When to leave the comfortable life for fame and glory

I was listening to an interview with Sam Esmail the creator of Mr. Robot, talk about his first professional break in the movie industry. It wasn’t a big break, but he became so good at producing those extras (director interviews, etc.) the box movie sets that came out about a decade ago, he was promoted with a bump in pay, got a salary (he had been working hourly before) and received health insurance. It was a great place to work, he said, and he witnessed a lot of five-, ten- and twenty-year employee anniversaries. 

He liked the work enough, and it was easy. Esmail could imagine himself staying there, getting old and loving life. But he went home at 6 pm every night and wrote until 2 am. He wanted something better, and he didn’t mind getting out of this comfortable life with a good network of co-workers to get that. 

I didn’t come right away, but his talent was eventually noticed.

I don’t have nearly success as Esmail, but I do see what he was after — and what he was willing to give up. Just about anyone who has lived overseas for some time has most likely left very safe and comfortable places, jobs where they’ve felt they belonged and could stay, to keep pushing further. Whether it was to expand the boundaries of their professional lives or their personal lives, they felt they had to leave a nice job or a nice town to get that done.

Many years ago we left Eugene Oregon to pursue a different style of life. We were very comfortable there, had finally gotten good jobs (after graduate school at the University of Oregon), which is harder to do than you think. We had a lot of good friends. But we wanted to live overseas, and we didn’t have too many reservations about leaving. We were a lot younger then and we didn’t know that certain sets of friends only come around a few times (if you’re lucky) in your life. 

We’ve lately been thinking about Eugene for a few reasons. One of our very good friends we met there (who stayed) recently passed away. So we reconnected with her family (which we knew well) and our friends who also remained. We thought about the great times we had with our friend Megan, and even though we could catch up quickly with her, we were very separate from her life. Secondly I also have a friend from a different part of my life who is currently working in Portland but who is interviewing in Eugene for a job at the U of O. (My guess is he would stay at their Portland campus).  

There is part of me who can see us still living in Eugene, with a lot of friends, a cute little house with a yard and a garden and a nice little store at the corner where we could drink fancy northwest beer. It’s a nice thought, one I think about often when I get sick of living here, or the UAE traffic or whatever. What I like about it is I know it will never come true. No disrespect, but I wouldn’t have loved life in Eugene. 

My life hasn’t been perfect, but I am on the way to meeting more goals — especially the cloudy, misty goals you kind of set with yourself but never verbalize — than if I had stayed in comfortable Eugene.  As nice as that town was, we wanted something different.

Life, of course, comes at you weird. Who knows what would have happened. Maybe I would have created a hit show.