Though I grew up in Washington, D.C., and much of my family works for the government, it wasn’t my intention to wind up in a government job. But when I was laid off from a nonprofit organization in New Orleans, I had to go looking for a new gig. I found a job in Maryland at a federal agency that responded to natural disasters. I applied, interviewed, and was hired.
Government jobs are hard to get but easy to keep, they say. That’s why so many people covet them. But this job was different. After four years, the challenges mounted. Every three months a government shutdown threatened my workflow. My bosses fought constantly. They slashed our budgets and froze everything. The higher-ups even clawed back my government smartphone. The changes that hit me were dumb, and they left me numb.
So, I contemplated my escape. I applied for 60 government jobs. I got one interview. There was no way out, it seemed, so I had to make one. I asked myself what I wanted to do with my life. And, more than anything, I wanted to travel and I wanted to write.
So, I opened Google Maps to decide where to go.
I needed a place where I could learn the basics of a language. I wanted a comparable standard of living. I didn’t want to worry about natural disasters. And, I wanted to be somewhere gay-friendly.
I needed the kind of job security I had fled.
I decided on Argentina. I gave my boss ample notice, raided my savings, and left for Buenos Aires. And Buenos Aires gave me everything. I met new people I keep in touch with today. I improved my Spanish. I hired a personal trainer and lost 60 pounds. The city was always exciting. The weather was better. And, the healthcare was free.
My initial plan was to spend six months there, but that time passed and I stayed for another six. When it came time for me to depart, my friends from Buenos Aires asked me if I was sure I wanted to return to the United States. They had heard about the murders of black men in the United States and my safety concerned them.
But I had no choice. I was running out of money, and my dad was in the hospital with a brain tumor. I had to return home. And I needed to make money. I needed the kind of job security I had fled.
I was in luck. Two months after I returned from Buenos Aires, I got an email from my boss. My old job was vacant. The person who replaced me stayed for six months and quit. Did I want to come back?
I did, I said. Ironically the job came with a raise, which sparked the envy of my coworkers (along with jokes about how the only way to make more money is to resign and return). But they didn’t know I’d taken the job under one condition: I’d only stay for one year. I felt secure in the job, I did it well, but I didn’t want to get stuck in it.
My dad died in April 2015. His death cemented my determination to live the life I wanted. So, after my year was up, I quit that job. For the second time.
I had been fleeing job security, but that turned out to be illusory anyway. This year, the government closed the office where I worked. They forced all the employees to find new employment.
If I hadn’t gone to Buenos Aires, if I had settled into that job with the hope of staying forever, the pink slip would’ve sorely disappointed me. But it didn’t. Buenos Aires taught me to bet on myself and do what’s in my heart. So now, I write. I write about my life, and life feels right. I was right to bet on myself.