Monday, May 16, 2011

Welcome to another in my long line of under-achievements

Something has to be said about my losing streak. You see, I've been playing this PC game, Sid Meier's Civilization, off and on for almost 2 decades now. And so far, I haven't won a single time. Well that's not entirely true, I've won a number of times on the easy levels, but having your opponent playing with an arm behind his back certainly doesn't count, at least for me. The games that matter to me are those where I play at the level of the AI, because that's where the bragging rights are. Of course, there hasn't been anything to brag about yet which has been a big frustration for me.

So far, the score looks something like this: Man 0 - Computer 5,683. This sucks.

The funny thing about it is, I know I can win this stupid game. But sadly I can't seem to pull it off because I get so damn excited when I'm winning that I make careless mistakes. This is true not only on the computer, by the way. My poker game has also been witness to this meltdown. So has my billiard game. And darts. WHY THE HECK DOES THIS HAPPEN!?

Yesterday afternoon, after another frustrating game of Civ (I was a far first place, until I got cocky and decided to prolong a war with Napoleon, draining me of resources, landing me a close 2nd place in the end) I sat back and tried to get to the bottom of this phenomenon. I reached deep down into my psyche (scary shit, I tell you) and summoned my inner Freud. Turns out, I loathe winning. Something in my past has wired me this way, so that each time I get close enough to the target, I slow down and let another guy go first.

But why? What event could have triggered this?

As with all psychological investigations, I suspected my mom was behind all this. If Tony Soprano's mom could have messed him up that bad, why can't mine? I was told I was breastfed as a kid, could it be that? Is breastfeeding good for the body but bad for the psyche? Let's dismiss that thought. Thinking about my mom's boobs and writing about it here is just... wrong.

Let's move on to the next suspect, my childhood. Maybe I was raised wrong. I mean, growing up I didn't really have a knack for basketball like the other kids. So the competitivity (is that a word?) wasn't there and here I am, a broken PC gamer. I did play soccer though, as a full-back. You know, the guy in backfield who's not the kick-ass goalie? Maybe that's it... as a kid I was the guy who wasn't expected to win the game but was more likely to lose it by letting the opposing forward go by, leaving the poor goalie to fend for himself.

I did enjoy other games, though. The kind you played in your neighbor's backyard, up a tree, in the streets where all the cars and cabs and jeeps rolled by. So maybe being the useless fullback wasn't it.

Arrgh, this is so frustrating! Frustrating enough that I open grooveshark and look for "Self-Esteem" by The Offspring.

(This is the part where I load the music, get up from my seat and take a piss while singing to the tune)

And now we're back! (While I was gone - which you would probably have no idea how long for - I took the liberty of also searching for Beck's "Loser", Frank's "Send in the Clowns" and various videos of Kylie Minogue, because she's hot, and she doesn't judge me.)

While I was elsewhere, I thought of my Catholic upbringing. No, technically I'm not Catholic, but I did have 10 years worth of Catholic schooling, wherein I joined a Bible Contest, where I landed... guess where, SECOND place! But seriously, aren't Catholics bred for this kind of torture? All that guilt from all those past generations of sinners, and how humility and meekness and suffering are the ultimate tickets to those Pearly Gates (or the Dark Side, ask Yoda)? Could my frustrations actually be pre-ordained? In which case, upon my tombstone shall the words "Never won on earth, better luck in Heaven, loser!" be engraved.

At the risk of thunder and lightning coming down on my ass, I'd better stop ranting about religion. (Sorry Father, for I have sinned...)

There is another theory, though... that all this losing is borne out of my disdain for the glory of winning because of the heightened expectations. You know, take LeBron James, for instance. He's what we call a winner, MVP, the go-to-guy. And yet, when he rims out his shot we all call him a goat and boo him all the way out of the arena. I'm willing to bet that if the ball ended up in the hands of someone else, say Eddie House, in the final second with the potential game-winner, and he flubs it, he'd get a pat on the back and several "That's a tough shot for anyone...". See where I'm going with this?

Let's say that I did win at Civilization, then what next? Do I move on to other games, having to purchase more expensive titles and re-learn it? What if I did win big in poker, do I move on from house games to the casino? And if I graduated at the top of my class in grade school or high school, would my parents approve of all the drinking and going to parties, expecting me to study my ass off every day to become summa cum laude? And let's say I did do everything right in college and graduated with respectable marks, wouldn't people expect me to be some kind of wunderkind know-it-all who saves the nation's economy overnight? Man, that's just too much pressure for someone who likes his beer cold and the women hot.

Which brings me back to my hatred of Freddie Prinze Jr. Yeah, I've ranted against him some posts back explaining it. I'd post a link to it if I weren't the lazy type, tough luck for you, I guess. Anyway, guys like Freddie Prinze, Jr. (Or his characters, anyway) always have this innate need to set the bar high up, thus making us all look bad.

I know, I know, there's nothing wrong with being an achiever. But hey, nothing wrong being an under-achiever too, you know! We let them do their thing, and we'll be fine on our own devices.

Well, all this bitterness has dragged on for too long, I suppose. If you can't beat 'em, then I'll just go grab me a nice cold one and watch Kylie Minogue over-achieve herself.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

So you're the expert, huh?

Has anyone ever called you an expert? A specialist? Well I have, just this afternoon. Apparently, I'm an expert in "business development".

I can't believe it either.


I guess you've noticed, I haven't been posting much. It's a bit difficult when you get into the office at 8 in the morning and clock out a little past 8 in the evening. Then when I get home, I open my laptop and work some more. It's exhausting, and I've been sporting raccoon eyes for the past month. This is what I've traded my old life for.

And so far, I'm loving it.

I can't seem to put my finger on it, but there's a great thrill getting home knowing that you've just worked your ass off and you're gonna be back at it again tomorrow. And shamefully, I've reached a point that I'm so darn efficient at it that people have been piling more work on me and going out on holiday. So much for the guy who needed 8 1/2 years to finish a 4-year course in college, and the king of the third floor who came to the office at 10 and left at 4.


Wait, let's go back to the original statement, that I'm some sort of expert. In my opinion, either they're lying or they don't know me at all.

You see, all this effort I'm doing isn't really worth shit if I don't produce results. So far, all the projects that I've been taking on are in their incubation stage and the company has been taking a loss (ie my salary) waiting for them to bear fruit. Until the time when I have actually gotten one of these babies up and running and earning a decent profit for the company, then there is no achievement to speak of.

Unlike you regular joes, those on the factory floor or behind a desk, the job is pretty unforgiving. It's either I succeed or I don't, there are no points for trying and no excuses either. If it rains cats and dogs or a great big shark suddenly drops down from the sky and lands squarely on my head, the question would still be "Have you turned a profit, yet?".

Which actually makes the job all the more exciting. It's always a race to keep the company profitable and relevant. No laurels to rest on, no month-end to party after and no time for grief when a project is struck dead. When you get something up and running, it's time to move on to the next one. When the project implodes in your face, no choice but to keep working on the back-up plan.


Of course, there is concern down the line. Won't I be depriving myself of a life? Will this career I've chosen turn me into a machine? Can my body keep up with itself and all the stress I'm gaining day in and day out?

Yesterday, there was a buzz at the office. Someone from the back-office died from an apparent cardiac arrest at the age of 27. I was told she was an indefatigable stalwart of the HR Department, and from what little contact I've made with her, she was a busy little bee indeed. The question "Will that happen to me?" rang a tiny little bell in my tiny little brain. I never got a chance to answer, my phone rang and in a second I was confirming a meeting for that morning.

Then there's my boss, holding top position in two separate companies with operations spanning 15 countries. I get an email from her at 12 midnight, and another one at 6:00 o'clock in the morning. One morning, as I was getting myself prepped up for a meeting with her, her assistant called me postponing our meeting to tomorrow. Apparently, she fainted from a vitamin deficiency or something. Also apparently, this was a regular occurrence that everyone in the office is sort of used to. The next day, I was having coffee with her at the office while going over line items in a research proposal I was doing.

Am I doomed?


In my eccentric and over-simplified world, there are two types of people: those who take time off to stop and smell the flowers, and those who pull harder against the yoke so the flower-smellers get a chance to do so. I sort of transitioned from the former to the latter and so far, I'm finding the latter to be a better place at the moment. Mainly, the motivation I'm discovering is self-worth, that in the greater scheme of things I'm actually earning my keep. It's something I haven't felt in a long while, something that gives me an iota of entitlement.

And this entitlement that I'm feeling is really grand, even with the realization that I haven't made anything work yet. Some days ago, while listening to a friend of mine whine and bitch about his life over a number of bottles of beer, I can't help wearing a smug smile on my face, it was like looking at a mirror that reflected myself a number of years ago. I still have problems of course, still poor and alone. But now it's all a game, a puzzle to be solved and a chance to think out of the box.


If there's one thing I'm sad about, though, it's that I haven't the chance to write as often as I want. Obviously, I'm having trouble keeping a singular train of thought, explaining all this gibberish that you're reading (in case you made it all the way here). I love writing, and there's always this dream of mine to write a good enough short story or novel even. I don't even have to be published, just knowing that I have written something is good enough for me. But unless I give some time to it, writing stuff on a more regular basis and improving a tad bit on stuff like grammar and spelling and vocabulary and sense, I don't think I'd have enough goods even for a haiku.

Don't worry, I'll keep trying (more torture for you folks) and spewing out nonsense in the meantime. Which reminds me I've got a report due tomorrow and a follow-up on a project on clean coal. How that reminded me? I dunno, really. A lot of stuff up in my head that I can't really explain the workings of.