A great many of these blog posts have been written on the A and F train on my way to and from my part time profession. For what some weeks only amounted to 7 hours of work, my travel to and from my place of employment left a lot of time for me to spend on my other job, Unlife. But on those days, as I whisked myself to Brooklyn, I found myself in possession of the gig I always dreamed of for myself, before finally, recently, having to wake up. But for a while, I got to slumber in the blissful sleep that was “The Lab”.
To rewind a bit: my life has been in a state of upheaval since July, starting a lot of new, healthier habits. And as a result, I started to attract new, healthier opportunities. Before I knew it, I found myself in the lucrative position of after-school counselor for the children of hipsters in Park Slope. And by lucrative, I mean I was able to buy a beer after work. But it was (fortunately) never about the money for me. It was about working a job I didn’t hate – one I actually enjoyed and looked forward to. Something of a luxury, coming at something at a cost (see: beer money). But I didn’t care. What I liked was the environment. At my previous workplaces, I always hated the oppressive atmosphere of a bottom line taking precedence over art, getting ahead over positivity and kindness.
“The Lab” was none of that. Functioning as an after school activity for children 7-13 by day, and as a late night hub for nerdy adult gamers, they hired me to wrangle that first group. The program focused on playing complicated board games with kids, letting them pitch creative alterations and mods, and then applying them to the game to try out. On top of that, through the use of merit gathering and “leveling up” by playing the games, there was a Harry Potter-meets-Magic the Gathering meta game, “Immortal War”, that pitted different groups of kids against each other in a year-long contest that combined aspects of the other games they had been playing and modding all year.
The whole experience was a blast, my job amounting to being a not-camp counselor. The schedule was flexible and easy, and allowed me space to focus on my writing with time to take care of things at home. Not to mention, the other employees there appeared guided by the same star as me, focusing on their creative projects outside the confines of work. It was inspiring, and at last I didn’t feel like the strange one. Just… another one. Maybe, with the bevy of artists and other creative personalities there, another project could have one day come to life. Or maybe, that even rarer find, a friendship that could last a lifetime.
The day after the election found me working there, all the counselors were in the same funk as me. Even the kids felt it (being the children of hipsters, anti-Trump sentiments were not unfamiliar to them). And I remember the day starting with a bland pall before evolving into laughter and cheer. People playing games, telling jokes, and enjoying each other’s company. There was a bond there that was not only needed, but reciprocated, and…
It was what we all needed that day, and we gave that to each other. And that’s something. It really is. It meant more to me than I can describe.
And, as of this writing, I had to sever that bond.
Maybe sever is the wrong word. Put aside for a moment. This was a part-time job, and having recently accepted a full time job, I just didn’t have the energy or the presence to maintain both. I tried. For weeks, I tried, only succeeding in making myself crazy and guaranteeing I couldn’t do either job to the best of my ability. A hard choice had to be made, and in the end they said the door would remain open if I ever wanted to step through it again, an offer I hope to one day take advantage of.
This is the last blog I’ll be writing on the trip between my home and “The Lab”. And with it comes the closing of a chapter that, although I knew I loved it, was even more precious to me than I realized. It’s not the end of the blogs – though, fair warning, I do plan to review the “once-a-post” schedule once this chapter closes – but it’s the end of something I cherished. And that breaks my heart. Because maybe all we did was play games. But to me it was more than a game.
It was something like a dream.