Tetris for life

Tetris for Life

I’m Just Saying” is a column by Suburbs 101 Contributor, Alexis Gold. A funny and brutally honest take on what life is like for a working mom in New York City/turned unexpected stay at home suburban mom.

I have a new addiction. Actually, it’s an old addiction, reignited. I thought it was 1990 and downloaded Tetris. I have cleared over 500,000 lines since June. I actually think it may be more, but I don’t really know how to view Tetris history. For someone that hates lines – aside from the school car line that has no place for me and my old kids anymore — that seems pretty good.

Tetris for life
Tetris for life

I think I picked up this habit when I turned down a “real” job. This resulted in a big, unintentional fight with my husband. I was upset about the structure of our lives; how when someone puked at school I’d still get the phone call; about how I couldn’t send my daughter to gymnastics meets with another parent or coach at this age; and how this wasn’t his fault. But, instead of venting, he took my comments as a personal attack. I promptly downloaded the app and decided I’d see what it takes to get recruited by the Tetris Gaming World Championships. This meets my very minimal job criteria — it’s very flexible and can be done from my sofa.

My youngest daughter is a gymnast and found her passion at age three. My husband is a golfer. He played in college and can still hit ‘em pretty straight. My older daughter plays ice hockey and has something that is all her own. My son can sit and draw portraits for hours. While it may be a long time before he sells any of them, TikTok may change that. And yet, if I had to re-declare my major, it would be “undecided”. So, imagine I could say I was the Tetris winner at the championship game? I checked and there actually is one. I don’t know the winner’s gender, since the bracket name just says “DOG”, but I do assume it’s not a dog. Maybe it’s actually a mom sitting on the other end of that handle. Maybe it’s a dog.

This is not just regular Tetris, either. In an effort to make everything old new again, there is a game called Tetris Royale. This is my poison of choice. It’s like Fortnite — except that it’s not like Fortnite at all. But, I do get to play with 75 to 100 attackers. I earn Tetris weapons. There are blocks I can throw at opponents that try to attack my perfectly placed puzzle pieces. The shield slows the whole thing down. But, the best, by far is a laser that erases eight lines, a key component to knocking out other players when it gets faster and more jumbled. I am too cheap to pay for the “No Ad” version, so I have watched a lot of WhatsApp adds in order to earn those lasers. There are teams. I haven’t joined one. Maybe someone will invite me soon. We all know I like to be included, but that I probably won’t join.

My kids are annoyed. Annoyed that their own screen time is zero most days. Annoyed that when they ask me a question, I don’t hear and don’t answer. Annoyed that when they ask me to do something, I tell them to wait two minutes until my game is over.

I kind of like this dynamic. It’s the only time anyone in my house understands how I feel most of the time. My kids operate on filter-out-mom-mode. Screening out requests to take out the dog, or the trash; apparently never needing to brush teeth or clear the table; finishing Roblox FaceTime’s before bed. Someone once told me to whisper anything you really want your kids to hear. This trick only works, maybe once, but it is pretty effective. But- it is not as effective as being a Tetris-whisperer.

I had a “real” career for more than 20 years. But, then my own pieces started to fall; faster and faster, and definitely not in a perfect line clearing pace. Somehow without noticing, my husband and I had busy jobs, kids, suburbs, sick husbands and parents, a pandemic — all the building blocks adults fail to explain in excruciating detail when they tell you how great it is to be a kid. And now, instead of going off to a job in the Big City or even homeschooling, when I got up this morning I cleaned up our dog and her crate from the pile of poop I found her huddled in. Checkmate. By a dog. Not DOG though. That’s who I’m really after. I have newfound purpose.

Not long after the argument that inspired my Tetris-download, my son asked me a question. “Mom, is this the life you’d choose if you had a choice?” I thought this was a fairly insightful question for a 10-year-old boy. It was probably a reflection of lackadaisical YouTube monitoring – severely impacted by my puzzling ways. I knew the correct answer was, “Yes”! But it was like the scene from A Christmas Story when the blonde kid who wants the BB-gun drops the tire screws on the highway. Everything moves in slow motion as he says the “F” word. What came out of mine was close enough. I said, “No.” I said it a little too matter-of-factly and a lot too quickly. My very kind and sweet husband, was standing next to me. So was my daughter. Still, I promptly forgot about the whole conversation and sat down to numb my brain my multi-colored blocks.

This was pretty awful. Who tells their husband and kids they wouldn’t choose the life they are leading? My husband came downstairs. I had really hurt his feelings. Then, my gymnast daughter flipped on the floor and cried that she wasn’t wanted. In a really not funny way.

I felt terrible that everyone felt so terrible. But, I still don’t really feel so terrible about my comment. It was the first time I’ve said out loud how I feel some days. I wasn’t saying I wouldn’t choose to be with my family, that part came out wrong. I was saying I never planned to be a middle-aged Tetris playing, stay at home mom in the suburbs. Not because I don’t want to be, it just wasn’t the picture in my head my whole life.

If 25 years ago when I met my husband, he had said to me, “let’s get hitched.” And then added, “While we are at it, you may as well quit the job you love. We’ll move to the suburbs so you can stay home with kids and play Tetris while I go to work since this is where we’ll end up anyway.” I would have immediately deleted him from my Startac.

I know the choices I have stumbled into are extremely fortunate and mostly happy ones. They are just choices I didn’t completely expect until all the pieces formed the picture that I see now. I’m realizing the choices that felt like inertia were not. They were decisions — even if the world felt foggy when I made them. I could have immediately pounded the pavement for a job, but I’d never spent time at home, and wanted to. I could have taken that last job, but for reasons that make sense for my family, I chose to continue being a Tetris playing mom. I realize now how lucky I am to have the time and space to figure out my next steps, and think about where pieces land.

To be clear, I apologized to my family for how the words fell out of my mouth, without any context. And, that’s what families do – they hug and forgive one another and make you give up your addictions. So, I deleted Tetris. Well, ok, I intended to. Maybe next week. I’m still tracking for those championships.

About Alexis Gold

Alexis Gold holds a BS from Cornell University. She spent more than two decades on Wall Street, where she was a top ranked analyst by Institutional Investor. While on the buy side her creative writing was used to analyze companies, primarily in the retail space. Following the recent closing of her last fund, she decided to stay at home with her three small children. Her writing has been featured in Read650 and offers a funny and brutally honest take on what life is like for a working mom in NYC/turned unexpected stay at home suburban mom. 

About Suburbs 101

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