Late last night, far later than I had any business doing on account of the insanely early start I had this morning, I was thinking about Justin and Griffin McElroy, and their final week at Polygon. Their final day. I was thinking on what they’ve accomplished, not just at Polygon but outside of it – with Travis, with their father, everything. I reflected on all of the joy they have brought into the world, and everything they’ve yet to do. I’m excited for it.
Then I remembered, not for the first time, an act of kindness that Justin performed for me about seven years ago. And, being utterly incapable of having a thought without immediately sharing it on social media, I tweeted about it. I won’t repost the tweets here, they’re easy to find, but the tl;dr is that at a time when I was a much younger, angrier man than I am now, at a time in my life when I was regularly shitting on Justin and Griffin for doing their jobs, Justin helped me – unexpectedly and unprompted – during a time when I needed help.
Those tweets gained some traction overnight – hundreds of likes, dozens of retweets, and a quote tweet from Justin that has been itself liked and retweeted hundreds upon hundreds of times.
A big part of that story, however, of that exchange, is who I was in 2011 at the time it takes place. And so what follows is a very long post about growth, anger, and shame.
I don’t expect everyone to know my backstory, but from 2010-2013 I ran a blog with the rather aggressive title of Game Journalists Are Incompetent Fuckwits – often called GJAIF or GameJournos for short. There, I picked at what I perceived to be errors in reporting, judgment and focus by game journalists.
I was angry, but not for the right reasons, and certainly it had nothing to do with video game journalists, but they were my chosen target. They were where I had focused my ire. I said a lot of callous, cruel things about a lot of people I didn’t know for largely inconsequential reasons. Typos. Grammatical errors. Mentioning something only tangentially relevant to the story. Not mentioning something only tangentially relevant to the story. My focus, my anger, was directed at whatever slight I could pick on that particular day. If something didn’t immediately leap out at me in my RSS reader that morning, I would actively go looking for something. Anything.
At my mildest, I called people names. At my worst, I wished them dead. Over typos.
Naturally, I upset people. Of course I did. I was an arrogant, self-righteous shit, pompously claiming to be a “building inspector” for a field in which my only experience was limited to weekly op-eds on a website that hadn’t existed for almost a decade at that point. I was a nobody, with nothing to back me up, firing blanks into a crowd of people who didn’t deserve it for reasons that, over eight years after I first started, no longer make rational sense to me. I don’t think they made sense to me then, if I’m being honest.
But those words affected people. They hurt people. Some were able to brush off the presence of the blog, but I know my actions, my words, deeply affected some. They affected peoples’ confidence. Some people stopped writing altogether. Scott Kurtz once said that if criticism stops someone from pursuing something they want then they can’t have wanted it all that badly, but I think that’s the lie that bad people tell themselves to justify being “brutally honest,” to make it easier to pretend that they’re doing anything other than crushing someone’s dreams. It’s bullshit. I was bullshit, and knowing that what I did hurt people, that is affected people the way that it is, leaves me filled with shame, regret, and remorse.
I never hid that the blog was me. I never once thought I needed to hide behind anonymity or a pseudonym. That was probably more foolish than brave, and I don’t doubt that doing that made it harder for me to find work during the times I needed it. Times like now, in fact. If there is any justice, it is in there – I am the architect of my own failures, and I need to own that. I need to own what I have done, and how what I have done has affected real, actual people in the world. I cannot and will not walk away from that.
To anyone and everyone that blog ever hurt, to anybody who stopped writing because of me, who cried because a young idiot on the internet wished them dead for getting a minor fact wrong, who took any kind of emotional hit because of the words I wrote – I am deeply, truly sorry. I am. It’s too little too late, I know. I don’t expect forgiveness neither do I particularly feel I deserve it. I made my own bed.
I’ve learned a lot over the last five years. The lesson I learned from Justin, and one that I have continued to have reinforced by friends and family – particularly in the wake of my parents’ death – is to choose joy. I don’t want to be a negative force in the world. I don’t want to give anybody reason or cause to cry. I know I have in the past. The world is already so chaotic, so deeply unpleasant; I cannot imagine why any person would wish to add to that. I can’t. I refuse to.
Anyone who knows me knows that I do not think of myself as a good person. That is why I try so hard, now, to be one; to do good, to be a force for good, for positivity, for joy. I have wasted so much of my limited life being cruel. That isn’t who I want to be.
I do not believe that the world is a better place for having me in it, but I do believe I have the rest of my life to prove myself wrong.