How Roller Coaster Tycoon taught me to finally relax

I am absolutely terrible at relaxing. 
I take my downtime with a side of guilt.

I feel like I should always be doing something productive. I should be doing food prep, or I should be working out or I should be tidying or I should be cooking. Even when I "relax" it's usually reading so I can work towards my reading goal, or only watching TV or films that are classics or highly rated or on my list of films to watch. When Phil and I have the evenings in together I feel like we should be doing something together, something meaningful, not just wasting the time away.
I have a huge fear of wasting things.
Wasting time, wasting money, wasting opportunities. As I kid I had a sticker book made of shiny, peelable plastic pages because I was so scared of commitment I couldn't even stick a sticker somewhere in case I changed my mind later about its location. 
And now, I sometimes buy ingredients for cooking that I'm scared of "wasting" and want to keep them for "emergencies" or "something special", as though I live miles and miles away from the supermarket.

I feel like all my time should be productive. Phil and I have a joke that I'm always planning ahead, always trying to make life easier for "future Charlotte" whereas Phil is always thinking about "right-now Phil."
But future Charlotte's life is never easier.
I'm constantly tired, constantly worrying and stressing and always, always ill.
I'm constantly about to burn out. 
I'm constantly thinking about what I should be doing, not what I want to do. 
I'm always on edge and I find it impossible to relax.
On Friday, Phil surprised me with an eight-disc box of Roller Coaster Tycoon games. He knew it was my favourite game growing up and I make references to it all the time.
I was touched by the gift, but half-jokingly said "When am I going to have time to play this?"
And do you want to know the truth - I actually panicked.
I panicked about that time I would waste playing this game when I should be folding washing or reading the book I've been working through since January or cutting up carrot sticks for my lunch.
See, as a result of my need to be productive all.the.time I don't play games.
In fact I haven't played a game really since I was about 18.
Of course, I waste time in my own way, but never intentionally.
I might end up spending an hour reading blog posts, but I never go into that hour planning on spending it on my phone.
This is why I haven't seen that many films - I'm scared to commit to that two or three hours of not doing anything. But I can accidentally watch TV for that length of time.
I digress.

As I mentioned in this post, Phil and I had purposefully made minimal plans for the bank holiday weekend to give us plenty of time to relax.
Which meant that by Saturday afternoon I was already bored.
I didn't need to do my food prep til Monday, I'd already been for a run and we'd done the food shop. I'd done two loads of washing and we had a good 24 hours to clean the flat before we had visitors on Monday.
So I decided to admit defeat and popped the game into my CD drive.
And happily wasted an hour just playing.
And for the first time, I felt relaxed. I had committed to spending some time just playing my game and I felt better as a result. Phil was playing Football Manager next to me, and we chatted from time to time, but we were mostly just in our own little zones and it was lovely.
Of course, I should have been cleaning, but the cleaning still got done. In fact, everything got done. And I wasn't bored or restless or stressed.
For once.
Last night, Phil got home late and was tired and stressed out from work.
We had dinner, and I knew all he wanted to do was to play Football Manager.
Now normally I feel a bit sad when he wants to do this. It means we can't really spend time properly together.
But instead, I played my game too.
We chatted, but mostly we just played.
And it was exactly what I needed after a day at work.

I know this isn't rocket science, but it's always eluded me how people can spend hours playing games. Don't they feel like they've wasted that time? I wondered. 
But now I get it. As Phil put it "it's classic escapism."

I thought Roller Coaster Tycoon was a game for my past. When I had endless evenings and long summer days, but it might actually turn out to be a little thing that makes a big difference.


  1. I used to love Rollercoaster Tycoon! Origin were giving away Theme Hospital for free a few weeks ago, and I love it as much now as I did when I was a kid.

  2. roller coaster tycoon!!! i loved that game,

    i agee with wasting time, i worry about gwetting old and missing out on many things in life ive always wanted to do.


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