Posted by: Chelsea Novak | January 3, 2011

Level Up

I had a long overdue coffee date with of my besties today, Tasharific. As she’s a new mom and I’m still working on getting back my version of normal, we haven’t had a lot of time to catch up. Tweets, IMs, text messages and e-mails have done well in a pinch, but a face-to-face chit-chat really can’t be topped.

We’re both in situations that are hard for our “take action to get it done” personalities. Events of last year really taught me how powerless a person can be, regardless of how much you try to do things right. And in processing it all, I can only allow for the passage of time. Not exactly the kind of way I like to approach a problem, but here we are.

From what I can observe of the many new mothers around me, there’s lots of action to be taken and an endless amount to get done, but little of it seems to be plan-able. A lament I’ve heard many times is that new parents are frustrated by how they can’t get things done like they used to and wonder just what heck they used to do with all their free time. (The answer: whatever they wanted to, therein lies the rub).

As we were reflecting on how frustrating it is/must be to not be able to plan and execute like before she became a new mom, I had a bit of a brain wave. “What if,” I suggested, “this is about learning how to do things again, but in a new way. Before you were a parent, you’d pretty much mastered the nuances of life. You have a job, you have a relationship, you maintain a home, pay your bills. You’ve got all of those things pretty much down. Now that you’re a parent, you’ve upped the degree of difficulty. Just like when you level up in a game, things get harder, you get attacked by a few flying turtles and fall down a few pits, but eventually you learn how to do it and you’re on your way again.”

The more I think about it, the more I think it works for anyone who is working through change (though I’m going to put it out there, based on observation, having a kid seems to be a change like no other). I’m pretty sure it jumped into my head because of an article a someone on my twitter feed (can’t remember who, sorry) linked to about the way Super Mario Bros 3 levels were designed and the way that it (and many other games) layer on difficulty and complexity. We learn new skills we’ll need as we progress and level up. I’m not suggesting that it’s a perfect analog for the way people learn to overcome adversity and change. Life doesn’t have a pause/reset button for one.

I think I’m going to make it my mantra of 2011. Rather than feel beaten down and powerless by things I can’t control, I’m just going to say “Level up” and realize that new challenges are hard and daunting, but I can learn how to master them.

Today’s sing-a-long song: “You Should Learn” by We Are Scientists


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