I turn 50 years old in less than two weeks. Part of me can’t believe that it’s been 50 years. Another part of me often longs and wishes for the ability to turn back the clock to a time before I… got old.
This seems silly at first, especially when I share that my childhood wasn’t great. I am the oldest of three, and all of us grew up in a turbulent, welfare-poor, single-mother environment. We changed residences almost every year, on average. I was constantly bullied throughout my school life, as a nerd who came of age before being a nerd was acceptable and common.
Pre-adult me was a video game fan, a boy with caviar dreams and a ramen budget. I nursed every quarter I could scrounge. I hung around in arcades, even flat broke, hoping to find a rogue quarter or token to use. A scant few friends had luxuries like Atari 2600 consoles or handheld electronic games, and I always wanted those things… but money was tight. I had the time to play these video games I loved— seemingly all the time in the world— but not the cash to afford them.
Adult me finally had the cash to buy the games I wanted. New consoles? Sure. New game releases? Totally there. Monthly magazines? I bought several every month. My collection of games and consoles would rise and fall, as the financial challenges of adulthood would occasionally rear their ugly heads… but I was never really at a loss for games to play and enjoy.
There was one notable thing missing, though:
See, as an adult, free time isn’t anywhere close to what it used to be as a child… or even a teenager. Sure, I had other stuff going on. Homework. Band. Fumbling through trying to build a social life in high school. Watching my younger brother and sister on nights when my mother had to work. Through all of that, I still had tons of time. I foolishly thought it was too much time, back then.
Boy, was I wrong.
Free time, as an adult, is fleeting. The obvious culprit is working 40 hours a week. It’s not just the work— it’s the energy drain that is associated with it. There’s also other adult “stuff”, like home maintenance, family and/or relationship responsibilities that you just can’t shirk, grocery/food shopping and preparation, housecleaning (considerably more of this than most kids were expected to do), and other things.
Combine these drains on time with the drain on dwindling amounts of energy that you have as you age, and it doesn’t take long before those games you were able to buy with your adult money go unplayed. When I was a kid or teenager, I could play video games all night long. As an adult, I’m exhausted after a long day of work and “adulting”. I’m falling asleep in my gaming chair and my controller fell out of my hands *again*.
So here I sit, gazing at this collection of video games that I’ve accumulated over the years. I think to myself that younger me would have loved this. I would’ve found time to play every game. Maybe I would’ve been a happier kid.
But there’s a price to pay, aside from money, to build a collection like I have. That’s time. Time to learn so that I could get a good job. Time to work in that good job to afford them. Work never stops. Work doesn’t always afford you the summer vacations, the weeks off for breaks, and the copious slate of holidays adults had as school-age children.
I’m not at all ungrateful for what I have. In a world where “He who dies with the most toys wins”, I think I’m in the running for that not-at-all-real competition. I’ve got cool stuff to share on social media with fellow video game fans and collectors.
Internally, though? I think that, if it was possible, I’d give it all up to be a kid again and regain time— especially if I could keep my knowledge from being an adult.
You can buy all of the video games you want as an adult, but you can’t buy the time to play them— which you had as a kid.