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The One Year Challenge


Wildermyth
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This evening I started thinking about all the times I've called in sick to school or work just to stay at home and play video games. I became so efficiant at it over the years that I almost scheduled it at one point. Whenever there was a really big game release I almost counted on calling in sick to prolong the weekends. And there were times where my abscense was met with suspicion and loads of questions but I never backed down and changed the behaviour. Getting back in front of the tv and know that I could forget everything else for a day was like covering yourself in a warm blanket after a long day out in the winter cold. 

This mentality really messed with my loyalty and general motivation. I had so many issues with getting up in the morning and starting that whole tiresome routine up while barely having opened my eyes. I was so exhausted and unfocused that I got depressed on several occasions, having to go to therapy to bring my spirit up. Going to work felt very much like going to prison to me and I just wanted to scream out loud how much it hurt me to be there. Of course I didn't and I never got to the root of my causes. My therapist back then never even questioned my gaming habits because to me they were not the problem - they were the solution. I saw gaming as the salvation in an otherwise boring and meaningless life. They held me together like artificial breathing and I enjoyed every second of it. It's almost scary to think about now how little I had to live for at that point. Or rather: it's scary to realize that gaming made me feel like there was nothing else to live for at that time. Sure, I had lots of issues related to my health and I had a hard time finding new friends after college, but I could've dealt with those issues so much better if it weren't for video games. I had some dreams even back then but I never even concidered them to become reality because of me being caught between games and life.

Today I'm in a much healthier position. I have a good physique, a job that I like, plenty of friends and family to care about and most of all: a future. I have so many things I want to do now and I truly believe that they are all possible. Having left games behind there is suddenly so much time and energy to make use of and I couldn't be happier going forward.

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Today I thought about my childhood and my introduction to video games. I was about 6 years old when my family invested in a pre-owned NES with a couple of popular games. I remember how challenging they were and that I even had to ask a friend to finish them for me so that I could see the end credits. I really liked gaming at the start and I felt invested in everything about them; from the gameplay to the visuals and the catchy music. Later on my family also got a PC and this led to me getting more technical with gaming equipment because suddenly it wasn't as easy as putting a cartridge into a console. Most of the time I had no idea how to start a game as they required various DOS inputs but sometimes I made sense of the manuals that came with the CD-ROM and was overjoyed when reaching the opening gaming screen. I mainly stayed on console though and when we got a SNES my other siblings (especially my sisters) became more involved. This was great in the sense that we all made the effort to borrow games from people we knew so rather quickly we'd put together a solid collection of games.

It wasn't until we moved on from SNES to PlayStation though that I really got attached to gaming and felt like it was my main hobby. I remember the wonderment I felt with the transition to 3D graphics and more complicated games in terms of gameplay and story. Some of my best memories in general come from the initial PlayStation era and some of the games that became Sony flagships later on. This was also when I made friends with a lot of people that were both heavily into games and played them more casually. I think this part of the 90's was defined by how mainstream gaming became and how many genres were popular among the general audience. Almost everyone I knew played fighting and racing games, and in todays gaming landscape that's no longer the case as some genres have become increasingly more niche.

During the 90's I also became best friends with a school mate that was heavily into games. Almost all we did when we hung out was playing games, talking about games and looking forward to new games. He had a really warm and respectful family and they spoiled him with so much gaming related stuff. He always had the latest consoles and games, which made it feel like going to an amusement park every time I visited him. Most of all he lived in a very calm and friendly home environment which made me relax a lot when playing my favourite games. At my own home I was often met with more chaos as I had lots of siblings running around and making noises.

Thinking about these memories now makes me not regret that I initially started playing games. I had lots of friends from time to time and I liked to stay outside and do activities as well. It wasn't until I hit puberty that I started to become more distant and confused with life. I had a hard time adapting to social norms and the constant pressure of succeeding in school. There was suddenly so much to take in and to try to control and gaming made obstacles feel so much more managable. I think this is what ultimately led me down the path where I am now where gaming became more of a coping mechanism rather than a joyful distraction.

I will never regret all the time I spent on games because I genuinly feel that they brought me lots of joy given the insight I had at the time. But as of now I have other goals with my life and games just don't fit into that new framework. I want to explore life with this new mindset of mine and really put some of my skills to the test. I'm confident it will be one of the best decisions of my life.

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On 9/7/2022 at 12:23 AM, Wildermyth said:

I was just now thinking about lots of things I've accomplished since I quit gaming and while some of them might seem trivial I truly struggled with them due to my gaming addiction. To try to reflect and rejoice in the fact that I've now finished/started them I'll list them here below:

1. I've started with geocaching. I've had a small interruption with this activity since I had to do a small surgery on my ankle but I've started it up and bought a fun geocaching app. I'm hoping to get back into it as soon as my ankle allows it.

2. I've bought an electric toothbrush. Previously I felt they were expensive because I wanted to use my money for gaming and I also felt a bit stressed about learning how to brush my teeth differently. But now I use an electric toothbrush daily and it's both easy and very benefitial for my health!

3. I started reading books. This has been a lifelong struggle since I have a hard time concentrating on things that don't give any audiovisual feedback. So far I'm only reading non-fiction as I like to learn new things about life but maybe down the road I'll give fiction a chance as well.

4. I rented an external storage room to free up space in my apartment, and I also transported everything over there by bike. This has been a huge deal for me since I own a lot of things related to my hobbies. Of course lot of space was freed up when I got rid of everything gaming related but I still have lots of things that can't fit in my tiny apartment. It's also nice to have a storage to put my bike in when winter comes!

5. I've finally set up a saving account both for my future apartment and my retirement. This is a major deal since I previously felt that anything I saved was hurting my ability to enjoy gaming at its fullest. But to now always have a buffer to take from is so reassuring since I can go out and eat, do fun stuff with friends and things like that without having a bad concience.

6. I finished my home decoration. I postponed this due to all the gaming things I had everywhere that just didn't allow for my apartment to be arranged in a certain way. I tried to compromise and say "I'll do it when I get a new apartment" which led to me just stacking all these nice furtnitures I wanted in the hallway because I couldn't find the space for them. But when I quit gaming I sold my TV, my armchair and some other gaming related things and suddenly I had a lot of space to work with.

7. My music studio went up and running. As part of my home decoration I also finished the one activity that I look forward to doing most at home which is producing music. The result was way beyond my expectations and I can't believe that I once concidered not even moving all these things into my apartment. Previously they were all packed into boxes not even seeing the light of day. I'll show a picture of the result below:

 

 

IMG_9007.jpg

That looks AMAZING I am so jealous!!! 😍 Please enjoy it for me 😩

(Our room is immaculately tidy because I'm a neat freak now. But we have 70s bright red shag carpet, dark wood paneling walls, and popcorn ceiling. Plus our furniture is all mis-matched. I do the best I can but it'll never look this good without pouring thousands of dollars into renovations!!)

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I was reminded today about my very first relationship, which got quickly out of hand due to a number of factors. I was about 20 years old and my girlfriend was a bit younger than me. We initially met on a web forum where we talked for quite a while before we actually met. Young and naive as we were we concidered ourselves a couple even before we'd met and this put a lot of pressure on both of us when we actually started dating in real life. There were so many expectations and changes to adapt to and it was happening at a rapid pace. What I didn't discover when talking to her online was that she had lots of mental issues relating to her family and school life. Much of this was out of my control so I was often left with the damage that these two caused. And as for myself I was a bit lost at the time and I had low confidence. Needless to say we became a very chaotic couple and had lots of disagreements and full blown fights. She reacted sometimes by harming herself which was the tipping point that made me say "NO" eventually.

Embedded into all this chaos was of course my habit of gaming a lot. At the time I had grown attached to my very first MMO and I was gradually playing more and more as my relationship got worse. I usually answered her on MSN by tabbing out of the game every now and then but sometimes I would forget for several hours because I was so hooked. Later on in the relationship we both started playing WoW and she started to become addicted to MMO's as well. We were both escaping our own miseries by trying to get into a fantasy world; and it didn't help at all. When we were fighting it even took its course in-game and it had us avoiding eachother if we met by accident in the game world. It got incredibly ridiculous let me tell you. At one point I even logged into her account and stole all her most expensive bags and transferred a large sum of her money to my own characters. Not one of my most gracious moments that's for sure. Att the end of our relationship I even booted up the computer right after we'd have sex because getting back into the game was all I could think about. She clearly indicated her discomfort with the whole situation... but I ignored it.

I think much of my fear of the real world was cemented in that relationship unfortunately and it only made my obsession with games get out of hand even more. I had like 5 consoles, a PC and tons of games and peripherals. Investing so much money into gaming made it even harder to distance myself from it. I remember when I broke up with my gf that I was so relieved - not only because I was rid of the chaos but because I suddenly had so much gaming time on my hands. No one to distract me, no one to put up boundries, no one to complain; just me and all those new wonderful games that awaited me. This is a feeling that repeated itself in almost all my future relationships and in some cases it even made me postpone a lot of grief, which was hard when it eventually caught up with me. I wish that I had known back then how much it hurt me and my love interests, but unfortunately I didn't. All I can do now is to try and be happy that I finally have this insight and that it will only get better from here. And maybe if I get a good chance I'll talk to some of my exes and explain how my issues really impacted our relationship. It would potentially help me a lot in trying to forgive myself for it and to give them a perspective that was perhaps lost back then.

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Been thinking about the crazy "highs" I got from playing certain games, where I could hurry home and then feel the excitement rise within me. So far I haven't experienced any such feeling from another activity and maybe I'm not supposed to. My hope is that something else will make me feel the same over time but I'm also content with feeling happy on a more streamlined level no matter what I do. My brain however is used to getting these quick bursts of immense happiness and it feels like a loss in that regard. I know that eventually it will only feel like a win but I'm not really there as of now. My mind wanders around those "glorious" days of pure escapism.

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Summer is officially over in Sweden and now is when the real challenge begins. This is when it gets significantly darker, colder and more lonely as a result of everyone staying at home. I hope my ankle will heal soon so that I can get outside and do some nature stuff before the snow starts to fall. Otherwise I'm mainly taking it slow and mostly doing non-productive stuff outside of work. I've been to a lot of cafes lately where I've done lots of reading about mental health and ASD. It's really nice to change environment I've discovered; especially if it's a brand new one. I also do some music studio tutorials every now and then depending on my energy for the day. It's hard to manage your energy when you exercise and work a lot, and the gloomy weather doesn't really help. Hopefully this weekend will be a bit more exciting!

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I had to remind myself today of all the things I've accomplished since I quit gaming. There are so many stressful behaviours I don't experience anymore that previously caused me so much harm. It's easy to forget when your new life is starting to materialize and the old one is slowly fading out of existance. In order to remind myself of these things I'll list them here below:

 

1. I no longer have the compulsive behaviour of wanting to progress and finish every game I buy. This included every possible story-path, every class, all the achievements and so on.

2. I no longer feel any hype when watching upcoming games which makes me feel more at ease. Watching games now makes me feel more confidenct in my decision to quit.

3. I no longer spend all my cash on gaming and I even have a solid saving account at the moment. Currently I'm saving up for a new apartment and a drivers license.

4. I no longer spend as much time at home and I've experienced a lot of new places since I quit. I'm also exploring nature more which is great for my health.

5. I no longer feel stressed when meeting people and doing activities that don't include gaming. I can take my time to really enjoy hanging out with others.

6. I no longer structure my life around completing games and my reality is now more intuitive. This has caused me to wake up more energized and hopeful.

7. I no longer waste most of my time gaming which has made me discover a lot of new activities such as producing music and reading interesting books.

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To add to my previous post I was asked by my friend today to help him to move a couple of furnitures. I had some loose plans for the day but nothing major. Previously, when playing games, this would irritate the hell out of me. How much game progress would I miss out on? What would happen next in the game that I now couldn't experience? How much time before I could get back into the gaming chair again? All of these thoughts I had back then really brought down my mood and increased my stress levels. Every small thing that came between me and gaming was a big deal.

But now... I don't feel those anxious feelings anymore. Sure, I wasn't thrilled to lift furnitures on my day off, but it wasn't the end of the world like before. I could find joy in not being too stressed out about it and I wasn't brought down by my schedule suddenly changing. I am beginning to see more clearly how games limited my way of thinking and how they isolated me day after day. They controlled me and not the other way around. Thankfully that is slowly starting to change.

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Feeling massive cravings for the first time since i quit gaming due to the launch of a sequel to one of my favourite games of all time. It's hard to stay completely away from it since it's so popular on social media, and also among friends. It's gonna be a real challenge to try to resist these urges...

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On 10/5/2022 at 4:45 PM, Wildermyth said:

Feeling massive cravings for the first time since i quit gaming due to the launch of a sequel to one of my favourite games of all time. It's hard to stay completely away from it since it's so popular on social media, and also among friends. It's gonna be a real challenge to try to resist these urges...

This is the time you want to double down on your replacement activities. Immerse yourself so fully in them that you don’t have the mental bandwidth to think about gaming. I know you’re into music production, so take this time to go crazy on producing some killer tracks, or dive into any other activities you may be interested in. Stay strong

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3 minutes ago, Paul A. said:

This is the time you want to double down on your replacement activities. Immerse yourself so fully in them that you don’t have the mental bandwidth to think about gaming. I know you’re into music production, so take this time to go crazy on producing some killer tracks, or dive into any other activities you may be interested in. Stay strong

That's a good tip! I'm gonna try and do a lot of fun tutorials this weekend to try and learn some new things. Thanks for the support!

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Feels like I have almost everything in my life now under control except my fondness for sweets and fast food. I can manage maybe 1 or 2 weeks tops and then my diet hits rock bottom again. I know it's the same mechanics as with gaming since I'm losing myself in that same old fashion. It's especially rough after a long day at work when I just want to reward myself instantly as I get home. I also like to eat certain stuff while doing passive activities such as watching movies and it's been hard to change this particular habit. Maybe if I stay away from movies for a while it might change. Compared to games though the threshold for eating various foods is extremely low so it ultimately comes down to raw willpower I guess. I think I might use a goal tracker for this one and see how it unfolds.

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I struggle with my diet as well… I’ve always had a sweet tooth and I can never seem to rein it in. I’m sure there’s a way we can use that to our advantage without just resorting to willpower though. I’ve found that willpower is extremely limited and that as humans we’re always prone to take the path of least resistance. It may just come down to filling your home with healthy snacks that still taste good.

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18 hours ago, Paul A. said:

I struggle with my diet as well… I’ve always had a sweet tooth and I can never seem to rein it in. I’m sure there’s a way we can use that to our advantage without just resorting to willpower though. I’ve found that willpower is extremely limited and that as humans we’re always prone to take the path of least resistance. It may just come down to filling your home with healthy snacks that still taste good.

I like the way I feel when I succeed in staying away from unhealthy food, so I'm trying to make it a positive reinforcement. It's just those small moments of weakness you have from time to time when you're so vulnerable to quick solutions. I'm also bulking at the moment so I need to stay on a large diet which is even more challenging if I have to keep it healthy.

Oh well, I'm happy I've managed to stay away from lots of other temptations at least, and mainly gaming of course. 🙂 

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I'm doing a program for my autism on a weekly basis and this weeks lesson had to do with social interaction. It made me think about my difficulty in reading peoples faces and certain body language. It has taken me lots of focus and reflection to understand how to read people while also communicating at the same time. It goes without saying that gaming provided a haven in this regard. When I was gaming with people online I mainly had to deal with their text messages, and voices on occasion . I've always been a fan of SMS conversations because it gives me time to think about what the person actually means and how I should respond. So while having this benefit in gaming I grew quite relaxed and confident as a result and people were telling me I was very social all of a sudden (which never happened irl).

This is one of the more challenging things I let go of, because there are for sure certain benefits I'm giving up when I'm leaving gaming behind. They don't outweigh the cons, but I think it's important to accept them as the great tools they are. I had some kind of arena where I could develop my social skills in a calming manner and I made friends I perhaps wouldn't have dared to approach otherwise. I think if you use gaming as a stepping stone for social interaction it might be very effective, but it's when we use it exclusively to interact with others it might get bad. Games should be a compliment to real world friendships and not a replacement.

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Today I had my first real setback since I stopped playing games almost 2 months ago. At the youth center where I work we've had the fortune of getting hold of a PS5, and it's been my responsibility to keep it updated with attractive games. One of those games happened to be the sequel that I mentioned in an earlier post and to see if it worked I of course booted it up at work. I quickly realized that almost every game mode was locked behind a progression system that required the player to play 10 matches. So what I did today, on my day off, was that I brought the PS5 home with me and completed 10 matches in order to unlock all the stuff. I was afraid that the game was going to get its hooks in me and reignite that old flame, but it didn't really happen. Instead I was quite shocked to see how predatory the in-game economy had become and how uninspiring the game felt as a sequel. When I finished those 10 games I immediately brought it back to work, but not without feeling guilty and a bit ashamed.

The problem with this whole scenario is that I know a part of me wanted to get a quick taste of gaming once again; it wasn't just a favor I did in regards to my work. And I know for a fact that I wanted to see how a PS5 would work with my current PC setup, as my monitor cannot manage the higher refreash rate on the PS5. All in all it served several purposes, both good and bad, yet I'm not sure what to really make of it. Is it a complete relapse? Is it a small setback? I cannot with good conscience mark this as a game free day but I'm also not ready to completely reset my detox counter. I don't feel like I've started gaming again, yet I've spent a couple of hours during one day doing just so. I think I'm afraid of losing all my progress for one setback that might not amount to much. Still, I realize the conflict and perhaps my eagerness of downplaying the whole ordeal. It might just be a textbook example of denial.

The real issue, I guess, is that my work requires me to interact with games and sometimes play them. Techically I haven't stopped playing games. The difference is that I don't game at home anymore and I've sold all my gaming stuff. I don't engage in long gaming sessions and schedule gaming in my life. My mind is not occupied with making game progression and I'm not looking forward to any games anymore. Personally I think this is where the distinction lies for me, and it's important for me to keep focus on since I don't find it rational to avoid gaming all-together. My struggle is with the obsession of having access to endless games in my own home and not with gaming per se. Maybe it is in this truth I'll also find the answer for the conflict I previously discussed. While it certainly had the character of becoming an obsession I never allowed it to go that far. Still, the challenge felt completely unnecessary in hindsight and I don't think I'll ever repeat such a thing again. I'm also marking this particular day as a "0" in my detox counter, even though I won't reset it completely. I want to keep focus on all of the days that I succeeded and don't erase them because of one potential failure.

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I spent this weekend trying to eat healthy and go to bed in time, and o'boy did it pay off at work today. I felt I had so much energy and wanted to be part of lots of discussions. Usually I fade into the background and just listen as it takes quite a lot of energy and motivation to make me speak on a matter. I've noticed that a similar energy sometimes comes from the realization that I don't play games anymore, but it's more of a complicated conflict that follows. While I find strength in my attempt I also continously think about games in a typical "what if..." scenario. I try to picture how it would be to game again and have a gaming setup at home. "Surely it wouldn't be that bad?" "I might be able to control it this time?" Thoughts along those lines constantly run through my head. It's a real struggle and I'm not sure if the right strategy is to try to block the thoughts. In my therapy for my autism my therapist has taught me the value of accepting my compulsive behaviour by welcoming compulsive thoughts. The distinction lies in resisting them and not trying to block them. By accepting that they are a part of me but not cave and let go of the control my mind will eventually be more at ease when they pass by. At least that's the theory and so far it's worked pretty well. I don't know if it can be applied to gaming but one of the core issues I have with gaming is that it spins my compulsive behaviours out of control. My mind wants to make new lists of games, categorize them, finish them in a certain order, get all the achievements and so on. I'm slowly trying to replace lots of these things with other more healthy substitutes but so far my brain and I aren't the best of friends. It will take a lot of convincing and hard work that's for sure.

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A part of me is a bit afraid of losing a special interest that I felt very passionate about. I had lots of hobbies alongside gaming but none of them gave me the same kind of feelings of joy. In hindsight those feelings might've been artificial but it was some kind of energy that went through me nevertheless. My hope is to replace that feeling with something else but so far it hasn't happened. I know it will take time and hard work but I might also have to realize that it's futile to try to chase the same high; it might be the wrong strategy all together. Maybe the strategy should be to try to be satisfied with "less" or just change my perspective on what makes a meaningful experience. I always talk about people chasing careers, money and lots of other high-end goals when the focus should be to feel content with the life you're currently having. When we are trying to fix and change stuff to alter our feelings we might just be avoiding the core issue, which is that we never allow ourselves to be fully satisfied. And we all know that modern games are built around these problematic principals...

"Just one more game..."

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Today I reached day 60 of my short term 90 day detox goal. While I've been in some conflict over whether it has been an absolute detox or not (I game at work sometimes) the fact is that I've not owned or intended to game as a hobby for 60 days straight. To me this felt impossible just a couple of months ago but today I've proven that I can live a comfortable life without games for quite an extensive time. I've had lots of urges and beginnings of downward spirals but never fully caved.

Today I did a list of games I probably would've played If I had continued to play and it amounted to an astounding 3,000 dollars. Instead of gaming this will now go to invest in a future apartment and also trying to learn how to ski during the coming winter. Money well spent if you ask me, where I'm achieving real goals and learning some proper real life skills. I hope doing these things will further reinforce my resolve and my happiness towards the future.

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On 10/13/2022 at 10:51 AM, Wildermyth said:

Today I reached day 60 of my short term 90 day detox goal. While I've been in some conflict over whether it has been an absolute detox or not (I game at work sometimes) the fact is that I've not owned or intended to game as a hobby for 60 days straight. To me this felt impossible just a couple of months ago but today I've proven that I can live a comfortable life without games for quite an extensive time. I've had lots of urges and beginnings of downward spirals but never fully caved.

Today I did a list of games I probably would've played If I had continued to play and it amounted to an astounding 3,000 dollars. Instead of gaming this will now go to invest in a future apartment and also trying to learn how to ski during the coming winter. Money well spent if you ask me, where I'm achieving real goals and learning some proper real life skills. I hope doing these things will further reinforce my resolve and my happiness towards the future.

Ski is great. Will fulfill at least one if not more of the 4 needs that gaming fulfills. Good luck with it 🙂 (Though be carefull that it really does collide with the life goals that you've put to yourself, and not just do it to avoid gaming)

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It's been over a week since I last posted anything and I've been slightly under the weather. I continue to have low motivation at work and I'm not really looking forward to the weekends much. Everything just blends together in a mildly unsatisfying manner. I thought I would find some creative happiness in music production but it hasn't really bore any fruit so far. I do enjoy myself when I learn new things but I haven't delved too much into actual producing. I'm also making some good progress on my physical training but I'm beginning to get some mild back pains which is a bit concerning. I'm hoping that some stretching will sort it out eventually.

My mind also continues to linger around the thought of going back into gaming, but I have enough barriers for now to keep me away from it. I don't have the money first and foremost and no room to keep a gaming setup. Playing on my PC is not optimal as it's made for music production and fails at cooling itself down when the GPU is running on all cylinders. Still, it's fascinating to witness the brain when it's trying to find solutions around all of these issues. It's a constant struggle for sure.

On the flipside my ankle is getting better and I'm going to try and go into the woods this weekend. Hopefully I'll get back into hiking soon enough.

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