Staying Engaged in the Game of Life: My Challenge and My Journey


Sometimes I don’t see the world the same way as those around me. It’s comforting because in those moments, I know I’m seeing things differently for a reason. Right now, for example, there is so much uncertainty about what the actual outcome of the presidential election will be.

Biden and Harris won, but lawsuits and recounts make it difficult for me to relax. The taxi driver just asked me what I thought about the outcome of the election on the way back from Trader Joe’s and at that moment, I realized that I really didn’t care. Not that I don’t think the outcome of the election matters—that’s different. I know it matters a lot. And I also know that the work that is required of us tomorrow and the day after, and the day after that will not change. I will still need to do all the things to stay calm and healthy, to take care of myself and my family, to care for and support my community, and to serve my country. Staying engaged is challenging.

None of that depends on who sits in a big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue.

What I do care about is who we will become—as a species and as a country.

Statue of LibertyWe need a new America and if we don’t start creating a new vision of what life can and will be, we will not survive this. Whatever we are holding on to now, we need to be willing to examine it carefully—look it over with new eyes to figure out if it works for all of us and if these practices and beliefs need to come with us into our collective future. If our story about who we are and how we operate isn’t working for some, it doesn’t work for all. Period.

I remember playing the Game of Life as a child. If that wasn’t indoctrination into the myth of the American dream, I don’t know what is.

The Game of Life was our early training on how to adapt to the ideals and values of society. We were being trained on what to desire for our lives. We had to choose a career, get married, have children, buy a house, and then retire. We were paid for staying engaged. Then the game ended. None of it really matched up with what I experienced in my own life, so perhaps that’s why these values never really took hold in my psyche.

Staying engaged in the game of life can be challengingWhenever I came to crossroads moments in my own life, I didn’t really feel like there was a template I wanted to follow. It seemed like most of the people around me were still playing the game- spinning the plastic wheel and scooting along in their plastic car, collecting memorabilia to show that they were winning the game of life.

I’d look around and pretty much decide to do the opposite of what everyone else was doing. I felt like I wasn’t staying engaged.

Some people think I’ve been acting out of bravery but honestly, it was more fear. The fear that the Game of Life would end with my piece parked in the wrong spot and it would be too late for me to catch up. Was I supposed to keep my pensioned job or move to Africa? Should I stay on my career path or do I take time off to travel and return to graduate school? There were times that running from my fears chased me in the “right” direction. Coward’s luck I suppose.

It reminds me of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. I love the fact that the story seemed to center on the bears. They were so kind and generous and responsible. I felt sorry for the bears—they did everything right—they made their beds, they cooked their food, they went out to get fresh air and exercise. Only to come home and find that they have an unwanted guest—eating their food and sleeping in their beds. Benefitting from the fruit of their labor. And who was this girl anyway? And why was she wandering around in the woods alone, hungry, and tired?

But what if that girl is me? What if that girl is you? What if that girl is all of us?

GoldilocksI’m the one wandering in the wilderness, cold and alone. Tired and hungry. I’m the one who stumbles upon an empty, peaceful house with cooked food and a warm bed. I’m the one who needed to be welcomed by strangers because anything is better than what I had left behind.

I’d love to think that we could all be that brave little girl. Somehow able to go somewhere new, to try things out, and decide if it’s just right. And when the time comes, to rest peacefully in a new home.

I know that will be us someday soon. We will try out some new things and we will decide what our new Game of Life will look like. Right now, there’s only one rule. Keep staying engaged. Don’t give up. We can make up the rest of the rules as we go.

Staying Engaged in the Game of Life


Guest Author: Kalimah Fergus Ayele

headshotKalimah Fergus Ayele is the author of “Roundtrip Ticket Home” a memoir of her experiences living in different parts of the world. She has over 20 years of experience as a school leader and secondary science educator in both U.S. and international public and private schools. She began her teaching career as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Tanzania, East Africa, and has also taught in South Africa, Lesotho, and most recently, Egypt. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry at Stanford University, Master of Arts in Secondary Science Education at Teachers College Columbia University, Master of Science in School Administration from the College of Saint Rose and Ed.M in Organization Leadership through the Klingenstein Center at Teachers College Columbia University.


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