When it became clear that being the "Global Lifestyle Destination for CyberYouth" was as stupid an idea as it sounded, the dot-com I worked for crashed and burned. It was the best day of my life.
At first, my dot-com job was cool. I was producing Web pages about Moondog and the Monks and other beautiful music obscurities. By the time the company crapped, however, my main duty entailed deleting requests for blow jobs from the message boards of washed-up alternative bands. Things had changed. The office had gone from a beer-soaked boiler room to an OSHA-certified glass cage straight out of Miami Vice. The clueless execs hired more clueless execs, and they hired equally clueless personal assistants—rendering them all twice as dangerous in setting up the endless staff meetings in which we were mercilessly flailed by whatever weak buzzword Wired was selling that month.
When you're burning half a million bucks a month and only pulling in 9 grand, there may be something wrong with your business model.
So while a dozen managers stared out their waterfront windows drinking endless amounts of AriZona iced tea from the well-stocked fridge and tried to figure out why they weren't making any money, the NASDAQ farted, and we all flew out its ass. Its insane escalation was built on the backs of a hundred companies as stupid as mine, and investors had come back to earth. The jig was up.
But I was fine. Unlike most of the fops I worked with, I recognized what a fluke this shit was: Mediocre people could not continue to make $55,000 a year doing nothing of particular value forever. Was I smarter than they were? Nope, I just wasn't as good at deceiving myself. While my co-workers congratulated each other on their BMWs and their new luxury condos over chocolate martinis and yellowfin sashimi, I forwent the "ramp-up" of my "lifestyle tastes," ignored all their investment advice, and stuck my dumb money in the bank. When it all came crashing down, lots of those lifestyle fools had to file for bankruptcy. I never even filed for unemployment.
So how did I deal with the traumatic loss of my job? Me and my intact savings account went on a work vacation. I wrote a novel and learned how to silkscreen. I read all those long books I've always wanted to. I went to Europe for the first time. I took up the bass guitar. I went to bartending school. I got eight hours of sound sleep every night and woke up to a nutritious and leisurely breakfast every morning. I did exactly what I wanted to every single day.
It's been almost a year since my dot-com exploded, and these days I'm pasting together sporadic bartending jobs and freelance writing gigs to eke out my food and rent each month. My money dried up long ago, but my selfish lifestyle has stuck. It's not a profitable way to live, but I've gained far too much respect for my own "spare" time to ever go back into an office and burn away my days. It's not worth it. Since getting laid off, I've learned that if you keep your material desires in check, you can always make enough money to live. It's your time you should be defending to the death: That's where your freedom is.
True, I don't exactly exude success. I can't get at "the finer things in life." That is, I can't base my own worth on acquiring the respect of strangers through the ostentatious display of material objects whose costs far outweigh their value. I have to base my worth in other places.
The finer things in life? I think the finest thing in life is making it your own. Or at least giving it a shot.