Twenty Eight

We’re having a small departure from the usual Fallout-related images for birthday posts, because this shot of being killed by a well-known Escape from Tarkov streamer (and fellow Aussie), 28 seconds into the raid, while I was level 28, was too good not to use.

I’m not getting any younger.

Those were the exact words I said to a colleague — a whole seven years my junior — the other day. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but it must have been related to our age difference, and/or differing accumulated life experience.

I often think that I’ve had a pretty sheltered life so far. It happens, especially when you grow up in a Christian family, go to a Christian school, and have somewhat-conservative Asian parents. And because I’m a bit of an introvert, it’s not as if I was going out and getting blind drunk every other weekend, like plenty of other people around my age. I don’t drive, lived at home until I was 24, and have only really been independent these past couple of years, all of which has really limited the shenanigans that I’ve been able to get up to.

Whilst I could argue that circumstances have meant that I’ve had less life experience than others, I have a sneaking suspicion that the reality is that my sheltered life has been much of my own choosing. By choosing to spend a lot of time alone in front of a computer, it’s possible, even likely, that I’ve had less exposure to “real life” than others.

Which is fine. Not all experiences are nice, after all. There’s definitely evidence to say that experiences that fall into the category of being “life experiences” often aren’t, more often than they are. At the very least, they often have some distinct reason to be memorable and can therefore be called an experience, and that experience isn’t always positive.

A few years back, the work Christmas party had a few gambling tables set up. The theme was Casino Royale, so gambling fit the bill. Everyone was given a set of chips on arrival, and it was up to you how you used them. Given that my exposure to real gambling at that point was more theoretical than practical, consisting of whatever I had seen on TV or in movies, I followed the lead of a few colleagues and played whatever they did.

I had just put it all on black at roulette, and was making small talk with one of my managers, when they asked me if I went to the casino often.
“No, I’ve never been”, I replied.
“Never?!” they responded incredulously.
I nodded yes. I might have then mumbled something about living a pretty sheltered life, but they didn’t press the issue.

It’s not as if I have some issue with gambling that has meant I’ve never done it, it’s more that I can count the number of times I’ve stepped foot onto a gambling floor at a casino using both my hands. I’ve never pulled the lever on a pokie machine, never gone all-in at poker, and never rolled the dice at craps. The only reason I know about any of these things is by sheer coincidence, either from reading about them online, or watching them being played in a movie or TV show. Sure, I’ve played video game equivalents — never with any real money on the line, mum — but it’s not really the same thing, you know?

Like I said, less life experience.

Which brings up an interesting point: do you think you can distill life experiences down to their essence so you can say you’ve been there, done that, even if you really haven’t? Or do the details matter enough that playing video game poker isn’t the same as the real thing?

I mean, obviously, there are differences. You can’t tell me any mil-sim, no matter how realistic the bullet physics are, gives you the same experience of being on patrol in-country. But it’s not as if I’ve never taken a chance before, right? I roll the dice all the time in Dota. I’ve gone all-in on ideas that haven’t paid off. I’ve backed the wrong horse. I’m overconfident in my own hand all the time, even when it’s entirely possible that the other guy has the better hand.

So what is gambling, really? Is it taking a chance? Hedging your bets? Assessing risk versus reward? Using your intuition to determine if someone’s mannerisms mean they’re bluffing, given the sum of all your previous experiences? I don’t think anyone will tell you it’s none of those things, but if you asked me if I had done all of them, then asked me if I had gambled at a casino, I would give you two entirely different answers.

Maybe there’s more to gambling than actual gambling, though. Perhaps the surrounding activities matter much more than the act of putting your hard-earned on the line in the hopes that you’ll walk away with more than you came in with, even though that’s frequently not the case. Gambling is a zero-sum game, after all, but maybe it’s more about the social aspect. Meeting up with your friends, going out together. Telling each other stories about your day-to-day, meeting new people, and even chatting up someone attractive that you just met.

Because while I don’t gamble, I do that all of those things all the time, playing video games online with friends. Well, except for that last part.

I think it’s hard to know whether you can reduce life experiences down to their simplest forms. Real life is often far more complicated than that. If you wanted to, you could go as far as to say that any experience is simply a series of electrochemical reactions that happen in your brain that just so happen to trigger certain feelings, but I think we both know real life is more than that.

Which brings us back to life experiences.

I’m not getting any younger. With every day that passes, I have less time to do the things I want to do, or work out what it is I want to be doing in the first place. Obviously, there are things I don’t want to do, either because they’re illegal, immoral, or I’ve already worked out that they’re otherwise not worth doing.

On the other hand, there’s a great many things I want to do, as well as a near-infinite number of things I don’t know about yet, but will want to do when I learn about them. Or at least experience, just so I can say I did. Maybe it’s like trying new food. If you don’t try it, how do you know whether you like it or not? Maybe new life experiences are like that.

With every year that passes, every birthday post that is posted far away from my actual birthday because I’m terrible at planning and find it harder to write something coherent, I find myself becoming increasingly worried that time is running out. I don’t think it’s because I’m afraid of getting old, per se, it’s just that I realise have less time to do the things I might want to do.

No one wants to wait until they’re old and frail to travel the world, but when you’re young, you often have a different set of priorities which mean it can be hard to find the right balance between having a career you’re happy with and still have enough time to yourself to do the things you want to do. Everyone’s time is limited, and I get that, but it can be hard to find the balance between finding out who you are, and just being yourself.

When will I travel to another country with someone I really enjoy spending time with? When will I meet someone who loves me back as much as I love them? When will I start feeling truly fulfilled by the work that I do, be happy with what I’m doing with my life, or come to terms with the fact that this is all something everyone struggles with at some time or another, and that there are very few people who have their shit sorted, alphabetised, and catalogued? I ask myself these kinds of questions all the time, and all because I’m not getting any younger. If not now, when?

Life’s too short, as they say, and I hope you like making decisions, because you’re going to be doing a lot of that now.

I don’t think I regret not having as much life experience as anyone else around my age. Not yet, anyway. But there are times when I can’t help but feel I should have checked off a few more things than I have. All I know is, I’m not getting any younger. That means I don’t just have to start doing the things I want to be doing, seeing and talking to the people I want to be seeing and talking to, but I have to be doing them yesterday.

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