DEAR ABBY: I'm an avid video game player. My husband and I bond over playing games, reading and talking about them. In fact, in my spare time, I just earned a master's degree in video game culture.
The issue I have is people judge my hobby as "a waste of time" or comment that I should read a book instead. I don't tell them I read a book a week because I shouldn't have to justify what I do with my time. I have a good job and a wonderful, stable marriage, yet people consider me immature because of video games.
Abby, video games are incredible works of art that tell amazing stories and allow players to experience a host of worlds and narratives that can be inspiring. Many people make lifelong friendships through online gaming or learn new skills through educational games.
What can I say to people who dismiss my hobby as a waste while claiming that reading the latest trashy vampire book or going out every Friday and Saturday night to get wasted is "really living"? -- PROUD GAMER GIRL
DEAR PROUD GAMER: A master's degree in video game culture is impressive. People who regard you as lazy or lacking in motivation are ignorant. Video game design has become a well-established industry. In fact, it's akin to the film industry in that the creative process requires an education similar to -- but even more extensive than -- that offered in film schools. Rather than try to convince those who tell you how to spend your time, focus your energy on what works for you and spend less of it around negative individuals.
DEAR ABBY: I have a problem: I don't have a mouth filter and haven't since childhood. I bullied people in the past because of how I was bullied and deliberately hurt people to prevent them from hurting me. At work, I did it to the point that a co-worker called me the b-word and threatened to punch me in the mouth if I did it again. I take full responsibility. I deserved it.
Abby, as an adult, I have become meaner and more bitter and hurtful than I was as a child. Please give me some advice because I'm afraid I'm going to be worse in the future. -- GUILTY AND SAD
DEAR GUILTY AND SAD: You are not going to become worse in the future because you now realize you have a serious problem and are willing to do something about it. Awareness is the first step in fixing it. An anger management class could be a good start.
With practice, you can develop a filter. Rather than reflexively lashing out, start consciously cultivating kindness. If you do that, you'll be amazed at how quickly it will grow. Rather than criticize, first ask yourself, "Is what I'm going to say true? Is it helpful? Is it kind?" And if it's not all three -- don't say it.
Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $14 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)