Yes yes, I'll summarize: Breath of the Wild is a breath-takingly scenic masterpiece of the beloved Zelda game franchise engineered for the Nintendo Switch. You play as Link, hero for the ages, man of few words and many battle cries, and lead a quest to rid your world of a dangerous enemy at the behest of the memory of a king, a forgotten history, a powerful princess, spirits of champions past, a bunch of Divine Beasts, and bombs. In no particular order.
Now. Why am I writing about this game?
Within the boundless adventure of Breath of the Wild, there is a game mechanic that dictates Link's stamina for various actions, oftentimes running. A small green circle appears by Link's head every time you mash the right buttons and goad the man into a sprint. As Link runs across your Switch screen, the green circle will slowly run out until you can't run anymore. Run past that point of empty, and Link will go into emergency reserves, walking painfully (oh my goodness painfully), and I mean painfully (like can't-run-in-the-Pokemon-Center days painfully) slowly as the circle shifts from red to yellow and finally refills with green once more.
One night last week, as I was banging my head on the edge of my desk to avoid studying stats, I started thinking about my feelings towards the end of the semester. It was hard to put them into words. I just...I felt like I had nothing left. No, honestly worse than that. I somehow felt less than empty. I felt like dead weight being dragged towards a finish line I didn't even want to cross. I felt like yes, the end was in sight, but it wouldn't make a difference if my legs had stopped working. I felt like I was running a marathon, except when I fell down, the other runners continued to run over me, trampling me into the ground and gliding effortlessly across the finish line.
I had done too much. That much was clear enough, I know. The more I failed to meet my own unreal expectations, the more I berated myself for the work I had not done. The shoddier my work became. The harder it was to motivate myself to get out of bed. The bleaker prospects seemed for finishing out the year. The less I believed I was capable of doing...anything.
I felt like I was past the point of empty. So I slid my chair back from my desk, slammed my laptop closed with enough ferocity that even I was worried about it, and leaned back to think.
That stamina mechanic in Breath of the Wild. I needed anything to think about except my mounting to-do list. Breath of the Wild, it's beautiful. That's all there is to it. Go play it. I needed to not be thinking about my classes or my grades or my job performance or my obligations or anything else. Here's what I came up with in this moment, though. Here's the thoughts that were dancing around in my sleep-deprived brain during finals week.
In this game, when Link's stamina runs out, he is forced to stop. His movements are slowed, his actions sluggish. The game forces his body to relax and slowly refills his bar until he is fit for movement again. When he doesn't run out of green all the way, it is an easier fix. But when he runs himself into red, there is no way to outdo the mechanic. The player must simply take a forced pause and let Link build up his ability to keep fighting the way he does.
Life doesn't force us to pause. Life throws a billion and one things at us, and we juggle them all at once because we are taught that sleep is for the weak and there is no rest for the weary and we can't be successful if we aren't going all out all the time. Success doesn't seem to exist in the lives of normal people who take normal breaks and do normal things like eat and sleep and spend time with their loved ones. This mythical brand of success I've been chasing seems to exist only in the lives of the people too worn out to even care that it's there.
Life doesn't force us to pause. What it does is show us when those pauses are needed. In those moments of feeling stamina in the red, we need a break. We all need a break. Taking a step back from the world doesn't mean that we are no longer a part of it. What it means is that we recognize that we can't keep running on empty. We can't love what we do or love that we live if we don't even have the energy to keep loving anything.
The stamina mechanic from Breath of the Wild is just the vehicle my nerd brain needed for this information to actually get across. What I mean by all of this rambling is to say take a break. You need it. You've earned it. And sometimes, it's hard to believe that for yourself. Sometimes I just want someone to give me an excuse to step away and let that stamina bar refill so I can face another day.
Take your breaks. Dream your dreams. Live your days and sleep your nights. Let yourself be filled with motivation and passion and power and rest, and don't ever tear yourself apart for being human. For needing a moment. For needing to build in that pause so that bar refills.
So that you keep going.