What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been

Back when I played World of Warcraft, I loved the in-game holidays. In order to provide a little flexibility, and also, presumably, not to offend anyone, the game developers created completely original holiday celebrations and festivals as stand-ins for real-world events. There was the Feast of Winter Veil to encompass the winter holidays, Hallow’s End for Halloween, Love is the Air for Valentine’s Day, etc. Participating in the game’s holiday events often times rewarded players with in-game items they could not obtain during any other part of the year. Eventually, if you celebrated every holiday and participated in every activity throughout the year, you would be awarded with one hell of an achievement titled “What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been.” Said achievement would also reward the player with one hella cool dragon you could fly around Azeroth! Check it out:

Violet Proto-Drake excitement! #NerdAlert!
Violet Proto-Drake excitement! #NerdAlert!

Unfortunately, I never earned my purple dragon. Not only because some holidays were more exciting than others (I mean, what sounds more exciting to you: all-you-can-drink beer during Brewfest or dragging an obnoxious orphan through a battleground during something called Children’s Week???), but also because I just never found the time. I don’t think I’ve logged into my Warcraft account since I started going back to school over a year ago, though not from lack of my guild (aka: my family) trying to get me to. Adulting really sucks sometimes, you know?!

Strangely, I’m not the biggest fan of real world holidays. While I always appreciate a day or two off work, I spend most of my time trying to figure out how most other people seem to have their shit together. Needless to say, I don’t have the energy to spend decorating my house or office, dressing up in costumes, cooking up huge feasts, or purchasing gifts and candy for people. It’s just not my “thing,” especially since my mom passed away when I was younger. She was the one among us who was fully haunted by the spirit of the holidays. Without her exuberance, it has just never been the same. Since the passing of even more family members in the years since her death, that feeling has drifted further and further away. Example: This past Christmas, I spent the holiday with my dad and my cats, eating faux-turkey and Bob Evans mashed potatoes, and watched Star Trek movies. Basically, it was a normal evening that didn’t feel special or “magical” at all. It might seem sad and lonely sometimes, but most of the time, it’s how I prefer it. There’s some kind of peace in the quiet.

Captain Janeway is just as exasperated with me, don’t worry.

A couple of years ago though, a dear friend of mine who used to sit in the cubicle next to mine at work, began to decorate her own space for Christmas. She seemed surprised that I wasn’t that into it, but by the time she was finished, she gave me the leftover decorations. “Just in case” I decided to get into the spirit of things. It was a single battery-powered light in the form of a flickering candle and a small string of tinsel. “I can do that. I’m not a Scrooge!” I remember thinking to myself, especially after feeling guilty for admonishing her for listening to Christmas music before Thanksgiving. When subsequent holidays began rolling around throughout the year, my neighbor continued giving me “leftovers” (though, between you and me, there were some occasions she purposely brought extra just for my desk), and I would proudly add them to my candlelit shrine.

Glittery hearts for Valentine’s Day, four-leaf clovers cut out of cardboard for St. Patrick’s Day, a stuffed bunny and plastic grass for Easter, American flags and red-white-and-blue streamers for Independence Day. Ghosts, jack-o-lanterns, and a rubber bat we named “Boris” for Halloween, fake brown leaves and pumpkins for Thanksgiving. Even New Year’s Eve jewelry and a cardboard Happy Birthday hat. Even after I realized that I had just about the entire year accounted for all at once, my own real-life What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been shrine remained on display at my cubicle. Even after my friend left the company to pursue a new opportunity, the shrine continued on with others occasionally pitching in to add funny items here and there. So many different clashing holidays and themes combined together sometimes startled new employees or visitors who weren’t expecting something so gaudy and in-your-face. Those that understood were amused and maybe even amazed at how much it grew over time to take over nearly my entire allotted space. “I never have to decorate again!” I would proudly exclaim to onlookers. “I’ve just about got it all covered!”

Aren’t we all just a little bit Groot?

Today, the shrine sadly came down. Decorations were unpinned, cleared from the shelf, and packed away in a box. Even the bobblehead Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy that my nephew gave me for my desk long before I even started working there was packed away to come home soon. Not because I’m moving on to a new job or because there are memories or bad juju associated with any of the decorations now. Simply, I’ve decided it’s time for some changes. You see, another friend of mine once planted this idea into my head that, when you need to control your life, the first thing you do is chop off your hair or make some drastic executive decision about your style. Because that’s the easiest thing to control in your world, right? Maybe. And maybe a hairstyle change will still come, but for now, it was time to change my environment. The first step was to stop letting my shrine just sit and collect dust and scare away newbies. I have a new neighbor now, by the way. I don’t know her very well yet, but she seems nice. We have new owners, too. And it’s a new year. So maybe it’s time to start projecting something else on my part. Maybe it’s time to try being a little less weird.

Of course, I’ll always be weird in my own time and in my own space. No corporate entity or feeling of needing to “grow up” will ever strip that away from me. That’s just part of who I am. But it isn’t the only change I’ll be making. You might have noticed the little animation on the home page and the Almost Epic Facebook page indicating that I’ve been a little absent around these parts. I’m sure a new structure or design for this website is coming soon. It’ll probably be a little more stripped down, too. As fun as they can be, I think maybe I’m a little too old for all the bells and whistles now. Maybe you could call all of this a “New Year’s Resolution,” but let’s not pretend that any of us actually stick to those. It’ll be whatever it’ll be.

I’ll be seeing you soon.

Author: Joseph Black

According to Wikipedia, I discovered magnesium and carbon dioxide, so that's something.