I’ve hit a wall today. I feel like throwing up. Fact is, I’m here, where I am in life, as a result of my choices. In a word, I made the wrong hypothesis. It’s all very complex, you see; allow me to rewind so that I may tell the story in full.
In 2010 I built a successful lead generation business that brought in monthly what many take home in a year (I tell the story here). At this same time, when I was suddenly making gobs of money, I got back together with the girl I had dated for 5 years after an approximate 24 months broken up. The conditions of the breakup where what you would call nightmarish, but I was foolish, and I suppose I sought closure.
Having gotten back together with this first love of mine, we moved to Seattle.
After 6 months, she left.
I was left alone in a condo we had spent thousands furnishing. I didn’t give a fuck about any of it. Maybe I had started the business and made the money to “win” her back. After all, my initial plan was to “randomly” pull up where she happened to be in a Lamborghini (I was 24); however, Before that ever happened, we reconnected.
Once she was gone, however, the two years of heartache, the business, all of it came crashing down. It was a house of cards. A game I had set up for someone else.
I convinced myself I hated the business and, frankly, I was in that very toxic male mode of “not giving a fuck”. Unattended to, the income dried up.
I took a 10 day trip to Hawaii, and I was every bit as lost as I had been before. Upon my return, I was facing eviction from the condo I was renting, and, suffice to say, the pain of it all was a lot. Dark days.
At about the three month mark after said ex departed, I left Seattle for Milwaukee, at the invite of a good friend whose work was taking him there.
I had no dream, no plan, no nothing. And although I had almost no money, I somehow managed to live a fairly carefree life there for a year; however, by the time I left, I was living in a motel by the airport, and only 1 friend visited me (Garry, I’ll never forget that).
When I left Milwaukee, I came to LA, where I crashed with a friend whom I had met in Santa Barbara, where we had both worked at the same bar.
LA was, in my mind, my favorite city. I felt different there.
I was also poor as a rat. I would walk to the store for a single serving of yogurt and a banana. But I was happy taking long walks through Mid-Wilshire, exploring Koreatown around sunset, headphones on. It was a calm time.
Nonetheless, I needed to feed myself, so I started building websites using the skills I had developed in my lead gen business. I hated it. You get a small deposit, you work your ass off, you get paid the balance, and then you try to find more clients (I suspect many web developers hate their work).
Around this time, while visiting my sister in San Diego, I met someone who would end up being my second love, whom I would date for three years. This is, of course, a novel in it’s own right; however, for today, I’m mainly focusing on work / career.
That said, while we dated, I at first continued building websites; however, I soon thought about entering the lead gen game again, which I did – for all of three days.
On the third day I had been running paid traffic to my landing page, I got a call from a past client (A lead reseller). I was offered a job in LA, where I would be responsible for running their marketing. And although I had already been at an approximate $300 profit for the day, I did something stupid: I took the job.
Then my girlfriend, who had been very convincing in me taking the job, backed out of moving to LA with me. What’s worse, I wasn’t even in LA, I was in Hermosa Beach, which was just a more expensive, more bro-ish version of where I grew up (Pacific Beach). I would have rather been back in Koreatown. On top of that, I wasn’t feeling empowered enough in my new job, and my efforts to communicate this – even accompanied by an offer to forgo my salary till I felt I was paying for myself – all these were met with little response.
I left the job, miserable in a city where I was so alone, and I retuned to San Diego, where I ended up moving into a little apartment in La Jolla Shores, about three blocks from the beach. Around this same time, I was offered a job consulting for another lead gen firm, located in Ohio. It was on a trip there, where I contracted blood poisoning, the result of a faulty ass piece of shit pair of tennis shoes (A story I tell here). The blood poisoning was serious, and it came to be a kind of soft turning point for me.
I was twenty-seven and working very hard to please a girl who wouldn’t even stay at my new place the first night I moved in – on my birthday!
That said, the relationship crashed and burned. We had different values.
As casual as I sound about this now, it was by no means a cakewalk; I was a fucking mess. Another multi-year relationship had ended with me being persona non-grata. These are breakups where you say and do the worst things to each other, which, of course, no matter what end of it you are on, you end up totally deflated, devoid of self-worth. Not exactly a recipe for success.
Now, at this time, I had been writing on my blog for 3 or 4 years (Since Seattle). It was also around this time that stories began to take shape in my head, novels. I knew it – I had known it all along – I was supposed to be a writer. This in mind, I began living what I imagined to be a sort of young writer’s life. I was in no way shape or form concerned one iota about the getting of money. It was like, what had all that been worth? All this chasing of money, only to end up investing in the wrong dreams, which had left me depressed and heartbroken.
Needless to say, it wasn’t long before the Sheriff came and let me know it was time to move out. I had simply stopped functioning. No bills had been paid. My cell phone was cut off. I simply didn’t care.
Of course, I knew all along that I wouldn’t be homeless. When I called my mom and asked if I could stay with her – something I had done before – it was an automatic yes. A friend of her’s even let me use her guest house – the main house which was occupied by various young middle-easterners, all of whom loved to smoke spliffs in the gazebo, where they had moved a TV to watch early morning soccer matches.
Again, I was doing a lot of nothing. Eventually, when a tenant came to rent the guest house, I moved back to my mom’s. I was thirty.
During this time, I had no real future plans or trajectory, other than knowing I was to be a writer. In following this, I spent my days volunteering at the library, and my nights reading everything I could get my hands on. I started to build a decent library; however, I was in my mom’s house, so the books were stacked at first along a wall, then, after, on a door, made like a desk atop two wooden folding chairs.
Not long after, I would cook down a few feet of San Pedro and have my first Mescaline experience – something that would have a profound effect on me, allowing me to see things about the world and myself I had hitherto been unawares of. There’s a reason Huxley called his book, The Doors of Perception.
I had multiple cactus tea experiences, all by myself, on a blanket near the water. Just me and my candles – two non-working cell phones for music (In case one died).
I guess I just wanted to “be”. To experience stillness and possibility.
Soon possibility would be upon me. I would fall in love again.
I remembered laying in Sarah’s bed, sleeping in one morning while she was at brunch, and saying aloud to myself, “Is this the girl you’re going to marry?”
Maybe I’ve been lucky in love. I’ve always thought so – despite things not working out in my twenties.
Sarah and I spent hours talking about what we wanted, and our values were a definite match – she even had psilocybin mushrooms in her freezer.
I soon had moved in with her, and we set up a desk we had found for me. I felt once again compelled to strike out on my own and do something.
I spent countless hours trying to build a User Experience consulting business. It failed. I tried to pivot my model to focus on the financial industry, where I felt I could make the most impact. I didn’t get a single client.
Around this same time, we were tired of apartment living in a beach town. We soon decided to move to LA; however, it would be reading Stephen King’s, On Writing, which would compel us to change our minds.
The image of Stephen King typing away in a shed for hours, living in a trailer, working in a hospital laundry, seemed almost romantic to me.
Fuck, I thought, I need to go all in on my writing.
Besides, neither Sarah nor I was overtly materialistic, so we had no problem with a simple life – particularly one dedicated to the pursuit of my writing.
So, a plan was formed. We would move somewhere cheaper than LA. We opened the laptop and got on google maps and craigslist, zooming out from where we were.
It seemed we might be destined to move to Nor Cal, when we found a reasonably priced three bedroom on the edge of the woods, outside Big Bear, CA. Sarah left her job, working from home for a govt contractor, and I decided I would support us doing websites (It seemed fair, Sarah supported us the first six months), writing in the evenings.
Only, it wasn’t that simple. We moved to the mountains and I spent all most all of my time working, barely scraping by – despite long, often grueling hours to finish projects.
The truth is I was in a very saturated market. There are a billion front-end web people, and the price of the work you do naturally reflects this. But what drove me fucking crazy is that I had hardly written. Life up here in the mountains had become about keeping the lights on, paying the gas.
I had imagined that somehow, I could support us with my web work and write. I had imagined that going after the money didn’t matter.
After all, I felt my writing was the only thing worth investing myself in; I didn’t want to chase money, I wanted to live simply, I wanted to write, to pursue my career as a serious novelist and screenwriter.
This was a great romanticization on my part.
I’ve come to realize plain as day that this was a failed hypothesis. In short, my writing hasn’t progressed as I’ve wanted, and I’ve struggled for months to scratch out a living doing work I loathe.
Not a recipe for happiness. In fact, it was a recipe for disaster.
Early this year, I would up having a full-blown nervous breakdown. The kind where they take you in for three days to observe you. How’s that for bragging rights? Not much.
By the time I was in the hospital, I was relieved to be there. I had had a terrible flu and hadn’t slept for a week. I was a skeleton. The first night I was there, I got up, walked down the hall, and asked the nurse for something to finally get to sleep. I was offered an injection of some sort in the buttocks, which I happily received.
My nervous breakdown over, I came home and started therapy immediately, consoled by the words of Joseph Campbell:
“If the person doesn’t listen to the demands of his own spiritual and heart life and insists on a certain program, you’re going to have a schizophrenic crack-up. The person has put himself off center. He has aligned himself with a programmatic life and it’s not the one the body’s interested in at all. And the world’s full of people who have stopped listening to themselves.”
I began to want to listen to myself more deeply. To avow myself not to do the thing I hate. I also realized that there was no sense in trying to live the starving artist’s life. Being a pauper is simply not for me.
So, where to from here?
Well, I’m certainly not going to continue down the same road with a failed hypothesis. I did that and surely, it’s part of what led me to have a nervous breakdown in the first place. You can’t do the same thing over and over expecting a different result.
It’s become clear to me that I cannot support my writing with freelance web-work.
This is, however, still my current bread and butter, which I have no immediate way of replacing. I can, however, change my expectations.
It’s reasonable to assume I cannot expect to flourish as a writer under these circumstances. So, firstly, I need to drop my expectations of writing until I have a reasonable means of supporting myself, Sarah, the dogs lol.
In conclusion, I’ve been looking into returning to where I started: generating leads. At one time, I was earning $2k a day without much work needed to maintain it. Today, as a freelance web developer, I have to do an immense amount of work to earn the same, and it just hasn’t been practical to write, as I’ve told above.
My new hypothesis is based around the idea of security first. I’ve built a bad life for myself as a starving artist: and maybe, the days of the starving artist are done – they certainly are for me.
I feel today, that it’s my right, my duty to create a new set of circumstances for myself, one in which I am prosperous and able to write. Maybe I just lacked the imagination or the confidence to go after that in the first place. My younger self certainly would have dreamed a better dream, but after my twenties, I had such a bad taste in my mouth about the pursuit of money, I just thought it would be crazy to take that route – particularly after the defeat of two failed consulting business models. But I was never a good consultant. I was never a good employee – even when I was a successful employee I loathed the Sisyphean nature of trading time for money, day in day out.
I said something to Sarah recently, about how there are other people, who, with my knowledge and experience in the lead gen industry would have undoubtedly gone back again and gotten after it. I simply wasn’t hungry before. Now I am.
Thirty-two and starting to build a new life again. I mean, isn’t that what it takes sometimes: getting the shit kicked out of you and getting up again. And maybe there are other people who would not get back up, but I have to.
I just don’t see any other way. And really there’s not. So I have to do what I have to do.
The idea is that I’ll create a comfortable life for myself, and that I’ll once again own my time, which I will invest into my writing. It reminds me of a paradigm I wrote about a while back: Hacking an Open Source Cognitive Model for Goal Prioritization and Attainment, in which I talked about how Elon Musk’s “Software” works. Essentially, we have our wants and we have reality, in between are our goals. By focusing on the right goal prioritization, we expand our reality, allowing us to attain the things we want. Elon long ago wanted to build rockets and cars. He started Zip2 / Paypal to do it. It just wasn’t possible without the capital. The same seems to be true for my writing. I need the capital to be able to commit my bandwidth to fiction, rather than web development.
And it breaks my heart to write all this today, but it’s simply the reality I now find myself in. I wanted to come here to the mountains and have a comfortable life, where I could write. I didn’t create that. I created a life of stress and struggle, and, frankly, I’ve had enough. Thankfully, I’m still young and willing to take risks, I just can’t risk continuing to live like this. It’s been hell. I had a bad hypothesis. Time to try again now.