Why You Don’t Want to Live in Ohio

Because it’s just kind of terrible.

Well, that was a short post. Join me next time, when I talk about-

Oh, you were expecting more details? I suppose I can indulge you.

I spent a couple of years in Ohio, largely living in Azeroth, as I put it, spending almost all of my time playing World of Warcraft. WoW was pretty great at the time, vanilla was my first MMO and I loved it. Gave myself a bit of the ol’ carpal tunnel spending nearly every waking hour levelling, farming, and occasionally making people’s lives miserable (I played on a PvP server. I loved world PvP, and warlock PvP, and I had a rogue named CruelGank. See On Names for some thoughts on how that played out. (Short version: gray daggers, garrote, Redridge Mountains. If this sentence is just so much noise to you, congratulations on not wasting your time in this fashion.))

We were living with Kierstal’s grandparents, who’d asked us to come down there because they were getting on in years and were having difficulty taking care of themselves. They were nice enough people, but most of the other people I met in the state were… not so great. I’m not interested in saying a bunch of harsh things about individual people. I’d rather talk about the atmosphere in the area.

There was a strong current of being ignorant and proud of it that made my skin crawl. I imagine that there are states in which this trait is more common, but I’ve never had to live in any of them. Meeting many people there, I felt a strong sense of, “What I know is everything that is important, don’t waste my time with teaching me anything.” At the time, I wasn’t as driven in personal growth, but the sense that someone would not just not be actively pursuing learning, but would actively shut it down evokes a sense of revulsion.

There was also the way people tended to be very, very traditional, in ways I found uncomfortable. At the time, I knew I was trans but hadn’t done anything active about it. I had also had experience in being polyamorous, and I was kink-curious. All of these put a fairly strong separation between me and most people I’d encounter there.

In any case, on to more specific pieces of my time there. As I said, we were there for her grandparents, and so we didn’t feel we needed to do much beyond what they needed, some heavy lifting, some yard work. Reasonably easy stuff. They were less than pleased with this – they expected me to get a job. After all, I was “male”, and they were very traditional, that way. I had no interest in holding a job – while I hadn’t worked out the reason most work doesn’t suit me, I did know that I felt a fair amount of dissatisfaction working in most realms I knew, and I’d just had a falling out with Martina not too long before, so I didn’t have a connection to find anyone to work for, and a disinterest in PCA work as well.

I spent a lot of my time there thinking about gender as it related to me. My dysphoria had gotten worse over time, and felt like a significant contributor to my gaming time. After all, at least when I was playing a game I could be seen as the person I was. Then I’d break from the game, to get food, or go to the bathroom, or go to bed, and be back in the form I found so objectionable. It was like getting methadone for part of the day, and then going into withdrawls for the rest of it. It was rough on me.

Another factor making life less than ideal there was Kierstal’s mother. She had been at a low point in her life through most of her life, and had leaned on her parents quite a bit to get by. She had a boyfriend at the time who got her into meth, stole some hardware from a home depot, and ripped off the grandparents; he was supposed to do some work on the window frames, and left the job roughly half done.

I recall at one point getting into a shouting match with Kierstal’s mother in the dining room at this point. I no longer recall exactly what the conversation started as – I think she was trying to extract money the grandparents didn’t really have, since her money was all going to meth, and her boyfriend wasn’t really working. Regardless, partway through it, I blew my top and started shouting at the top of my lungs. Not something I’m proud of, but hey. Fuel for current me to grow from, right?

After more than a year there, things went downhill pretty fast. Kierstal’s grandmother fell and couldn’t get up, even with our help, and refused to be taken to the hospital for days. She didn’t have the obvious signs of a stroke, so I didn’t push as hard on that as I could have. I imagine the other players in that scene have their own guilt from it, but yeah. I also don’t think that until just now, reflecting on the situation, that I’d updated enough from these events. Truly it is said that past you is always an incurable idiot.

From there, she went downhill fairly quickly, and died before long. Kierstal’s grandfather decided to move in with his son and sell the house, and we were left with a need to get out in a hurry. I reached out to some people for help, and got the advice to apply to return to UMass from my mother, and also a job offer from Martina, so back to Mass we went, in a Uhaul funded on borrowed funds, and with two crying cats in crates up front with us. Interesting way to cross the country.

Tune in next time, when I talk about taking another shot at college, and what happens when college, and work, and being the person responsible for most of the rent on your place, come together!

Attleboro and Hadley

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!