I’m thirty-three years old. I started playing Magic semi-competitively when I was twenty-three. A remarkable thing about aging is recognizing how priorities in life change as days, months, and years go by. I feel like I only just passed the turn and I’m nearly halfway to 40. Like a resource or a board state in a given game of Magic, in real life different things matter at different times. The complexity and shifting priorities of a game of Magic are a perfect metaphor for the passage of time.

In my early twenties, Magic was admittedly an escape. An escape from the post-graduate depression of finishing college without great job prospects and facing the true responsibilities of “being an adult” but not truly feeling like one. As a kid there was a clear difference between “being a child” and “being a grown-up.” I had the underlying knowledge that one day I would of course “grow up,” but my young mind always believed the moment of transition would be more like the SNAP of an infinity gauntlet rather than the gradual transformation into adulthood and hence, responsibility, we all eventually face.

In my mid twenties at the height of my Magic playing “career,” the game brought me to people who today are some of my closest friends.  Magic brought me something I was good at and could aspire to improve upon. A game of Magic could bring me near-infinite complexity yet in the exact same moment, the same game brought utter simplicity and an almost meditative quieting of my mind.

But Magic also brought me darkness. My priorities revolved almost entirely around Magic—or more specifically, winning at Magic by aspiring to be the best amongst my peers and being sold on the dream of one day playing regularly at the pro level.  Have you gone through a period of your life where it feels like the majority of your waking hours are spent thinking about Magic?  If you’re reading this article I would guess you’ve been right there with me.

I won my fair share of small tournaments during these years.  I’ll readily admit that winning my first and only PTQ was the most elated I’ve ever felt as a result of the game.  But like any drug, the highs of winning a tournament were often mirrored by the lows of so many solitary hours grinding away at Magic Online; in what I told myself were efforts to improve but that I know now were really because I had an unhealthy relationship with the game.

I’m a competitor and lover of games, and Magic is the greatest game I’ve ever played.  It’s the only game I never tire of and the only game I ever want to be playing whenever I’m playing anything else. I would be remiss not to admit that there’s an ever-present whisper of desire in my mind to still play as much Magic as I was during my “height.” Yet there is now a louder voice that tells me what I know to be true; that I am happier now than I ever was or could have been when Magic was my focal point.

Even the best Magic players in the world win only roughly 66% of the time. Placing all or too much of your self-worth into winning every game or tournament you play is setting yourself up for disappointment. Enjoy the journey of each tournament, the comradery of friends you may see less now than in years past, and view any successes or wins they achieve as wins of your own. You will be happier for it whether you yourself win or lose. We are imperfect beings playing an imperfect game and as such we will have imperfect results. Be kind to yourself and to others privileged enough to share this wonderful hobby.

When I set out to write this article I had planned to write a tournament report on a Limited PPTQ I won last weekend, as I’ve done for tournaments past. But as I began to write a Magic article for the first time in years, I found that writing about what mattered to me in Magic had changed. The high of winning a tournament for the first time in a while was certainly a nice feeling, and I do in fact still love to win. But the better feeling was coming home and recognizing all the good things in my life beyond Magic and knowing that the cliché “winning isn’t everything” is anything but cliché.

I’m not as good at Magic today as I was just a few years ago.  I play a lot less and I win a lot less but I’m a hell of a lot happier. I hope that if you’ve trodden the same path as I have you can relate to my own experiences and have found or will find your own balance with Magic as with everything else in life.

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