Personal Best

It’s my third or fourth week without social media. I haven’t really been keeping count, I just know it’s been long enough that I’m starting to feel out of the loop with both the lives of my friends and the state of the wider world. Although admittedly I don’t mind the fact that I don’t have to swallow a daily dose of vitriol from or about the current administration. That has been a pleasant change of pace.

To fill the gap left by social media, I have my writing, of course, and the books that I checked out from the library, and games. My current game of choice is 2048: a puzzle game in which you combine numbered tiles by sliding them around on a grid. Combine two “2” tiles to get a “4”. Combine two “4” tiles to get an “8” and so on. The goal is to combine enough tiles to get 2048 before filling up the grid too much to make any more moves.

I’ve been playing this game, off and on, for about four years, and I only ever succeeded in getting a 2048 tile in the last few weeks. (Pro tip: keep the biggest tile in one corner). Once you reach 2048, you unlock Unlimited Mode in which you can just keep playing until you slip up enough to fill the grid. Today, I got lucky enough to unlock Unlimited Mode, so I kept playing. I usually don’t last long, so my hopes were not high. I figured I’d keep playing as a way to relax my mind and I’d see how far it would take me. I like puzzle games- I find them soothing: particularly ones that involve organizing things. 2048 is a perfect game for me: just simple enough to let me ruminate on the things weighing on my mind, and just difficult enough to prevent me from spiraling into an angst vortex.

I made it to 4096.

I traced my mind over old ground that I haven’t tread in a while: trying to diagnose the causes of last year’s insecurities and angst. Why did this situation bother me? Why did I react so strongly to that person? How can I move forward from this stage of life? Do I really need that obligation?

I made it to 8192.

What did I want out of life? Who was I? Where was I going? What was I willing to give to get it…

I had my tiles lined up neatly, waiting to be consolidated: 8192 beside a 4096 beside a 2048 beside a 1024… Pretty maids all in a row.

And then I made a mistake.

I swiped a wrong direction and stranded a small tile in a corner, and I couldn’t go back: I was committed now. And I knew it was over- it was just a matter of time before three grid bound up and there would be no more moves left.

It’s just a game. I reminded myself. All games end eventually.

Even knowing that I couldn’t win, I kept playing. It had been a good run. I figured I might as well make it last as long as possible. Who knew? Maybe I’d be lucky and the tiles would fall in just the right places for me to soldier through. I wouldn’t know if I didn’t try.

Spoiler: I lost.

But it was a good game, and a personal best. I got the biggest I’ve ever gotten, played longer than ever before, worked through some old mental turmoil, and learned a few things along the way.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on March 28, 2019.

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