In the 2011 novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, an ordinary trailer-park kid is trying to save a dystopian near future virtual reality world from a corporation trying to gain control of it for themselves by solving a series of puzzles rooted in late 20th century geek pop culture. I have written about this novel before (#32), and how one quote from it sticks out in my mind in particular: “Like any classic video game, the Hunt had simply reached a new, more difficult level. A new level often required an entirely new strategy.”
This principle seems especially true in my life today. I came of age in the context of evangelical Christian college-age youth group in the late 1990s, and much of my views about life and the future were shaped by this world. In this world, you get married in your early- to mid-20s (preferably without dating, and without kissing your wife until your wedding day, because Josh Harris), and start having children, who will then get involved in Awana and Sunday school while you and your wife attend the young parents’ Bible study. That ship sailed a long time ago for me. That strategy doesn’t work in my world, and I feel like there is no precedent for me, because many people I know in situations similar to mine have long since walked away from their faith entirely. Hence, an entirely new strategy is required.
Now would be a good time to plug a guest piece I wrote for another blog, since it is related to this topic. Go check it out. And while you’re at it, check out the rest of this other blog and the original blog from which this was spun off.
Anyway, where was I… I realized recently that there is more to the story than finding a new strategy. Looking around me, it seems that the life that many of my peers are living, the life that is considered normal for someone my age in my situation, is one where socializing revolves around alcohol, whether that be going out drinking with friends, going out for drinks with a date, or, especially here in northern California, a classy wine tasting excursion. Dating in this life involves playing with people’s feelings, fooling around physically with no sense of commitment, and not communicating honestly. Is this the life I want? Do I want to find a new strategy only to become this? I don’t think so. To go back to the video game analogy, I don’t want to play this game, and the game I thought I always wanted to play is out of print, with no copies anywhere on eBay and no working emulators for it. Furthermore, I’ve realized that I don’t know if I want to play that game after all, by which I mean that the evangelical Christian family world I described above is not entirely my ideal anymore.
But what game do I want to play? How can I figure that out, and how much of the rest of the world’s game will influence my game? I’m never going to be the type to hang out in bars regularly, but maybe I could benefit socially from hanging out in bars occasionally and drinking something without alcohol? Should I give up my personal prohibition on drinking alcohol and have a drink every once in a while in moderation? Should I be a little more adventurous in pursuing dating rather than looking for any of hundreds of deal breakers right when I first meet someone? I really don’t know. But I have a feeling I’m at least starting to ask the right questions.