Hi, I’m Nicholas Licalsi. In May of 2016, I quit my short career as a software engineer after working for only nine months. I hated it! And yeah, I know everyone hates work, but I was miserable.
I had spent the time between high school to the day I walked out of the office pursuing engineering because I believed it would pay me the big bucks. Classmates and I would dream about what we would do with that ‘engineering money,’ and I took the highest paying job offer I got out of college.
I used to have artistic dreams, I enjoyed drawing as a kid and even considered being a chef for a brief interval in high school. Then I realized it was long hours and low unstable income that wouldn’t guarantee me money. I decided since I was good at math and enjoyed computers I would focus on engineering. This was a fatal mistake.
Quitting The Job
After working in a job for a few months, I realized I would never be able to do it long term. Being a cubicle jockey wasn’t for me. I started saving over half my salary dreaming of a day I would be able to escape and pursue things I enjoyed.
On the 31st of May, I walked into my boss’s office and told him I needed to put in my two weeks notice. I couldn’t stand that escape was years away. Honestly, I didn’t think I could even survive two weeks. I felt a 300 lb weight around my neck going and coming to meetings, or even just the coffee machine. When I sat at my desk “this is hopeless,” played on repeat in my head.
My boss, in his Indian accent, said:”I’d try and convince you to stay but you look weak.” If he were wrong, I would have taken it as an insult, but it was the most accurate description of me for the time. I felt like vomiting most of the time and getting out of bed, let alone getting dressed felt next to impossible.
After packing up my cube the same day, luckily they let me waive the two weeks, someone asked, “Where are you going next?” My answer was simply, “Home. Probably to my couch.”
The Sabbatical Starts
I had a half a dozen things I wanted to do, and they morphed from week to week. I considered moving into a van or RV and touring the country, backpacking across Europe, writing a book, and even starting my own company. Going back to work for someone in an office was the last thing on my mind. I gave myself a year sabbatical to live off my savings and find something that felt good to me.
Looking back every decision I made up to that point was a choice I was supposed to make, I was on the same path as everyone else. That wasn’t the life I wanted.
So I spent three months bumming around my small apartment, my parent’s suburban home, and my various friend’s houses. I traveled back to my college town and slept on a couch there for a month, playing with the idea of going back to school and getting another degree. I experimented with a few ideas, read some books, watched an unhealthy amount of Netflix, but nothing seemed to stick or fix my issues.
One idea persisted though. I wanted to write fiction. It didn’t even seem feasible. I didn’t have an English degree, and my spelling was (and still is) shit. Grammar was a thing that I ignored, and I scoffed at people who corrected me for saying “Me and Sam” instead of “Sam and I.” The only thing I had going for me was: I read a lot, and I thought I had a few good ideas.
Buddhism in China & New Challenges
In September I was presented with the opportunity to go to China and stay in a Buddhist monastery. It was a daunting task. I spoke no Chinese, barely knew anything about Buddhism, and I found out about it through Reddit, talk about sketchy. The only thing I knew about China was that it was a communist country that made all of the junk Americans use on a daily basis. And the only thing I knew about communism was that they didn’t support religious freedom, and might not be too happy to have a westerner staying in a monastery. I applied for a visa and went anyway.
For two months I lived with 25 native Chinese and 5 other westerners. I cooked and ate vegetarian meals and taught English. I studied Chinese for about 4 hours a day. The remaining time was spent practicing meditation, Buddhist chanting, and studied buddha-dharma. My days were packed.
Every day was a new challenge in a land where no one spoke my native language. Traveling alone outside of the US was new to me, and I walked away from this experience knowing that when if I was faced with a challenge I could overcome it. And if I couldn’t, I learned to live with the thorn in my side.
I returned to America and celebrated Thanksgiving with my family, after eating vegetables, rice, and occasionally unidentifiable meats some turkey and gravy sat well. What didn’t sit well was the question “What am I going to do with my life?”
I hadn’t found happiness in China. If anything, it distracted me from my depression. Once the monotony of monastic life set in, I became just as depressed as before.
That Writing Idea Persists
The idea of being a writer didn’t go away, it followed me around the world, and I had hoped to write far more than I did. After keeping a journal religiously, I started considering the idea as feasible. On November 30th, 2016 I challenged myself to write for one hour per day for 100 days. I haven’t stopped yet.
In that time a lot has changed in my life. I wrote two rough drafts of novels and a few short stories. I picked up some freelance work to pay the bills. Now I’m working with a small business and making connections in the local area.
I have less bad days, but they’re still pop up. I have found something artistic that I enjoy and (THIS BIT IS WEIRD) I have embraced the luxury of being able to do work not for the money but the joy of it. I’m not on a stable path by any means but I’m getting there slowly. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what works and what doesn’t work for me and my happiness.
This Site is Part of the Journey
I think everyone should have an alter-ego creative outlet. Even if it never goes anywhere! Being able to spend time on something that isn’t work or consumption is freeing and relaxing.
I’m still not the world’s greatest writer, I’m passable at best, and I have a few dozen issues. But I want to share my journey with you via this blog. Along with some of my fiction and short stories I put together. I love writing. Mixing letters and words fascinate me.
One day I’d like to make a living as a writer, but if I never did that, I would still sit down and put my hour in every day. And that knowledge that I have an outlet for that energy is pushing me to work harder day in and day out.
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