Monday, December 13, 2021

Identity Crisis

In graduate school I had a job driving cars between Oakland and Los Angeles. These were "breakdown switches" at a rental car company, often requiring troubleshooting on the road. I complained to one of my teachers at the time, "This job makes me feel so disoriented." His instant response? "Well, don't get oriented." He was a wise man who passed last year.

Over the last two years, many of us have become disoriented. For me, it's an identity crisis of sorts. I've been running Dungeons & Dragons games weekly for twenty years. I suppose you can call me a dungeon master. It's a big part of who I am, running this game for a group of people, or in the case of lockdown, groups plural. Yes, I could have run games online, but the joy I find in this activity is not found there I've discovered. It's like sex, with a condom, using someone else's genitalia. It's too disconnected to appeal to me. My first in person game since COVID starts in one month.

I've also gone from an on site store owner, derping around in the back, to a remote owner. This has been a dramatic shift, those who now work from home can understand. It's disorienting, with some guilt involved for those left behind, but I feel I've been working towards this for years. I could have done it years ago, and probably wouldn't have done it for many more years, if COVID hadn't happened. It was a boot out the door of sorts, with a slow realization that I really don't need to go back. This shift, in the eyes of some of my peers, is a final exit. What are you doing still writing about this stuff? Aren't you done? I'm not done. There are also the socialists out there concerned I'm prospering off the backs of the workers. True, but not any more than any store owner, really.

This has kicked my (semi) retirement plan into gear years earlier than I was expecting. I plan to buy a travel trailer and spend six months a year traveling, mostly in Mexico. I bought the massive truck to pull it in October. I've passed 800 days with my Duolingo Spanish, which makes me a better prepared tourist than most, but hardly fluent. This whole plan is a bit at odds with my dungeon mastering, and certainly a challenge with remote store management. I also have a 16 year old, and part of this plan, still a few years away from full completion, is launching him into his life, whatever that may be, without it feeling like a betrayal or abandonment. 

If I had to give advice, it's take it one day at a time. Take crises as potential opportunities. Examine your values to see where you belong. A lot of people seeking a remote life elsewhere lack the ties to their community. Sometimes it takes nearly losing those ties to understand they exist. 

There's a lot of fear when you court change, when you embrace disorientation. Most people won't be able to make the jump. However, if the next ledge presents itself, I say take the leap. If you're feeling disoriented, don't get oriented.

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