This post was uncomfortable to approach, but necessary. I am posting it to share the complete story, but it will not make me look good. I fell short of the standards I hold to now, but those times are part of why I built these standards. Hard times build strong standards; the Hell Year post will support this.
At the end of my last biographical post, I had just left college, unsure of what my future would be, but certain I wanted it to have more gaming and less work. Having no money and no plan, I followed the default path of my generation: I leaned on my mother for housing and upkeep. Mom is a wonderful woman in several ways, but infinitely accommodating she is not. She pushed, hard, for me to get a job, and after a fair amount of pavement pounding, I found employment at a foundry, working ZA-12, a zinc-aluminum alloy that is used in many cast-metal applications. It was, as work goes, okay. I got to look at beautiful molten metal, there were interesting tools and I got bounced around to a variety of tasks, which is a great way to get more out of ADHD employees, and there was some affordance for goofing around.
Still as the new-situation shininess wore off, I found myself less and less satisfied. I’d like to say that I had some sort of principled stand, or that I knew I was meant for greater things… but nah. In reality, I disliked the commute (Biking a few miles in cold rain can be a miserable experience), I disliked spending so much time away from the things I wanted to be doing, like gaming (At the time both video and tabletop) and really, just… taking direction. I wasn’t really into the whole provide value to continue surviving deal. I was a free spirit!
I ghosted that job. I think I might even have left my last paycheck, I just didn’t have the drive to go back for it. Instead I went to Connecticut for a weekend, to LARP, with the brother I mentioned in the last post in this series. Arriving a day early for a small-time LARP can be exciting, because the night is dark, and full of animal noises. We did manage to get a fire going, and we stayed up the night, feeding it. In the morning, the owner of the LARP showed up, and was fairly surprised to see us there. We NPC’d for the weekend, playing characters both generic and unique.
After that… well, I wasn’t really sure where to go, and it turned out my brother was in similar straits, although I do not now recall his exact situation. I do recall that we both wanted to get back to the Pioneer Valley, and I found a way to do so – we would be housemates with a member of the fraternity I had joined.
Across the state to South Hadley went we, laden with our possessions and a certainty that the world was on our side. It even seemed to be true, for a while. We got work at a McDonald’s for a few months, before being fired on Thanksgiving for not coming in. Given we were getting around via bus, I didn’t really see this as fair, but honestly I was sick enough of the job by then that I swore off fast food work, an oath I have managed to keep. Minimum wage was not worth being burned, or the fine coating of oil we returned home wearing after every shift.
Now, here’s where things get a little complex, and disputed. I’m sure neither my brother nor I had more than a couple of months of rent in hand at that point. For years he and I maintained that our housemate drank the rent money. I’ve believed it for a long time – the man certainly had a problem (and I hope wherever you are, things have gotten better for you) with alcohol, and he could have, but I don’t trust myself not to have recast that part of my history to put myself in a better light. Certainly my dedication to Truth was less solid, in those days.
In the end, the result was the same: No jobs, no place to live. My brother and I took refuge in a stairwell in a garage on the Umass campus. It turns out that (some) people can sleep across concrete stairs. I can’t in good conscience recommend it.
This is as far as I meant to take you today. Tune in next time, when Ratheka gets a profession!