I think of rituals I tend to think of superstition. I used to have some specific superstitions back in the day, particularly when it came to either playing baseball as a youngling or raiding in World of Warcraft.

A common superstition in baseball is to never walk on the chalk lines when entering or exiting the field. I also found this important. Some of that was practical. I was often early enough to games that I was the one who put the new chalk lines down. But mostly it was about respecting the 'sanctity' of the baseball field.

No matter how hard you try, one player can have only so much affect in a baseball game. You only get 4-5 at bats and limited fielding opportunities. A great pitching performance can have an outsized effect on the game, but you can only do that once or twice a week for endurance reasons.

So there's a lot of wishing and waiting. The downtime can be excruciating. Whether it's flipping your hat inside-out to coax a home run, or repeating the same three motions before every pitch, you fill in the gaps with a ritual you can control.

Same thing with raiding in an MMO. No matter how well I dodge the fire, interrupt the doomsday spell, or coordinate my trinkets with my cooldowns, I'm still at the mercy of all the other players. And potentially randomness within the boss design itself. (I'm not sure what's worse.)

So I had my rituals there too. Some were practical, checking bags for potions/regents, double check I'm not still wearing my fishing rod, etc. But others were pure superstition, like only jumping on specific tiles of the terrain on the way to a difficult boss. Again, it was a way to inject a certain amount of control in face of the uncontrollable.

But at a certain point I had to stop. It's stressful trying to control the chaos of the world.

And that's when I began trading my rituals for routines. It's when I realized I needed to fix the bigger picture.

This was especially important when I began freelancing. Being your own boss has some incredible perks, but it also means that nothing is getting done unless you initiate it all yourself. And for me, that was always a big ask, mentally. Every morning, get up and start chipping away at a giant project, with no coordination and less guidance, usually about a technical topic that I only have a passing familiarity with. No one's there to cheer or pressure you on. Just a deadline and a vast empty sea.

It's hard to describe just how debilitating that can be.

And so every project broke down into smaller pieces. And I developed routines for everyone of those pieces, and life was good. I didn't have to think about what to do, I would just sit down at my desk and do. And I found that a particularly great place to be.

But it's freelance. You get some dry spells. You get some nightmare clients. You get some projects that don't end up working for reasons beyond your control. And then I moved halfway across the country, away from most of those clients. And then we had a pandemic.

And right now I'm left without many routines. And that weighs on me. I spend an awful lot of my day deciding how to get the best out of my day. Sometimes I have good answers though. I knock out a few projects around the house, get the lawn mowed, etc. Other times I play Final Fantasy XIV all day. Which is fine, but feels awfully inconsequential.

It's in writing this that I realized I've been a bit misplaced. I keep trying to return to my old routines. But there is no substance to build those routines around. Money right now is fine, so I can theoretically pick and choose what work I do. But the work that can be done right now stirs nothing in me. There's not much one can do outside our quarantine bubble. I miss my friends dearly.

So right now I'm back to the old days. Wishing and waiting. Wishing people would put on their damn masks in this country. Waiting on things to return to normal.

Wishing and waiting to get back to my routine.

Okay, that wasn't the cheeriest ending. Sorry about that. And now I have to pass the baton on to our next contestant. Hopefully I didn't get it covered in too much dirt.

Wilhelm from the Ancient Gaming Noob has also been a mainstay of my RSS feed for longer than I remember. I have it on good authority that he's both a handsome and clever man. That's just what I've been told. You should read them if you haven't. They'll be talking about some of their favorite quotes. Maybe even tell us why they like them so much.

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