I don’t think I realized that I was as compulsive as I am until I played Super Mario Brothers. We had an Atari, and I played a mean game of Pitfall. I was also a Q-Bert champion (especially after I figured out the thing about turning the controller diagonally), but Super Mario Bros just brought out my inner OCD. I am the kind of person who would start the game over if I missed a coin–Like I knew that if I jumped fast enough, I could punch 14, maybe 15 coins out of the low blocks and 9, maybe 10 out of the higher ones. Anything less than that and the game was getting restarted. And it wasn’t enough for me to wuss out and take the warps at the end of 1-2 and 4-2 (my fellow dorks know what I’m talking about)–I had to defeat the game by completing all the levels.
I think it was the coins…. I loved hearing the sound and watching the number go up until I got a 1UP. It carried over into other games as well–I discovered Final Fantasy VII in college and spent hundreds of hours making imaginary characters very, very strong (I don’t regret this at all, by the way. That game completely rocked). I had to find every hidden treasure in Tomb Raider. Even stupid Angry Birds! I seriously cannot stop playing a level until I get 3 stars. I have a problem. But at some point–if we can manage a moment of clarity–there should come a time when every sane person says, “Wait a second…. What the crap am I doing? I’m slinging make-believe birds at green pigs. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME?!?! Sometimes I feel this way about life….
I’m compulsive with this blog too. This is something that most non-blogging people (NBP’s, we call them. No we don’t) probably don’t think about, but after you post something, you can track a lot of numbers about your blog. Things like how many people are viewing it per hour or per day, what country they are viewing it in, and how they found it (most people find my blog through Facebook and a few through Twitter) or, if they found it through a search, what search terms they were looking for (for example, today someone found my blog by searching “sauerkraut kielbasa gives me diarrhea.” I attract a very classy reader). Also, at the bottom of the blog there are these little buttons that say Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit, etc. that you can push to share, and then next to that button it shows the number of times that people have shared that post for each site (You can see them at the bottom of this post). For some reason, this is the number that I care about. It is like a shiny, Mario Bros. coin to me.
So last week, I decided to spend the $20 and purchase “theboeskool.com” as my site (before that, it was theboeskool.wordpress.com. Not nearly as catchy). Surprisingly enough, it was available. When I switched over the domain name, for some reason it reset all of my share numbers back to zero. And there was no getting them back. When I saw this had happened, I literally broke out in a sweat. I hadn’t realized how much of my self-worth was wrapped up in those numbers. I felt validated by them. When I saw those numbers I thought, “Wow! People that I don’t even know like what I wrote enough to share it. People approve of me!!!” But it wasn’t just that I knew that people approved of me–I think it was that I wanted OTHER people to know that people approved of me. And now I had lost the “proof” that I had done something that people liked. Ugh…. Is this why I’m writing? So people will tell me that I’m good enough?
But blog statistics are kind of like life. You might start out with 10-15 people sharing your blog, and then one day you write something that 30 people share and it makes you feel pretty good about yourself. Then, some time later after you have written stuff that 200, 500, or 4000 people have shared, all the sudden 30 shares feels like a failure. We all climb ladders in our lives. We see that next rung and think, “If I can just get there, it will make me happy.” But we forget that there is always another rung after that. And after that. And that ladder keeps going all the way up.
But blogging is just MY thing right now–We all have those things in our lives that we look to for validation: Maybe it’s people “liking” the things you write on Facebook. Maybe it’s people telling you how good you look. Or how beautiful you are. Or how funny you are. Or how smart you are. Maybe it’s your title at work. Or what neighborhood you live in. Or what kind of car you have. Maybe it’s someone you respect telling you that you do good work. Or that you are important.
And people NEED to know that they are important. And beautiful. And special…. It’s when their knowledge of those things depends on continually hearing them that it becomes a problem. And people SHOULD try to improve themselves. And grow. And succeed…. It’s when those successes (or reaching the next rung on the ladder) determine their self-worth that it becomes a problem. Because those people who are lucky/talented enough to reach that highest rung rung where they can see no one else above them–even they look around at the top and realize sooner or later that a lot of it was just flinging make-believe birds at green pigs. In many ways, we are all just a bunch of stereotypically Italian plumbers in colorful outfits, running through sewers, killing turtles, and collecting imaginary coins.
But not everything is imaginary. When you think about it, the things that matter the most are not things at all. Things like relationship and trust and love and God–All things you can’t really touch or measure. For me, just knowing another person’s heart, and having them truly know yours (and having them still want to be around you)…. Such Sweetness! To be able to help someone, and to have that person help you to better understand yourself…. Such Reality! To trust someone enough to give your heart away…. Such Joy! Because all of the stuff we collect–It falls apart. All of our accomplishments–They don’t last (Someday Usain Bolt will be standing around watching someone else run, just like Carl Lewis is standing around watching him). Beauty fades, careers end, investment portfolios get emptied…. But if we invest in love–in our communities, in our families, in our relationships–If we invest in each other, THAT’S when we start to lose sight of the ladders and the numbers and the coins. And that’s when we really win.
But seriously…. Share this blog or I’ll feel like a failure.