Can I get paid for that?

Last week, I played 80 hours of Monster Hunter Rise. Yes, do the math – quickly now! – in your head. If Monster Hunter was my job, I’d have shoved 16 hours of Monster Hunter into each of my workdays. Monster Hunter isn’t my job, though, so let’s break things down more realistically. I bought the game last Sunday (that’s April 25th, 2021); as of last night (May 2nd, 2021), I had something like 79 hours of playtime logged on my file. Maybe it was 80 hours and change and I’m a little too embarrassed to say so, but at this point, I don’t remember. I swear I’m trying to take a break from the game, as I think about the game, and write feverishly about the game. Anyway, back to the math – 80 hours divided by 7 days of playing comes to almost 11.5 hours a day. God, “eleven-point-five” sounds awful. 11 and a 1/2? Eleven and a half? Let’s just write out eleven and a half. For the past week, I’ve played Monster Hunter Rise for eleven and a half hours a day, on average.

Surely, some days were busier than others. Maybe on one day, I woke up, turned on my Nintendo Switch, and didn’t turn it off until I went to bed. There were breaks for food and the bathroom, of course, but I kept the game running. Every Tuesday, I play Pathfinder 2E with four of my friends. Last Tuesday, I definitely played Monster Hunter during the day, played Pathfinder during the evening, then pulled an all-nighter to play Risk of Rain 2. Quick aside: I experienced my first god run in Risk of Rain 2. It looked a little scary at first, but by the end of the first loop, I was nigh indestructible. By the end of the next loop, one of my friends who was new to the game was also nigh indestructible. We decided to play until we got tired. We saw the sun come up. Or, we would have, if we weren’t glued to our computer screens, wondering how far we could take our first real god run. (Potential piece about a god run to be determined.)

It is now a running joke that the house into which I moved with my brother and a friend of ours is called Gamer Haus. We adopt the shittiest “teenager with an attitude” voice that we can, throw up the horns (sometimes double horns), and exclaim “GAMER HAUUUUSSS!” to be funny. We think it’s hilarious. The only unfunny part is that I have adopted the joke as my lifestyle.

It’s severely unhealthy. But I adopted this unhealthy lifestyle to cope with my previous unhealthy lifestyle. Wait, what? What is he even talking about, you may be wondering. I shall now tell you what I’m rambling about.

This time last year, in the beginning months of the pandemic, I was bound to a contract that locked me into working 50 hours a week. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch; if I wanted to meet the terms of the contract and reap the material rewards offered therein, I had to work 50 hours a week. Some weeks, I pushed it to 60. (Shit, I now realize all of my numbers are mismatched and I should adopt some stylistic rules or something. For now, I’ll just let everything flow from the keyboard; sorry, editors.) Long story short, I fulfilled my contract, and all was well. Until I signed up for another year of the same business. I thought to myself “I started late the first year and still met my obligations, so this year I’ll have it easy.”

I’ve never been more wrong in my life. This pandemic has taken a toll on all of us, and I was already burnt out from my first year of this contract work. In the beginning of my second year of contract work, I could hardly work 30 hours a week, let alone 40. I had to hit 40 at least, if I wanted to keep a steady pace. But I didn’t stay steady. My work was slipping, and I anxiously kept a tally of how many hours I’d need to fulfill my contract this time.

Here’s my strong opinion on work: 40 hours a week is horseshit. Unless you absolutely love what you’re doing, it’s soul-wrenching and heart-rending to work for 40 hours a week. Add in commutes, overtime, deadlines, et cetera – 40 hours just doing a job is too much, and the things that go along with a job make it worse. In my ideal world, I’d work 20 hours a week. Make it four days in a row, work five hours a day, and call it good. If 25 hours are necessary, fine, make it five days of 5-hour shifts; really though, three-day weekends should be the way, and working more than five hours a day should be discouraged. Productivity declines at a more involved clip. So let’s be good to ourselves and take it easy, yeah?

I can’t blame my burnout entirely on work. I happen to have very bad habits. I’ve built them up over several decades of conflict avoidance and people-pleasing. When people ask if I want to do a task, or they offer certain roles, I’m the first to say “Yes, let me try that.” It’s too easy to let work pile up, and I always think I can handle it if I just “buckle down” for a good day or three. I also put off doing important things – life maintenance sorts of things, such as doctors’ visits and teeth cleanings – because I’m too comfortable in my little cocoon. I don’t want to drive to an office somewhere and talk to a person I’ve never met – but I should. For my sake and the sakes of the people who care about me.

Where was I, again? Oh yeah, I played a shitload of Monster Hunter Rise last week. ’cause I’ve taken a big-ass break from work.

About three weeks ago, I just didn’t want to log onto my work computer. I knew there would be emails, and Teams messages, and tasks I should have done months ago; I didn’t want to face the cascade of work. So I let my computer sit for a week. That week leaned into the next one, and on Thursday of the second week of my unwillingness to work, one of my coworkers reached out. She asked me about a specific project, and said that everyone is worried about me. I came as clean as I could: I felt frozen, and I couldn’t do any work. Things happened fast: my supervisor sent me a message, telling me to take all the time I needed to take care of myself.

I felt a weight lift, but it wasn’t completely gone. Work itself isn’t the problem: it’s also my responses to problems, and the coping mechanisms I use to escape responsibility.

For the past three weeks, I’ve fallen back on old habits and become a night owl again. Shit, that’s a lie: I’ve been a night owl the whole time. Staying up until 5 A.M. is nothing difficult for me. I cram my waking hours with video games, while a voice in the back of my head says “Shouldn’t you make a doctor’s appointment? Shouldn’t you reach out to your co-workers? Shouldn’t you keep up with social media? Shouldn’t you do more things?”

No wonder I’m burnt out. It’s work, it’s life, it’s a lot of different responsibilities compounding at once, and my unhealthy perspective turns any one of them into the first domino; I handle one, I have to handle the rest. And that’s a lot of time. That I now have. That I’ve spent playing Monster Hunter Rise.

Last week, I played 80 hours of Monster Hunter Rise. This week, I won’t play nearly as much. This week, I’ll make a few phone calls – to a doctor, to a dentist, to an optometrist. I’ll get my appointments scheduled. I’ll talk to my supervisor and figure out where to go from here.

I’ll take everything one step at a time. I’ll put my life back in a place where I can handle it in a healthy way. That’s the dream, anyway – I just have to live it.


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