When I started this blog, I thought of it as a sort of diary that just happened to be online; a place to set down all the weird things that go through my head and never seem to settle until I put them into words. I planned (insofar as I had a plan at all) to keep it at least somewhat light.
But it’s hard to do that when it seems like the world is just going to shit.
White supremacists marched in Charlottesville, a car plowed into counter protestors, and Heather Heyer lost her life while nineteen others were injured. Meanwhile, the POTUS mealy-mouthed about how “both sides” were responsible. Dozens of people died in Florida as a result of Hurricane Irma. Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and they think it could be six months until power is restored. Or maybe eight. Maybe even longer. Meanwhile, the POTUS was busy congratulating himself while people in PR are abandoning the island altogether. A shitbag opened fire on a bunch of people trying to enjoy a concert, killing 58 and wounding hundreds more. Meanwhile, over on Fox, idiots talked about how we don’t know enough about the shitbag to hate him yet… because apparently we can’t hate someone for being a shitbag and killing a bunch of people until we know whether we disagree with his motives. Google’s hunting down Russian advertising and apparently finding a shit ton of it. People are dying as California burns. North Korea has gone batshit nuclear, the POTUS and Kim Jong-un are shrieking insults and threats at each other, and people are preparing for war. Meanwhile, the POTUS has seemed more concerned with criticizing the NFL and staging PR stunts, or attacking LGBTQ rights. The list goes on.
A lot of people are angry. A lot of people are taking sides. A lot of people feel helpless. Even nature seems pissed off. What do you do when it looks like the whole world has gone to hell, and the people who are supposed to be at the helm appear to be more interested in playing us off against each other than fixing shit?
Yes, march. Yes, engage in peaceful protest. Yes, vote. Yes, make your voice heard. Yes, refuse to let the shit get swept under the rug. Yes, get smarter about the media that you consume and what you believe — or don’t believe. Yes, hold people accountable for their actions.
Just don’t forget to take a break every once in a while, for sanity’s sake. If you get completely burned out and stop caring, that doesn’t help anyone. If you drive yourself crazy, that certainly isn’t going to help. If you submerge yourself in shit, it’s easy to lose perspective. Remember to come up for air.
I had my own fuckitall moment last weekend and decided that I needed to take a break. No news, no driving myself crazy. At least for one day. I had the first episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm queued up on my Xbox, but I hadn’t played it yet.
Talk about a surreal experience.
In retrospect, I think I may have been deliberately sabotaging myself. After all, I’ve been here before. The first Life is Strange was anything but relaxing. There are moments of beauty and peace, but one thing those games are really good at is putting me back into the shoes of a teenager, and those aren’t very comfortable shoes.
*Tiny spoilers for the Life is Strange games ahead*
Life is Strange: Before the Storm takes us back before the events of Life is Strange. Chloe is the protagonist this time around, and we get to see the beginning of her friendship with Rachel Amber, as well as the early stages of her mother’s relationship with David Madsen.
From sneaking out to a forbidden concert to dealing with bullies and wanna-be stepfathers to ditching school, Life is Strange has always managed to present teen conflict in ways that really get to me. It’s easy to look back as an adult and downplay the things that felt so dire when we were sixteen, but that’s a mistake that tends to lead to shit like failing to effectively deal with bullying. Max’s time-traveling may be fantastical, but Chloe ditching school and ending up in a junkyard fight with Rachel isn’t. Struggling with her mother’s new boyfriend while trying to deal with the lingering grief of her father’s death isn’t Chloe just being an angsty teen, it’s Chloe trying to cope with tragedy in a world where her mother is trying to move on and wants Chloe to do the same. The adults in Chloe’s world aren’t really trying to get to the bottom of her behavior and deal with her very real issues: they’re either urging her to just get along or writing her off as a hopeless druggie.
I’d love to tell you a heartwarming story about some adult who talked to me like I was a real person when I was a teen. Someone who didn’t just tell me to straighten up and fly right. Someone who genuinely listened to me and tried to get to the root of my behavior.
I can’t. That would be fiction.
My parents always saw me as the rebel who needed to be curbed, though my mother later admitted that, in retrospect, my rebellions were pretty damn tame. (My sister also admitted — eventually — that she took advantage of that fact by routinely blaming everything on me.)
Mom was talking about consequences, but I always think of those years in terms of experiences.
No, I never did drugs — but I did once spend a tense night dodging through dark neighborhoods because this dickwad we were with decided to antagonize a guy everyone was certain was a drug dealer. (Looking back on it, he might’ve been. Or he might not. Hard to say.)
No, I never got arrested — but I did get to stand by while the cops searched every inch of my friend’s car, yelled repeatedly at us to “give it up”, and threatened to throw us in jail because they wouldn’t believe that we were just sitting in a car, talking. (We really were.)
No, I never got pregnant — but I did have a random guy pull a gun on me & a group of friends once for no apparent reason. (He probably had some reason, even if it was just “scare the shit out of a bunch of kids”, but we didn’t exactly stick around to ask.)
My parents never found out about any of those things, or hundreds of other incidents — some funny, some frightening, but luckily, none fatal. It really does feel like luck, when it comes down to it. Any of those things could have taken much darker turns, but they didn’t. When you’re an adult, thinking about adult shit, it’s easy to forget that shit is all-too-often a teenager’s default world state, and it’s not just “kid stuff” that can or should be dismissed.
Playing that game at that particular moment was jarring. Chloe’s problems feel real, because they are. Kids and teens all over the world have to deal with death, new family dynamics, drug use, friendships, violence, bullying, stereotypes, gender and sexual identities, authority figures, and on and on. They also worry about war, and terrorism, and all of the “adult” things that well-meaning adults try to protect them from. Kids may seem sunk in their own weird worlds and totally oblivious to the adult world, but trust me, they’re not. How could they be? I spent my elementary-school years wondering just how in holy fuck sitting under my desk was going to protect me from a nuclear bomb. How could kids today be blissfully ignorant when they have lock-down procedures and metal detectors to contend with, not to mention the entire internet at their fingertips?
Did I get a break from reality? Yes, in the sense that I was focused on something else for a while. No, in the sense that submerging yourself in someone else’s problems — even fictional ones — can just lead to more introspection.
There are a million billion reasons to want to fix the world, and Chloe’s story is one of them. It doesn’t matter that Chloe is fictional, because it’s not really about a game, it’s about the problems that kids face. Problems that we probably aren’t paying sufficient attention to when we’re busy worrying about nuclear war or defending democracy against would-be dictators.
It feels like the world’s gone batshit crazy. Try not to let it drive you totally crazy. And if there are kids in your life, take a moment to make certain they know that they can talk to you if they’re worried or scared or upset about all the shit they’re hearing. And for fuck’s sake, don’t blow off their fears and concerns with shitty non-answers like, “Oh, you’re too young to worry about that, sweetie.” That’s a really good way to label yourself as totally irrelevant, and it will bite you on the ass later.