A Nintendo Aphorism

In one of the writing electives I teach, I start out the semester with the loosest guidelines possible. I tell students the relative end game and ask them how they want to get there. The allure of the class–perhaps both in teaching it and in taking it–is the truth that we are on the journey together. I know a few things about teaching; you know a few things about googling, so let’s put it our brains together and invest in the class together.

The class was interested in talking about zodiacs, astrology, and personality types. So two different students who light up about these subjects spoke to our class over a couple days, thrilling us with notions of ourselves–giving us an a la carte language by which we can figure ourselves out. A quarter of my class is Taurus, so the introverted bulls nodded to each other; a third of my class is introverted, and they smiled slyly when the video clip said introverts may tell you, “I’m fine,” because they don’t care to spend taxing emotional energy explaining themselves to strangers.

As I gave them options for our lesson this week, they gave me the “yes please!” gestures when I mentioned Shonda Rhimes’ resolution to push her introverted workaholic self to say yes to everything for a year. It took two minutes of listening to her to know without a doubt that she must also be a Capricorn. When she said her consistent, vibrant work gives her this “hum,” I couldn’t help but remember when I tried to name an inconsistent but reliable spike of creativity as “zam” so I could point at it in a real way.  And when I looked at her and saw a mom of 3 who struggles with playtime, she became like so many women I know. And then per usual I knew the talk fell into my lap for a reason. Not only did I go home and play hide and seek with the kids for 15 minutes but also I figured something out:  I have reached a time in the year where I’m burning out, but I don’t want to relax just yet, and I’m sad I’ve had to pause some systems to keep others going.

Like my fellow Capricorns, productivity in whichever form is an essential part of my day.  But I don’t always allocate my time right, at least not right for me. And sometimes I finish something just to finish it. And when I bury what I want to complete in order to complete essential tasks, I get really down on myself.  I may vent to my friends about what is going on during a weekend or during a class day, and I can sometimes get a hint of the following look: why are you doing all that or in that way?

This doesn’t mean I’m doing more at work than my peers or more work as a mom for my family. What it does mean is that I drive myself a little nutty with pursuing or weighing each “should do” because there is something inside insisting it is my responsibility to do it since the idea came to me.

This weekend while I was cooking lunch and spinning with Sunday housework, my brother set up the Nintendo Switch, an eagerly-awaited Norooz gift for the kids. Hours later I sat down to see what old games it offered. When I saw my favorite old game, Super Mario Bros. 3, I won’t lie; I almost cried at the display of the yellow overworld map, a throwback to a time my own brother and I bridged our 7-year gap with sweaty controller-hands and high fives. A few rounds of playing later, I have no idea how my silly momentum got me trapped. I took this comical picture below and shared it with some students on Monday.


But what makes me laugh about the picture is where I am as the player. Just look at the picture again. Lately, I feel I may be that little Mario looking at the question mark because I lost my energy somewhere among school, social, and work life. But look harder at my predicament. I’m literally stuck down there going back and forth, back and forth with vigor and good intentions to get to the next level. One student asked me, “How did you even get trapped in there?

Another student took her one earbud out and said casually, “It’s a glitch. There is nothing you can do about the glitch. It’s what makes the game great.

And there it is. Out of the mouth of babes, from the hot game of the 90s, through the ridiculous Sunday moment, comes the most unusual connection befitting this often ENFJ Capricorn.