People ask me the same question all the time. Sometimes they're skeptical, wondering what could possibly drive me to do this thing. Other times, they're genuinely curious, as if they're considering asking if they could do it too.
“Why do you judge?”
It's two in the morning and I wake up, lightning in my veins. I get a quick shower and jump into the car. Six and a half hours to Philadelphia, eight hours to DC, an hour to Providence. There's Edison, Somerset, Worcester, Albany, Baltimore, Long Island. I've been to them all in the last six months. Today's a long trip, and I set the seat back before loading up driving music and the GPS.
I'm on the floor. It's infectious, being at an event. There's so much at stake for so many people. For some, they're playing to stay on the train. Others just want their big break. Most are there for fun, but they wish they could be there – at the top tables. People are buying, selling, trading, and playing every format under the sun. And where are we?
A judge walks by and throws up a quick hand. I high-five him. It's a judge thing. It's important for morale. I know that he blew a call a few rounds ago, and it's important that he keeps his spirits up. We've got eight rounds left, and sides are just getting going. Floor coverage is spotty, but it seems like we're holding it together. Standard hasn't changed much in the last few months, and the interactions are still mostly the same from the rules side of things.
I'm alive when I'm judging in all the ways that I am not in the rest of my life. At home, I'm withdrawn, reclusive, tired all the time. I half sleep because I use no energy to be alive. I'm unemployed, depressed, and procrastinate like it's the only thing I know how to do. Failures come quick and often, and I feel like I'm spiraling around a drain with each one. They compound, making the next one all the more certain. It's a constant fight to motivate myself.
On the floor, I have purpose and direction. I'm always doing something in a furious frenzy, anxious to finish helping one person, and get to the next thing. I feel indispensable, important. I'm the center of attention for so many – Judge Blacks make you more visible to everyone. Failures just spur me on – like they're daring me to be better than I am – and I know on some bedrock level that I am capable of it. I sleep like a corpse at events, because I know that I need my sleep to continue being me.
At events, I'm delirious with happiness. I'm laughing with friends, I'm challenging my mind and body. I'm fixing things that need to be fixed – often on timetables that leave no room for error. And at the end of the day, exhausted, someone asks what we're doing for dinner.
Not if we're doing something. It's a foregone conclusion. It's been nearly 12 hours on the floor and the only thing on anyone's mind is how can I spend more time with these people most effectively. You feel exhausted, but we still go to get drinks. We crack packs and draft. We play Laser Tag, or just hang around and joke about all the nonsense we'd experienced all day.
And when I go home, the first thing I do is make sure that I've applied for literally every event I can reasonably work in the foreseeable future, because I love Judging so damn much. It's the people, the challenges, the excitement, the raw energy that you can't quite seem to get any other way.
I love it. And I hope I'll never have a reason to stop.