I took a day trip out to the Oregon Coast a few weeks ago. This was the sunset I saw at Depoe Bay. It doesn’t have much of anything to do with the rest of this post; I just thought it was a nice photo, and hey, if you wanna read some symbolism in a sunset, far be it from me to stop you.

I took a day trip out to the Oregon Coast a few weeks ago. This was the sunset I saw at Depoe Bay. It doesn’t have much of anything to do with the rest of this post; I just thought it was a nice photo, and hey, if you wanna read some symbolism in a sunset, far be it from me to stop you.

A few years ago, I started keeping a bullet journal. This is just a fancy way of saying that I began to consistently track my to-do items and carry a Moleskine notebook with me just about everywhere I went.

My intention was pretty innocent: I just wanted to get more done while managing my time better. And, for the most part, my bullet journal helped me do just that. But it recently dawned on me that, in keeping fastidious notes on my life, I was also just treating symptoms of a problem I wasn't able to name.

But I've figured out what it is, and its name is Time, and more specifically, it's How I'm Spending My Time, and to really add the proper context, it's How I'm Spending My Fleeting and Unknowable Remaining Time on Earth Not Doing the Things I Actually Believe Are Important.

In other words, I realized I've been cowing to this internalized voice that tells me what I should feel and what I should do for, well, ever. And, like, that's not a bad survival instinct, but it needs to be considered in moderation against that other voice — the one that reminds me what I want to do, and what I believe matters.

The big thing I realized is that I've let the should voice speak as loud and often as it wants, and I've shoved the want voice into the closet to revisit at some later date that, let's be honest, is never gonna arrive. When you grant a bully exclusive license of a podium and an audience, it's not going to give it up willingly.

A couple years ago, after a lot of difficult conversations and I-can't-even-begin-to-tell-you-how-many hours of writing and introspection, I identified three pillars or themes that I find the most deeply and consistently fulfilling in all of my life. Those are:

  1. Creating and sharing interactive experiences, like games
  2. Writing, expressing ideas, and helping to tell stories
  3. Teaching and mentoring others

On some level, I've always known these are the things I love to do the most. But I've also kept my heart at a pretty significant distance from these ideals, because that should voice kept reminding me that I should instead focus on finding a lucrative career path, on deferring those goals, on doing what some imaginary authority figure may insist I do instead. So I've barreled my way from tech company to tech company, working as hard as I can manage, being mindful of how lucky I am to have someone's dream job, and reminding myself that someday, someday, I might be able to spend my waking hours doing the things I believe are actually valuable — those things that I think, through my own experiences and ingenuity, might just enable me to have a greater positive impact on the people in my life and the world around me.

But here's what I know now: that day is never going to just, like, show up someday. You don't just stumble into self-actualization.

So here's what I think.

I think everything I wrote above is the truth.

I think I already know exactly how I want to live my life.

I think I've spent far too long letting the should voice overrule the want voice.

I think that, for those of us who are fundamentally driven by the desire to express ourselves, the only path to fulfillment lies in trusting in one's passion and abilities.

I think I'm going to make it.

In 2018, I had a bunch of resolutions to keep, and I knocked out the majority of 'em. I worked hard at my jobs, on my personal skills development, on being a better human and friend, on my health, and on my happiness. And that work all paid off — all of it. I helped develop and release a really big game that I'm very grateful to have worked on; I made a career change to get more experience with the skills I know I need to be a more-capable game developer. But most importantly, I found that listening to the want voice on equal grounding with the should voice allowed me to find a compromise: a path forward where I can take the risks on myself that I've been waiting to do forever, while still ensuring that I'm bringing all the same careful consideration and diligent planning to the table that's helped me get to where I am today.

So. In 2019, here is my one resolution:

I am going to do what it takes to get to a place where I'm fully engaged in the work that I know I can do best and will give me my best shot at enriching the people in my life and the world at large.

Well, that's a pretty vague goal, isn't it? But I kinda like it that way. It's not about the boxes I'll check or the accolades I'll notch onto my CV. All this goal is really saying is: "Have I learned to put my trust in my ideals and my own creative potential into action?"

I have a feeling I'll pull it off, finally. And I'm so excited.

If you, the person reading this, can identify with that disparity between what you think you ought to be doing versus the path you're on, I hope you'll spend some time thinking through what it is that you'd need to satisfy both your wants and your shoulds. Remember to make space for both of them; don't let one bully the other out of the picture. It took me (literally) years of work, but I finally feel like I've arrived at an answer I can pursue with conviction.

Anyway, that's enough of this. There's a whole year out there, full of games that aren't gonna create themselves! Let's get to it.

PersonalNick Cummings