“We quit our jobs, sold everything, and left on a world trip.”
That’s how our future selves will sum up their decision, over drinks in a foreign land, with nothing but their backpacks to call home. People listening might admire their courage, but they might not know how much they left behind.
When I explained to my boss at BioWare my decision to leave, I damn near broke down in tears. I’m not sure which one of us was the most surprised. Here we were, sitting in my office, having closed the door at the first sign of gravitas. I tried to explain why I was doing it, and I couldn’t find the words. Looking back, my choked attempts were more convincing than anything I could have articulated.
Until I closed that office door, there was some theoretical way of backing out of this project. I had sealed my escape route.
I’ve taken leaps of faith before, but this is the first without a bungee cord. As of Friday, June 26th, I’m voluntarily unemployed, and not looking for a job. That kind of life-changing decision usually leads to sleeping on a park bench. Hopefully, it will be somewhere tropical.
I closed that door on eleven years of continuous employment, including six in the game industry. I didn’t just quit my job, I quit the corporate world. I quit the 9 to 5 and the steady paycheck. I try not to let my mind wander to it.
The Weight of Stuff
Here’s something you find out real quick when starting a vagabonding lifestyle: owning stuff sucks.
‘Selling everything’ sounds like such a simple thing. I have daydreams – steadily turning pornographic-intense – where I snap my fingers, and all the furniture is replaced by little piles of money. Instead of that, I harass my friends with an insistence right out of a carpet bazaar. “You’re sure you don’t want a used guidebook to the Netherlands? How about a mattress?”
With two weeks to go before we leave Edmonton, you’d think I’d be stressing over the contents of my backpack or how to avoid roadside robbery and malaria. Instead, I wake up worrying about the fate of my couch. (“Just $250, how can you say no to a friend!”)
Ownership is slavery. Every piece of furniture drags at my ankles as I try to walk away. I stare at the piles of seldom-used clothes cluttering my wardrobe, and it dawns on me: freedom is owning three pairs of underwear.
Another source of malaise lingers deeper within me: two weeks from now, I will be unemployed and homeless. In a society where success is measured by career and ownership, the alternative is at once terrifying and exhilarating.
I’m working hard, not always with success, at referring to my videogame career in the past tense. I was a videogame producer. But what am I?
At the same time, I watch some cherished items – game consoles, books, furniture – disappear from our apartment, and it transforms our home into a place of transit. We sold the coffee table, so we put down our beer bottles on the floor. Soon, we will probably join them there. The emptiness of space reclaims what we worked so hard to coax into a home.
Friends now hesitate before saying goodbye, calculating the odds of this being our last time together. Sometimes, we lie to one another and promise to make time before I leave. Other times, we shake hands firmly and wish each other luck, only to do it again when next we run into one another.
My New Self
I am percolating under the forces of this emerging reality. Some unknowable alchemy transmutes my sense of self-worth, the way I see myself. I am not a traveler yet, but neither am I a videogame professional. I don’t really live in Edmonton anymore. I have no home, only destinations.
In suspension between my past and my future, my present is a footnote in the narrative of my life.
The fleeting ghost of a videogame producer moves in exact synch with my body. Someone else than him will do the travel. Some other form of me, having shedded me, will board a plane a month from now.
Such is the price of the first step: you feel the wind mess up your hair as you slip off the cliff, not knowing yet the thrill of the jump.