Spring 2009: starting a ‘business’
When we got back from Florida I found that I had been replaced and passively fired from my job at the cafe, so I applied for unemployment and was soon getting weekly $260 checks in the mail, if I remember correctly. Both of us started saving money in a really intense way, going often to a number of food banks around Seattle, buying discount, almost-rotting vegetables in bulk and canning them or processing them in some other way as to extend their use, etc. This was part of our plan to ‘make’ money: to just find ways to get free food, to get free money, and to extend our resources to their limits.
My girlfriend quit her job for the second part of our plan, which came about after a number of pretty successful sidewalk sales I had with my roommates, outside of our house. They were successful enough that my girlfriend and I just decided to – rather than sell our own stuff – pick out stuff from the Goodwill Outlet (which sells goods by the pound) and start selling it on the street, a number of days a week. We found this space we could use at a pretty prominent location on Capitol Hill, which was actually just a parking spot we paid the daily fee for next to an abandoned apartment complex that the attendees let us use in exchange for certain bribes, such as religious items we found while thrifting, etc. It was outdoors, and we used a number of clothing racks and tables we bought off Craigslist to set up all our shit, so that by the time it was all ready it looked like the inside of a used and vintage store. We piled it all in these two shopping carts when the day was over and went back to her apartment with all of our shit in the carts. The carts took up like half the apartment because she was living in a studio at the time, but we didn’t care. We did sort of well, best on the weekends, but it wasn’t even close to enough to support us (luckily we were both on unemployment) – on a good day we did, at the most, $150.
We tried to expand, to find better places, better locations. We once set up in front of Seattle Central Community College around 9AM and made around $540 in about two hours – the kids there were literally mobbing us for what we had, they were buying everything – but we got kicked off first by the campus security and then by the police. It was a very disappointing event, because we had hit a ‘goldmine’ of sorts there (we made about the same amount of money in two hours that we usually did in a week). We later went and met with campus people about getting a space there but they said it was impossible. Convinced we only needed the right space to sell our stuff, we started going around to businesses, asking them if we could use their spaces, but no one would let us. Everyone was nice to us though.
Summer, 2009: a farm, first major problems that would characterize the next year or so
We were sort of running out of steam on the whole clothes selling thing because it wasn’t really paying the bills. We had been throwing around the idea of starting an organic farm, as she had helped to start one a couple years back and knew what went into it, and I didn’t really have any other ideas (and I wanted to learn how to farm, anyways, because I was afraid of the impending collapse of Western Civilization) so I said that I might as well start working on a farm to see what it was like. I emailed a person who happened to be the farm manager at the farm my girlfriend had originally helped start and I offered to volunteer there. Within about a month of volunteering, I became a paid employee and worked close-to-full-time the entire summer. She didn’t have anything to do, really, since she had quit her job to do the clothes selling thing, and so she started working on the farm as well. That summer we had a ridiculous amount of free organic food on our hands. We were literally giving boxes away every week. We canned and processed probably around 100 pounds of food, some of which we later sold on my blog.
During this summer, I began to have some serious, anxiety-inducing problems with our relationship. I saw that the whole relationship was turning into something very intense, and I realized that what it was now was never going to lessen up – that my commitment would, logically, only be allowed to grow rather than recede, thus positing on me more and more responsibility and expectation. Upon that realization I basically started to reject her in an effort to distance myself from whatever expectation and responsibility for which I might have been liable. She understood, but it was sad. It culminated in our first break up. During our time off (which wasn’t necessarily time off – we still couldn’t stay away from each other for more than a few days – we were just technically not committed to each other) I twice flew across the country to sleep with two different girls within a three week period, both times coming home and sleeping with her immediately, maintaining that I wasn’t with her, and not telling her anything of the incidents (I lied).
Fall 2009: more crises
During the fall we were still in crisis. During one stretch of time, I had been away from her for a number of weeks – longer than ever before, at least – and I was sure that we had broken up and that it was over. I remember forcing myself to not call her, to never see her again, because it was over, ‘for good.’ The reason we broke up ‘for good’ was the same one as before, which we both understood very well by now – I just reached this breaking point (as I had done multiple times before) where I couldn’t deal with the expectations of another person anymore, with the constant maintenance of someone’s needs, with the reliance that a relationship forced upon someone.
I spent those weeks alone, not speaking to anyone, in my own apartment, the only interaction I had being that with a store clerk, or some Gchat, or whatever. One day I went over to my girlfriend’s apartment for some technical reason, perhaps to get a book I had left over there or something. I remember coming inside her apartment and feeling like ‘business’ and that I wasn’t going to break or do anything but when I sat down on the couch next to her I started crying really hard. She asked me why I was doing that but I had no idea, really. I guess I was just unconsciously stressed out by not being around her or by the lack of her presence or whatever.
Winter 2009/2010: Asia, Salt Lake City, problems
That sort of cathartic emotional breakdown was not enough to get us completely back together, because we were still heavily on-and-off during that winter. I in fact had decided to try to end it completely and get over her for good by going to Southeast Asia, which I did for two somewhat excruciating months. A month in, though, I caved and emailed her that I was just going to figure out my problem with relationships and that I was going to come home to her and that we would be together. We began, over email, acting like we were together again, that life would be like it was in the beginning of our relationship.
Meanwhile, I had met this girl in Laos with whom I was sleeping and traveling for a small amount of time. She made me happy enough, sort of, but I was really emotionally messed up regardless, in part because I would do things like sleep with her and then go email my girlfriend that I loved her and would be back home soon. I was also just really depressed and felt really alone and sort of afraid of being unsatisfied until I died and I couldn’t really navigate the hostel scene because I felt so alienated by the hostel culture, just in general. My own problem, really.
I came back to America just after Christmas Day and met my girlfriend at her brother’s house, who was out of town. She accepted me immediately but was hurt by everything that was happening, by me going, by the entire stupid embarrassing clusterfuck that it was. She was tired, probably of my indecision and of all my emotional issues. She only innocently wanted me and was really just waiting until I had figured my shit out, or whatever. I had to go to Salt Lake the next day to see some of my family and we had an alright night that night, but it was a little difficult, just because I had been on the other side of the world for two months and had been sleeping with someone else and generally had lived a life without her. I was supposed to have ‘figured things out,’ which is what I told her when I said I wanted her back: that I would ‘figure things out.’ I kind of did – I figured out some stuff about my personality, and about what she needed to have in order to be happy – but I didn’t come back changed. We sort of had treated it, before I came back, that I was going to be a changed person, but really I wasn’t. I knew a couple more things. I still felt messed up.
I went to Salt Lake the next day and yet again ‘betrayed’ my girlfriend on New Years Eve in a somewhat minor incident where I slept in the same bed as a girl and held her until we fell asleep, without kissing her or whatever.