A long time ago, I started a blog series on TL called "Diamond or Bust" where I was writing about my attempt to get to diamond in Wings of Liberty. I went from bronze to top of platinum and then got a job, so that ended that venture. This time, the stakes are higher. I quit my job last February, and now my credit card is maxed, my savings are gone, and I need to make rent by Feb 1. So, I'll be writing about my adventures trying to hustle and make some green, and we'll see how it all turns out.
I just finished playing Don't Forget Our Esports Dream (which if you haven't played, you definitely should, because it is amazing), and so this series is sort of inspired by that, except I'm in California and I'm not a pro gamer. I love to write, though, so this is a nice way for me to gain perspective and think about what I'm going through, and maybe someone out there will feel like they're not so alone in the grind.
Yesterday I learned how to chop firewood, and today I tried to build a fire by myself.
There are many things I love in this world, like StarCraft, but fire and blades hold a special fascination for me. I had never wielded an axe before, but a friend was showing me how and I have experience with knives, machetes, and katanas, so I figured it out pretty quickly and was splitting (dry, seasoned) firewood reasonably well after 10 minutes or so. It was very satisfying, as is often the case for me when using bladed tools and weapons in the exact way that you are supposed to use them (for the katanas, I cut targets made of water-soaked tatami mats, not people).
Fire is also really fun and useful, but I largely encounter it in the context of my gas stove, where summoning it to do your bidding is as straightforward as turning a knob. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that all fire is like this - you just get some dry wood and a lighter and it's up and running immediately. However, as I discovered while achieving middling success building a fire in a fireplace today, there's actually a lot of skill involved, and it's not an instant process (especially without lighter fluid). Fire involves rapid and unpredictable chemical reactions, and wooden logs need some coddling with kindling and such before they ignite, but of course it's hard to manage all of the flammable material directly because it's really hot. I imagine it's like trying to nurse a baby feral Charmander back to health.
My experience this past week with trying to drum up lucrative freelance gigs has been similar. Although I might feel like I'm perfectly ready and willing to work hard at creating value for people, trying to figure it all out on your own is like building a fire from scratch instead of having a gas stove. You have a pretty strong idea in your own head of what you want the result to be, and you think you have all the right components, but the world is unpredictable, and you can't let your own expectations crush you emotionally when the fire peters out after half an hour without burning half of the wood. In the end, as I learned when chopping firewood, you can't force it to go faster. You need to focus on aiming and optimizing the natural momentum of the axe head, because if you try to swing really fast and hard, you'll just miss the log entirely.
I had an interview with a local academic tutoring company which went fine, except I discovered that I'd have to agree to a three-month contract and my pay would be $10/hr the first month, $20/hr the second month, and finally $30/hr from the third month on. I don't know if I'll actually still be in the area in three months, so it seemed like kind of a lot to sign on to for not a lot of reward, especially since I'd have to take the SAT again and peak hours would conflict with aikido classes. If I'm going to make $10/hr, I'd rather do it from home or wherever I am with my computer.
After some thought and consultation with my sister, who is spotting me some money, I decided to enroll in an online TEFL (teaching English as a second language) certification course. It's $1300 and takes 11 weeks, which means I would have my certificate by mid-March. But in the interim I can get job search support from the certification company, which means I could be out teaching English in Seoul or something 3-6 months from now. My mom discouraged me from teaching English in South Korea about 10 years ago because she's from there and foreign English teachers had a super bad reputation, but it's certainly lucrative and I'd love to get fluent in Korean again, plus I have family and esports friends there. TEFL certification also opens up a lot of remote teaching opportunities, and I'd be down to earn $20 talking to a Chinese kid in English over Skype for 45 minutes or something like that, which is harder to figure out if you don't have certification and teaching experience (I have researched this). The idea of studying English grammar and syntax again is actually pretty appealing, too, because I am passionate about language and my BA was in linguistics. Unfortunately, it doesn't really solve my cash flow needs right now.
I'm looking into paid transcription work, too, because I type quickly and am really good at grammar and spelling. I read through one site's style guide and took an online exam to see if I would qualify for their network - I passed the multiple choice and spelling/grammar part with flying colors, but failed one of the transcription tasks with a 95% accuracy rating (the audio clip test has a certain passing percentage requirement that's in the high 90s, but they don't tell you what it is). I'm going to try retaking the exam, but if you fail the retake you have to wait 30 days to try again. Fingers crossed for an opportunity that will net me about $250/month max and involve a lot of tedious, mechanical work, but at least it's really flexible and I'd probably learn some interesting stuff doing it.
So, in the midst of trying to start lots of little flames, and seeing many of them snuffed out before they had a chance to grow into a useful and sustaining fire, I didn't know how to manage my expectations. I was building houses of cards in a hurricane or double expanding blind towards my opponent's base and then feeling terrible about myself and my life when things didn't go as I'd hoped. I talked to my therapist for a while and came to a realization, which is that in spite of having spent so much of my life trying to understand myself, other people, and the way the world works, I really had no idea how to get things to happen in the exact way that I wanted. This is a big deal for me because I have always prided myself on being knowledgeable and analytical and being able to explain how things work to other people. But the world is large, and changing rapidly, and it is not reasonable for me to expect that I can navigate it perfectly through research and preparation. Therefore, instead of judging myself by whether my elaborate schemes result in money or fame or whatever, I am focusing on the one thing that I have the most experience with, am demonstrably 100% successful at, and is a prerequisite to any additional life success: being alive.
I am not particularly afraid of death or of dying in an untimely fashion, which is useful because it is generally easier and more fun to succeed at something when you are not afraid of failing. I think I can continue to be successful at being alive, and so my new win condition for feeling good about myself and my life is just whether I am alive at that moment. I do not know what will happen to me, but as long as I am alive, something is bound to happen.
There is something clean and cathartic about cutting something with a really nice blade. Whether it's raw chicken, firewood, or the branches of palm trees in the rainforest, there is a sense of purification when you efficiently remove the undesirable parts of something to reveal the useful or beautiful essence inside of it. As I use blades to shape the world around me, I use my reason and experience to shape my mind. It is not always the most graceful or comfortable process, and I make plenty of errors, but the important thing is being able to apply my ideas and conclusions in the way that I think will best help me operate in the world, however odd the methods might seem at first. And anyway, if you can't try new things, are you really living?
Thanks for reading.
Also, shoutout to the old friend I hadn't talked to in at least 5 years who straight up sent me $300 a couple days ago after reading about my current situation.