354. Get a Grip and Stop Whining

Once upon a time, when this blog was new and I had just finished college, I shared a series of comic strips by the inimitable Wes Molebash. They were part of a comic titled Max Vs. Max: the unexpectedly funny story of a man working through the guilt of his recent divorce. In this series of strips, Max wakes up to find himself in bed with God.

Yup. You read that right.

Max vs. Max, 1Max immediately realizes the whole thing is a dream. “I’m dreaming about sleeping in bed with God,” he mumbles, awestruck. “I think… I probably need therapy.” Fortunately, the Almighty doesn’t seem at all bothered. He just wants to chat.

Max vs. Max, 3In the kitchen, Max admits to feeling guilty about his divorce, even though God has forgiven him. “I still feel like such a freakin’ failure!” he exclaims. “How do I move past this?!”

God, in his perfect and infinite wisdom, has one suggestion for Max: “Well, my advice is to get a grip and stop whining.”

Max vs. Max, 6I remembered these fantastic comic strips a few days ago. (If you have not yet read them, leave this post and check them out. Go on. I’ll wait for you.) God’s advice to Max really stood out to me. As Max struggles with feelings of failure, God suggests letting go of self-pity and moving forward. It’s a simple solution, but not an easy one.

God’s advice for Max is, well, for Max. It doesn’t apply universally to every person and circumstance. In the wrong situation, such blunt words cause more harm than good. I won’t presume to offer anyone this advice, with one exception: I know of one person in the world who definitely needs it.

I, of course, am that person. I occasionally suffer from depression, and it sucks. My future seems a bit scary right now, and my faith is often shakier than I care to admit. I wrestle with doubt and fear and selfishness. I sometimes find myself echoing Max and admitting that I feel like such a freakin’ failure.

When I can’t help echoing Max, I must also echo God—well, God as he is imagined by Mr. Molebash: “Get a grip and stop whining.” Sometimes—not always, but sometimes—it is as simple as that. Self-pity is easy. Courage and humility are hard, but they are also necessary to move forward.

Like Max, I am sometimes my own worst enemy. (Adam Vs. Adam has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?) When I find myself wallowing in regret or self-pity, I must get a grip and stop whining—and keep pressing onward.

How It Feels to Grow Up

I dislike many things about adulthood, but I’ll be the first to admit it has its perks. As an adult, I get to eat anything I want. (What I want, apparently, is apples, sandwiches, and the occasional pie.) I am the master of my household, free to arrange and decorate my apartment however I like. (What I like, it seems, is machetes, plushies, and video game posters.) Like the young gentleman in the comic above, I have both a car and the license to drive “wherever my heart desires.” (What my heart desires, more often than not, is to stay home.)

Being a grownup is exciting. It brings freedom and independence. In time, however, the privileges of adulthood become commonplace. No longer a triumphant emblem of autonomy, my car has become the quickest way to run errands, get to work, or grab burgers at McDonald’s. While never losing their value, the perks of growing up lose some of their magic.

All the same, I must say, being a grownup is pretty sweet.

307. Goodbye, Brawl in the Family

I’ve seen many little blessings vanish from my life. The Harry Potter books concluded. Avatar: The Last Airbender aired its final episode. Nintendo Power ceased publication. (This noble magazine was too clearly good for this world; may it rest in peace.) One by one, these sparks of joy and humor were extinguished, leaving my world a tiny bit darker.

Today the Internet loses a great webcomic. Brawl in the Family has ended its six-year run, and I am reminded of how fleeting are most of the good things in life.

I shall miss you. Well, may not you, Ice Climbers, but I'll miss the rest of you.

(Am I seriously writing a blog post mourning the end of a webcomic? Yes. Yes, I am.)

Anyone familiar with Nintendo and its games should check out Brawl in the Family immediately. BitF is a superb webcomic. (However, it’s also packed with video game-specific humor, so non-Nintendo fans shouldn’t feel bad for giving it a miss.)

As a person who creates stuff and throws it at the Internet, I admire the creators of BitF. I’ll miss its cartoony style and gentle humor. The comic’s jokes were often sophisticated, using absurdism or deconstructionism to poke fun at Nintendo’s video games… and then some of the comic’s jokes were just really bad puns.

BitF has long brightened quiet corners of this blog. The comic inspired one of TMTF’s earliest posts, taught me the history of Nintendo in one ridiculously catchy song, and made bearable one of the darker days of my life. And have you noticed the green coffee cup I hold in one of this blog’s banners? It’s a nod to the comic. Heck, BitF has made so many appearances on TMTF that I’ve considered giving the comic its own tag.

I’ll miss Kirby, Dedede, and the comic’s other oddball characters. I’ll even miss Waluigi and his surreal (and invariably purple-colored) antics.

Waluigi goes trick-or-treating

One of the comic’s creators is going on to develop his own video game and compose game soundtracks. As much as I’ll miss his comic, I can appreciate that he wants to move on to new things.

Goodbye, Brawl in the Family. Thanks for brightening my life with laughter, absurdity, and Kirby-eats-something jokes.

I’m gonna miss you, Kirby.

The Best History Lesson in the History of History

Never before has video game history been so awesome… or so darn catchy.

Fun Fact: Nintendo existed for nearly a century before it began producing video games. It dabbled in everything from card games to cab services before striking gold with franchises like Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda in the eighties.

44. Bed Intruder

My typewriter monkeys finally arrived in Montevideo today after an airline luggage mix-up sent them to the farthest corners of Earth. They’re too exhausted to type out an entire post, so today’s post is borrowed from Max vs. Max, a webcomic by Wes Molebash. Deftly balancing humor and poignancy, these eight strips make up pretty much the best comic story arc ever. The story: A recent divorcee named Max awakes during the night to find a strange old man in bed with him. My thanks to Wes for his permission to use his comic; for more stuff from Wes, check out his latest comic project!

19. So, Um… What Do You Think Being a Hero Is All About?

I don’t generally search for profound wisdom in webcomics—especially not webcomics about video games.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I was reading my favorite webcomic way back in March and realized its writer had stumbled upon pretty much the most important lesson ever.

Brawl in the Family is a delightful webcomic by a couple of guys named Matt and Chris. It’s a funny, quirky take on video game characters, and I think it’s pretty awesome.

In one comic, two teachers are asked by their students, “So, um…what do you think being a hero is all about?”

The first teacher, a villain, replies, “Well, to put it simply: ambition.” He adds, “Remember, you are capable of great things.”

The second teacher, a kindly gentleman, replies, “Well, to put it simply: sacrifice.” He adds, “It is not about you. It is about everyone else.”

It is not about you. It is about everyone else.

I happen to be student teaching at the moment, and it’s so easy to become centered on myself. I have to survive the stress of teaching classes and grading papers. I have to keep up with the paperwork for my college’s Education Department. I have to be a good teacher.

It’s also so easy to become self-centered in regard to my writing. I want to become a successful novelist. I want to have a great blog. I want my writing to be excellent.

I is such a little word, but it represents so much. Ambition. Dreams of glory. Delusions of grandeur.

I’m ashamed to say it, but I become self-centered. Then things happen that jerk me back to reality. One of those things happened yesterday.

Yesterday we held parent/teacher conferences at my school. My supervising teacher and I had been assigned to hold conferences with the parents of our MEC students. The MEC students are the at-risk kids, the kids with low grades and behavior problems—the kids in danger of being expelled. For nearly eight hours, my supervising teacher, other teachers and I held conference after conference with the parents and guardians of our students.

Some of these parents and guardians were bright, cheerful and polite. Some were not. One came in with whiskey on her breath. Another came uncomfortably close to exploding into a fit of rage. Almost all of them told us directly or indirectly that they didn’t have much control over their kids, and a few of them maintained an attitude of nonchalance.

They didn’t seem to care that their children were failing classes or causing trouble. One mother was obviously in denial that her son is a borderline sociopath. Another mother cheerfully admitted to being aware of the fact her son smokes marijuana.

It was tragic. It was also very convicting. These are the students with whom I work almost every day—and I get so wrapped up in my plans and ambitions and personal projects that I forget how much my students need a loving, patient, diligent teacher.

It is not about me. It is about everyone else.

Jesus said the same thing when someone asked him about the great commandments—God’s greatest charge to humankind—the ultimate meaning of human life. Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Webcomics, even webcomics about video games, can impart great wisdom.

It is not about you. It is about everyone else.