Warning: The blog is long and rough. If you want to understand some of its context, please read "Thinking Out Loud".
My manager at the time threw his hands up in the air and told me, "Look it wasn't my decision and I don't like it anymore than you do. We're already understaffed and this is the last thing we need right now... but this decision came from Toronto, please understand."
There it was. It may have been a week and a half from the point I had written a blog about my internal turmoil with my job in aviation, and like clockwork, it would seem that it wasn't my choice to make in the first place. Regardless of how I may have romantized leaving my job, this wasn't the way I wanted it to go down and I was absolutely shocked when I heard the news; Being confronted with the potential of losing my standard of living took me completely off guard.
There were large gaps in between our statements in that room. I was very uncomfortable. I just thought to myself, 'After all the strife and sacrifice that I put into this airport, how dare you- you're lucky I even gave a shit about these airplanes! This isn't even what I wanted to do with my life! I'm so exhausted, and this is what some know-nothings from Toronto are willing to do to me?!"
My eyes started darting around the room; Logos of airlines on the wall, calendars of airplanes taking off, expensive ball point pens, a bunch of concerned expressions, and an exit contract.
I looked at the exit contract and considered not signing the paper for a little bit. If I wanted to go against expectation at this point, I could probably make a very good argument to keep my job in court, especially if I were to levy the government against them. The guy who gave me the bad news looked nervous. It's not really his fault though, this poor bastard that was sent from Texas to manage the operation had no idea how bad the situation was in Montreal. He was there as a replacement for my old boss, the head of the Montreal station, who got let go in a similar fashion.
I continued to look at the wording of the contract. For some reason, all I could think about was the colourful McDonald's application and how I would break the news to my girlfriend.
I started shaking my head in disbelief; I couldn't believe how much I gave a fuck about something I didn't give a fuck about. I guess when you come from a world of pain, the last thing you want to do is invite more challenge in your life if you found a way out. Either way I looked at my options there was going to be hardship.
"Whatever." I said to the nervous man from Texas. I grabbed the pen and signed the paper, looked to the ceiling, and went for the office door.
He stopped me and tried to hand his phone number, "Chris, call me after."
I told him calmly, "Trust me, there's no point." With that, I went directly for my things passing the watching eyes throughout the hallway. I went to my computer, and started packing my bag quickly. I was ripping USBs from my station and ripping down certificates.
My good friend and coworker noticing all the action, "What the fuck are you doing?"
"I'm out". I then picked up my bag and went for the entrance of the building. My friend stop me just before walking into the parking lot, gave me a cigarette and lit it for me.
I expanded on the situation in brief. He told me, being a lawyer, that he could reverse everything that took place in that room. A moment after he said, "Signing that paper was stupidest thing I've ever seen you do. Your a fucking idiot."
I told him that I didn't really know what I was doing. I guess in my mind was thinking in very linear terms. Perhaps in hindsight it would've been better if I had not signed the paper and seen what would've happened. Honestly at that point though, all I could think about was the cigarette smoke in a state of desolation. I put my hands in my pocket to grab my phone and realized that it actually belonged to the airport. I deleted everything that was on it, removed its case, and told my coworker to bring it back to Mark's office.
I went home early that day, sat on my couch, and grabbed my PlayStation controller. I turned on my PlayStation 4 but I couldn't make my mind up on which game I wanted to play, and so I scrolled the menu side to side and begun thinking... 'The team was already completely understaffed and head office doesn't understand the scheduling or the overtime but they understand that I'm in charge of it. No doubt they think it's a question of mismanagement and not unrealistic constraints.' I turned on my laptop and wrote briefly on Destructoid.
I leaned my head on my hands for support. I couldn't call anyone and I didn't want to tell anyone, especially my girlfriend that was expected to be home in less than an hour. My friend wrote me a couple messages on Facebook and they insisted that we go to the bar. Naturally, I put on my shoes and I went there early.
My friends found me at the bar, and they couldn't help themselves and demonstrated their anger that yet another asset of their team had been removed. Their phones were ringing off the hook from people who wanted to speak to me. These calls consisted of lots of basic bullshit advice about what I should do next and 'how I shouldn't be turning to alcohol' etc. Overall though, that night was full of laughter and it honestly felt pretty good thinking that I wouldn't have to bother with anything having to do with excessive procedures, meetings and yelling.
I remember the next morning I waking up with a fear that I was late for work and reached for my cell phone that no longer existed. Every morning I've become accustom to reading all the emails that were sent overnight to catch up on the stresses of my shift. When my hands reached for nothing, it occurred to me that my life has taken a very sharp turn, whether I liked it or not.
My girlfriend was getting ready for her shift at her own job. It was a little part-time thing that she was doing, but I guess for what it's worth, she was making more money than me now. I told her the situation, about how I felt, and she was very supportive. This, knowing though, that she may not understand the full implications of the reality a smaller income would be. My next move was to cancel a bunch of subscription services that I owned and add a new one, my cell phone.
For the first time and my life I filled out unemployment papers. Knowing that it would probably take a little more than a month for it to kick in. I didn't bet on it though, and considered myself on a clock to find a new job. With that, for the weeks that followed, I made it a point to apply exclusively to gaming companies during this time.
Along the way my friend and coworkers made it a point to call up every single aviation job on my behalf to make sure that I was employed. Due to the economy, and the fact that I only spoke effectively one language, the demand was small for my qualification. But when it did happen, and that same coworker from the airport found me another position, I told him that I didn't want it.
We were sitting in his Mazda drinking cans of Heineken. I told him that, as corny as it sounded, I needed to follow my dreams. I told him that whether I'm working at the airport or mopping the floor at McDonald's, I'm still destined to be unhappy. So I figure, I might as well try.
He turns to me and says, "Yeah, well just prepare yourself for disappointment, because if you don't get this, it might destroy you. Besides, what if you do get it, and it's not everything you wanted it to be?"
"At least I'd know."
My thinking was this: Let me get the position first and then I'll decide whether or not I like it. Working on anything else with people that don't take video games seriously, can't be much worse. It seems like I can't even speak normally without feeling like a total child. Don't get me wrong- I understand it, but I don't like it.
Like I said before, I made sure that every company I was applying to was a video game company. What I came to discover was, as it so happens, that I was working in the aviation industry for so long that my skills in the field weren't relevant for any of the positions that I was applying for. It turns out that it was a major disadvantage! There were many emails which basically were refusals. And it was at this point that my friends words starting to take shape into reality; when the money became scarce in addition to all the other stresses.
I was defintely starting to lose hope. When I had written my job application that finally worked, it came in the form of a very untraditional cover page. I felt I had no choice but to tell them that while some aspects of these experiences on my application could be impressive, I felt it was only limiting me in regard to being relevant for the video game industry. It must've been 2 AM when I stumbled upon this job application. I was now considering the prospect of going back to a safer route.
The next day what ended up happening was an email conversation between myself and a lady by the name of Sandra. She made a point to mention my experience and told me flat out that they feel they didn't have a position that warranted my experience. She continued and told me what she did have though, was a bottom of the barrel entry-level position at the company to get started with.
It was at this point where I felt time almost stop. How much do I possibly need in life? I took a look around the apartment, 'if I can just maintain my bills and food; The basics...' I went to the keyboard and typed that I accept the conditions of the offer. I took a second to collect my thoughts.
The bus ride from where I live takes about an hour and 30 minutes to get to this location. When I walked into the old building, the entrance was pretty modern; board rooms surrounded with glass walls and framed pictures of video games they worked on. Taking no chances, I made sure to dress myself in dress pants and a blue dress shirt. I took a seat in the waiting room, and a collection of the other applicants then walked in. They were all pretty much dressed like they didn't give a shit. Some were even dressed like they were going into some sort of anime convention it seemed. It was a loud wake up call that this job obviously appealed to gamers at this level. There was simply nothing conventional about the way these people looked.
A well-dressed woman approached us in the waiting room with a big smile on her face. She then proceeded to give us a tour of the place and she lead us around like a group of schoolchildren. She showed us where we would be eating, where the bathrooms were, and company policy.
The final stop was at a computer lab, all of us took a seat in front of computer monitors and she started handing out contracts and non-disclosure agreements to be filled out and signed. Once that was completed we were then shown what project we would be working on and the specifics of our role in it.
The other agent selected for the positions where are all of different languages and backgrounds. Almost all of them were gamers. There were a couple Russians agents, a couple Spanish agents and two French agents so on and so forth etc. I am the English agent.
The training lasted for approximately a month. During that time I made it a routine to wake up, eat some cereal, and play Trails in the Sky on the long bus ride downtown.
I would be stationed on a computer that was seated right next to what would become my closest friend at the company thus far, Relie. She was a mousey French girl with small features, big eyes, short hair and a French accent. She had graduated from the University of Montreal not too long ago and just came from a Japan school trip. She had a bit of an awkward demeanour about her like a lot of the gamers in the room. She was definitely cut from a different cloth; she has a particular interest for dragons/ lizards and listens to chiptunes at her leisure.
I asked her what was on the menu today, and she said 'more bullshit updates!' With a smile and a swing of her fist. I sat down and fired up all the programs necessary for the job that day. She turns to me and asks, 'Hey, have you ever played Persona 3'??' I told her that I never completed the game but that I did remember one song in particular that stood out to me.
We played the song on YouTube and started laughing together about the lyrics. It was another bad attempt from Japan to create some sort of rap The lyrics in the comments on YouTube kept us laughing all day. As wierd as it sounds, I think this might of been the first time I knew I was in the right industry with the right people. I finally got to speak to people who loved and respected video games.
Once I completed my shift and left the building, many agents were waiting outside and we started walking to the metro station together.
Many of us finish our shift in the evening. There was an orange glow bouncing off the buildings in old Montreal. On our way to the metro station we passed churches, restaurants and many bars. Inside of these places, people were surprisingly well dressed chatting among each other probably about their respective industry. I've begun to wonder whether or not I would ever be in a position like that again. Just as I was thinking this my ex coworkers were blowing up my phone asking for celebratory drinks for finding myself in a position in this gaming industry. The only problem was that I was too tight to even buy the drinks necessary and frankly didn't want to be reminded of the stresses of my previous job at this moment. Relie noticing my frustration, "What's wrong?"
"Nah, it's just that all these people want to drink and I simply don't have the time or money for it." I responded.
"Oh wow, SO popular." She stated sarcastically.
That's when another agent chimed in, "Hey that's a good idea, we should all go to a bar, what do you think guys? To get to know each other?" That was Brandon he was another English agent. He was well-dressed, had multiple talents and seemed as though he came from a Chinese descent.
The whole crowd completely agreed with the sentiment but oddly, they all had an expression on their face that reminded me of high school kids sneaking liquor behind their parents back. Brandon looked at me for reassurance, "So, where do we go?"
I didn't know the area very well at all. Not to mention that I'm not sure I even agree with this in the first place- "Anything is fine with me." I said. Admittedly, I was interested to see how a night of drinking would pan out this crowd.
We ended up going to a place with a bunch of boardgames to play while we drink. We took our seats and began to order drinks. Anyone who knows me knows that this isn't the sort of bar that I would normally have hanged out at; It was very loud and there was a lot of laughter in the room. I perfer the bars where I can hear myself think.
With this in mind, I began to feel very old by comparison. As if I was way too stiff for the place or too professional... or something I couldn't quite put my finger on. From that insecurity I subconsciously retaliated by asking what game we were going to play and what everyone wanted to drink, in an attempt to have some control in this unfamiliar environment.
I ordered for the table and we began to play Cards Against Humanity. With the exception of the German agents and myself, the rest of the table ordered very sweet drinks in what looked like RPG inspired potion bottles. Still, I felt very unfamiliar with certain aspects of this scenario. In a fucked up way I almost felt like I wasn't hip enough at this quirky place. I took a couple significant gulps of my beer and looked in my glass almost in an attempt to hide my face. When I did that, I noticed that the majority of the table (with the exception of the Germans), were watching me as they squeamishly sipped their drinks. It's wierd, at that moment it occurred to me that I wasn't the only one who felt awkward. As a matter of fact it could be said that the whole of the table felt awkward. There was this silence after I put the glass down. "Sorry guys if I'm acting weird, it's just not what I'm used to." I started. As I said this, I received another text from my ex coworker looking for me, I dimmed the phone. They reassured me that they also don't drink too often as well. Surprised, I told them that drinking wasn't the problem. I told them the only problem I was having with the situation, was the feeling that 'I finally found what I wanted and I am scared that I'm too jaded for the culture'. It was the best way to explain what I felt at that moment. With that, I explained to them what my previous experience was concerning the airport, my responsibilities, and the compensation was for performing those tasks. To my surprise a few people came forward and sympathized with my dilemma, which opened up a very fruitful conversation concerning the meaning of passion versus potential.
To my surprise, It turns out that one of our Spanish agents used to be a lawyer in Spain, one of our other English agents graduated from literature and university, a Japanese agent came over to Canada to escape her depression and, as stated before, Relie graduated linguistics with a scholarship. It turned out that these were extremely qualified people! As the night continued, I realized that almost everyone at the table had to make a sacrifice to be here coincidentally. At this particular point, a kinship was developed among us. It was a kinship among a group of gamers that ultimately put their love for gaming above everything else. I developed tremendous respect for the people at this table.
It became late and we decided to leave before public transit became unobtainable. We began walking for the metro station, and I cannot remember what conversation we had along the way, only that we were talking very loud and singing that horrible song from Persona 3.
We finally split up and before I knew it I took a bus that would bring me back home. I took a seat, wore my headphones and watched the traffic lights cross my window. I had a feeling in my gut that I was so happy at that particular moment that I didn't feel I deserve it, or that I was to hardened to appreciate it's innocence. I felt pretty disoriented.
When I finally unlocked the door to my apartment and went inside at about 2 AM, I discreetly started unbuttoning my shirt and taking off my shoes and to my surprise, Monica was still up.
She walked over, kissed me and leaned against the wall to her side. "Honey, are you spending all the food money on alcohol?"
I was confused at first, walked over to the fridge and opened it. It didn't look scarce and we still had somethings. "What's the problem, what do we need?"
"I don't know, orange juice and butter etc..."
I asked her why she couldn't just get the food herself? There was this overall look of concern on her. "Make sure you're not drinking too much so you can still afford rent and the other things."
There probably wasn't much to it but the statement bothered me because I was paying the whole of the apartment, the utilities and food. I figured that she should know damn well that I was not making anywhere near the same amount of money that I was before but I had made it a point to still live well but within my new means. I was pretty tipsy but thought to myself, "what a contrast..."
There was a moment of silence and it was at this point where I realize my life took a dramatic turn. There was this sense of disappointment and surprise that came over me. Why hasn't she thought that our living arrangements wouldn't have to be changed slightly? Why didn't she think to buy food from her own income? I mean, I literally pay for everything else.
I told her to not to concern herself and asked her to only bring up this concern if there was genuinely something lacking from our fundamentals. Once I told her that she went to bed.
I went back to the fridge to grab a beer. As I sat down on my couch in the living room, and took a sip of my new beer, there was no lamps turned on in this living room, it was only illuminated by the glow from the passing cars and the traffic lights from the outside. In this moment, there's very real impulse that came over me. It was one that told me to hold on tight, as if it was too good for me and undeserved. I realized that I was totally in love with gaming again unapologetically and have been given a small taste of the person I wanted to be before I became disenchanted.
I wrote this blog a long time ago and held on to it. It's now been about 4 Months I've had the pleasure of working in gaming and getting paid little for it. Since then, many of my coworker from the airport have been trying to strike deals for my return but, no, I haven't taken them. I have been spending my time trying to collect my thoughts to be honest. This dramatic turn of events happened so sudden that I needed a second try and put it all in perspective. That's why I held back this chunk of text, because I'm not sure what to make of it. I can't help but feel that there's more to it. I really want to touch on the aspects of money management versus dreams and how people feel after they finally get what they want. I guess I'll write that next time.
I just really want to thank the people who have expressed their concerns for my well being. I am at a point in my life where I'm just playing a lot of RPGs and reflecting a lot during those mindless battle sequences. There's a lot of introspection happening on my end. Unfortunately, I have not been as active as I would like to be on Destructiod and I will work on that. I just needed a second to figure some shit out.