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  • When I was 22 years old, I worked as an IT Manager at one of the few Internet startups that had survived after the burst of the dotcom bubble. I had an income higher than my parents ever had, which was more than enough to pay all my bills and monthly expenses (including rent, going out, clothing, etc.). I also had a team of 12 people that I had hired, and to whom I had passed along everything I knew. It was perfect... until I got bored and quit that job, that is.

    Looking back, I can see it all started when I decided to drop out of my university, after being there for 2.5 years and just 1.5 years short of completing my Bachelors degree (which I still don't have). I would go to college every night after work (the same as almost all of my classmates), and sit through 4.5 hours of multiple classes. Sometimes I would get lucky, like when I got the best professor I could ever have had, who made me appreciate marketing and understand its value. The curious thing is that this was a Computer Science major, so my favorite class had been one completely unrelated to the overall career itself. Almost all of my other technical classes where completely dull, filled with professors that did not work on the field, and who at times did not even know much about the subject they were teaching. After a while I decided this was a waste of my time and dropped out.

    Now, what should I do next? I had just got a Mac recently (an iBook) and I knew a guy that worked in 3D animation, so I thought, why not? And just like that I enrolled in a course to learn about 3D animation. The course was unlike anything I had ever done before, and I quite enjoyed it. One day, when we were asked to draw a human figure and animate it, while I was struggling with my weird sticky figure, the girl next to me had drawn a woman, with a full voluptuous body and everything. That's when I realized that just my reasonable technical skills would not be enough here.

    Next I enrolled in a screenwriting course, which had just a few students (6-7) and was all done at the house of the instructor (a screenwriter/director somewhat known in the industry). This course was such a blast. I learned about Orson Welles movies, I studied Hitchcock character development, I watched and explored the multiple layers in John Ford's "Stagecoach". For someone that had always been a deep fan of the movies, I was in heaven. I not only went to the course every Saturday, but I also read every book I could put my hands on.

    Around the same time I was doing this course, I decided that what I did at my company (build websites) was something I could do on my own, so I quit my job and opened my own company with my girlfriend at the time, who also had quit her job (she worked as a designer at the same company I did). What could possibly go wrong? For my 22-years-old self, the answers was "nothing", but as I would learn later, a LOT could go wrong.

    First stupid move: quit a well-paid job to go create my own company without a clear plan ("building websites for others" is not exactly a terrific business plan).

    Second stupid move: start this company with a girlfriend, which means in one swift move I tied the my financial, personal and professional future all together in a company that had no clear plan (in fact, one could say I tied all of this to a heavy rock that was heading towards the bottom of the ocean).

    Then came my third stupid move.

    After the screenwriting course ended, I felt like I still wanted more, so I decided to enroll in another university, this time for a Bachelor in Social Sciences with a degree in Cinema. This would be a brilliant idea, except for the fact that this particular college cost a huge amount of money, which could become a problem for someone without a steady income, and with already high living expenses.

    I spent just 2 semesters at this course, but wow, how much I learned in there. I had classes on Art History that finally taught me something, and photography classes on the works of Robert Frank and Henri Cartier-Bresson. On my first semester I had to write, produce and direct an ad for a comercial product that was randomly assigned to my team. Another very important assignment was to put together an art installation based on the theme "friendship", but following the value of "multiplicity" as explained by Italo Calvino in his book "Six Memos for the Next Millennium".

    For my analytical brain that had always studied math, statistics, computer science, all of this was mind-blowing. What, I just need to give you my understanding of the subject? But how do I know if I understood it correctly? Eh, there is no 'right' answer?

    Not only did I succeed with one of the top grades of the class, I also made friends that are still my best friends today. Yet there was still the minor problem of the expensive tuition to be paid. My company was doing worst than ever, my girlfriend and I had broken up, and my debt was increasing exponentially very month, which resulted in sleepless nights worrying about what I would do to fix this. So I did what I knew was my only option: dropped out of college again, dismantled my company and looked for any job in IT that would pay me enough so I could start paying off my debt. It took me 2 more years, and a few jobs in different companies along the way, but I finally paid off all my debt and got back on track.

    The curious thing is that even after all these years, now and then some of that old craving still haunts me whenever I'm bored at work... A desire to start my own business, or to go back to cinema... a desire to work on something that lasts.... something differently than just work in projects that always seem so important for companies, even though they will be replaced by something else in less than 1-2 years.

    The only difference is that now I would like to think I'm a tiny bit smarter, so I try to plan my moves without disrupting my reasonably stable life... but I still wonder if this craving will ever go away...

    (Photo credit: by ARMLE)
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