Now or Never

A week ago Friday (meaning, two Fridays ago, if I said that right) , I was laid off from my day job. Hold the ‘I’m sorry’s until the end, though. It’s actually rather a good thing.

It’s no secret I’ve also been work on and for Phoenix Online Studios, as both a designer and the PR Director. Though we’re working on our first commercial game right now, this work is so far unpaid. And in my case, until the lay off, it was also only part-time. No easy thing, and it made for long days, but it’s doing what I love and working towards making it my career. The news that I was going to be attending the Game Developers Conference (GDC) with some other team members in March came in just a week or so before I was laid off. My pass was purchased, my plane ticket was bought, and my time off request was submitted.

Then I was laid off, and it could not have come at a better time.

Usually that would sound a little crazy, but here’s the thing: I’ve always done my best to be practical. I’ve been safe, I’ve made thought-out decisions, I’ve tried to put myself in a good position for my present and future. But at the same time, I’m not a person who can put aside my passion for practicality. I was an English major in college, with a last minute added-on Philosophy minor. I’ve worked temp jobs and low-paying fulltime jobs, which while they were enough to pay my rent, go out a bit, and enjoy life, have not left me rolling in spare cash for the future. Savings have been hard to build up and hold onto. I’m not a frivolous spender, but nor am I a penny-pincher. I can’t buy into the idea of not enjoying life now in order to save for someday. I know it’s a good practical move, I know there’s nothing wrong and plenty right with saving for the future, but I know I’d be miserable if I weren’t enjoying myself now. In my heart, I’ve always been a dreamer and I’ve always wanted to follow those. I’ve done my best to balance the impracticality of crazy dreams with the practicality of a secure lifestyle based in facts, numbers, and realism — I even blogged about it!

Let's do this.

Maybe it was always going to come to a point where the center could not hold. My plan has long been to transition into working for Phoenix fulltime at some point, but maybe that point was never going to be fluid and risk-free. And you know? It shouldn’t be, either. This is, finally, for me, now or never. This is as safe as this risk can get — now I can focus my efforts on making sure this game is as good as it can be, and sells as well as it possibly can. Thanks to having a wonderful group of people supporting and surrounding me, I’m able to do this, and to them I am immensely and eternally grateful for that. But even without that, I’ve reached the point where I would take that leap right now regardless. I have to.

When I was in high school, I always told myself “I’ll be damned if I don’t follow my dreams.” So here I am. It’s now or never.


The Practicality of Living the Dream

In a discussion with friends over yesterday’s Love Letters* from (a woman who’s boyfriend is going to travel for several months; should she quit the job, follow her heart and the man she loves on a fantastic trip?), our debate basically came down to two opposing sides: practicality (stay with the job, it’s secure in a rough economy, who knows if you’ll have anything when you get from costly gallivanting) or living the dream (worry about the consequences later, go on this trip that you’ll never regret having gone on).

When I was a teenager with a head full of big dreams, I always thought that my choice in such a situation would be to live the dream no matter what. Well, fifteen-odd years, a handful of low-paying jobs, one school loan, one car loan, and some credit card debt later, the appeal of practicality has made itself rampantly apparent to me! I understand now, as one only can after finally becoming an adult, that you have to plan for the future, secure yourself, and recognize that choices always have risks and consequences.

As I’ve gotten older, though, there’s another aspect of that dichotomy that I’ve learned as well: you don’t always have to choose. It is in fact possible to both live the dream and be practical.

For me, I want to both be a published author and a professional game designer. While I could quit my job and throw myself fulltime into one or both of these things, it would be a very poor decision to do so. Oh, sure, JK Rowling

What's a another word for tumescent...

penned her magnum opus of Harry Potter while jobless, a single mom, and sitting at a local coffee shop. Now she’s a kajillionaire. Talk about the artist’s dream! But let’s face it, that’s a one in not-quite-a-million shot (if it was, it couldn’t possibly fail). For the rest of us, there’s the slightly less glamorous way around: sacrificing little things, maybe even medium things, putting in the time and the hard work, and continuing to shoot for the big thing we really want. Making small, achievable goals along the way so you aren’t overwhelmed by the task before you. Take the chances you can take, find a balance that works for you, and understand that there may come times when that balance needs to be upset and tilt more one way than the other. Really, that’s what making it to any goal worth getting is about: mastering the balancing act of what you want and need now with what you want and need later. It’s tricky, because that’s actually four things and not two. This balance is complicated.

There’s no shame in choosing either right-out, either. But there are consequences of both. Mostly personal ones–constantly taking risks and never planning ahead will get you in an uncomfortable situation eventually, and never taking ANY risks will likely lead to a lot of frustration. No one can be one thing all the time; no one can be perfectly balanced all the time. But you can have both, if you work hard at it.

This is his "judging you" face.

Is it always fun? No. Is it always immediately rewarding? No. But is it worth it in the end? Well, I haven’t gotten there yet, but I’m still pretty sure it will be.

(*Check out my good friend Serp’s weekly Sense and Serpability  for strongly-worded opinions on Love Letters!)