After The Fall

May I shrink to dust
In your cold, wild Wastes,
And may my tongue speak
Its last hymn to your winds.

I wanted to do what Shigeru Miyamoto did ever since I read an interview with him in Nintendo Magazine System when I was about twelve or so and I realized that he was the one who invented all the videogame characters that I adored. As a teen I took inspiration from other luminaries such as Richard Garriott who created the Ultima series which captivated me so. But Richard Garriott was a child prodigy who wrote his own high school curriculum. Probably not the best person with whom to compare myself if I wanted to retain any semblance of self-esteem. It’s difficult not to feel small when you compare yourself with the gods of the pantheon of game development. So I hesitated, and wavered back and forth and flirted with the idea of pursuing a career in games, until a few years ago I decided that the time was now and I’d hesitated for far too long.

I pray for the herder
That whistles to his guar at play.
I pray for the hunter
That stalks the white walkers.

This is the post that I’ve been reluctant to write. When I was accepted into studying this year at a prestigious college in my field I was elated. This would be the method in which I would make those childhood dreams a reality, I thought. But then I found myself unable to keep up with the content. In a class of roughly thirty students, all with a vast array of skill sets, I found it impossible to keep up. With the strict timetable for subjects, there simply wasn’t the time. I found myself learning more at home as I’d consult online tutorials to desperately keep up. As I stayed awake for three consecutive days trying to finish for class something that I only vaguely understood, and my body cried for sleep, I felt the feeling that made me reluctant to write this post – shame. The shame of failure. And while I knew that failure is an essential part of education – you learn from failure – I still wondered if people would talk behind my back. “He just didn’t try hard enough” or “he wasn’t passionate enough” were the utterances that I feared would be murmured when I wasn’t there.

And in truth I had lost some of my initial passion. I felt burnt out from falling behind. I despaired that this is how it would always be. Constantly feeling like a fraud. I didn’t want that.

So I quit and I told as few people as possible. I didn’t want to be “the drop out” or the one who couldn’t cut it. But there it was, and I had quit. I was one of the chosen ones accepted into an elite school and I had renounced my fortune. The thread of prophesy had been cut.

I slumped into a hole. I never wanted to be one of those people who talked about their ambitions but did nothing to achieve them – the dreamers who remained paralysed. I didn’t want to be all talk. Yet here I was, unemployed and unmotivated.

I fell into myself and took vicarious comfort in living virtually in Morrowind, the third game in the Elder Scrolls series, as the prophesied Nerevarine who would return to Vvardenfell to save the people from the corrupt god Dagoth Ur. Here was a battle I could win.

But I couldn’t live in Morrowind forever. Spend too long in the virtual world and it brings on what I call a gamer ennui – a tedious existential angst as the real world reminds you that it’s still there. And I still felt the sting in the back of my head reminding me that “following your dreams” was more complicated than it was in fairy tales and videogames.

Everyone has different learning styles. I learn best from doing something repeatedly until it makes sense. Others learn from seeing and others learn from hearing and committing it to memory. It’s probably difficult in a creative and highly technical course to accommodate so many various learning styles with a rushed timetable in a classroom of so many students. That style of learning just didn’t work for me. It does work for some no doubt, but not me. I suppose I’ve always known that it doesn’t. I learn best by myself with personal mentoring by more experienced people. I freeze up in large groups, especially with people I don’t know well looking over my shoulder or people with conflicting personalities. Instead, by myself in private, I feel free to ask dumb questions repeatedly without fear, and that’s how I learn by making mistakes and learning from them.

I suppose my time with the prestigious college is an experience I can view like that – an educational experience that taught me how not to achieve my goals.

We perhaps expect the paths to our goals to be clear cut, but life is rarely so simple. There’ll be more complications to come. Life’s like that.

I still desire to do what Shigeru Miyamoto did. I still desire to make worlds like Richard Garriott did with his Ultima series. I haven’t given up on that and I don’t want to be one of those people who are all talk, even though during my time in Morrowind I felt like one as I became the prophesied Nerevarine there, but a false prophet of dreams in reality.

It’s easy to build in your head an idea of how your life should flow, but as time goes on and the actuality is different, a crisis of confidence can form. Echoing Obi-Wan to Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, “you were meant to be the chosen one”, I thought of the college. You were meant to the way I would fulfil those childhood dreams. Or were you?

Who decided that that was my fate? Why was I despairing that my prophecy was broken? There was no words written in an ancient book specifying that I was destined to study at this college in order to achieve those goals. It was I who had decided this instead when I was accepted into it. No thread of fate had predetermined this to be my one true path.

As I confronted the evil Dagoth Ur at the Red Mountain, he asked me if I had been chosen by fate. Was I really the Nerevar reborn? I wasn’t sure, so I told him that I was a self-willed hero and that I made my own fate. He was impressed by this. After all, it didn’t matter if I really was the chosen Nerevarine or not. What mattered was that I willed myself to face the wicked god and overthrow him, chosen one or not.

Was I the chosen one in Morrowind? Did it matter in the end? I saved the world from Dagoth Ur regardless. Morrowind deconstructs the trope of the Chosen One thus so. It never mattered if I was the fated chosen one, as by doing what the chosen one was meant to do, and stopping Dagoth Ur’s machinations, I became the chosen one myself. As is said in the text of the Nu-Hatta of the Spinxmoth Inquiry Tree, “Walk like them until they walk like you”. By walking like the Nerevarine and defeating Dagoth Ur, I became the Nerevarine.

Walk like those whose status you seek to emulate, and in time, you will become them. Or in simpler terms: fake it till you make it. Don’t wait for a thread of prophecy to light the way then despair if you fail to follow that path – light the way yourself and carve your own destiny.

That can be a bewildering prospect though. Life seems simpler when you’ve put all your eggs into a single basket that you’ve convinced yourself will be your destiny. So when you realize that instead now it’s up to you alone for it to happen or not happen, and it always has been, it’s a startling thought. The onus is to teach myself, and it always was. Whenever I’d excelled at something in the past it had been via autodidactism. I don’t say those words ‘teach yourself’ lightly though. One thing I neglected to emphasize in my post on Teaching Yourself is that it requires a colossal amount of self-discipline. This is no small feat. Do I have that level of self-discipline? How I wish there was a fortify willpower potion in reality as there is in Morrowind. Anything worth doing though doesn’t come easy, right?

After the fall, you try to pick yourself up. God knows how difficult that can be and how easy it can be instead to wallow in self-pity. I have no choice though. When you’re knocked into the pit, you must climb out or you will die.

I pray for the wise one
That seeks under the hill,
And the wife who wishes
For one last touch of her dead child’s hand.

You can be despondent that things didn’t go the way you had anticipated and convince yourself that now you are fated to disappointment forever, or you leave yesterday behind and be energized by the new possibilities that tomorrow brings.

After the Fall comes Winter and all seems lost and cold, but then the Spring brings forth new life into the world, and hope is possible again. A setback only lasts for a moment and is nothing to be ashamed of, for as sure as the sun will rise and bring about a new day, you can always make a choice to make a change. Then you will be chosen by your own accord.

I will not pray for that which I’ve lost
When my heart springs forth
From your soil, like a seed,
And blossoms anew beneath tomorrow’s sun.*

 * This is a volume of verse collected from Ashlander wise women. ‘May I shrink to dust’ is from the Ahemmusa Ashlanders of the Grazelands.
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1 Response to After The Fall

  1. Pingback: There and Back Again – A Year in Review « Fragments Are Found

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