I am not sure who thought I was crazier. My parents, or my kids. (My wife already knows I'm nuts.)
Let me explain. Briefly, if at all possible. Fair warning: this is my life story.
My teenage children were perplexed when Daddy started staying home all day. Forgetting to shave. Holing myself up in my freshly painted miniature office with a filing cabinet for my old "company" and a laptop to write with. Squeeze in an antique armoire stuffed with more files and my vinyl record collection, toss a vintage turntable on the desk, and pile every available space (other than my writing window) with paper and books...you get the picture.
Quite possibly my favourite part of the last two years has been hearing the creativity pour out of my son and daughter as they crack wise about their old man who has a twenty-foot commute and only leaves the house when it's dark outside.
Next month, on Grade 9 Take Your Child to Work Day, my son says he gets to sleep in and hang around the house all day doing nothing with Daddy. (I suspect he'll bash out a novella, perched beside me with a laptop of his own.)
Thirty years ago this month, it was my parents who thought I had lost it. That's when I dropped in at home to tell them I was dropping out of university, six weeks into my first year, to join an Internet software company run out of some guy's living room.
Now, understand that my parents had waited two extra years before I started university. My high school marks were always top notch and I took what is now called a "gap year". I planned to do a little volunteer world travel with an organization called Canada World Youth before getting a journalism degree.
Instead, I rented an apartment and got a couple of jobs waitering. I figured out (with the help of a late night cab driver) that journalism was not a guaranteed path to a career in creative writing. Seeing me flounder, my father suggested maybe I should look into computers. He'd heard they were going to be a big thing. The Apple IIe had just come out.
I went back to high school and did all the math and science courses I needed and got accepted to attend the top university for Computer Science in France (a different long story). Mom and Dad were pleased when, instead, I talked my way into Ottawa U as a last-minute "mature student" on an arts and science track that would morph to computer science in year two.
Only I quit.
Seems the professors did not think that microcomputers were going to be such a big thing after all and they insisted assignments be completed in FORTRAN on a mainframe. Meanwhile, some guy in a living room was building software to allow pictures and (someday, we dreamed) sounds to be transmitted from computer to computer over telephone lines. Way more cool, I thought. I went to work with him and his wife. As a writer. Of computer manuals.
I visited my parents at home to share my good news. After all, I had landed a job without university. They weren't exactly thrilled. My mother, who had quit smoking five years earlier, smoked one of mine.
As startups do, that company foundered, and I managed to work my way into a well-paying government job, get a couple promotions, and wind up at the same level as my dad by the time I was twenty-five.
And I quit.
This time, to move to Montreal and find digital media gigs just as the corporate video industry was imploding. (Secretly, my plan was to work as little as possible and write short stories no one would ever read.) My dad had a hard time explaining to his civil service co-workers that his son, about whom he had no doubt been bragging, had thrown in the towel to become a -- "What did you call it? Freelancer?"
And that launched a couple of decades in a digital media industry that has transformed the way we live, play, work, shop, communicate, learn, and fall in love. It's been ridiculously fun at times. Heartbreaking at others.
So, why quit?
To write? To craft stories about people whose voices crowd my head? To pour words onto the page like so many pixels in a black and white grid? Sketch scenes that demand a reader's imagination to complete the picture?
Could be I'm crazy. Certainly, those who love me have doubts.
But really, nothing's changed. I've always loved doing what I love to do.