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WHEW. Damn. I mean, DAMN. They're all gone. THEY'RE ALL. FUCKING. GONE. My basement has gone from enviable mancave to simply a cave, almost as if it's spirit was sucked out through a twisty straw.
For those of you wondering what exactly is gone, I recently wrote a very long blog post shouting to the heavens my intentions of selling my massive videogame collection to fund a venture in teaching English in Vietnam. However, unlike many of the various declarations about my future I have made to various people in my life over the last two years, I actually went and did it! Over the past two weeks, I have been, without question, the most motivated I have been to achieve something in a long time, and my productivity has been through the roof.
At the very start of the process, I was petrified that I hadn't given myself enough time and that I had bitten off way more than I can chew. Now? I wish I had a time machine to fast forward to my departure. The ferocity in which I attacked every aspect of this excursion, from fund acquisition to frivolous paperwork, instills within me a confidence that, even after selling off a part of my soul to do it, I have made a fantastic decision.
The soul selling was the first aspect of the operation: The collection was where the vast majority of the funds needed for my journey was going to come from, so the plan really couldn't be set in motion until they were sold. Now, as I hinted at in the previous post, I can now confirm that our fun little hobby is a HORRENDOUS INVESTMENT. Seriously, I do not want to know how what my net financial loss on videogames is, and you probably don't want to know either. Lucky for me, I have a friend who used to run a local videogame shop here in town, and he came over for a couple beers and to help appraise my collection.
My initial guess as to how much I could get for my collection if I were to sell it individually was around $8,000. Turns out I was right on that one, as that was the estimation he also threw out. But what does that actually entail? First off, it would take dozens, if not hundreds of man hours over a long period of time to list, photograph, ship, and collect on such a large collection. Factor in the percentage that Ebay or Amazon would take, along with the inevitable percentage of welchers and large percentage of games that will probably never sell, and the act of actually collecting that $8,000 is another matter entirely.
Since online selling is something that I (up until very recently) had no experience with, he said my best bet was to hopefully find a large quantity online seller who would be willing to take the collection wholesale at a bulk rate. Once again, not exactly a home run, as finding someone who does such a thing in my area with thousands of dollars on hand who wants to deal in a market like videogames was not a guarantee. With so many things going against me, he made the final recommendation of listing the whole thing on Craigslist for $5,000 (knowing that I wouldn't get $5,000), and settling for $3-4,000 if I could find a buyer.
$3,000? That's it!??! Again, he was right, and his honest advice is why I sought it out in the first place, but, goddamn man, $3,000 for my pride and joy? My collection, featuring dozens if not hundreds of rare, precious videogames and a lifetime of memories, is worth about as much as a 20-year-old Honda Accord in decent shape? Ouch indeed. Again, he stressed that actually finding someone to dance the tango with was going to be the hardest part, so I immediately got to work doing a complete inventory on damn near every game and console I owned, leading to what has to be one of the more detailed oriented Craigslist postings in recent memory.
The first E-mail I received was from a man in Lebanon wanting to purchase the collection by mailing me cash. He then sent photos of stacks of twenties to “prove I'm legit”. Right. Then there were plenty of E-Mails from people asking to buy parts of the collection, even though I explicitly stated that was not an option in the posting. Lucky for me, I actually was able to find an interested party. Like my friend had suggested, the man was a online seller who knew how to unload something like this, and he low-balled me, again, just as my friend suggested would happen.
I was aware the odds of me actually getting $5,000 for the whole thing were pretty slim, and I grew up under the tutelage of an immensely frugal man in my father who taught me to never pay full price for just about anything, so I knew a negotiation was bound to happen. I won't get into the details, but we were both very upfront in the process about costs and how our numbers clashed with each others numbers, but we eventually came to a compromise. For $3,145, he would get the vast majority of the collection, with the exception of the Xbox One, Vita, and PS4 materials, which I kept for the purposes of selling myself at higher markups to get myself closer to my $5000 goal.
Again, if you're planning to send little Jimmy to college with your old Nintendo games, you may want to check yourself.
So then it happened: he came to my house, we chatted for a bit, he handed me a wad of cash, and I helped him load it all into a truck. I remember the particularly loud thud from the door of the moving van as it slammed shut with my collection behind it. The finality of it all was pretty apparent. He was actually a pretty rad dude and pleasant to work with, and the whole process took about two days, so we both got what we wanted. I remember sitting in my recently excavated basement, looking at empty shelves while glancing at the envelope of cash I was given. I had achieved what I had sought out to do: Turn my collection into the means of setting off towards adventure.
The next day was a busy one: I paid for the TESOL program and purchased my one-way ticket to Cambodia. The school I selected trains people to teach all over Southeast Asia, and all of the students spend the first two weeks of their training at a central hub in Phnom Penh before heading to their destination country to finish the course. So that's it, right? Unfortunately, those were only the first (and maybe the easiest) steps on the mountain of tasks I need to accomplish before I am 100% ready to depart on March 13th.
For those keeping track at home, the total time I had allotted myself to sell nearly everything I own and prepare for moving half way across the world was approximately seven weeks. This is not a lot of time.
My desire to get started meant I had to move quickly. The first step was acquiring my passport, and it's rather nervewrecking knowing the most important document needed to get you across the world takes 4-6 weeks to process, and you leave in seven. I was assured it would arrive on time, so after $145 and a goofy looking photo, I was set.
Luckily that was the extent of the paperwork I needed to do for Uncle Sam, however the paperwork required from Uncle Ho Chi Minh is quite a bit more substantial. First off, I need a personal criminal background done on myself by the Oregon State Police, which required me going to my local Lutheran Center to get fingerprinted. Yup. The Lutheran Center. Why there? Well it turns out numerous church groups help people with their immigration paperwork, so official fingerprinting is something they offer. That was $20, and filing the background report request with shipping was another $43. It was around this point where I realized this trip was probably going to cost more than I had originally anticipated.
The other piece of paperwork the Vietnamese government needed was my college degree. This was actually somewhat exciting for me, as it finally gave me an excuse to actually pick up my degree from The Portland State admissions office where it had been sitting since I graduated over two years ago. Again, fairly easy to do, although parking downtown is never a particularly fun experience. However, there was a slight pause when I was handed my actual diploma. The reality of actually never needing this document until this day left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth, but that feeling was immediately washed away with pride. Because now, after years of bitching about the job market and openly questioning if pursuing it was even worthwhile, I realized how important it was. How much I grew in college, and the skills that I learned in the park blocks of PSU. I thought about how this trip wouldn't be happening if I hadn't bunkered down and worked tirelessly to get this diploma. I thought about how I was the youngest person in the history of my family tree to get their Bachelor's degree, and how my family promised me this was the beginning of big things for me.
They were right. They were maybe off by a couple of years, but they were right.
So, with both the background check and diploma in hand, I had to get them both notarized. The original copies no less, so the Vietnamese Government wanted me to have someone use a big ol' stamp to clutter up my new college degree. This lead to a fun conversation at the UPS store where I had to explain that I did not care they were going to 'ruin' my diploma. Another $20 there for the notarization’s. On top of getting them notarized, they ALSO wanted me to go to the state capital building in Salem to get both documents authenticated by the Secretary Of The State Of Oregon. Again, Another $20 there, plus another $20 in gas and food to my brother for driving me out there. These things add up. So, I have to take those two notarized, authenticated, original documents, and mail them to the Vietnamese Embassy in D.C, along with two certified copies of each document, a scan of my photo ID, two passport photos of my face, a prepaid return shipping envelope to get my original copies back, and, oh yeah, $100 for 'authentication fees'.
But wait, there's more! What trip half way across the country would be complete without a trip to the doctor to get caught up on immunizations. After getting a check up, a Hepatitis A shot, a tetanus shot, typhoid fever vaccination pills, and some antibiotics to take with me for when I inevitably get the most ferocious diarrhea on the planet while my body adapts to the food, we're down another $300. I decided to take my chances against Japanese Encephalitis, which would've been another $428. I've read that, in the rural areas where that disease is possible to get, the school you work for will pay for that one, so I'll wait. I hope so, because one of my goals in life is to not get a disease that eats your brain, which Japanese Encephalitis does. That sounds kinda lame.
Oh, and while this is topical, get your fucking kids vaccinatated, you selfish, idiotic, society endangering lunatics.
One of the themes in the blogs I've been reading from fellow ex-pats who went down this road is that the trip always costs more money than you initially estimate. This is turning out to be emphatically true. And I haven't even got to the various equipment I would need for the trip. The main new piece of gear needed would be a laptop, which would obviously be useful for a variety of work reasons. I haven't had a laptop for around six years, and I am absolutely astonished at what I was able to get for $330. I got a HP laptop with a quad core processor, 4 gigs of ram, built in 8400 videocard, and a whopping 1TB hard drive, which I am quickly filling up with all kinds of games and video content. It can't run the newest AAA games, but it runs all the oldies just fine and I've got a fuckton of Steam games I never finished. Plus, it runs Valkyria Chronicles A-Ok, so what more do you need? You can get a lot of laptop these days for not a lot of cash if you don't care about it being a touchscreen or being able to separate it into a tablet.
Next item was a decent little point 'n shoot digital camera. I'm not an expert photographer, but having some good pictures to remind me of this excursion is something I will value down the road, so I picked up a FujiFilm Finepix T550, which seems like a fun little camera. Plus it was on clearance for $70 brand new from $160, and frugality is something that is starting to become more and more important as my ship date draws nearer. Next up was a recommendation from my dad: Get a watch, because fuck phones. So I got a nice Timex weekender on sale for $20, which I hope will keep on ticking as it takes its licking. A quality backpack is a necessity for traveling, so I dropped another $40 on a nice Swissgear backpack which a compartment for my laptop along with sections for holding important documents.
Also, since Vietnam is obviously not as developed as the USA, things we take for granted here like sunscreen and deodorant are considered luxury items there, which makes them both hard to find and very expensive. So let's add another $60 worth of toothpaste, a travel toothbrush, disposable razors, sunblock, pit sticks, shaving cream, daily multivitamins, mosquito repellant, neem pills (IE: More mosquito repellant), and dental floss. Oh, and don't forget to plan on paying for random things you may need, such as a cheap flight out of Cambodia that you never plan on using to show immigration services as proof of onward travel just so they let you into the country (another $120 there).
So, up to this point, I have spent a grand total of around $4,300, and I haven't even got to the airport yet. However, luckily for me (I'm sure this statement will come back to kick me in the nuts), I'm fairly certain that, outside of the estimated $1,500 I would need as money on hand to pay for my first two months stay in Vietnam, I do believe I have filed almost all of the needed paperwork and paid for everything I need to purchase before my departure. Considering my goal was to have all of that done by March 1st and I sit here writing this on Feburary 8th, I'd say I'm well ahead of schedule and very much on top of everything I need to be on top of.
The problem is getting that $1,500. As of this writing, I have none of that. I was originally planning on keeping my Vita and PS4, but it's looking like they're on the way out, especially now that it looks like my laptop will provide me with damn near all of the gaming I would need. So I'll be selling those, along with my bed, a few books, some vinyl records, my gaming desktop, an old HDTV, and a bunch of clothes that won't be making the trip.
Unfortunately, while that would get me close to my goal, it doesn't get me all the way there, so I decided to use the internet to help with the last bit. That's right, I set up a GoFundMe page. Up until now, it's been listed privately on my Facebook page as a way for close friends and family to help me out with my trip, and they have been very generous so far (especially my mom, who is amazing). The blog I wrote a couple weeks back was really me just venting my frustrations and letting me yell on a soapbox for a bit, but I was frankly somewhat surprised that a few of you took the time to wish me luck and hoped for my success. I'll be honest: The trip is pretty much funded. If your charity dollar is stretched thin, you may want to consider donating to more Earth threatening causes than getting my dumbass to Vietnam, but if you would like to contribute and help make sure I don't die alone in Saigon, you can contribute at http://www.gofundme.com/kwqx6k . I promise that any money you contribute will go exclusively to this educational endeavor and making sure I am adequately fed and housed while setting up my new life in a new part of the world, and any amount you donate would be insanely appreciated and used properly. Here's a little video I made explaining my crowdfunding venture.
DAMN THIS IS LONG. Okay, I'm cutting this off now. I'm sure I'll have more tales to tell of the various hoops I will be jumping through before I leave for Cambodia, and I plan on making a full breakdown of everything I'm bringing with me, so this isn't the last time I'll be writing here. Enough of you guys expressed interest in updates, and this experience has actually stirred up the urge to write within me, so I look forward to keeping y'all posted about the crazy left turn my life is currently taking.
I got fired last week.
I'm not going to sit here and pretend that I had nothing to do with my termination. Sure, I got some real bad things to say about my previous employer, but I was a pain in the ass to deal with on occasion, particularly over the last year, where frustrations with my career and path in life have made me insufferable. I've never been much for Astrology, so when my hippie Portland friends keep warning me about my Saturn Return, I never really thought much of it. Essentially, for those of you unfamiliar, your Saturn Return happens sometime in your mid-late 20's, and gamma rays from Saturn somehow make you rather depressed for around twenty months. During this time, through adversity brought on by this event, one finds the person they are supposed to become, and, ideally, become a better, more rounded individual through this experience.
My father, who is in no way, shape, or form into Astrology, calls this “Being in your mid 20's and growing up, numbnuts”.
Here's what I do know: I'm 26, and it's time for change. I'm one Bachelors degree down, and one career path down too. Being on the internet, I'm sure you've read untold amounts of drivel written by failed writers explaining how making money as a writer is about as difficult as splitting an atom successfully, so I will spare you of that essay. Nobody wants to read that. Add to that, apparently the people who paid me to make pizza over the past two years don't feel like paying me to make pizza anymore. I've got next month's bills paid and $10 to my name.
I have one possession of monetary value. A library of wonder, collected over decades. Tens of thousands of dollars dumped into a wall that I have taken immense pride in over my life. It has become one of the defining characteristics of my being. When company comes over, it's the first thing they notice or want to talk about. It's in my basement, in my living room, in my personal room, tucked away in my closet, and hidden behind my furnace. You can't go too far in my house without finding one aspect of it. In times of hardship, it has provided me so much comfort and joy.
It is my massive videogame collection, and I am fucking sick of it.
In a way, collecting videogames has become a prison where, I, the prisoner, have to lay the foundation brick by brick. Tens of thousands of dollars. Countless $60 videogames now barely worth the plastic they're concealed in. The rare, sought after, financially viable aspects of my collection are so vastly outnumbered by piles of nearly worthless games. So many times I would tell myself, “Oh I need to buy this RIGHT NOW, or else it will be out of print and I'll NEVER get it!”, only to find stacks of it sometime later in a bargain bin for $8. If you're looking to make money, videogame collecting is NOT the way to go.
I think about what could've been accomplished with that money instead of it being added to the wall. How jealous I've been of people I've known who were given extravagant European white privilege vacations by their parents in college, but never thinking about I could've funded a truly exceptional globetrotting excursion if I would've saved some of it. I think about all the times where I've turned down doing fun things with friends not because I was playing games, but because every dime of my disposable income over the past decade has gone to this obsession of collecting.
In time, collecting the games has become more of the game than actually playing the games. There are countless $60 purchases made on games that I probably didn't even play an hour of. And that's not including the games I haven't even played at all! “Hmm...Well I hated Final Fantasy XIII, never even played XIII-2, but I have to own Lightning Returns for completions sake! What would my Final Fantasy collection be without it!?!” If I never bought another game, and forced myself to beat every game on the wall that I haven't, I assure you that I would be a pile of decaying bones before that task was completed.
I hardly even define myself as a “gamer” anymore. Since graduating college, I've been leading a very physically active lifestyle in an attempt to get in shape. I play rugby for a local team, play tennis where and when I can, go hiking, and actually attempt to lead this thing called a “social life”. Frankly, I've spent less and less time in the basement playing videogames. In an attempt to keep my writing chops going and stay connected with the videogame world, I opened this blog with the hopes of keeping it updated regularly. It's been around two years since my last post. When I do venture into what it's like in the internet videogame scene, I usually come out marginally disgusted by what I've seen, which causes me to not want anything to do with it.
But I still feel its pull. Even though my game playing time has diminished, I still funnel money into the wall like it's going out of style. I have sixteen PS4 and Xbox One games, and I've finished one of them. I'm more than an hour into maybe five of them. I got to the first checkpoint in Infamous: Second Son and never touched it again. When I do go downstairs with the intention of playing something, I often find myself staring at the wall, completely at a loss as to where to even begin. So many times I've said, “well, I'll get around to beating that eventually”, but that lost it's meaning long ago. I end up just basking in it's perceived coolness, like Thror aimlessly wandering through his mountains of gold.
Well I'm no longer waiting for a dragon to come and steal it from me.
I need a complete paradigm shift in life. While Portland is awesome, I've lived here my entire life. The most exotic place I've ever been is Toronto. Furthermore, I'm done making pizza. It served me well while in college, and pizza kept me afloat while I struggled with the rest of the recent college grads, but it's actually time I did something with my degree. Also, I'm kinda done contributing to America's obesity epidemic, so doing something positive with a net gain on modern society is important to me.
So, for all these reasons, I've decided to go teach English in Vietnam. Their economy is growing at a rapid pace, and due to that, there is a ever expanding need for English teachers in the region. Working with kids is awesome, and helping a country grow in my small way sounds incredibly rewarding. My calculations state that the entire venture, including the flight, the training, food, passport & visa acquisitions, and startup money to put down a deposit and first month's rent on a room works out to around $4,100. Now how could I ever land a chunk of change like that?
That's what my wall is: It's a golden ticket. A way out. Combined with my movie collection and a couple of HDTV's and after talking with an expert in the field who used to run a local game shop, $4,100 is an easily attainable amount for my collection. Sure, if you look at it as a long term investment, I'm losing my ass in a big way, but I hardly find myself caring. A new lease on life is priceless, and something so many people in my situation would kill for, so if my wall can do that for me, than it is all kinds of worth it.
Granted, I still love games, so with great discipline and anguish, I went through my nearly 1,100 piece collection and chose exactly fifty games to keep as a momento. Firstly, The PS3 stays. Of the fifty, nearly half of them are playable on my PS3 (doubling as a PS2 & PS1 didn't hurt on that front). Of the current generation of consoles, I'll keep the PS4 pretty much just so I can play Metal Gear Solid 5 and Final Fantasy XV. I feel a portable device will get far more use in Vietnam than it will here, so the Vita stays as well. Lastly, the PC is the most viable platform on the planet, and my PC is also, y'know, my computer, so that has to stay. That's it. One retro console (is the PS3 retro at this point?), one modern console, a PC, and a handheld. Losing access to Nintendo hurts, but when it came down to it, I love Metal Gear and Final Fantasy more than Mario and Zelda, so they're gone. Also, one of the primary factors in what stays and what goes is general ease of being able to play it on a PC, and there are many, many ways to play Nintendo games there.
As mentioned earlier, Final Fantasy and Metal Gear are pretty damn important to me, so keeping those was a must. I have a boxed copy of every numbered Final Fantasy, and that complete collection stays (I may frame it and make it into some kind of art display). Luckily that Metal Gear Solid Legacy collection makes having all of those pretty easy, and then my copies of Metal Gear Rising, the PSP games, the GameBoy Color game, and the Documents of MGS2 all come too. Aaannndd that equates to half the collection on its own.
Choosing the lucky 50 was actually a faster process than I had originally anticipated, but it still hurts. The original intention was to keep the SNES collection, but it drives up the worth of the collection too much to keep it. I had visions of someday giving it to my child and having him play Chrono Trigger and Yoshi's Island the same way that I did, and maybe that will still happen once I'm rich and have enough Fuck-You-Money to buy whatever I want, but it has to go. I also use and love my Wii U a lot, but keeping two modern consoles doesn't seem in the spirit of the great separation I am undertaking.
I'm sure many of the people reading this are downright horrified at what I'm doing. Even two years ago, I would have never considered it. One of my best friends has been jokingly egging me on to sell it for years, to which I would respond with something like “Pfft. It's my pride and joy! I could never part with it.” People change. I changed. This stationary life I lead is no longer a viable option for the sake of my sanity, and if cutting the cord from my wall helps in achieving my goals, than so be it. Somebody reading this may be contemplating the same thing, and if they are, I can only say that this is how I have decided to try and fix aspects of my life, and while I cannot guarantee it will work for you, maybe it's time to consider a new path.
I already had one Tolkien reference, so I'll end on another. My basement is my hobbit hole. Like Bilbo's, it's well kept, neat, and, as he perceived it, perfect. All the comforts he could need are right there. However twelve dwarfs and a wizard are attempting to pry themselves out of my brain and drive me towards adventure. That requires abandoning everything I've known, without guarantee that I will return that same individual, if at all. Previously, like Bilbo did originally, I refused. I didn't think I was cut out for adventures, and wondered why I would need to leave when I have such a nice hole here. But Bilbo finally grew a pair and left everything he knew in the name of adventure, and that's what I aim to do here.