Why I left my six-figure San Francisco life and chose to live in poverty instead
“There is a solution for the poor,” the executive begins. “We need to euthanize them to make way for more productive citizens. For men like us.”
I have got to get out of this fucking city.
Change is scary. No matter how much money I build up to prepare myself for change, it never seems like enough. While the almighty dollar sounds like an excellent shield, it never lives up to the hype. Well, not at the scale I deal with it.
A few months ago, right after having the conversation I alluded to above, I decided to leave my safe game development job and head out to live in Portland. I’ve published a novel. I stream games on YouTube. I’ve started a Patreon.
I don’t make money. My six-figure salary and the benefits that came with my employment are laughing at me from the hole they’ve left in my life. Some days, I have the strength to laugh back at them.
It’s a big change, and it’s still terrifying.
“We need you to stop talking about addiction,” the director says.
“Should I stop using the latest research?” I ask.
“Oh no, we need your results. We just…. People feel you don’t like your work, and that is affecting their morale.”
“So… I should keep doing what I’m doing, but I shouldn’t tell people why I do what I do.”
“You didn’t hear it from me.”
Nobody’s Business, my debut novel, explores people as products. Celebrities are people who are manufactured and sold for public consumption, and people without any market potential are Nobodies. It’s heavy-handed, perhaps, but that keeps it from being misinterpreted.
Splitting the world into “Sombodies” and “Nobodies” is something we do every day. It’s a human thing, and it can be as cruel as it is necessary. Take a look at the SF Homelessness Project. While homelessness is a scourge that visits all major cities in the United States, our normal lives would be endlessly disrupted if we showed the same empathy for the homeless as we do for our own families. Homeless in the United States are our ultimate Nobodies. They must be invisible to us in order for us to live our normal lives.
In Nobody’s Business, I set out to ask questions about what justice there can be for Nobodies, and also looked as what good Nobodies can do. Even in a culture completely obsessed with gaining immortality through celebrity, I explore what good the anonymous masses can do when unconstrained by the shackles of constant public scrutiny.
It’s a lot of good. We can do a lot of good.
“I want to change the way education works,” the executive leans in and clasps his hands together. “We need to dedicate more time to instilling an American work ethic and American pride. We need this to make the nation great.”
“What do you…” I pause. “What makes a nation great?”
“Money, GPD, that kind of thing,” he replies. “It’s easy to measure, and it’s the greatest measure of success.”
“What about happiness, freedom, and suffering?”
“Who cares? Those things will follow the money. Rich people are happy. Other people…”
“Other people… what?”
“They’re in the way.”
The conversations I’ve provided throughout this article are not exaggerations. I’ve altered them for anonymity and brevity, but they are real conversations with executives and directors from companies across the San Francisco Bay area. These words come from our modern heroes — our industry leaders — and they embody the virtues that both their customers and their employees hold dear.
Having been an employee of many of these industry leaders, it took me a long time to realize that I was supporting their morality. Anyone working for these people is helping to earn revenue — the only virtue they recognize — and thus perpetuating the philosophy of selfishness and cruelty.
I can’t be responsible for that any longer.
This March, I packed up my things and moved to Portland. For the first time in my adult life, I made a move without securing a job, and I have not looked for one. I do not intend to look for one either. I have a wife and a roommate who are both struggling with their everyday jobs in order to support me beginning a stage of my life where my work no longer goes to support reprehensible people in their quest to make our society a crueler and more selfish place.
Money is a very real measure of influence in our society. Both spending on products or helping to develop products are a means of passing that influence on to that product’s owner. That owner will then spend that money to support public officials, companies, and people which will promote and protect their interests. When that interest is the extermination of the poor and the building of a nationalist cult, then it’s time to spend your money elsewhere.
For those of us without money, it is easy to feel powerless. Rent, utilities, and food consume over 100% of my household’s income. Soon, we will drain through our reserves, and I’ll be forced to lend my skills to support another employer. There are some I still respect — Scott Hartsman at Trion Worlds is a good man — and I’ll seek to line their wallets while supporting my family.
Hopefully, however, that time of shortage will never come.
In games, we always reward the hero. There are achievements, gear, and gold waiting after that last evil is slain. That’s not how it works in life. Villains are the ones that chase rewards. Heroes pay the price.
Society is a collaborative effort, and I have two small requests to make. The first is much easier than the second, though it would mean a lot to me. The second is something that would mean a lot to many more people.
- Support my work. Buy my book. Contribute to my Patreon. Share both those links with anyone who will read them. While the love of money is a sickness, a certain amount of money is necessary to survive.
- Volunteer. Clean up a park. Feed the homeless. Donate, if that is the only thing you can do. Help people, and don’t expect anything in return. When I have money, I donate to World Builders. My local wildlife refuge is always looking for volunteers, and I bet one near you is as well.
Let’s go make the world a better place.