Constructed Criticism - Living The Dream Of Pro Magic
I sat alone shrouded in darkness as the flickering light from the television lit up the room like fireflies. You can get lost in television. You can get lost in a lot of things. I walked into the kitchen to mix myself another vodka and cranberry juice — but where did all the vodka go? I could have sworn there was a whole bottle here a few hours ago.
I clicked “redial” on my phone with yet another voicemail clawing at my ears. The same message over and over again: solitude. The ice in the glass clinked against my teeth as I downed the last remnants of the last drink cursing as I tossed the empty glass into the sink.
What are you doing? The words seemed to come from somewhere deep down in the back of my mind — but faint and distant as if the words were traveling through a long corridor and you only heard the echoes bouncing off the walls.
I walked into work on Thursday afternoon a few days after returning from Chicago after winning the TCGplayer Invitational $20000 richer and a lot happier than when I had left. Kali told me she was proud of me. She said so right before she left. I remember her saying it. I remember.
As I walked into work I felt something in the pit of my stomach begin to turn. Something was wrong but I couldn't quite place it. I hadn't been at work for a few days — which may have caused a bit of an uproar but I couldn't really argue with my results from the tournament. I clocked in and started my daily duties and prepared for the coming dinner rush. I hadn't looked at my schedule since last week and figured it was worth a few minutes to check it in the server book to see what days I worked in the next week.
Wait a second why was I scheduled for next weekend? I specifically requested to be off for those days for Grand Prix: Pittsburgh. I remember writing down the days in the calendar weeks ago. I went off in search of my manager to check on the problem and clear things up.
"You're taking too many weekends off. I can't give you off next weekend or Labor Day weekend after that. The restaurant is really busy during Labor Day and you've already taken too much time off recently."
My tongue turned to silly putty in my mouth. My shoes filled with lead and I couldn't move. I couldn't breathe. "I have to be off on Labor Day. I can't miss this tournament. Isn't there anything you can do?"
His reply was a slow shake of his head and a muttered "Sorry." I felt like yelling. I felt like telling him to go screw himself. I felt like dying. Instead I just turned around clocked out and went home.
I didn't go back.
I knew what Kali would say if she weren't out of town working at StarCityGames.com Open: Boston . I knew that I had to tell her sooner or later but I figured sooner would be better. After all she wouldn't want me to miss the Pro Tour over some crappy job that I hated to begin with right?
I'm just....so disappointed right now. You always do this. You're never going to love the job you have because that's just who you are. And it doesn't matter what you do you're always going to be miserable.
Misery loves company.
But sweetheart I'll get another job! The Pro Tour means so much to me and I was dying in that place! They weren't going to let me go! I swear that when the time comes around next semester I'll get back in school and really try to make a life for us here. I want you to be happy but I want to be happy too. Would you really have wanted me to keep that job there if it meant I couldn't chase after my dream?
The following silence was palpable. I could hear her breathing become ragged and stiff. I could hear her seething.
I can't do this right now she muttered. We'll talk about this when I get home.
Home. The word didn't sound right. This place where I'd been wallowing for hours possibly days was anything but home. I had lived most of it through hollow eyes and a drunken stupor. This was the place we'd chosen to move to so that Kali could live here and have her dream job and I could try to make a place for myself amidst her success.
As of late I've been falling quite a bit short. Speaking frankly I've brought in a decent amount of money to our household but the income was never steady and that was the problem.
Windfalls are always nice — but they don't last and you can't live forever on a single big payday. I was beginning to understand her frustration but that didn't make it any less hard to bear the punishment I'd been given. Loneliness wasn't supplanted by any of my vices and they only seemed to make things worse. Magic Online became more of a chore than an escape with matches seemingly to drag on forever. Why should I even bother? Even A Dance with Dragons the book I'd been so involved in felt tiresome. Was this the life I would be choosing without her?
What was the point of living if I was going to be alone?
She wouldn't touch me. She could barely even look at me.
Are you just waking up now? Why haven't you gone to look for a new job today?
Her words stung hard but I had no real response. The previous night had been full of tossing and turning in a cold bed.
I couldn't sleep last night. I haven't been able to sleep much since you've been gone. I'm sorry. But I cleaned up the house. I did the dishes and the laundry. I even cleaned the toilet.
I put on the smile I knew she couldn't resist but something was wrong. She just stared at me blankly disgusted. Her scowl could have curdled milk.
My excuses might as well have fallen out of my mouth onto the floor. They weren't reaching her ears and I wasn't reaching her at all. I felt limp beaten defeated. Even now three feet away from me she was as far away from me as she had ever been.
My temper flared and my ears flashed red.
Fine. If you don't want to be here then just go. Clearly nothing I do is going to be good enough for you. So just go.
I slammed the bathroom door behind me and slumped into the shower. I turned on the cold water for only seconds before she slowly opened the door.
Just go... the words seemed to come from someone else whose voice was trembling and on the verge of tears. Not mine. I couldn't have been my voice.
The look in her eyes brought all my walls crashing down. It wasn't a look of regret or anger — it was a look of fear. She was afraid we would lose everything because we didn't have stability. Because I wasn't stable. I was the cracked leg in the chair. I was the weak link in our family chain. It was all my fault not hers.
So why was I so angry?
I'm sorry she said. I'm just afraid that you're not taking any of this seriously. We can talk about it more when I get home from work later.She looked deep into my eyes and said the words I'd missed for so long. I love you and her voice bounced off the bathroom walls a million times over. She loved me I loved her.
She kissed me long and hard and held my hand in hers. It was all I ever wanted.
With only a few days to go before Pro Tour: Philadelphia Modern has been the only thing on my mind. I had already gotten a job at Papa John's delivering pizza and I was supposed to start upon my return from Philly. Last night we returned from Grand Prix: Pittsburgh with a handful of Judge Foils and a few boxes of M12 for our efforts — mostly things Kali had received for her long and hard days of judging.
My resounding failure in Standard was due to a few reasons but none more than my own laziness. I felt like I should play Caw-Blade but I own virtually none of the cards and I didn't see anyone around the event site that I really knew before the tournament started… so I just decided to audible back into Splinter Twin since I had it built already.
My reasoning seemed solid enough and I tried to justify them to others stating that I could easily outplay most people with the deck. It also boasted a strong Valakut matchup where Valakut was traditionally a bad matchup for Caw-Blade. But deep down I knew I should just be playing Caw-Blade. Hell I could even afford to just go buy the deck if I wanted.
Awkwardly my Splinter Twin list ended up being off by a few cards in the maindeck and I ended up only using about ten of my sideboard cards in the six rounds that I actually played. Suffice it to say that I ended up punting one round horrifically and made a judgment call in another round that cost me the match. Another round was nigh-unwinnable as I missed on a Shrine of Piercing Vision for ten as well as a subsequent pair of Preordains and a Ponder while my opponent was tapped out. I was not very happy.
As we made the long drive home from Pittsburgh I kept thinking about what I wanted to do with myself. There was plenty of time for thinking since most people were falling asleep or diving down into their gadgets.
Important questions came into my head — tough questions where I wasn't sure what the answer was. Where did I want to be in five years? In ten? Getting back into school seems like a safe bet but is that really what I want to do?
I think that in time we all figure it out — but most of the time we figure it out too late. Even if I fail I want to do something I love for a living even if it means being a little poorer than I would be if I worked a steady 9-5 job. That just isn't the life for me and Kali knew it. When we got home I immediately hopped onto the computer and started building and testing Modern decks. Kali feigned interest but I know she gets really bored watching me play.
She put on her best frowny face and begged for attention. I smiled at her rubbed her arm and went back to what I was doing before. But something felt off. I was agitated but I couldn't really figure out why. Her constant pestering was in jest but I couldn't help but feel frustrated with her nonetheless. After I snapped at her for moaning about being bored for the third or fourth time her face grew solemn and she dragged her feet into the living room defeated. What was I doing? We'd only just patched things up. Was I really about to make her angry at me again?
Realizing what I'd done I chased after her.
When I sat down she was reading a book but only half glancing at each page looking up from time to time to frown at me. As I sat there a million words came to mind but nothing felt right. I wanted her to be happy but there was one problem:
I wasn't happy.
And the words came to life all flowing forth at once like an avalanche of admission. I wanted to be free from the confines of a crappy job that did nothing but hold me back. I wanted a chance to prove to myself and to everyone else that I could make it as a Magic player and writer. I wanted her to believe in me and to just give me a chance.
I wanted her to be proud of me.
As she listened I saw her face wrinkle up and she began to sob. I'm the worst wife ever she mumbled through trembling lips. All I do is keep you from living your dream. We moved here to let me do what I love but I dragged you along with me and forced you to do what you hate. I'm the thing that's making you unhappy. I'm the one who's killing your dream!
The realization hit me like a ton of bricks — but my mouth was frozen shut. What was going on? Was this the end of our marriage? Was she going to cut her losses and send me on my way? Since I was basically a degenerate gambler who'd tucked his tail away long ago in favor of a shiny new collar I wouldn't blame her. But I didn't want that. All I wanted was for us both to be happy but I wasn't sure how I could give that to her. To us.
She caught her sobs in her throat and continued her soliloquy. You deserve to be happy. The words felt like weights crushing down on my heart. This was it. You deserve to chase your dreams. Wait what? You deserve everything that you've given me: a chance to do what you love and to be happy. With this money that you've won we'll be able to afford to let you try and do what you love at least for a while. I know I've never given you the chance to do this before but that's just how I was raised. I've always had a job and I've always worked hard at what I love doing. You've been doing the same thing but I've only now realized that I've never given you a chance live your life how you've wanted to and I'm not going to hold you back anymore. I love you.
Today was quite possibly the best day of my life. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. The sun was shining through the windows when I woke up. I made a trip to the bank and ate my favorite type of food for lunch (Indian). I came home and played Magic Online for a few hours waiting for Kali to come home. I did laundry straightened up the house a little bit and ate a fantastic dinner with great friends. I came home and played some Ascension with my wife and I sat down to write this article. I was genuinely happy and I'm really looking forward to the days to come.
I'm not telling you that you should quit your job and try to play Magic for a living. I don't recommend it to anyone because it is very difficult and not overly profitable. But I love it… and that's really all you can ask for in an occupation.
My wife gave me the gift of happiness and I've never felt better.
Thanks for reading.
strong sad on MOL