4 Years Without Income
Holding new perspectives about the blessings of life.
It’s only a series of daily miracles and blessings that enables me to write these words to you at all. A few years before the pandemic was even a thing, I walked out of a job I had held for many years. It was a move of sheer desperation. It took every ounce of willpower I had to do something that the world would have called me insane for doing.
I left with no backup plan, no notice, none of the things that modern society tells you that you need to have in order to survive or function. I was already close to a mental breakdown as it was, which finally spurred the decision one morning when I woke up crying saying “I can’t take this anymore.” What was it that I couldn’t take? What pushed me to that point of hysterical desperation? Stagnation, believe it or not.
No, it wasn’t abuse, or malpractice, or horrible working conditions, or an unappreciative boss, or being overworked, or any of those other things that would seem logical for someone to walk off a steady, good-paying job. It was simply feeling like I couldn’t go into the same place and pretend to care about the things I clearly didn’t anymore. I had been lying to myself for years, going through the motions, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore, and it hadn’t been for a long time. Boredom and disinterest prevailed, and I put up with those feelings for a good few years, because that’s what you’re “supposed to do” according to everybody you ever ask.
I remember even I used to say things like: “If the worst you can say about your job is that you’re bored, you don’t have much to complain about.” And for the most part, I believed that to be true. Until the day I desperately left my financial stability behind for that very simple reason.
It sounds like a lot of things, just expressing the words. Spoiled, privileged, naive, entitled, ungrateful, foolish. It could be judged or viewed as any manner of negative things from outside perspectives and other circumstances, and I was even mentally beating up on myself about it for a while, which didn’t help anything. But in the moment, it was a strong feeling of needing to change the situation, of finally being fed up with the same old routines, and it all felt just as paralyzing as any other reason people would strongly desire change in their life. For me, it was a seemingly absurd but absolutely necessary shift, and it set me on a new path.
For the first few months or so, I had a period where I simply had to recover my own sensibilities, for lack of a better way of phrasing it. But right from the start, I was relying on the goodwill and support of those around me to get by. I never could have imagined how long that would remain the case.
Reflecting on that time now, I realize that quitting was, in truth, an act of taking some of my own power back. “You can’t just quit!” I recall a friendly co-worker joking with me on the morning when I walked out. He meant that in an “everybody would love to quit their day job and go live their dreams, but nobody can afford to just walk out” sort of way. My reply was something simple along the lines of “Watch me. I really am quitting.”
I had outgrown my old job of many years, not because I was amazing at it, or because there was nowhere left for me to advance up the corporate ladder, quite the contrary, actually. Rather than outgrowing it for any of the regular reasons, I outgrew it from an internal perspective of inner growth and a strong desire for a greater sense of freedom. I was no longer willing to keep giving my power away, apparently not even for the financial stability.
What, exactly, do I mean by “giving my power away” or “taking my power back” you might be wondering? That was something that took me a long time to begin to understand. I’m still uncertain I know the full of it. But essentially, this experience taught me that I am the one who is in control of my life. I have the power to choose no matter what, even if the choice seems absolutely absurd, I still get to choose for myself. I don’t have to keep repeating the same scenarios over and over. All I have to do to have a new life experience is decide to choose something different than before.
It’s also a reflection of the fact that my priorities had changed. I used to believe that I wasn’t allowed to chase after my dreams. Somehow I had gotten this idea that I had missed my opportunity simply because it hadn’t happened at an earlier, more logical point in my life, such as after high school or after I lost my sense of direction halfway through college.
All my life I had been taught in one way or another, by my parents, by my teachers, by example from others, by society, and the world at large, that I had to be “responsible” instead. You know, get a steady job, give money to help your family, pay rent and bills, be a “contributing member of society” as you so often hear, take care of those around you even if it means you have to sacrifice just a tiny bit of yourself and your own life desires in the process.
But this experience also helped to teach me that compromising on loyalty and honesty with the depth of your own truths isn’t the way to reach a deeply satisfying life. Sure, it can look great on the outside, but something on the inside will be crying out. Sooner or later, that something, whatever form it takes for each person, demands to be heard and known.
For me, the moment that shifted things was having someone tell me it was okay to leave the responsibility side of what I was “supposed to do” behind for a while and to do what felt right to me. I wouldn’t give myself permission to pursue my own deep inner passions and dreams I had given up on, but someone opened that door again for me just a tiny bit by telling me it was okay. Once it was open, I had no choice but to move through it, for my sanity and mental health, for my well-being, and for my own greater life purpose to begin to unfold.
All I knew when I left my old job was that I wanted to make a video game. I’ve always loved them and had a strong desire to find where my own limits were in relation to the creation of one. I already had simple-to-use tools to aid me in doing so. And now I had the time and desire to really pursue it with minimal distractions.
What I didn’t realize was that it would be almost 2 years of working on it until I saw it to completion. During those years I definitely found where my limits were, worked around the ones I could, and managed to accomplish a long-held dream of making a game. And how wonderful that accomplishment felt when I finished it. It’s an unusual thing, a non-violent role-playing game with metaphysical themes called Death? Preposterous! I was, and still am, proud of myself for seeing a long-term project like that to completion for the first time in my entire life, and for the curious you can play it on my itch.io page.
Another thing I wasn’t counting on, was that in the 2 years that followed, rather than being able to have a decent source of income from first sales, and later donations when I switched to that model, the game has only generated around $40 to date. Most of that came from family and friends 2 years ago when it was first released. That’s not even enough to get through 2 weeks of usual living expenses, let alone a month, let alone 4 years.
If it wasn’t for the help I have received from those around me, continuing to support me over these past 4 years, reminding me so very much of my teenage years before I had a job, only now I “know better” as an adult (Right? That’s the pressure from all of society anyway.) I would frankly have been out on the streets a few months after leaving my job. It’s been humbling, having to rely on people so completely for my finances and survival again despite my age. For a while I felt very guilty about it, beating up on myself, calling myself things like “lazy” or “selfish” or “spoiled” or any imaginable sort of things you could call somebody who is basically an adult “failure” in the eyes of society at large and in terms of contributing financially to society.
And yet, even though I know it sounds baffling for me to say, the path I am on still feels right for me even with this downtrodden period. Thankfully I found a different perspective along the way, one of deep gratitude and appreciation to those around me and to life itself, and I endeavor to express it as well and as often as I can. I realized rather than beating up on myself for going through this necessary period of self-change and inner growth, I could also just not do that. It sounds simple, but it’s a profound realization coming from a person who is used to being mentally hard on themselves for perceived failure.
I could either choose to hate myself for where I am in life, and make decisions out of fear and guilt that lead me straight back to a situation just like the one I left years ago, or I could focus on the things I am grateful for instead. Thanking everyone and everything for being in my life became my priority. Thanking everyone for continuing to support me and believe in me while I work through this time of humbling reliance on others helped me to accept myself, and allowed me to regard others around me with good feeling thoughts rather than negative fears and worries.
I used to take paychecks for granted as a matter of course. I was often generous with my money, not a miser by any means, but I got really used to money always being there. I became accustomed to the point that the value of it, the true blessings that it represented, escaped me after a while.
This experience has brought me back to appreciating every dollar, every penny, every single act of generosity that has come my way, and the miraculous ways and timings with which they would appear in my life. I understand those who literally have to choose between purchasing things like food or medicine. Of paying rent or paying the electricity bill. Not just conceptually or logically, but from experience. In other words, I no longer take for granted the wonderful gift and blessing that even small amounts of money can be to those most in need of it.
For the past few months, I have been blessed and fortunate enough to have found some freelance writing work that ends up paying about $100 a month for the number of articles I am reasonably able to complete. It takes a good bit of my time each week, and logically I know it’s still nowhere near sustainable income for everyday life, nor money worth the amount of time invested. But it is dependable and consistent, and for the first time in 4 years, I have a financial situation that feels like it’s starting to flow again.
It’s also writing that I have been enjoying so far overall. I feel very appreciative for every bit of compensation that I receive, and simply for the fact that I got chosen for the position at all. It has been my first professional experience with writing, and I love that I have been given the opportunity to start down a new path.
It will be exciting to see where things go from here. But for now, I’m taking my first tentative steps back into rejoining the world at large. I see and acknowledge that my life is filled with countless blessings, money being one of them, that I couldn’t recognize or appreciate before my 4-year journey.