Month 6 Report


I didn't get into the master's program for creative writing at the University of British Columbia, and that's okay. Or so that's what everyone tells me. The program is very competitive, and this year drew over 160 applicants. I believe they only took a handful, so I assume at least another 150 people are sitting in the failure pit with me. That doesn't make it any easier to take, and I'll admit to have wallowed in despair for at least a few days last month, but I'm over it now. It's turned out have a net positive outcome: one door temporarily closes, but fortunately we stand in infinite hallways of doors and have but to find one that's unlocked.

From September of 2016 to the end of 2019 I pursued an undergraduate degree in computer science. At that time, coming off of half a decade of independent video game development and a largely self-taught “programming” skill, it felt like the logical best step: ratify and formalize my abilities so that I could prove to myself that I knew a thing or two about coding.

I threw in the towel fifteen credits shy of a diploma. I didn't know that at the time, as I was have having a minor mental breakdown due to the stress of the education. Science is hard. There's no pantsing science. You have to learn the material and be able to synthesize, or at least competently reproduce, that knowledge. I got to the point where I felt I just couldn't anymore. In retrospect I'd simply hit the learning curve and lacked the energy to get up and over it. So, I switched over to something I knew how to do, creative writing, and this semester could have graduated the bachelor's program with an A average.

And then I got rejected by UBC.

That event had me re-evaluating my entire future. I suddenly found myself having to get a job and, I'm going to be completely honest with you here: I was woefully unprepared. I'd thought I'd have at least another two years of graduate education ahead of me. My engines were all tuned for study. But the UBC program was the only one I could have managed: it's distance learning, online, and for myriad reasons—not least of all disabilities, finances, and sheer terror of having to relocate elsewhere in the world for eduction—made all other options moot.

So, a job.

It turns out that most pure creative writing jobs are actually teaching jobs, and a decade of teaching conversational English in Tokyo had shown me that I despised that kind of work. Oh, sure, I could do it. I'm a fantastic actor. But it would hollow me out inside, and I've spent the years since I left Japan rebuilding the ruins of my soul with art. I'm not about to go spooning out that delicate core again for anyone.

There was, as I mentioned before, another door. While perusing the various job listings related to creative writing I noticed a pattern: there was a lot of work for writers who knew a little something about computers. But without verifiable experience—my years of hard labor in the indie game mines, while exciting and enriching, count for practically nothing as I did it all for myself—it's nigh impossible to get a foot in the door these days. At least somewhere with a serious employer who will pay equally serious money.

But had an almost-diploma in computer science. Fifteen measly credits. I could stand on my tiptoes and see the finish line of that race. So, I went to admissions, delayed my graduation, and declared a minor. Now, all I have to do is hope that the five classes I need are offered in an order that actually lets me get them done in under a year. I'll know that by the end of May. Wish me luck, pray for me, make blood sacrifices. I'll take all the help I can get.


The UBC rejection couldn't have come at a better time, ha ha. We're moving into our first home in six days. This was something, much like living past age twenty, that I was certain would never happen. I don't know how it is where you live, but the price of houses around here is actually insane. Inflation, cost of living, and horrific job market aside, shelling out three-quarters of a million dollars for a roof and a garden seems to me a little bit over the top. When I was a kid, a million dollars was an end-game goal: you secured that bag, you were set for life. Mind you that was almost fifty years ago, so that dream is yellowed with age and frayed around the edges, but still!

Six months ago we started looking with seriousness at properties. A month ago a genuine gem of one turned up. Realtors love to toss that word around in their listings, gem, but this one is bona fide. There was another offer on it but one that was contingent on sale, meaning the potential buyer had to sell their existing property to finance the buy. We kinda swooped in and all we had to do was agree to go into crushing debt for the next few decades and the place was ours.

I haven't slept well at all these past few days, which is very unusual for me. I haven't felt stress like this in years. Everyone says it will be worth it, and it's going to be at least a week before I see that for myself, but ugh. Operating on four to six hours of sleep is not for me, especially after I'd worked so hard these past few months to force myself to take eight.

One huge plus to having the space of a home, the kind of space I haven't experienced since leaving Japan in 2008, is that I can once again set up a gym. And now, with the functional strength training and running program I've developed over the last two years, it's going to be bliss to be able to leap out of bed and walk down a hallway to train. This alone is going to save me at least half an hour a day, possibly more depending on how often I feel the need to put on clothes. Maybe that's the root of this sleeplessness: the excitement of reclaiming those precious minutes back from the reaper.

Another massive perk—and potential downside—is having a real study room of my own. For the past sixteen years I've worked alongside my wife in the same space. It's had its ups and downs, but mostly it's been positive. Just the closeness and familarity has been great for us. Having a room with a door that I can close and an environment that I can wholly tailor to my needs and tastes will be incredible, but I worry that the reduced “together time” will have a deliterious effect on our relationship. It's something I'll be seriously pondering as we move forward into this new phase of our life.


I feel like I've rambled on quite a bit this update, facilitated by the insomnia and recent events, but there's one last thing I'd like to share. I've been playing Ubisoft Quebec's Assassin's Creed Odyssey since January 20 of this year. I'm over a hundred hours in, and I've thoroughly enjoyed every second. This is part of an ongoing “behavior adjustment” experiment I'm conducting, where I focus on doing one thing at a time until it's done, and without any background noise or parallel entertainment.

See, whenever I used to play big games like World of Warcraft, Destiny 2, or Grand Theft Auto Online, and the activities got repetitive—which was often—I'd put something on in the background, a movie or some Netflix series or an audiobook, and divide my attention. Since December of 2022 I've weaned myself off of that behavior to the point where now I apply the entirety of my focus to whatever I'm doing, never mind just playing a video game. If it's drafting a new story or poem, coding up a website, reading a book, or watching a show without a mobile device nearby, I'm doing just the activity. No more so-called “multitasking”, and it's not the dreaded “hyperfocus” that some doctors will convince you that you need therapy and medication for. It's just quality attention. And I find that I appreciate what I'm doing far more than I ever did when I was splitting myself across however many activities, thinking that I was getting so much done at once, when the reality is that I was only getting several things done with half or less of the attention that they deserved.

Life is richer now. Of course, this is only my anecdote. Take it with however many grains of salt you need. But looking back, I feel some pangs of regret as I think of all the things I thought I was savoring when what I was really doing was wolfing them down without taking a moment to chew.

See you in a month.


Next: April 2024
Previous: February 2024