The secret to a long life is this: go to college.
I learned this while playing the game Life, near the beginning of which you must choose the college path or the career path. True to life, the college path starts with putting yourself in debt. You take out $40,000 in student loans, the interest on which amounts to $10,000—25 percent! There is only one scholarship space, and the path is riddled with LOSE A TURN spaces, all of which feature explanations like CRAM FOR EXAMS. It's all too real. Meanwhile, players who take the career path are far ahead, already landing on GET MARRIED. And, just like reality, the relationships between salaries and careers are totally random: While your really lucky, fast-lane-living friend ended up being a superstar pulling in $80,000 every payday, you got to choose—once you finally hit GRADUATION DAY!—between being an accountant, a cop or a salesperson. If you're lucky, one of the salary cards you get to choose from will feature a figure like $70,000. But it'll probably be more like $30,000. After you buy your house (my favorite: the split-level, which was “one level before the quake”) and start on your merry way, be wary of the MID-LIFE CRISIS space. No, there's no DIVORCE YOUR SPOUSE FOR A BLOND MODEL AND A SPORTS CAR space, but you may be forced to START A NEW CAREER, which means a new job and salary. As in life, Life can be really rough, especially if you wind up with 10 kids. And they don't all fit in the station wagon. And you land on the send your kids to COLLEGE space, where you shell out $50,000 per kid! Life suddenly seems too long. You pray for an early exit. You look in vain for the space marked DEATH. Your superstar friend is driving along with only a spouse in the car, speeding toward retirement, while you plod along with your spouse and five kids, seemingly landing on every space that requires shelling out more than half your income. And your friend is already crossing the final bridge, relaxing while GONE FISHING. And where are you? Stuck by the hospital, of course, having your tattoos removed for a hefty sum. But along the way, you'll be picking up little Life tiles, each one of which features some great feat you accomplished, like discovering the solution to pollution or curing the common cold. Once you finally get to the end of the game and retire (and, by the way, there was only one YOU'RE A GRANDPARENT space; how did you end up with five kids and no grandchildren?), there's one more choice to make: Do you live out your golden years at CountrySIDE Acres or Millionaire estates? I'd choose Countryside Acres. You went to college: you're no millionaire.
Patrice Marsters started at OC Weekly as an intern, just before the first issue was published. She is now the associate editor of the paper, serves on the board of the Orange County Press Club, and mentors aspiring writers and editors at Newport Harbor High School. In her spare time, Ms. Marsters co-leads a multi-level Girl Scout troop, creates baked goods, and rants at inanimate objects (including her computer) about her grammatical and writing pet peeves.