My legs faltered. I staggered out of the room and sat on the cold airport metal bench. Keep it together. I extracted El Salvador paperwork from my important-documents folder and sorted them by category. With all my papers in hand, I stepped back in the immigration office.
- Mam, did you find the reason for the alert?
- Not exactly, but it seems to be related to a vehicle.
- I see. Here is what happened…
I told her my entire story from the day I entered El Salvador. From the ankle sprain to the refugee status to the attempted vehicle seizure by customs. She read through my papers, asked for my passport, and told me to wait outside. Meanwhile, the Iberia plane was making its last call.
The email! Show them the email!!! I had an email exchange with the customs chief who rescued la Chichona the year before. An older gentleman came out of the immigration office holding my papers. I showed him the email. He read the whole exchange and said, “We haven’t received confirmation yet, but we will make an exception. However, you need to clear the alert upon return". Tears welled my eyes. I thanked him, thanked the lady, and begged them to hold the plane a little longer.
Ensued the fastest sprint in the history of El Salvador's international airport. I boarded in extremis and relieved both passengers and staff. When I collapsed in my seat, all the emotions I'd been holding poured out at once. I started sobbing and huffing and puffing and laughing. Las Palmas here I come! There are good people everywhere.
My Airbnb room was close to my parents’ hotel. It was great to see them on vacation, relaxed, and present. My mom and I have similar personalities and interests. We share and talk a lot. In contrast, the conversations with my dad are a bit rough, especially regarding my career. The few times we brought up the subject, we clashed and cooled off like water on fire.
On a long night walk by the beach, he addressed the elephant in the room.
- So… how is work?
- It’s going. I’m making progress with my videos.
- Still in immigration?
- What’s that about?
- I’m switching to online education. The goal is to start selling a video course online instead of representing clients legally.
- You don’t do that anymore?
- I still do but not as I used to. I’d like to move away from it.
- I don’t want to deal with people anymore.
- Hahah you’ll deal with people all your life, whether you like it or not!
- I know…but if I can limit my interactions it's better. I don’t like to be people’s legal representative. It’s too stressful. They think that because they pay you, you are responsible for delivering their visa, even if they don’t do the work!
- Why don’t you explain that from the start?
- I do but still, they don’t get it. Plus, I don’t like the idea of not delivering.
- That’s not your responsibility, right?
- I know but I disagree with the concept. Imagine if you pay a mechanic to fix your car but once he's done, your car is still broken. Why did you pay him then?
- If the mechanic tells you what to expect from the start, it's your choice. You pay for the expertise and time. That’s what lawyers do. They can’t guarantee the results but you’re not paying for the result. You’re paying for their advice.
- Yeah, and that’s what the Immigration Consultant Order is pushing us to do. But I don't like it. If I pay you and you don’t deliver, I don’t care who is responsible. The bottom line is that I have less money and no visa.
- You’re in the wrong business then.
- I know…hence the video project.
- What do you mean?
- I’d be selling an online course. Whether you study or not, that’s your responsibility. What I’m selling you is the knowledge and support.
- And how is that different from the other one?
- In this case I’m just the instructor. In the other, I was the consultant, the coach, the psychologist, the couple therapist, the real-estate broker, and the career advisor! I'm done with that.
The loud street sweeper truck sucked our words in its vacuum. We waited for it to pass by.
- So...how long have you been working on the videos?
- A little over a year.
- And I’m still working.
- What if it does not work?
- What do you suggest? Get back to Montreal and get a job?
- Montreal or elsewhere, but you’ve been travelling for over two years now. The longer you stay out of the job market the harder it’s gonna be to go back.
- I’m not going back.
- You had an easy job with a large company who paid you well. Only retired ministers can play golf every day and still call it work.
- And even that was not enough to keep me!
- A corporate job is a much safer bet than your video business, or any business for that matter.
- If things come to worse, I’ll sell the van, go back to Montreal and be a normal citizen again.
- It may be too late by then.
- It’s never too late. Corporate bullshit will always be around.
- Assuming they would hire you! What will you say when they ask what you’ve been doing for the past few years?
- I’ll tell them about the van life, about the experiences that I lived and the lessons that I learned. They’ll be inspired, even envious. Shitty Sugar taught me to sell snow to the Eskimos after all. I’ll be fine.
We listened to the sound of the ocean for a while. My dad started:
- You know, technology changes quickly. What you know now will be obsolete in a year. That’s why companies invest so much in training. The longer you stay out of your field, the harder it’s gonna be to go back.
- I’m not going back to sales. Back then, most people I worked with hated their jobs as much as I did, but they could not leave it…mortgage, children, or whatever. It’s the same shit everywhere, only logos change. People are slaving for a paycheck without realizing that paycheck cannot buy time. Then, they escape on vacation for two, three, or four weeks a year. Four out of fifty-two! And for what? To hear the same bullshit chewed over week after week by people who would replace you the second they find a cheaper option. It's all lies! The top lies to the bottom, pretending to give them meaning in their work. And the bottom lies to themselves pretending to find meaning in their work. Corporate hypocrisy makes me sick to my stomach.
We walked in silence and stopped at the intersection before his hotel.
- Whatever you decide, dig your well before you’re thirsty. If you wait too long, you’ll regret it. Good night!
- Yeah...good night.
My dad was right…and it was disheartening. For the first time in years, I was proud of my work. I was creating quality content and helping people, while being in line with my values. But values do not pay bills, and there was no light at the end of the tunnel. I could keep trying...how long though?
Even fire needs air to burn.