Monday, May 25, 2009

The game of life

I grew up playing with my sister and our neighbor, Rebecca, who lived across the street from us. From our little neighborhood bubble, it was refreshing to play with Rebecca, because she exposed us to other ways of looking at the world. She picked up many taboo phrases and conversation topics that she adopted from her older siblings. She was the first friend I made who had divorced parents. And she wasn't afraid to challenge life ideals. This came more apparent in the Milton-Bradley game "Life", which we played often. While my sister and I were reaching for the more expensive "Victorian" house card, Rebecca would always choose to buy the "split-level" shack. The picture of that place was still vivid in my head--the falling blue shutters, the gunshot in the window and the hole in the roof, and we added our own details. It was clearly a poor neighborhood. And every time she chose that card, we would both grimace and ask her how she could possibly choose to live in such an awful place, and she always responded, "Sure it looks like crap from the outside, but you haven't been inside yet. There's basketball courts in the basement, there's a pool in the back. It's one of those places where kids are always hanging out and having fun, and there's no curfew ever." For the rest of the game, the Victorian house began to not look as cozy. Even my car full of kids and my "life-changing event" of climbing Mount Everest didn't change the fact that my house looked empty, because I figured everyone would be playing basketball or video games at Rebecca's house. At the end of the game, Rebecca would always win, because she spent 160K less in the beginning, which was some good padding for those life challenges ahead. You would think that we would have learned from her method, but instead of trying to just win, at every game, my objective was to get "the job" "the salary" and "the house" then get married, have kids AND win. Actually, I feel like that was the imposed objective of the game, which I now find so negatively idealist. Looking back, I realize that Rebecca taught me the most important life lesson. It's not the picture you paint that counts, it's what you make of it.