Remember that time I wrote a book and disappeared from the internet for basically months and months, except when I would occasionally monopolize Tumblr to make everyone look at animated gifs from old horror movies and relive conversations that I had with D about counting jellyfish?
I remember that time …
Now, though. (Now!) I am back from Storyland.* I’m bright-eyed and brushed-haired and have turned my brain outward-facing again. And now, I have Things On My Mind.
And okay, yes. I’ve talked about this before—I know I have. Here, and here, and here, and kind of here. And yes, those are all vastly different posts filled with vastly different ideas, but all marginally dealing with this same kind of core … creative bizarro world?
The thing is, I really just have very poor built-in coping skills.
Seriously. You have no idea.
My life mostly goes like this: in day-to-day mode, I am placid—a doll-shaped creature made of puff pastry and frilly socks and old seasons of Dexter and pop-science books about electrodynamics. When I’m deep in the throes of a project, however, I am an I-don’t-know-what made of I-don’t-know-what. If I had to guess, I’d say Sweetarts and lightning.
I’ve known this for a long, long time.
I first discovered the depth of my non-coping-ness in high school, although I want to make it clear that at the time, I absolutely did not even understand what I was looking at.
Pro Tip: When you gradually phase out all forms of leisure until you stop sleeping altogether-yes-completely-not-even-a-little? You are not handling your life particularly well.
But I made it through my senior year and graduated and forgot about it and never even thought of it again until grad school. When, once again, I stopped sleeping altogether. Yes. Not even a little.
Which could have gotten really bad, but by then I was more of an adult and also marginally more able to step back and look at my life and my choices. In my state of constant, low-level panic, I’d retained just enough awareness to ask myself a very important question. Which was, “Hey. Self. Remember sophomore year of high school? Spring semester? Remember how you actually had a lot of work then too, and still, you totally slept sometimes? Why was that, do you think?”
As it transpires, the answer is simple, and also kind of weird.
The only thing that set 10th grade apart from all other parts of high school was that we’d just gotten a computer. It was a deeply-discounted floor model, and as such, it came with a lot of random stuff pre-installed. One of those things was an interplanetary flying game called Descent. Some of you may remember this game. Or not. Basically, you shoot increasingly durable robots who live in a sprawling network of increasingly complex mineshafts.
I played the HELL out of it.
The game was entertaining. And relaxing. And I found that, after killing a certain allocation of robots (particularly those tricky, hateful bastards with the cloaking devices that like to sneak up and peel the hull off your ship) and solving a certain allocation of increasingly difficult puzzles, I could sleep.
I developed a routine involving maze-memorization and robot-extermination and the Brenna-version of a reasonable bedtime.
It didn’t last. Eventually, I beat the game and then went right back to fidgeting and pacing and running around the neighborhood in the middle of the night and looking up the effects of snake venom on red blood cells at three o’clock in the morning, because I was completely bereft of robots.
C’est la vie and so on.
And anyway, it wasn’t like I really NEEDED to sleep that much. I mean, I was mostly coherent and usually sort of normalish and I got all my work done, even if sometimes it was totally sloppy, and I harnessed the power of pure adrenaline as best I could and ignored the rest.
All the way up until … grad school.
In grad school, you need to do all the work and have it not be sloppy. You need to present as human, ideally 100% of the time. I knew that. I got it.
And yet, at 23, here I was again, parked attentively in front of the internet at three in the morning, despite the fact that this is a semi-arid climate and I would most likely never encounter a Russell’s viper, not even a little. And I needed to just stop.
Throughout most of college, I’d casually played various games on D’s computer when he wasn’t using it for computery things. There was really no reason NOT to play games—the survey courses I was taking didn’t have a lot of homework and I totally had the time.
Throughout most of college, I had also slept … well honestly, kind of a lot. For me, I mean.
And now, even in my unraveled state, I did appreciate that correlation is not the same as causality. I got that. But correlation, damn it!
Which is how I came to design a rather grand experiment.
And by experiment, I mean I bought a bunch of secondhand horror games from this guy named Victor who managed the only used game store in town and he spent four months being a condescending jerk to me, but we got through it and later he apologized, and I was basically like, “Hey, it’s cool, never do it again to anyone though, because it is a dick move and just because I wear a lot of things involving ruffles does not mean that I’m buying these games for my boyfriend, so never say that to anyone again, okay. Now, can you find me a used copy of Siren?”
And he was like, “I can find you twenty used copies of Siren, because it is literally too scary for anyone to play, so they keep trading it in.”
And I was like, “Bullshit. Give it to me.”
And he did, but it kind of was. Too scary to play.
And that is the story of how, at 23, I began to consume games—any games, but the scarier and more complicated, the better. Freaky mutated monsters with no faces that rip open their chests and spray acid everywhere? Perfect! Puzzles and riddles and secret codes and dead ends everywhere? I love you!
Sometimes at the end of these posts, I feel it behooves me to impart some kind moral. Or … point.
So here it is.
Out of sheer desperation, I beat my hyperactive brain into submission with zombies.
Because look! I know how to cope!
But only in distinctly non-adult ways?
*That’s kind of like Wonderland, only with more coffee, fewer shoes, and way worse hair.