It was a fair way of putting it. I am the only person I know who in the last year has made money by prank calling Cap’n Crunch cereal, pole dancing in drag, buying clothes for a 1980′s-themed prom, and dressing up as a caterpillar for a Mad-Hatter-themed brunch. I work jobs that I love, but that probably sound like glaring contradictions to even those who know me. I host trivia games at bars despite not liking trivia games. I work at an after-school program with first and second graders despite not wanting kids. I play poker despite not liking gambling.
I imagine that, to most, my life looks like someone’s disastrously disorganized bedroom. The kind where stuff is strewn everywhere with no regard for matching colors and no guiding aesthetic. The kind that makes you say, “How can someone live like this?” Yet it works for me.
So how did I get to here? How did I become the guy whose life is one giant messy room?
Well, I spent my truly formative years inside my mother’s uterus. Then there was a lot of filler. Then I got to my early-20′s. A period that I spent drifting from one miserable job to another. Each job I took, I told myself that I was taking on a stopgap. A way to pay the bills and save up money while pursuing what truly mattered to me: a writing career. But I could barely make ends meet, and I eventually stopped writing altogether. I could feel time passing by and myself sliding further and further from my dreams.
In the movie, this is where the hero says, “No more!” He quits his job, pursues his goals with abandon, and, for good measure, makes out with the hot girl at the next cubicle. Personally, I started gambling.
I deposited $100 in an online poker account, and started playing. A lot. When I wasn’t playing, I was studying. Reading strategy books, discussing hands on internet forums, watching training videos. Soaking up every piece of knowledge I could to get better at Texas Hold ‘Em.
I won tens of thousands of dollars, played in the World Series of Poker, and began dreaming of traveling the world playing tournaments for a living. In November 2010, I transitioned to playing poker full time. I traded in my gross survival jobs for something I truly enjoyed. Something that was fun and challenging and stimulating and well-paying that I could do in the comfort of my pajamas.
Despite the fact that I made my own hours, I didn’t do much writing. And despite the fact that I was making good money, I didn’t do much saving. But I was happy. I loved what I did and for the first time in forever, I wasn’t working nights and weekends. I was suddenly free in all sorts of new ways to hang out with the important people in my life.
If you know how life works, you know what’s coming.
April 15th, 2011 is known in the poker community as Black Friday. The DOJ shut down the three major poker sites operating in America for (alleged) money laundering. Not only could I not play, but I also couldn’t access the money I had stored in my online account. In an unfortunate twist of tax law, I still owed taxes on the thousands of dollars that I could no longer access. Suddenly, I was broke, incomeless and in debt.
I still remember the day I found out it was over. My brain and senses dulled. The volume on the world dropped. People said things that I didn’t really process and I ate food I didn’t really taste. Everything sort of passed by like it wasn’t really there. I kept thinking the same thing over and over: I fucking blew it.
I started to look back on the months that had passed. All the writing I hadn’t done. The money I hadn’t saved. Here I was, living on about as unstable a source of income as one can have, and I hadn’t in any way laid a foundation for my future. For life after cards.
I’d like to say this is because I was playing professionally for such a short length of time. That, if I had kept playing, after awhile, I would have buckled down and gotten responsible and worked towards my real dream, which was never being a full-time card shark. But I doubt that’s actually true.
I returned to the real world, and found a job in sales. I could see the 90-minute morning commutes and the dreadful shifts stacking up into infinity. So I left that job and started another one, but I soon discovered the new one was even worse. It was almost scary how easily I had transitioned back to the life I had before.
Then one day, while looking for work, I discovered a subcategory of the jobs section on Craigslist called ETC. They weren’t so much employment opportunities as they were chances to make some extra cash. There was a website called rent-a-friend.com offering you the chance to rent out your friendship to random people, and another one that was looking for people to help guys get laid at bars.
As I scanned through the surprisingly wide array of bizarre gigs, I got an idea.
So it was that I started Odd Jobs. A blog based on the premise that every week I would do something different to earn or save money, and then blog about it. I tested out landmine-detection technology, I worked as a bouncer at a nightclub, I served on a jury in a simulated trial. It was exciting both to have peeks into worlds different from mine and to have an outlet for my writing.
Those gigs that I enjoyed, I just kept on doing them even after I had written my columns about them. I realized that while I hated most full-time jobs, there were plenty of part-time jobs I enjoyed. And that they could be cobbled together into the equivalent of full-time work. I started hosting trivia games at bars and restaurants, started acting in a murder mystery theater troupe, started working in an after-school program.
About a year into all this, I was hired by a guy looking for someone to deliver a copy of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue to his friend wearing a bikini. He thought this stunt would make for an interesting story on a humor site he owned called Zug.com. As we started talking, he read my stuff, then decided to offer me a gig writing for his site. Working for them, I’ve prank called Romney Headquarters asking for campaign donations for Obama, I’ve spent a week following the exercise and dietary habits of a caveman, and I’ve documented an all-day residence in a bathtub.
The experiences I’ve had over the last year and a half have been something that I’ve longed for for a far longer period of time. I love peeking into other worlds and experiencing new things. And I love having a reason to write every week.
So that brings us to the central question of the About Me section of a website: Who am I? I started off this piece saying I imagine the average person sees my life as one giant messy room. And I think that hits it pretty much on the head. I am a messy room personified.
But that’s okay. Because, as is the case for many of us out there with messy rooms, everything is exactly where I want it.
Since the pattern online seems to be to merge the about me/us section with the contact me/us section, here is how to get ahold of me.
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