Deleted Scenes: The Balance Of Time

Last Wednesday, when my wife—to whom I’ll lovingly refer as “The Patient Mrs.” for the duration of this and other columns—reminded me that I had only one week to go until the start of classes, the start of the Spring semester, I said to her, “Kill me in the face.”

A little background: Before I came back to The Aquarian, I was a full-time graduate student in the Rutgers Newark creative writing program with a part-time job on the side. Now, I’m a full-time Managing Editor and a full-time graduate student with a part-time job on the side, and you’re all caught up.

It’s supposed to be my last semester, the fourth in a two-year program. It won’t be, but that’s a different gripe for a different time. For the last four weeks, I’ve been on “winter break.” Ostensibly, this has been a vacation. And if you look at it mathematically, it’s true. I’ve had less on my day-to-day plate than I did from September to December or than I will from now until May.

But if that’s the case, why the hell am I so tired?

If you have a real job or a real life, you might not know this, but every December, the music industry shuts down for the holidays. New releases take a nosedive, and aside from the holiday-special shows there isn’t much going on. The phone stops ringing, the emails are reduced almost exclusively to spam. Everyone’s gone home to be with their families. For those few of us left on the alternative-weekly print newspaper end of things, who don’t have such a luxury, it’s a pain in the ass.

I’m not about to bemoan my lot. I’m not at war, I’m not a doctor without borders trying to get Gatorade into Haiti, and I don’t work retail. These are all people who have it tougher than I do. But now with just two days left until classes start again, throwing off a schedule I didn’t really have a handle on in the first place, I’ve dealt with it the only way I know how:

I’ve been playing videogames.

Or rather, videogame.

You see, I belong to a couple of deviant subcultures, and one of them happens to be Final Fantasy fandom. I’ve been playing role-playing games (RPGs) in the Final Fantasy series since I was less than 10 years old, and my favorite has always been the first one released on Super Nintendo back in 1991, Final Fantasy IV.

Periodically over the last 20 years, I’ve gone back and replayed FFIV during times of stress, and this time around, when I should have been getting a jump on the coming semester’s reading/writing load, I instead discovered that Square Enix (who was just Square in 1991) released a sequel last year as a Wii download. It’s called Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. I’m more than 10 hours in.

There are multiple storylines, characters familiar and new set in the same old environs that at this point I feel I know better than parts of the state of New Jersey, which I’ve lived in my whole life. It looks like a Super Nintendo game, and sounds like one, and plays like one. I love it. I look at people who talk about Gears Of War like they’re missing out on “the real shit.”

I’ve learned a lesson here, of course. You knew it was coming. I’ve learned that I will do almost anything to shoot myself in the foot. The class I was supposed to be doing all this reading for? Yeah, I dropped it. I’ve now literally delayed my graduation because instead of manning up and doing the work I took on of my own free will, I opted to fight the Octo-Kraken in the underwater passageway.

I know I’m not the only one out there who does this kind of thing. People get caught up in all kinds of crap—drinking, drugs, betting on the Patriots—but there’s got to be something said for realizing you have responsibilities in your life and making the conscious decision to take care of the things that really matter.

Of course, what that something to be said is, I haven’t the faintest clue, because I’ve been too busy saving the kingdom of Baron to find out.

Who said adolescence has to end?

The Hooded Man is Kain,

JJ Koczan