I've been thinking a lot about my "retirement" and my passions (game design, programming, and the like). It's been pretty interesting to see my perspective shift from "I have other things to work on such as work | groups | whatever" to having the largest of these (work) disappear with my retirement.
I remember having a conversation with JoDee around 2016, prior to my long bout of unemployment. I was despairing that I wanted to move into being a full-time game designer / developer. Unfortunately I was also making the most money for us (at the time). JoDee (the smart one) didn't seem phased by this, but reminded me that we would have to severely cut back on expenses to make this work. Unfortunately I was let go from my job soon after that conversation. That lead to me spending more time trying to gussy myself up for the workplace to see if I could get someone, anyone to take a chance on me and get income flowing again. Fortunately I did, through the grace of a friend, but those dreams still lingered in the background. Could I make a go of it as a game designer? I came up with every excuse imaginable: gamers are fickle (true!), there's not much money in "indie" games (true!), it's a crowded field (true!). I kept pouring out the excuses one-by-one. I still worked at it in the background but it never had priority.
A lot of this stems from fear. We let ourselves succumb to fear because fear is there protecting us. Fear tells us that stoves are hot, darkness is bad, and jumping off cliffs is a generally terrible idea. But fear can also manifest itself in ways where we don't allow ourselves to expand beyond the safe. I posted about the many times I was afraid. I've also participated in "Fearless Training" with Leo Babauta. I've gotten a lot better about fear over the years and have reconfigured my life to be more purposeful and direct.
I had a conversation regarding feedback about some training and how to make it better. I mentioned about my game design and how I wanted to focus on that. As I was talking about my previous fears and obstacles I had a revelation: most of those obstacles have evaporated and disappeared. I'm no longer tied to a day-to-day job (outside of beating cancer). I don't have to make money with my games (in fact making money would screw up my disability). I have my mental faculties still (such as they are). One-by-one I noticed each of the things that was an impediment to me before were no longer there.
So what was stopping me?
As I noticed that each of those barriers was removed I realized that there was one barrier remaining. A large barrier. The craftiest, most personal barrier that I knew.
I'm the only barrier now. Yes, cancer treatments can wipe me out and make me tired, but frankly I'm the only one standing in my way. A person-shaped barrier that knows my every weakness, self-doubt, and excuse. The perfect foil. He knows my moves, knows my secrets, and knows how to cut through the bullshit to find my tender parts and my most delicate fears.
What's interesting to me is that I didn't recognize this before. I've always been standing in my own way, blocking myself from whatever it was that I was hoping to achieve. The excuses were a smoke-screen; a facade to keep me from wiggling knobs and opening doors that might lead to parts unknown.
Thing is, I'm in a better place now to recognize this and handle it. In 2016 there were good reasons for me to not just jump into full-time game design. And with the world being as uncertain as it is I am seeing established designers look around and wonder how this new world is going to play out.
But that's always been there. 2016 me wasn't ready to recognize this. He still clung to and idolized the stories of folks who made it. They were what sustained him in order to find his own voice. 2023 me doesn't care about this anymore. 2023 me just wants to explore this island that he's washed up on and take it to the limits of his abilities.
2023 me is ready to face the saboteur and bring him into the fold. Someone who knows me better than myself is a useful ally.
Perhaps we can both work toward the same goals and make something awesome together.