Without a Net
After a long and exhausting May, I'm pretty much to the point where I just can't talk about another video game for a little while. Even if you dropped a surprise copy of Halo 3 right in my lap, I'd consider it with a quizzical glance at best, and probably not be able to drum up more cogent thoughts than that the DVD was mostly opaque. If there is a well of inspiration from which I draw gaming literature then E3 and our coverage of that organized hysteria drained it the way a man dying of thirst might drain a thimble of water. I am, as they say, sick and tired of talking about that stuff for a while. Besides, my attention is distracted of late, and as is usually the case when that sort of thing happens, I'm inflicting my thoughts upon you.
You see, I'm quitting my job.
I've been very cagey with you, dear readers, since leaving my life as a stay-at-home dad as to what I went on to do. I imagine there are only a very few of you who know what my employment has been in these months, and those few people know only because, for one reason or another, revealing my profession was virtually unavoidable. I've asked those people to not disclose my profession or employer, and they have generally been compliant.
I've piqued your interest, haven't I? It's because I have some sense about creating drama, crafting a paragraph in just an enticing yet vague enough way that the reader feels compelled to keep reading, even if the very next paragraph entirely breaks character and enters a troubling realm of procrastinating self-awareness. And, usually when a writer holds that drama for too long, extending it for effect through artificial conceits, it means they know the climax will be anything but climactic. You see, I also know when I'm about to disappoint the reader. For example:
Well, I'm not ready to tell you what I've been doing yet. You'll just have to wait another month.
I will say this, though. It was a bad job; a soul sucking, mind numbing, creativity squelching, scrotal shriveling, exploration in compressed frustration and hopelessness, made all the worse for having left the constant company of my son. That's not to say I would do things any different given a second chance. If not for this festering pus nugget of a job I wouldn't have accomplished some important goals I'd set, the most important being giving Elysia the opportunity to leave her own pus nugget of a job and have the chance to be a stay-at-home mom. It's also helped me get my new house, this sanctuary from the tumult of the day; a quiet, peaceful, split-level nestled at the back end of an idyllic neighborhood with a big yard and a river view. Those two successes alone make the past ten months worth having been endured.
That's not to say I've come through it unscarred. As Certis revealed to me on our recent trip and on several occasions before I've become increasingly distant, detached, and there was a certainty for some that E3 might be my final hurrah before finally, almost irrevocably, bidding farewell to the site. In hindsight it's an understandable, if troubling, assumption to be made, though what wasn't clear to Certis is that my dealings with him and the site are fairly representative of my general state of mind: distant, detached. I don't remember precisely when I realized that I was cutting myself off from everything just to get through the steady flow of days, but it wasn't a pleasant epiphany. The irony is, of course, that GWJ like my family, my home was a bright spot, a point of pride. I would no more leave GWJ than I would remove one of my own eyes, lance it with a swizzle stick, and drop it in a rather dry martini.
He was right about one thing, though. I had decided to leave something. I would -- will leave my job. The only question is what to do next, and how to convince my family that it's a good idea.
It wasn't until I returned to from E3 with 4 days left of vacation that I found myself with any time to sit and seriously think about where I'd been, where I was heading, and where I wanted to go. Elysia had traveled south with our son to visit her folks while I was away on the West Coast, and I was left here with several days of solitude. The first thing I noticed, even before getting back from LA, was that my enjoyment of my time off was increasingly corrupted by a hollowness in my stomach which grew with each thought I had about my job and how soon I would be back at it. I was physically aching as I guess many people must do at the thought of returning. It was probably that growing sense of dread mingled with the empty house that got me thinking about precisely how the hell I could step off my current path.
And even if I could, what was it I wanted? What didn't I like so much about this job? Wasn't it just the same stuff everyone struggles with? What would I do if not this? I put my mind firmly to the question and realized that there were a great many things I didn't like about my job, and they're probably things everyone doesn't like about their job, so why the hell was I whining so much about it? I had no flexibility. No opportunities to be creative. I couldn't write. I sure as hell wasn't paid enough for the number hours and amount of work I put forth. I didn't benefit from my own work. Above all, I just didn't take any pleasure, any sense of success from the job. There were other problems too, but I'll talk about those later.
It dawned on me that these were the same things Elysia had complained about before she came home. These were the things that drove her to seek her own new path, to make the change she needed to make. These were the things that made her decide to start her own business.
And it had worked.
She had contacts, and talent, and fifteen years of experience in graphic design, and funds for the software, and enough tenacity to walk out the door and become her own boss. Or, at least Ã¢â‚¬Â… kind of. I would think it's fair to say and I say this knowing full well that she's going to read this, and if I'm wrong I'll hear about it that Elysia is successful at her business despite how rarely she actually lets anyone know that she runs a business. It's got to be one of the most successful secret home businesses that I've seen. And, it's because she's just that good at what she does.
So, it occurred to me to wonder. What would happen if someone stepped in to tell people that there was this business, and it was good? What would happen if just a little networking, and a little marketing, and a little promotion happened? What if there was someone who had the time and the inclination to get clients?
And from there, with two days before I had to get back to my job, two days to sit and think and imagine, two days to figure out how it might work, this small vague idea took shape. What if I could contribute to this supposed business; after all Elysia had spent seven years at her former job working with small businesses developing every aspect of their business identity. She knows every professional piece of design software, has great contacts, and knows how to design anything from letterhead to logos to flyers to catalogs. She's fast. She's efficient. And she's damn good. But, where she is the technical expert on the scene, I could be part of the creative end, could write copy, could do the basic overflow design work, could meet and brainstorm with clients, could do all the legwork, could network and develop new customers. In short, I could with great satisfaction do the parts of the work that she hates. The more I thought about it, the more it seemed like such an obvious idea that I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it before.
Now, all I had to do was sell our new business to my first and, I imagined, toughest customer. I had the "vision" (tm), but now I had to paint the picture for someone else. I had to convince my partner that what she really wanted was for me to wedge my way into her happy situation. To be honest, the more enthusiastic I became about the idea, the more I was certain that she'd never go for it. Have you ever bought a lottery ticket for a really big jackpot? Do you remember how you spend the hours between the time you buy the ticket and the time reality reminds you that no one ever wins those things dreaming of how you're going to manage all that lovely money? It was like that. I had my ticket, but nobody ever wins a prize that big. Reality would come crashing down soon enough.
But, inexplicably Elysia bought into the idea; slowly at first, but with increasing enthusiasm and with not nearly as much trepidation as she's completely entitled. Which is how we decided I should quit my job and come home to start our new business. And so, I've spent the past week writing up a business plan, learning design basics, talking to our financial advisor, hiring an accountant, reading any piece of start-up literature I can find, and spending virtually every extra moment putting pieces in place before the end of June when I walk the high-wire without a net.
I wonder if many home businesses spring from such moments of realization that the pieces are actually in place. Isn't this a kind of carpe diem, a dash through a briefly open door? Isn't it noble, or definitive, or at least worth regretting later on if it should not succeed. And if there are regrets later, wouldn't the regret for not having tried be greater than that for having tried and failed? What if it succeeds? I wonder how many successful businesses have taken shape out of a dark time of life, part an act of desperation, but also of profound optimism. I wonder if I'm being intensely selfish in destabilizing everything. I wonder if I should be more frightened of this plunge. I wonder if it will be far more difficult, or far less rewarding than I imagine. But, it feels like a good move. It feels like something we should do. The foundation is there, and the desire to work. Is it crazy? Would it be worth doing if it weren't?
Anyway, all I'm saying is: wish us luck.