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Life - Just a Long Game of Super Mario Brothers

One conversation I already dread as a parent is having to explain to my daughter why bad things happen to good people. To be perfectly honest, I don't know that there's any answer I could ever give that I'd be fully satisfied with. Quite frankly, I don't KNOW why bad things happen to good people, other than the blanket fact that bad things happen to everybody. Last night, though, I posted a status on Google+ (I know, I'm so social media cool!) that got me thinking. I compared major life disruptions to losing your last life in Super Mario Brothers while battling Bowser on the last level. Without any continues.

Yes, I am a huge old-school video game nerd. Super Mario Brothers specifically holds a special place in my heart. I have fond memories of sneaking downstairs at the crack of dawn so I could fire up the NES or SNES (don't forget to blow in the game cartridge first!) and sit down for some uninterrupted Mario sessions. I anticipate that in a few years, when my daughter has the dexterity and patience, that I will show her Super Mario Brothers and wrangle her into playing some games with me.

And if I'm able to, and she develops an affinity for the game like I did, then maybe I can explain life's hardships a little more comparing it to Super Mario Brothers.

Sure, at first thought it might seem like a terrible metaphor, even a cop out. But look at the facts: Mario has been battling for years, decades even, to keep rescuing the same girl. He has kept his eyes on a single goal, and despite the fact that he's constantly getting crap thrown his way and obstacles put in front of him, he's never said 'Screw it, I'm finding myself another Princess. Keep her, Bowser!'

The struggles of Mario to endure and overcome undeserved trouble are a fictional reflection of the stuff that good people have to deal with on a regular basis in real life. Sure, we aren't trying to rescue Princesses, but each of us regularly encounters a struggle and some form of Bowser that we have to defeat. And it's never as easy as zooming from World 1 to World 8. Oh no. Solving the problems that approach us in life requires various levels of work and often, overcoming smaller struggles on the way.

Let's zoom in on the big picture for a moment and take a few specific examples from the Mario universe. Remember Goombas? Those stupid little fanged mushroom creatures that waddle around constantly? They probably have never set anyone back significantly in Mario, but they sure are a pain in the ass. We encounter Goombas every day of our lives, even as kids. Forget your lunch at home again? Goomba. Got a bad grade on your Social Studies test even though you studied for hours? Goomba. You only made the B team in volleyball even though you were better than the other girls? Goomba. (I don't know why I assume Ava will play volleyball, but I'm using it for the sake of an example here)

The day Ava starts dating will be like a giant Bullet Bill coming at me head on.
But, like Mario, as we get older, we see an increase in the difficulty of our 'levels' as well as the number of obstacles we have to face. Remember Bullet Bill? Nothing was more frustrating than coming across those perched guns. They just stare you in the face, and you know trouble is coming at some point. But how you'll respond and how you'll come out of it is completely up in the air. High school is like a full-on assault from Bullet Bills. Between teachers, athletics, peer pressure, social expectations, puberty, learning to drive, and preparing for college, you have dozens of Bullet Bills firing at you day after day, and all you can do is jump through them the best you can. Chances are, you're gonna get hit once in a while. All you can do is pick yourself up, brush yourself off and chalk it up to inexperience. Run back into the firing range and do it all over again, this time with a little earned wisdom.

And then there's adulthood. Remember the Koopa Kids in Super Mario Brothers 3? The little underlings that served as mini-bosses of each level, trying to prevent you from making progress and ultimately just pestering you? Welcome to the corporate world. I'm only 26 and I've already dealt with my share of Koopa Kids. Instead of spinning turtle shells and flaming balls, though, in real life we get to deal with spinning lies and flaming egos.

Meet your Middle Management team!

Of course, these are just a few examples. And these don't even represent some of the worst things that may happen to us in our lifetimes. Losses of family members and jobs, ended relationships, money issues and more may face us and try to break us. The beautiful thing about real life, though? We don't have to worry about the number of lives we've built up or the number of Continues we have left. The day we are born, we are given the special code (Game Genie, anyone?) that grants us unlimited opportunities to bounce back and keep pushing through our hardships.

The fact is, none of us will ever completely defeat our Bowser. We won't even see him. We live our lives in an eternal game of Super Mario Brothers, advancing world by world, level by level, each day of our lives. I'm not trying to get preachy with this post. I'm really just wracking my brain trying to figure out how to best explain to a child why crappy stuff happens. And you know what, maybe I'm even trying to figure out how to explain it to myself. Until then, I'm just going to keep on living my life, doing the best to handle all the Koopas, Bob-ombs, Chain Chomps and Thwomps that are thrown at me.


Great post as always man. I relate in so many ways. Loved the references too.

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