Back in December, I finished my Master’s Degree. It was an accomplishment, at least everyone told me, but I never did feel a sense of pride as I finished my last class. I felt… nothing at all. I remember 2 years ago, I had enrolled in the program. I was unsure of my ability to develop a career in IT due to my lack of IT education and understanding of the industry (I was a self-taught web developer and all my services), and so instead of spending my money on a fun vacation, I chose to pay for my first semester of grad school. I was unsure of the program and the commitment, but it felt nice to be once again, feeling I was making progress towards something. I guess the main issue with finishing the program was… that “feeling” is gone now.
The truth is I entered the Master’s program to find myself a job. So, as I sit here in the middle of a noisy coffee shop catering my resume to each position and going through each employer’s tedious application process, I reflect on how many applications I’ve filled out so far, no responses from any local, Hawaii companies. My biggest sign of progress was getting an all expenses paid trip to Amazon Web Services in Seattle for their onsite interview. Despite the fact that the interview had me studying all sorts of things I had no background in (data storage, networking, distributed databases), I was glad to go, because I felt there was progress being made as I studied.
Life Needs Progress
I think that by highly intelligent beings, we end up with a burden of highly complex needs. Abraham Maslow did his best to put these complex needs into a triangle, with the base reflecting our basic needs, which other animals share, while the higher up the triangle are our psychological needs, which are related to topics of feeling good about ourselves, finding occupations that we feel suited for, understanding who we are, and the very broad term of “ego.”
When Life Has No Progress, Depression Happens
I believe that when intelligent adults have a halt in progress in our lives, we will begin to feel uneasy. We may not be able to enjoy the activities we would usually do. Our emotions go from a wide range to a more contracted range. This is what I would call “depression.”
Well, that’s one explanation. Depression can also be genetic and for some people, their personality and lifestyle may cause them to be more prone to depression (such as being poor, ugly, living a boring life while browsing how great everyone’s life looks on instagram).
Progress can come in many forms. For me, it’s attending a program which can improve my job, status, income, and learning trajectory. For others, it might be having children. Afterall, even if everything in your life stagnates, the act of raising children is constantly forcing you to progress. Projects are also fun, because they are literally things that progress over time.
When Life Stagnates… Drugs Are Appealing
I originally developed this idea after reading a very interesting article (at the Huffington Post) suggesting that drug addiction is usually an effect of a unfulfilling life. The article pointed out that heroin is a very addicting drug, but for many who are hospitalized due to immense injury, they receive a painkiller, a legal form of heroin, which is much stronger than street heroin, but most do not actually become addicted to it. The reasoning? Because people with drug addictions have crappy lives and they have nothing to boost it.
Think about… unemployed or awful job, no family, no friends, no upward mobility… what is there to enjoy and to look forward to? And how appealing is a high from a drug compared to your normal state? Now, flip the situation: if you are gainfully employed, you have a family you enjoy spending your free time with, you have great friends to socialize with, and you have a future that looks bright… the impact of a mood boosting drug is not going to be as high for you.
When Life Lacks Progress, Video Game Progress Can Be Substitutes
Moving forward with the idea that people will turn to unhealthy activities when their lives are not fulfilling, I believe video games to be popular not only because they are entertaining, but because they allow a certain level of progress to users. Every popular video game nowadays has progress. NBA2k has a campaign mode where you can create a player and then grow the player by playing games. League of Legends (a game I play infrequently) allows player to progress in rankings (bronze, silver, gold) as their skill level increases. This is funny because many comments I’ve seen have said that people hate ranked games because of toxic teammates and it is very stressful because your ranking points are at stake. And even in a massive arena like World of Warcraft, you can always go out and kill monsters for gold (called “grinding” or “farming”).
Video games are important for this reason, because for many people, their lives do not have the same level of satisfaction and progress. In fact, sometimes, there are many factors out of your control in life. Yet in video games, your efforts can often be rewarded with more experience, more virtual money, more equipment, and cool looking aesthetic gear.
This was not a well thought-out article, but I wanted to write my ideas down before I forgot them.
In terms of how this article relates to me, the important thing is to keep grinding in life, and ensuring I have things in my life I can progress on. Yes, I hope that will mean for my career, but it will also be for my lifting amount, piano skills, basketball skills, and followers on my meme account. Anything to keep me motivated and making real progress in the real world is always going to be better than progress in a virtual space or turning to distractions to make me forget how unfulfilling or disappointing my life may be at the moment.