After many years on this earth (and a bit too much self-analysis), I have come to the realization that there is no better analogy for love than the hit '80s arcade game, Pac-Man.
You may be thinking - seriously? How can this be? Are you simply one of those dudes still obsessed with the 80s? The answer to that is simple: yes, I am. However, I do strongly believe that Pac-Man holds the key to success in one of the greatest games any human has ever played - LOVE... and while there may be a multitude of other examples that represent similar lessons, I prefer to stick with the one that fondly reminds me of simpler times.
You see, at their core, both Pac-Man and LOVE are highly addictive games. When you start out, having never played before, you are immediately intimidated, yet intrigued... so many options... and the path is yours to choose! In the beginning, you are forced to simply make it all up as you go - a terrifying and simultaneously exhilarating experience. In time, you likely find a path that shows some promise, so you stop trying out new tactics.There's no looking back now, you're invested. Maybe you even get a bit cocky. Why switch from a strategy with proven results?
As you advance, things might begin to feel a bit redundant. There is less excitement, you may even encounter heartbreak. But, instead of your old wide-eyed self, failure hits you harder now. It makes you angry. No more fun and games - you are ready to move onward and upward. Each time you begin again, you become less interested in the courting process. You no longer take the time to enjoy the early levels. You rush past all the details that used to stimulate you. You hold steady to your designated path with tunnel vision. This isn't about enjoyment anymore; this is about getting to the next level...
You forget that it's all just a game.
Soon, something completely outside your control happens - you get distracted by an itch or your "joystick" gets stuck. Regardless if you are at fault or not, you get knocked off course and lose all momentum... and it's not always fair.
Eventually, the time will come to face the hard truth: your once-trusted path has failed to deliver the results it used to. Now this may justifiably discourage you, but if you choose to give up mid-game... then what? Where does that leave you?
Whether it's LOVE or Pac-Man, it's crucial to keep in mind that failure is all part of the game. It teaches us new strategies, it humbles us, it makes us stronger. When you hit what appears to be a dead end, try getting back to the basics and explore a new route. In the end, there is no "right" path, and you are the only one with the controller. No matter what advice the other people at the arcade are screaming at you, you truly do choose your own adventure.
Never get too cocky, never stop enjoying the early levels, and NEVER give up. If you do, you might just end up standing all alone in an empty arcade, wishing you had been more present while playing, and yearning for the good ol' days when it was all just a fun game. The most important thing to remember is that when all hope seems lost, do whatever it takes to get yourself more quarters - you never know which one will lead you to the bonus round.