When I left off last week, I had just quit the only job I’ve held longer than a year at a time, broken a decade long silence with my mother, and given my cat and Martina’s to someone who could take them in. I packed what I owned and UPSed it, and got on a plane.
This was all pretty scary, and going to Colorado was as well; with the noted bug with long-term employment, and my stellar educational history (for those of you who haven’t been keeping score at home, I have neither a high school nor college diploma) I was pretty worried about picking up work, but while I wasn’t sure of my future, I knew my past couldn’t continue, and one of my valuable qualities, I think, is being able to recognize that, and then to start walking.
So I walked onto a plane, and went further from “home” (The Pioneer Valley) than I’ve ever been, into the home shared by, as I mentioned, my guild leader: Dread Mistress Verana Bloodrose, Our Lady of Fluids and Flowers, Savior of Patio Furniture, First of Her Name, and Gray (no titles) who kindly offered me space without immediately demanding rent – I paid rent while I had money left, and when I ran out, they went so far as to buy me food and other desirables.
At the time I was an officer of The Final Frontier, and the main tank in our raiding. I spent ~ ten hours a week being out in front and getting pounded on for the common good, and a lot of the remaining hours ingame either talking, giving advice, or doing stuff to advance the guild.
So I spent the rest of October and November recovering from sleep deprivation and the stress I’d been under, and starting to apply to jobs. In December Blood got a job offer from a company known then as Vantiv, later to be bought out by WorldPay, and I think they just go bought out again by some other player in the space. I applied to them using her as a reference / referral, and was hired myself to a training started in February.
Aside from the commute it was in many ways the best job I’d held. I was making more hourly than I ever had, and I had paid leave. PCAs can’t even get paid for all of the hours we were actually doing things, so you can imagine how novel being paid not to be there was.
As to the commute, I rode with Blood while we were both in training, and after that I biked – 8 miles each way, and while Colorado is gorgeous, it is not flat. But I had the Animas River trail to follow most of the way – I often saw deer, and once I had the experience of being scared silly by seeing a bear cub (Where’s the mother where’s the mother where’s the mother PEDAL HARDER). I saw meteors in the predawn starscape, and I saw a mountain burning at one point. There was even a certain amount of pride to take in being able to ride 16 miles a day – I’ve now biked a distance equivalent of coast to coast in less than a year.
For six weeks, I trained in how to handle incoming calls – where to send the ones that weren’t for me in technical support, and the many ways credit card readers and reporting can go awry and what do to about it. I remained gung-ho about my employment through this time.
in the following months, there was a slow decline in my work satisfaction. People I enjoyed working with departed, and I found as the novelty wore off , it honestly wasn’t a very good job. with the local cost of living, the pay was actually fairly poor, and when confronted on this, management took the stance that to live in Durango was a privilege and it was unreasonable to expect to be well-paid, too. I learned that having a business, even a reasonably successful one, was no guarantee of intelligence or civility, and that I, as technical support, would often bear the brunt of people’s frustration at being confronted with technology they didn’t understand, and distrusted.
What I didn’t realize until later is that another factor, one that I think was the heaviest, is that the work I was doing didn’t really improve anything. It mattered little in any real sense if I were there or not – the wheels of commerce would grind on regardless; I wasn’t actually improving the world.
Around midsummer, I started looking for other outlets. Gaming wasn’t satisfying, and neither was my work, any longer. I had been lightly following the rationality community for some time – I often had some bit of the Sequences as the comment seen by hovering over my name on the instant messenger at work, when I wasn’t quoting CGP Grey. I’ve read Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality more times than I’ve read Worm, and I think that says a lot – I really love Worm. I decided to get actually connected, and I joined the discord linked to from Slate Star Codex, which I think is a source of some truly excellent posts.
From there, I made friends, which led, in a fairly reasonable series of steps, to joining (a synthetic syncretic religion|a cult) – Origin. With the aim of destroying all evil in the universe, we were not thinking small, at least. Origin was an attempt to build a self-reinforcing, self-extending memeplex that would grow to be embraced by the world at large.
While it failed in that goal, it did evoke some changes in me. I started reducing my meat consumption, and I started to think I had a place in the efforts to save the world – not a leading role, but for quite some time I had considered myself a sergeant or lieutenant in the the world – someone whose role was to assist, to help another or others to achieve the goals they set.
I started spending less time gaming – clearing a night to make Origin meetings, and thinking about the state of the world more when previously I had chatted in guild and public channels. I started thinking of the world as something I had to do something about, and not just something that happened to me.
My lack of focus on the game had costs – anothe player, who did nothing but tank, was better than me and wanted my role, and I didn’t have enough focus to fight her, but I also didn’t want to be supplanted. Painfully, though, I had to admit that I couldn’t outtank her, if she chose to, and I stepped down.
Other changes – Gray decided he wanted to move on from Durango, and Blood wanted to move on from Vantiv. He went across the state, and she went across the country to be with her partner in California. I found a place with some other co-workers, smaller but closer to work and cheaper. I started looking at ways to advance inside the company, but it felt hollow to pursue more money, and I did little about it.
One morning in October I woke up in agony. My right piriformis muscle had cramped, and my right leg was a construct of broken glass and molten lead connected to nerves. This was not a condition I could ride into work in, and I ended up spending more than a week out, spent mostly lying on the floor in agony and waiting for the muscle relaxants to work. To this day part of my right leg is numb from the damage done.
This almost seemed to be an inflection point. All of the joy had gone out of working, and it was just a pure drag. I was grinding for money that was barely paying the bills and that I’ve never really had the same kind of draw to that most people seem to, and it just wasn’t enough. I wanted Out.
I had a conversation with Mark (previously mentioned in The Hell Year) about this, and he told me that he could give me a live-in position with him. At the time, it seemed like PCA was the only job I was going to be able to hold in any lasting way, so I jumped for it. I put in my two weeks notice, I informed my landlord that I’d be going, and then I started trying to plan the trip. I asked Mark for dates to plan around, and got back empty assurances – things world work out, he was just a little busy.
Finally, while I was visiting my parents, I gave him an ultimatum – that if I didn’t hear back in the next two days, I’d need to figure something else out.
Ne never responded, and I was left with no job, a very temporary living space, and no plan. However, it might have occurred to you, reading this narrative, that I am lucky. I had not long before started a new relationship with my current primary, and he had an answer for me:
Go to California.
Go to Berkeley, find the community there, and get connected up.
He would pay my way, and I would do worthwhile things.
This was the start of the most recent, most interesting, and all around best segment of my life thus far, and I’ll start detailing the first subsection next week.