As kids, growing up in Nowhere, Suburbia, USA, me and my friends did a lot of role playing. When the only real thing to do in your town is walk down to the local strip mall to look at video games you can’t afford, you tend to find other ways to escape: you make up characters who can go on adventures for you, you read a ton of books from Harry Potter to The Lord of the Rings to The Hitchhikker’s Guide to the Galaxy, you dream up worlds and stories and places that are infinitely better and more exciting than your crappy town. And when you can get your friends to sit down with each other around a table with enough pizza and rulebooks to keep you entertained and fed for an entire weekend, you take those characters and those stories, and you add dice and you share them. But all the while, what you’re really doing is looking for your own escape, dreaming of all the places you want to go and all the adventures that you’ll be able to have…one day.
That was me.
Fast forward a few years. I escaped Nowhere, Suburbia by going to college in NYC, ended up with a mountain of student debt big enough to tempt any dragon, and was faced with the prospect of spending the rest of my life tied to a pointless job in some other pointless town, squandering the skills I’d worked to develop in university, because, let’s face it, writing doesn’t pay.
And then, three years after leaving New York, my mom died.
Something you should know about me: my family isn’t actually from the States. My mom was Filipina, and my dad grew up on the tiny island of Malta, in the Mediterranean. The only reason I grew up in Suburbia, USA at all is because my parents, both immigrants, had worked their asses off to afford the new house in the quiet neighborhood. My family has never been American, my closest relatives (in terms of physical proximity) actually live in Canada, and when my mom died, my dad’s reasons for staying in the States disappeared almost instantaneously. He moved back to Malta.
And I looked around the town where I was living and working: a small, mountain city in the middle of the Blue Ridge, where half my monthly income went to pay off my rent and debt. At times I still miss that town, though I know if I’d stayed, I would’ve suffocated. But I knew I had to make a decision. I could try to make it work here: find a steady job, build some sort of career. Maybe climb the ranks so that I’d have some slight hope of making enough to pay off my loans in my lifetime.
Or I could answer the call, and go running after that adventure I’d always wanted.
I bought a ticket to Malta, and I haven’t looked back since.