Tag Archives: birthday

Stories from the road: Thirty Two

Are we old, Melissa?

I don’t think so, but isn’t age subjective? Aren’t we the ones that decide if we’re old or not?

It’s late January, 2023, although it probably won’t be by the time you read this. We’ve just celebrated Chinese New Year in Malaysia for the first time in a long time. We’ve eaten out more times than I can count, received heaps of red packets, had all the Chinese new year snacks that you can’t normally get outside of Asian countries, and been visited by all the distant relatives I only see every time I’m here. It’s all been great.

I was kind of indifferent about this trip when I booked the tickets, but now that I’m here, I’m glad I decided to come. While it’s always great to go back every few years to visit my grandparents and see the uncles and aunties I haven’t seen in a while, not to mention catch up with the cousins that are still around, el rono put a significant dent in any plans we might have made. So this trip, the first in five years and the first after Covid, is a little special. Even though we might make plans to meet up again in a year or two, there’s no guarantee that will happen due to any number of circumstances. Maybe next time instead of avoiding the spicy cough, we’ll be avoiding the plague, or worse. But we’re making the most of this trip now that we’re all here, and doing all the usual things. It’s all been great, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But something feels different, somehow. Most of our cousins are now somewhere between their late 20s and mid 30s. Three are married, and while only one has children of their own, I get the feeling that most of us are starting to feel the realities of life creep in. No longer are we carefree teenagers in high school, or uni students mooching off our parents, but now most of us are actual adults that have settled into our own lives, our own full-time jobs, and in some cases, even our own houses and mortgages.

What this means is that some can’t take leave from work for the whole time I’m here, or that they have to be back to work or study in another part of Malaysia soon after the Chinese New Year is all done and dusted.

It’s a different vibe, for sure.

Which is why, as someone who isn’t married, as someone who doesn’t have children, I feel as though it’s at least partly my responsibility to make sure that even though we are older, that doesn’t mean we can’t have as much fun as we did when we were younger. If anything, thanks to the wonders of disposable income, maybe we can even have more fun.

The first instance of this was quite a few years ago, when all of the cousins were back. I picked up a One Direction poster in Penang, then brought it back as a present to my other Australian cousins. Being two guys, they were the most appropriate cousins to give it to (or least, depending on how you look at it, which is what made it so funny), and they were probably the only ones who would know who One Direction are in the first place, never mind appreciate a One Direction poster. I didn’t expect they would do anything with it, and I think they ended up putting it in the bin, but their reactions were absolutely worth whatever minuscule amount I paid for the poster.

With a distinct lack of cousins this time around, I bought presents for my cousin’s children. They’re both boys, 7 and 3, and it’s been so long since I was last back that I hadn’t met one, and the other was just a two-year old the last time I was around.

It turns out buying toys for kids is hard. Not only do you have to consider the kind of things they’re into, the toy ideally doesn’t have batteries or require power, and can be played with multiple times. For bonus points, the toy might even be mildly educational or maybe triggers some kind of curiosity on their behalf, instead of just something for them to do when they can’t watch YouTube. I went to the same Toy World three times and half a dozen other stores before I could decide on something that was going to be a) fun, b) could be played with multiple times, and c) wasn’t going to cause their parents huge amounts of grief by being messy, too noisy, or need their help to be played with.

I ended up choosing this magnetic-ball racetrack thing you had to build out of plastic parts that snapped together, as well as a kid’s pogo-stick thing that made squeaky noises when you jumped on it.

I kind-of did a little experiment with Diet Coke and mentos as well, to show the kids something that they might not have seen before. For some reason, Diet Coke was impossible to find, and as it turns out, the Diet Coke and mentos thing doesn’t work very well with Coke zero sugar. By the time I wanted to try again with the Pepsi no sugar that I found that included the artificial sweetener aspartame found in Diet Coke, someone had stolen it. Clearly, they thought Pepsi was OK in lieu of Coke.

But as much fun as all those were, I wish we could have hung out more. Like we did when we were kids, when we all had zero responsibilities. Do you remember that time we stayed up all night talking over a very slow game of mahjong? I miss those days, when there weren’t kids to feed and shower and tuck into bed. Or kids that threw tantrums because they couldn’t stay up late and watch movies with the adults. I loved the one time that I went out with your siblings to get late night McDonald’s, but I wish we could have done that together. If not to get McDonalds per se, but to give us another chance to talk, to catch up.

But we all have to play the cards we’re dealt, right? When we grow up, we all have to make decisions about what we want to do with our lives, the kind of people we want to be. No one is unique in this respect.

So I think the answer to the question “are we old?” is no, absolutely not. We’re not old. We still sit on the kids table when we go out to dinner with our parents. Age is subjective anyway, and I think we still have a long way to go before I even begin to think of us as old.

We just need to make the most of the time we have now.

You know, before we get old.

I know what you’re thinking. Another birthday post? In such close temporal proximity to the previous one? But yes, it’s true. And now we’re all caught up.

Thirty One

A screenshot showing a level 31 character in Genshin Impact

A few years ago, I asked myself some hard questions:

As if 2020 wasn’t already hard enough, I asked myself some tough questions. How do I become a person that I’m proud to be? How do I stop being jealous, obsessive, or so judgemental? How do I become a loving husband and dedicated father, should I ever find myself in that position? Is there a book for that? Some Medium post I can read? How do I know what I want out of life? Can I watch some inspirational YouTube video and instantly get all the answers?

I’ve been thinking about it a little more ever since I wrote that, and I think I, instinctively, already know the answers to most of these questions.

I’m already someone I’m proud to be. Not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but no one is. I’m a flawed human being, just like everyone else I know. While I find it difficult to admit my flaws to someone I’m trying to impress, I need to realise that someone else’s validation won’t necessarily make me feel better about myself, either. I get that honesty is a thing, and that refreshing honesty is a thing as well, but maybe there’s something to be said for not admitting my flaws and just, you know, quietly working on them.

I stop being jealous by finding ways to be content with what I already have. By recognising that other people have differing circumstances, I can either change my own circumstances to match, or learn to live with the differences and accept that no matter how much I want them to be the same, differences are what set us apart. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

I stop being obsessive by learning to let go of the things, ideas, and concepts — and yes, admittedly, people — that I obsess over.

I stop being so judgemental by telling myself that there’s no need for me to judge others by what they do or say, because at the end of the day, it’s none of my business, and unless it’s somehow directly impacting me, I don’t need to care. Which is great, you know, one less thing I have to care about, in terms of the dozens of things I have to care about now that I’m an adult and everything.

As for the dedicated father and loving husband part, no one is born with those skills, so I’m sure I’ll be able to figure out some semblance of them as I go along. Hopefully. With any luck.

I know what you’re thinking. Another birthday post? In such close temporal proximity to the previous one? But yes, it’s true. This one is shorter because I want to do a little catch up, but sometimes short and sweet is the way to go.

Thirty

A glass of milo peng

I’ve done it. After thirty one years on this big blue ball they call Earth, I have finally cracked the secret to making the most delicious drink of all time: Milo peng.

Now at this point, I realise that some of you reading this will have no idea what I’m talking about, so let me explain. Milo peng is a drink. As its name implies, Milo is a key ingredient, sure, but that’s about all that it shares with the Milo made with milk you’d normally have at home, or anything like the warm Milo that your parents might have made for you when you were young. Milo peng has a particular flavour to it that belies a simple combination of Milo and milk, and for the longest time, I wondered what the recipe was to make a staple of Malaysian/Singaporean culture.

If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of this magical drink before, it’s because you can’t buy it in Australia. No cafe, corner shop, supermarket, or Asian grocery that I’ve been to, anywhere in Australia, has sold it. Trust me, I’ve looked. You might be able to get it at certain Asian restaurants here, but if you want the real deal, you have to go overseas, to Malaysia, Singapore, or perhaps a few other south-east Asian countries. There you’ll find it everywhere, but most likely at hawker stores, food courts, and most Asian restaurants. A good rule of thumb is that if the place has air con, you probably won’t be able to order it. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, most notable of which is probably Old Town.

Milo peng is such a staple of my Malaysia trips that as far as I’m concerned, it’s become synonymous with the country. Any Malaysia trip isn’t complete without having it at least once, and preferably you have it with every meal that you eat out. It even goes well with every meal!

For as long as I can remember, I’ve asked my parents about how to make it. Sometimes, when we arrived home from a trip to Malaysia, I would ask them, and they would typically be coy about it. Either they didn’t know, or they weren’t 100% sure. My dad seemed to think that the key ingredient was condensed milk, but on the few occasions that we tried making it at home, it didn’t taste anything like the original. After a few years of this, we stopped trying altogether, and eventually, I stopped asking.

When I still lived at home, we’d go to Malaysia every two or three years. It was always nice seeing cousins I hadn’t seen in a while. The last time I went back was 2017, and thanks to this global pandemic we now find ourselves in, I haven’t been back since. With Milo peng cravings reaching stratospheric levels, I finally decided I would take matters into my own hands. If my parents didn’t know how to make it, surely the internet did?

As it turns out, the internet sort of does and doesn’t. I couldn’t find any definitive recipe or guide to making it, as least none that was in English. There were a few blurry-cam YouTube videos, but one was all I needed to know the ingredients; reason being I thought I’d be able to figure out their exact ratios myself.. As it turns out, my dad was right all along. While Milo is a key ingredient, condensed milk is the other one.

Milo peng:
Condensed milk
Milo
Hot water
Ice cubes

Fill your cup with roughly three quarters of ice cubes. In another cup, pour about two tablespoons of condensed milk, along with two to three heaped teaspoons of Milo. Add hot water to the condensed milk and Milo, and stir well. Once it has been mixed down, pour it over the cup with ice and serve.

My only wish is that I wish condensed milk was easier to work with. It’s awful stuff; sticky and non-viscous enough to be annoying. If you’re not careful you’ll easily have a huge mess to clean up, especially if you use the canned stuff. Luckily, the much better (and far less messier) alternative is the version that comes in a handy squeeze bottle. They’re supposed to be used for decorating cakes and whatnot, and you’ll need more squeeze bottles than if you purchased cans, but it’s worth it for not having to clean up afterwards. Squeeze the condensed milk into your second cup, add milo, add hot water, and stir.

I also wish it were easier to prepare and didn’t require the use of two cups. Yes, you could theoretically use one cup to mix the condensed milk and Milo, add the hot water, mix it all down, then add your ice cubes, but doing so requires you to be familiar with the quantities at play so you don’t end up with too much or too little milo peng. Plus, I’m convinced pouring your hot condensed milk and Milo mix over your ice cubes helps even out the temperature of the beverage, when compared to adding on the ice cubes after. The second method means its more likely that the bottom of the Milo peng is warmer than the top. Whether you prefer this kind of temperature differential in your Milo peng is up to you; I am impartial to it and enjoy both variants equally, but for temperature consistency the first pour-over method is best.

Drink and enjoy!

By the time you read this I’ll hopefully had many more real Milo pengs of my own, on account of being in Malaysia. But thanks to the magic of post scheduling, I didn’t add a “stories from the road” prefix to this particular post, in the hopes that there would be other stories I could write and post about. We’ll see.

Yes, I know we’re missing a few years. Time is a fickle thing in a global pandemic, becoming both stretched in some instances, and compressed in others. Before you know it, two years has passed in the blink of an eye, and with it, any chance of posting anything around my usual birthday. We’ll make up the years, I’m sure.

Twenty Nine

Genshin Impact character Qiqi at level 29 and almost at level 30

When did things get so hard?

Yours truly:

With every year that passes, every birthday post that isn’t posted on my actual birthday because I continue to make up reasons as to why I can’t seem to post things on any sort of schedule that have nothing to do with the real reason I can no longer post on my actual birthday, 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.

But who hasn’t? Who hasn’t thought that they work too hard, and live too little? What, you think you’re unique or something?

It’s not as if I’m not doing things, either. I do things that help me accomplish my goals — executing strategies in real life, just like I do when I’m trying to destroy the other team’s ancient in yet another game of Dota 2 — but often, it feels as though I’m not moving fast enough. I know that there are no shortcuts a lot of the time, but it’s still frustrating to be moving at a glacial pace when you want to be sprinting. We’ve been through all of this before, so I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but it’s something I think about when I’m writing melancholic blog posts reflecting on another year gone by.

It’s 2021 now. This post was originally drafted in 2020, but after that year that was, it’s only getting posted now for certain reasons I’m sure you’ll understand. 2020 was a heck of a year, and definitely not for the right reasons.

As if 2020 wasn’t already hard enough, I asked myself some tough questions. How do I become a person that I’m proud to be? How do I stop being jealous, obsessive, or so judgemental? How do I become a loving husband and dedicated father, should I ever find myself in that position? Is there a book for that? Some Medium post I can read? How do I know what I want out of life? Can I watch some inspirational YouTube video and instantly get all the answers?

Of course not. That would be too easy, and as I’ve been saying, life isn’t really like that. Besides, YouTube is filled with conspiracy theories and algorithms that are designed with engagement in mind but somehow end up you showing you videos from Linus Tech Tips, and Medium, well, Medium is paywalled to such an extent that I have not one, not two, but several different methods of bypassing it.

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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?

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Twenty Seven

If I had to use one word to describe how I feel right now, and how I’ve felt for a little while now, that word would be conflicted.

I’m 27 now, and decisions need to be made. Not just “what am I wearing today?” or “what am I eating tonight?”, but real, substantial decisions that will all have a major impact on my life, whether that’s for the next few months, the next few years, or even 5-10 years from now.

It seems no matter how old you are, there will always be someone to give you advice. Life advice, in particular. The kinds of things adults tell you when you’re young, but you don’t listen because, well, you’re young. When you’re young, people tell you to study hard. Get a good job. Earn real money. Buy a house. Settle down. Grow up1. And all before you’re ready for any of it, or really understand what it all means.

Now that I’m a little older, I get a slightly different set of advice. People tell me to spend my money on experiences, not things. They say everyone’s a little weird; nobody’s perfect. Everyone has flaws, but that doesn’t matter because everyone is capable of greatness anyway. People say it’s better to love and have lost than to have never loved at all. They tell you to aim high, shoot for the stars, chase your dreams, dance like no one’s watching, forge your own path, live your best life, love freely, and remember that anything is possible. Maybe not all in the same breath, but it’s all been said before. None of this is particularly new.

And now that I am a little older, there’s one piece of advice that I hear more often than any other: life’s too short.

I have a problem with “life’s too short”. Several problems, in fact, chief of which is it serves as a cop-out for the real problem: time is a cruel mistress. Youth is wasted on the young, and the advantages of being older don’t necessarily outweigh the negatives. Unless you’re born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you’ll have to work like the rest of us, and unless you get lucky, a lot of the time, your dreams will remain just that2.

It’s enough to make anyone depressed.

“Life’s too short” makes me angry, too. Life’s too short… to what? To catch public transport? To wash your dishes by hand? To spend your days at a unfulfilling desk job, eating the same thing you had for lunch yesterday, doing the same thing you were doing a week, a month, a year ago? Perhaps, even, life’s too short to study hard. Life’s too short to get a good job. Life’s too short to earn real money, buy a house, or settle down.

Or on a more personal note, maybe life’s too short not to travel the world. Too short to have to reconcile giving up what you enjoy doing for the faint promise of career progression. Too short to not go to The International every year, or not get to one esports event in a different country. Too short to not spend time with family and friends. Too short to not talk to that pretty girl you like. Suddenly, you’re not sure what you should be doing any more, and all because life’s too short.

Congratulations, you’re now as conflicted as I am.

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Twenty Five

377160_2016-01-26_00004

Sometimes, when people ask me how old I am, I get a little confused. Especially when they combine it with questions like “so is that 23 turning 24, or 24 turning 25?” I don’t tend to think about how old I am all the time, so either I answer too quickly and get it wrong, or I think about it for longer than one might consider “normal”, get laughed at, and still get it wrong anyway.

It didn’t used to be this way, but over the past couple of years I’ve noticed it happening more and more. I’ve filled out enough online forms to know what my birth date is, so I should at least be able to calculate how old I am, but for some reason, deriving an answer to “how old are you” doesn’t come easily. Maybe I’m just over-thinking things, and I should add “I am 25 years old” to the list of things that I just know, like my (rough) height and weight. Maybe this is just what getting old is like.

Truth be told, I wasn’t planning on writing a birthday post this year. Or last year, for that matter. I had plenty of age and maturity-related thoughts when I was writing a birthday post from a few years ago, but when the time came to write about something last year, or something this year, none of the topics I had swirling around in my head wanted to coalesce into something of substance. No matter how long the bus or train ride was, nothing seemed pertinent enough to write about as the main topic of yet another birthday post.

Which is weird, because last year, more than any other, has been a pretty big year. Almost too big to write about, really, given that I accepted my first full-time job, which meant moving out of home and deciding what personal possessions I’d be bringing to another city in another state (computers, electronics, then everything else, in that order).

I made a trip to the US to watch The International, the biggest Dota 2 tournament in the world, as well as check out some west coast cities.

And so far, it’s been the first Christmas I’ve spent without any immediate family, the first New Year, and probably my first birthday. I can’t say for sure, obviously, but it certainly feels that way. Not that I mind about any of that. It was all going to happen eventually, and I’m glad it happened in at least somewhat positive circumstances.

If you’ve read any of my tweets from this year, you’ll know that growing up is, for the most part, pretty awful. No one’s talking about the freedom you get when you live alone, away from your immediately family, but when you work full time, people kind of know what you’re doing most of the time.

What they’re not telling you about is how awful it is having to do all of the washing up. Or needing to eat, but not wanting to do the washing up, and lacking the disposable incoming to eat out or get takeaway more than a few nights a week. Or how house inspections only happen four times per year, but even that feels too often. Or how having getting paid every fortnight feels great, at least until the bills and rent come in, at which point all your hard-earned leaves your bank account. The days turn into weeks, the weeks turn into months, and a lot of the time, it feels as though I’m living to work, instead of working to live.

People ask me if I’d go back to uni to study, and I usually answer that while the actual study part was pretty awful, the lifestyle was pretty great. Not having to wake up early to go to work, not having to spend the entire day at uni, and occasionally being able to have entire days to myself. Now that I work full time, the only time that I really get is from evenings and weekends.

What it comes down to is a lack of time. If I’m playing video games every evening, then I’m not cooking, or doing the washing up. If I’m on call on the weekend, then I have to squeeze in buying groceries into my “lunch break”, or go shopping after work during the week. Every time I decide to clean my tiny unit, do some ironing for the week, or whatever else needs doing that I didn’t get around to doing last week is another time I’m not playing games on the internet with friends, and as the old adage goes, all work and no play makes Benny a dull boy.

Of course, the solution here might seem pretty simple: give up video games. But games have been such a huge part of my life that giving up video games would be like giving up a part of myself, like trading in my childhood for a shot at adulthood.

And that’s kind of what this is all about. My friends have been moving out, getting married, and settling down for years now. Some times I wish I experienced those things earlier, but I’m happy enough with how things have turned out so far.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy the work that I’m doing. But there are times I wish it took up less of my time than it currently does. Some of the time, I wonder what it’d be like to be mostly-unemployed and have heaps of time, or what it would be like to have no time and be earning an amount to make it not matter. Perhaps there’s not much difference between the two, after all, but I guess that’s why they call it life.

Here’s to another year, whatever craziness it may bring.

Stories from the road: I’m (getting) old

Alternate title: Time, Part II

The last time I was with my cousins was a few years back. It was a simpler time then, when we’d stay up later than everyone else, because we were the oldest, and because we could. A few times before that, I’d sleep over at my cousin’s house, where we’d play Commander Keen or Rollercoaster Tycoon until the early hours of the morning. And as soon as we woke up, it was straight back to trading Pokémon in Gold and Silver. Did I mention it might have been a little while ago? Yeah, it was a little while ago.

This time around, there’s been a lot less tomfoolery and a lot more rest and relaxation. We’re all quite a bit older now, and that has meant cousins are working during the day, or studying all the way up until the Chinese New Year holiday. One cousin is a practicing dentist, another is studying to be a doctor, and another is doing law at Uni. Of all the cousins around my age, all of them are doing Uni or already out in the workforce, either in Australia or abroad.

There’s nothing quite like a family reunion to remind you of how old you actually are.

When my cousins and I were younger — in our late teens, or thereabouts — we took a lot of things for granted, as you tend to do when you’re that age. We lived vicariously, in the here and the now, as the future was always a few more years away. It meant we could do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted to do it. Being in our late teens was pretty great, actually — as we were the eldest cousins, we were given a little freedom (unlike our early/pre-teen siblings), whilst still having very little responsibility, especially around Chinese New Year when all the adults, i.e. our parents, would do all the work. All we needed to do was watch cartoons, sleep in until midday, have random naps throughout the day, that kind of thing. Yeah, that was the good life.

But I was watching an episode of Phineas and Ferb on the Disney Channel when I realised that those glory days were more or less over. Now that we’re older, all of us have suddenly grown up as we’ve all started to think abut our own lives and the future we want, whether that involves education and a career, or perhaps even marriage and kids. Now, it’s our younger siblings’ turn to revel in their youth, despite the fact that many of them are on the verge of becoming adults themselves.

It’s the classic coming of age story. Boy enjoys his youth. Boy realises, somewhat too late, that his youth has now passed. Boy becomes an adult, whether he likes it or not.

It’s not just with my cousins, either, who I only see every few years; I’ve seen the same transition into adulthood happen with my friends, too.

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Here and Now

There’s a perk in Fallout 3 and New Vegas called Here and Now. When taken, it immediately grants you another level, complete with all of the advantages that brings. There are plenty of other, equally-enticing perks to choose from, all with similarly beneficial advantages, so why choose Here and Now over any of those? We’ll get to this in a bit.

FalloutNV 2013-01-27 15-51-27-99

I wanted to write about a number of different things on my birthday today, seeing as last year’s post was so disappointing length-wise, but then I realised that as much as everything changes, it all just stays the same. As much as I want to about all the great things that happened last year, or some of the cooler moments, I’ve already done so. I’ve already posted about how I’m now a great photographer, and how I’ve played some of the best video games currently on offer. What else is there to write on here about?

Correction: what else is there to write about that won’t sound as depressing as it actually is?

By all accounts I should have finished my degree by now, but I’ve failed enough things to mean that this year will be my fifth year of a what is usually a three-year degree. We were talking about this in the car with a friend a few weeks after results came out, and he was like “that kinda sucks man, are you bummed about that?” My response was that I was pretty “meh” about the entire thing, because really, it’s not such a big deal, but yeah, it does kinda suck; therefore, meh seemed like an appropriate response. Not something to get too hung up on, but not something to be entirely ignored, either.

And that kind of describes my entire life, actually: all the bits that aren’t OMG amazing or FML depressing are just kinda, well, “meh”. Not overly exciting, but not exactly something I want to brag about, either.

But isn’t that the point? If I think about it, doesn’t life mean we take things as they come — the good, the bad, and the Things That Sit Squarely In The Middle? I mean, I’d be somewhat concerned if my life was all awesome, all the time. Concerned, or re-ordering my stock of valium, one of the two. In fact, I’d say having this good/bad/meh balance is as important as anything else in your life; too much of a good thing is a bad thing, as they say. And as much as we might want great things to happen to us all the time, bad stuff happens. All you can do is take it in your stride and learn from the experience.

It’s this learning from experience that I wanted to finish on today. Life throws a great many things at you, but as long as you come out the other side, you’ve come out on top. Because, if nothing else, you’ve learnt something along the way. Every time you die in DayZ, you learn to not do whatever you did to die. Every time you take a film photo, you learn to refine your composition technique. You learn to get in someone’s face. Every time you finish a Gun Master round in Battlefield 3, you learn to aim better with the guns you’re given. You learn how they work, how much recoil they have. You learn, for the hundredth time, that you hate the LSAT with the fire of a thousand suns.

Point is, you learn from these life experiences; good, bad, or completely mediocre.

Which brings us back to Here and Now. Because as nice as having all those experiences are, and as nice as doing all that learning is, wouldn’t it be easier if you could do all that learning without going through the experience in the first place? I mean, who really wants to know what having their heart broken feels like, or what losing a close friend or family member feels like? Wouldn’t you rather just know beforehand, instead of having to actually go through it and experience it for yourself? If you could just know what things feel like and what would happen if you did a particular thing, wouldn’t you? They say hindsight is 20-20, but wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of hindsight before stuff — good, bad, or otherwise — happens?

Hence the Here and Now perk in the Fallout series.

An additional experience level, complete with all the advantages that brings.

Twenty One

Another day, another notch on the ol’ belt-buckle of life. Wait, I think I used that analogy last year…

I don’t think I can write anything positive without spiralling downward into the abyss, so I’ll just say: look at these Derpy Cats and be done with it.

Here’s to more maturity, or something. If only maturity measured in age-years was linked to wisdom, then we’d all be in a better place. And yet, here we are…