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46# The golden handcuffs

Updated: May 19, 2021

- Hey man, what are you working on?

- I write about travelling… trying to make it as a writer.

- Cool! Just keep writing, you’ll get there eventually. Just keep writing.

The city of San Cristobal pumps with creativity, like an overpowered bass speaker. Colonial houses of all colors decorate the center, and the paved narrow streets converge into the city square. The main square, surrounded by huge green mountains, feels like a natural coliseum where eccentric folks fight over tourists’ purse. They manage to coexist, as long as tourists flow.

We entered San Cristobal through the afternoon mist, happy to smell the pines and inhale the cool air. Marco booked a bed in a hostel downtown. It was the Semana Santa, the most popular vacation week in Mexico. Indigenous mothers and children were selling their craft. Street hustlers, artists, tourists, and drunk mingled together in harmony. Marco wanted to spend time with the Zapatistas. I needed a place to think.

Shitty Sugar had contracted A&F, an international accounting firm to sort out my tax situation. This way they would be clean in case I decide to sue them. I dragged my correspondence with A&F for weeks, until they cornered me. I had to answer detailed questions about my whereabouts for the past three years. Shitty Sugar will find out I had been travelling around the world while telling them I worked from home. The act was over.

While wandering the streets, I pushed a large wooden door and entered an old colonial building. A café, a restaurant, and a few artsy shops shared a common garden. Tracy Chapman played in the background, lulling two dogs to sleep in the grass. The coffee had a zen vibe. I had found my place to think.

I sat in the café and took out my computer. The waiter had an incredible energy. He joked with everybody in five languages. I loved his enthusiasm. His name was Brein and just a week before, he had opened a restaurant. Brein said to me, “Being successful is hard no matter what you do. You might as well struggle with something you enjoy”…word.

I used to be passionate about work. I co-founded a business to change people’s life and make a positive impact in the world. But bills had to be paid, so I started working for Shitty Sugar. And then my business stalled. Shitty Sugar was consuming my soul, and I sold it for a steady paycheck. Day by day, my dreams of leaving a legacy withered. I accepted a life of comfort, what Thoreau called, “a life of quiet desperation”.

Now that Shitty Sugar was behind me (almost), I wanted to love my work again. I could pick up my business where I left it, or try to make it as a writer. To be paid for doing what you love, how exciting! It would take efforts, perseverance, and time. But time was a luxury I didn’t have.

I asked my former boss Angelo for advice. According to him, Shitty Sugar would fire me, with a severance package, as soon as A&F settle the taxes. I could milk them for a few more weeks and then settle for the package. That would give me a financial buffer, enough time to plan things out.

At night, I joined Marco at the hostel and randomly met Brein in the lounge. He introduced me to his friend John, an older man from Alaska. John was energetic, sassy, and had a glint of madness in his eyes. He seemed like the kind of guy who could tell anyone to go to hell. I instantly liked him.

Over the evening, we discussed the pros and cons of he corporate world. John shared his past. He graduated from a prestigious university in the US. Then, he worked like a slave for a big consulting firm in Chicago, making six figures on his first year. All John ever wanted was to be in Nature, but the money was too good to walk away.

One morning, as he was shaving, he spotted a grey hair on the side of his head, at 24 years old. That one grey hair triggered an emotional breakdown. John realized he hated his life and was wasting it for money he did not care about. He finished shaving, called his boss, and quit. Like a boss.

Everyone told him that he was throwing away his life, but John did not give a shit. He was impulsive and fearless. From the day he quit, he had been working exclusively outdoors. The trade didn’t matter, as long as he was enjoying Nature. Every year since, John hikes… a 1000 miles! When I met him, he had walked his way up from Panama! John was a man who followed his heart, a true inspiration.

I shared my concerns with him: losing my comfortable lifestyle, running out of money, etc. He said that the fear was more crippling than the act itself. He knew it, that’s why he quit on the spot. Having no mapped future forced him to be resourceful, to grow strong, and to know himself. “Quitting the rat race was the best decision I ever made”, he said, “do it and thank me me later”. John and Brein pushed me to take a leap of faith. They pointed that the worst case would be to go back to a 9-5 job.

Purpose and freedom rusted the golden handcuffs.

The corporate chains were about to break.


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