I didn’t plan on living in Florida, but somehow it happened. If you want to talk about really badly planned events that went extremely well, you want to talk about the time in 2018 when I moved to Florida for a couple months.
Waiting for JET
Because I had just gone and assumed I’d be accepted for the JET Program after applying in 2017, I decided not to renew my lease in Seattle. I would quit my job at the end of May 2018, then spend time with my Dad’s side of the family, then my Mom’s side of the family, before I moved to Japan for several years.
It was a very solid plan—June in Florida, July in Georgia, then August and beyond in wherever JET sent me, hopefully Aichi Prefecture. The only problem was that I didn’t get accepted. I got waitlisted.
I feverishly tracked the JET Program Reddit to find out the status of waitlisted candidates to see my chances go down, and down, and down.
In April when the real acceptances were picked, some obviously had to decline and then more alternates would be picked to fill those slots. That never came.
In May I waited for the college graduates who got a sweet offer at their Dad’s firm and decided a $70,000 base salary was better than their presumed year-long vacation to Japan. That never came.
In June I waited for those last emergency dropouts for people who got arrested or had health problems or simply got wet feet. That never came.
I mean, I know I bombed the interview really badly, but I felt so confident that I looked great on paper. I studied in Japan for a year and had Japanese as a minor, I had experience as a teaching assistant, I had a degree in Writing & Linguistics and knew a lot about the English language… It genuinely hurt me to find that I had been completely passed over.
It hurt me even more to know that I had already set the plans in motion to go and could not stop them under any circumstance. Already having subleased my room out, already having put in my notice at work, already having bought plane tickets to Florida, it was beyond too late to reconsider. And it really sucked, but I decided to make good use of it anyway!
This is actually a pretty happy story, I promise.
(Also, spoiler alert, but I DID get accepted to the JET Program months later in one of the most fateful freak accidents the world has ever given me. I’ve been grateful ever since.)
Well anyway, for a couple months I lived in Florida with my Dad and my Grandparents, stuck carless and without decent public transit. And with everything super spaced apart because this was a retirement community in South Florida where apparently it’s impossible to build a commercial business within a mile radius of a house or something. Like, damn it was so long just to get to the nearest convenience store by foot.
It was hot as hell, I didn’t actually have a room to myself at all, and I did not interact with a single person under the age of fifty the entire time (besides retail workers I guess), but it was still fun, and honestly kinda convenient.
Moviepass still sorta worked so I could see movies often. The retirement community had a gym about ten minutes away by car and I could exercise with almost nobody around to bother me. And, of course, it was all rent free and I didn’t usually pay for food, so I could keep my extremely meager savings going.
Eventually, surely, I’d get a job, right? I could have become a teacher there, but I decided a writing career was more important (and that’s why I moved back to my hometown shortly afterwards, mostly because my bedroom has a home office lol).
So I started out this summer with an impressive ambition to get fit, have fun consuming some media in my backlog, and cook a lot more often. I succeeded at every single one of those. And, furthermore, I got increasingly obsessed with writing full-time, especially when I was jobless but also rent free. I eventually did start writing full-time, as you can read about here, but mostly on revision work in preparation for the start of ATL: Stories from the Retrofuture. And trust me, I did a hell of a lot of prep.
I also watched a lot of TV and movies, and finally played some Switch games that I’d been putting off for a while!
With all of this, the month of August 2018 turned into the Month of S. All of the stuff that defined it for me just so happening to start with S for some reason:
I bought and started playing this excellent farming sim while I still lived in Seattle, but the bulk of my playtime came from after I moved to Florida. Every morning, I’d play the game for 2-3 hours, progress a bunch, and then start working on writing-related stuff around lunchtime. It became a very nice habit and I was deeply in love with the game.
Then, after I got married (to Abigail) and my farm was running extremely well, and I had hit the bottom floor of the mine, for some reason everything just clicked for me, and I felt like I had finished what the game had to offer for me.
For some reason, I haven’t picked it up since.
Edgar Wright, the master director behind Scott Pilgrim, Shaun of the Dead, Baby Driver, and much more, actually got his first break back in 1999 with the amazing sitcom series Spaced. It’s a pretty typical setup—a young man (Simon Pegg) and young woman (Jessica Stevenson) pretend to be a couple so they can rent a cheap flat together, and they meet their wacky neighbors.
But, being Edgar Wright, the show is delightfully weird and has all those trademark transitional shots and brick jokes and surreal character moments we’ve come to love. It only ran for 14 episodes (it’s British), but all 14 are fantastic. It’s one of the best shows I have ever seen. I was sure nothing else would even come close.
(The first episode is currently on Dailymotion, and maybe the entire series but not sure. It’s on Hulu too I think, though, so you definitely gotta see it somehow.)
Social Media Killer
Like I said earlier, I did a LOT of work on ATL in August, getting it ready for its eventual launch in late September of that year. I also did heavy outlining work for later stories, but its first story—getting its cover, getting its final draft ready, figuring out how to go about posting a web serial in the first place—took the bulk of my writing time while I was in Florida.
You can, of course, read it here if you want 😉
After finishing Spaced and quitting Stardew Valley, I decided to start the show I’d put off for many years. I famously ignored it for years, but for some reason all the free time convinced me to start it on a whim.
And boy did it become one of my favorite shows of all-time just like Spaced. I really, really loved it. The official soundtrack on Spotify got played on repeat constantly. The show enflamed some parts of my wacky-anime-shenanigans heart that I forgot even existed. It had been so long since I just fell in love with a new piece of long-form media so much that it took me by surprise. In the blink of an eye, I was fourteen all over again!
Eventually, I Left
I was never going to stay in Florida for that long. I always intended to go back to my hometown after a while and live there, also rent free, until I either went back to Seattle to work or succeeded at becoming a full-time writer.
But… I had a lot of fun down there. Living with no job, no school, no obligations besides a few bills… it’s the only time in my life that’s ever happened. I got to exercise a lot, hang out with my Dad, experience the putrid Florida heat, and experience a lot of S stories all in a short span.
Quite a good experience.