When I began making these plans to retire and travel, I knew many people would encourage me to continue practicing law. We’re well-trained in America to equate money with happiness, and to encourage loved ones to make wise financial decisions. Even though I was prepared for this, there was an angle I had not considered.
Early last month, I had a conversation with a friend, and he hit me with a few surprises. I realize it’s late to write about this conversation now. But it took time for me to recover from the shock and process what he told me.
For my own benefit, I need to talk about this conversation. But I consider the conversation to be a private one. (Also, I don’t want to burn any bridges by bragging about specifics.) So I’m going to write this without using proper names.
What I was Fishing For
As I’ve said several times before – I am a novice when it comes to the haunt entertainment industry. However, I believe that I have a natural talent and passion for haunt work, and I believe that with sufficient practice and experience, I could be pretty damn good at this craft of corpse and prop building.
People who know me know that I hate asking for favors or help. When my friend came to town, I jumped at the chance to have dinner with him, not to ask a favor but to ask for advice. I believed that the best way for me to get the aforementioned practice and experience would be to earn an apprenticeship. I wanted to ask my friend if he had any advice on how to find one.
Unfortunately, I never got the chance. Other mutual friends had joined us for dinner, and for reasons I can’t get into right now, it was inappropriate for me to ask about apprenticeships in front of our other friends.
An Offer of Employment (Sort Of)
Even if my friend and I were dining alone, I would not have had much chance to ask him for the advice because he threw me off balance with a different offer early in the evening. That offer was to do work for a prestigious haunt company later this year.
Now to be clear – he didn’t promise a particular type of work, he didn’t promise that it would be paid work, and he didn’t promise that it would be for any particular duration. This might literally be a day or two doing unpaid grunt labor. He didn’t promise any specifics, just that he believed he could get me connected for at least a short gig.
Ordinarily, the lack of specifics (and the promise of pay) would cause me to shrug off the offer. I may be a novice, but I know my time and talent has some value. I’m generally not willing to work for free anymore. I’m with Wil Wheaton on this subject.
But I’m not kidding when I say that this haunt is prestigious. Every serious haunter I know would give their left nut for the opportunity to work for this haunt. In fact, just saying that probably renders my name avoidance pointless.
I never would have thought that my friend regards my work well enough to be worthy of working at this haunt. So either I’m underestimating my own talents, have an exaggerated perception of this haunt, or am reading too much into the offer. Whatever it is, this offer – no matter how miniscule – is nothing short of a minor miracle.
The (Not-So-Subtle) Suggestion of a Career
Here’s the sobering reality. Of all the people in the haunt entertainment industry, there are thousands of guys who can do the sort of work that I want to do. But there are only a handful who can do what I am professionally trained to do. My value to any prospective employer is not (yet) as a corpse builder or prop maker. My value is in my legal and financial expertise.
Dread replaced my initial excitement when my friend started hinting that I should work in the haunt industry as a legal or financial adviser. By “hinting”, I mean passively-aggressively shouting hypotheticals clearly directed at me, and loud enough for me to hear above the ambient noise of the bar.
Not only did he suggest that it might be easy for me to find this type of work in the industry, but he also seemed to suggest that he personally would have use for me in that capacity.
I Know He Means Well
This guy is a very dear friend of mine, and I know he’s only looking out for my best interests. Frankly, I’m lucky to have someone look out for me in this way.
And when the North American Tour is over, I’m probably going to be broke. I may not have the luxury of holding out for employment or business opportunities that align with what I want. I may need to take whatever I can find just to put food on the table.
But I detest law so much. The last thing I want is to go through all of this upheaval and sacrifice, only to end up practicing law again.
I have a unique opportunity here: the right combination of freedom and flexibility to do what very few other people can – chase my dreams. I don’t want to sell out for a steady paycheck. If I do, I’m going to feel like a failure. I’ll have squandered this opportunity for security and stability.
An Offer I Cannot Refuse?
There’s no question I cannot refuse the first offer. I badly want to refuse the second offer, but I may not be able to.
Forget the practical necessity of securing some income in 2018. How can I say “no” to this friend? He’s a very close friend, my best connection, and my best foot in the door into the haunt industry. At the very least, saying “no” might mean burning another bridge (which I’ve already risked doing twice to people from Terror on the Fox in the past 12 months).
I might also be a fool not to see the opportunity to gradually nuzzle my way into haunt work. If I offer legal or financial help to haunt owners, I could worm my way in by virtue of physical proximity.
In about 8 months, I’m going to have some serious decisions to make. Do I stick to my principles, be an idealist, and relentlessly chase my passions? Or do I give in to fear, be a pragmatist, and settle for the first steady paycheck I can find?