Beating Mr. Tonberry

Have you ever played Final Fantasy VII?

What about any 90’s RPG?

No? shame.

Why do I ask you ask? Only because I wanted to launch into a extended metaphor that related Final Fantasy to how I lived my life for a long time. You don’t mind hearing about it you say? In that case, sure, I’d be delighted to share.

Final Fantasy, if your not aware, is a role playing game or RPG. And as you would assume, it allows you to play the role of a heroic character (in this case – Cloud) and proceed through this video game land and storyline where you meet amazing friends who are willing to pick up arms and fight against villains that are both evil and awe-inspiring in their own right.

So, first off, let me just admit that I learned entirely too much about life from video games. For example, I’m convinced that the driver’s license tests in Gran Turismo taught me to be the amazing driver that I am today (ignore the moving violations on file at the DMV).

Likewise, Final Fantasy VII (FFVII), taught me certain lessons, that I, for better or worse, applied haphazardly to my life. For instance, there are areas of the game where you can kind of loiter and fight whatever random minor bad guys are hanging around. The purpose of this is of course to raise your stats in order to make fighting the Big Boss of whatever stage easier to conquer. This method works perfectly for a great percentage of the game, although it can lead to an overall longer time spent playing the game before beating it. I’m naturally, i think, a bit obsessive. So I would spend hours in these fighting fields. I would always seek to gain just a bit more experience (exp) , strength, magical ability or other stats that I would be sure would help me later on. My brother, would have to urge me to be more balanced, and go ahead and move ahead in the storyline.

For some reason, this method seemed to be good mental model to apply to my life for a time. I would look at my life as a RPG. College was Big boss #1. The library was my killing zone. I would spend hours in the library, wrestling with ideas and concepts. Stacking my exp points and trying to beat the stage. After a relationship that almost derailed my plan for my life; I learned to only superficially commit to other people. I would only give enough to withdraw whatever it was I needed from the interaction. I didn’t do this malevolently or totally unwilling to give back. I think, however, it was a bit more calculated than I’m comfortable admitting.

After learning that a large percentage of people couldn’t be trusted to have my best interest at heart, I refocused on my goals and comforted myself with the idea that like RPG’s this current sacrifice would prove worth it on the tail end. And it did. I beat that Boss. College was conquered, then graduate school, and residency. Interviews were approached methodically and before I knew it, I was at my dream job. Seemingly, beating the game.


In FFVII, there was a particularly spooky character that always seemed unaffected by how much I trained. This character’s attacks were actually stronger the longer you had played, and one of his attacks was a one-stroke guaranteed death sentence. This character’s name was Master Tonberry, and while he wasn’t technically a big Boss he was the reason why I had to use save point’s on many an occasion. It seemed that no matter how much I trained, his health and attacks only grew proportionally. Defeating him wasn’t something that I could train for. There were no pre-Tonberry bad guys who could prepare me for him. No side quests that would give me insight into how to beat him. My previous experiences did not help, and in some cases hurt me. (There was a time attack  that he used that was more powerful the longer you had played the game. His time attack = [(Hours played *100) + minutes played]…don’t ask me how I know that… Nerd Alert!)

This year I’m 31. I can’t remember the last time I held a controller in my hands, and the luxury of hours spent in front of a gaming system is laughable. And perhaps, not even something I would enjoy any longer.

Here I am, decades later. A couple Big Bosses conquered, but somewhat unprepared to face a different type of challenge. The emotional and spiritual challenges that must be conquered in order to move from a me-centered, goal-oriented, successful career person to a human being able to take care of hearts and wanting to build a family around values that don’t depreciate and can’t be written off on taxes. How does one move from a self-centered life (even one lauded by corporate america) to a life where one may be required to choose peace over being right?

I don’t have the answers just yet..Just the questions and a desire to find the answer. Best of luck to us all as we fight our Mr. Tonberry’s.

..And Mom thought video games were a waste of time. ha!