The Good Stuff

My posts are more sporadic than ever, and it seems like when I do post, it’s nearly always Chicken Little stuff. And I do have more climate change polemics coming down the pipe, but before I dump it all over you like so much crude oil, let’s take a little time out to review some of the good stuff.

I have an amazing life. At 43, I have a near-perfect balance of varied, stimulating (paid) work and time to develop my passion projects (which also occasionally pay). In fact, thanks to my amazing wife and her unusually stable, well-paying job, I have tremendous flexibility in how I allocate my professional time. When I express interest in teaching new courses at our mutual place of work, she helps to get those courses on the books. And when I lament that my courses are no longer satisfying and maybe I should just quit and do volunteer work, she affirms that yes, volunteerism is very important, and I should follow my heart.

It wasn’t my heart that led us to Cape Breton, but I have found enough here to fill it. I live in a multicultural corner of a multicultural country, where the arts are valued and supported by the public (if not by the municipality). There are opportunities here for me to practice my esoteric art with talented peers. There’s inspiration, in the form of raw, environmental beauty and quirky history. And I have found some humans to love. It’s not a perfect home, but by 2018 global standards it’s pretty terrific.

It’s been more than a year now since we returned from the Great Sabbatical, and the memories have mostly settled into a reassuring arrangement. I haven’t traveled much since then, except for just recently (see below), and it’s been great to feel the roots I started putting down in Cape Breton reattaching themselves to my esrtwhile restless feet. Right now, in middle age, I feel open to all sorts of possibilities: if I get the opportunity to travel again, to live abroad or just to explore new cultures and landscapes, that’s fantastic; but if the Sabbatical was my last great globe-trotting hurrah, well, it was a damn good one — Canada/USA/Japan/UK/France/Belgium/Netherlands/Nepal — and I believe I could be happy if the rest of my life were lived comparatively close to home.

The one big exception involves my friends. Of all the blessings in my life, the most implausible and joy-inducing is my “guys” — the five friends with whom I’ve been close since age 12, or in some cases even younger. Misfits and outcasts, we weathered the tempests of junior high and high school together, umbrellaed by D&D and private jokes and intellectual absurdism and brotherly love. There were falling-outs and prolonged silences and a geographical diaspora that now stretches to parts as remote as Japan, Florida, and California. Even with email and social media, there is no rational way we ought to be as close as we are, even now. But we still log on and play D&D most weekends. And every 2 years, we still fly or drive vast distances to reunite for a few agonizingly short days.

Even with the knowledge that a cross-continental flight may double my carbon footprint for the year, that journey feels worth it.

At the end of May, I flew to Seattle to attend PaizoCon, a role-playing convention organized by the company that occasionally pays me to write role-playing adventures for them (speaking of inconceivable blessings!). I brought my friend L, and I knew I’d be seeing my other friend L, who also writes for Paizo but lives in Edmonton. And I invited my guys, since three of them live on the west coast, but up till the week before the trip, I didn’t know if I’d see any of them there. Schedules were tight, or money was tight, or both. But then the clouds seemed to part and it all came together. Suddenly PaizoCon seemed almost like an intrusion on the precious time I had to spend with T,T, and R.

But it was all good — the convention allowed me to roll some dice and schmooze a bit with my industry idols, and the downtime allowed us to fall into our normal groove, flirting with waitresses and complaining about craft beer and riffing on the strangeness of the world around us. T1 took us to lunch at the Google Compound. R told an interminable story about the best D&D game he’d ever run. T2 said his meds were working better than they’d ever been. The guys even accepted L and L with no qualms. It was all good.

I can’t say it was just like it used to be, though. I was keenly aware of our advancing age, and not just in our inability to stay up till 6am talking about girls, the way we used to. We’re all looking and feeling our age, and I worry about how the back-half of an 80-year lifespan is going to treat a bunch of out-of-shape screen monkeys. Plus I worry about how the world’s steep decline might make it harder for us to keep up the pace of our reunions. There are already plenty of complications (J and J couldn’t make Seattle due to family and work commitments). If jobs disappear, if meds become scarce, will it still feel worthwhile to cross the globe just to bask in nostalgia?

The last day of the convention, while I was swimming in the hotel pool, I made a strange, silent resolution to myself: I can’t guarantee that I’ll be there for each one of them, at the end of their lives. But I want to outlive them. I don’t want any of them to hear about my departure, and feel the pain of having missed it.

So, in a weird, roundabout way, that’s my commitment to keep on living, even if the world goes to hell. So far, there are many signs of faraway storms — but here, on my doorstep, it is still calm.

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