Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Last Frontier

I am now in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where I will work 2-3 months at a school for impoverished elementary school students. The program is run through Cherokee Gives Back, the nonprofit arm of a company that attempts to buy, repair, and then sell broken lands throughout the world. I will be working at the Kechene School in one of the poorest neighborhoods in town Monday through Friday, teaching English and other subjects along with some other basic service tasks.

Most people that I have told about the voyage are congratulatory, lauding me for choosing to spend my time helping others. Those who know me best, however, have been more questioning. They know that I am a self-centered person and that I perform no action without first carefully considering its effect on my own disposition. I am excited about the prospect of improving the lives of others, but more intrigued by how this experience can upgrade my own life.

For many years I have felt dissatisfied with my place in the universe. Generally I have blamed this frustration on failure in the two foci of my twenties: my career and my love life. Neither has brought any sort of long-term satisfaction, and I habitually blamed my discontent on the incompletion of these two quests. But the more time has passed, the more experience, aggravation, and triumph I’ve had in these pursuits, the more I’ve realized that it isn’t the alleged “failure” that’s made me disgruntled, it’s my own core soul that disgusts me.

I have plenty of regrets about my career in poker, but the greatest one is that I wasn’t able to fully comprehend and enjoy the considerable and consistent success that I had playing the game. It sickens me that I wasn’t able to appreciate the way I dominated the game for several years, simply because a few other guys out there were dominating it just a little harder. Now, separated from the game by circumstance, choice, and aptitude, it seems ridiculous that I couldn’t continuously smell the roses, that I managed to deceive myself into the belief that my performance was unacceptable merely because I never won a million bucks in one day. Now twelve years since I first started playing, I have observed poker from every vantage point. I understand how exceptional my skills were at the height of my powers, at the moment when the poker boom and my own passion for the game simultaneously, fortuitously climaxed together. I just wish I would have cherished it a little more, because satisfaction is so fleeting in this life.

I have not been in a ton of relationships, but feel like I have accumulated more relationship experience than I’d like to accrue in this lifetime. I’ve been in good relationships and bad ones, great relationships and terrible ones, casual and intimate, oppressor and oppressed, user and used, teacher and student. With all the time I’ve spent considering and acting out relationships, I am still miserably incompetent at them. In truth, “executing” relationships start to finish could be the thing I am worst at in this world. But every time I feel sorry for myself, every time I think of how much pain I’ve endured, I have to remind myself that I have inflicted just as much.

I am no closer to solving the riddles of my future than I was after that fateful week in April when I went from stable and comfortable to single and unemployed. Since then I have flirted with half a dozen different careers – writing, distilling, business, and game design, to name a few – while expending even more effort in the endless search for female companionship.

In 2011 I lost my identity. I had a hard time explaining to myself and others who I was and what I was doing with my life. Not only did that affect my perception in the eyes of others, but as the year wore on and the identity crisis deepened, it ultimately dismembered my self-perception as well. I slipped deeper and deeper into a confusing hole of darkness, surrounded by ghostly skeletons of past, present, and future. In the past I could at least fall back on my craft or my sovereignty; this year, I found myself clutching at shadows. Regaining that identity has to be my primary goal of 2012. Simply put, I need to figure out WTF I want to do with the rest of my life.

In June in Las Vegas my friend and fantasy football rival Alex Case, a veteran of the CGB program and the Kechene School, first told me about his experience in Ethiopia. Right away it sounded like the perfect scenario for me – warm, English-speaking, high-altitude, with little violent crime and the opportunity to teach elementary school. I knew right away I would soon be traveling to Ethiopia, if for no other reason than temporarily beating back the built-up angst I’ve accumulated on the poker circuit. I don’t believe poker is an ignoble profession, but there are many more humane things I could have done with the time.

I feel like this could be the last frontier in the journey to happiness. Lord knows I’ve tried everything else. I don’t expect Ethiopia to make me a happier person, but perhaps time here could provide the attitudinal adjustment necessary to a more contented future. At the very least, I should be able to find out if I want to pursue a career in teaching or social service.

More than anything else, though, I am hoping to escape my own self-obsession. Simply put, I am sick of thinking about ways to make myself happier, weary of considering relationships, tired of endlessly evaluating and writing about myself. It sure would be nice to think about something else for a while.


Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

Enjoy, Moon, and try to get whatever you're looking for out of this experience.

And try to find the time to blog about it every once in a while as well. We'll keep reading.

11:36 AM  
Blogger gaamblor said...

Worst post black friday relocation plan ever.

12:16 PM  
Blogger Michal Greenberg said... Gandalf has a good insight for you starting at 2:03.

1:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
Until we meet again...

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Taylor Chase said...

"I have always lived violently, drunk hugely, eaten too much or not at all, slept round the clock or missed two nights sleeping, worked too hard and too long in glory, or slobbed for a time in utter laziness. I've lifted, pulled, chopped, climbed, made love with joy, and taken my hangovers as a consequence, not as a punishment. In my own life I am not willing to trade quantity for quality. If this projected journey should prove too much then it was time to go anyway."
- J. Steinbeck.

Welcome back, Moon. This is the best thing you've written since 2010.

8:15 PM  
Blogger TheGraveWolf said...


glgl Gnightmoon.

8:59 PM  
Blogger Ryan Wanger said...

If 2011 was your worst year, either you're doing a good job of hiding it, or you were confining the sulking to moments when you were alone. :-)

I doubt there has ever been a person on their deathbed who regretted not spending more time thinking about themselves - or others.

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck from all of us!
Mrs. Fuse
Mr. Hockertz
Mr. McCreviss

2:07 PM  
Blogger Nappy said...


I'm proud of you for taking this journey, if for nothing else, it will provide you with a channel for self-discovery and introspection. You've placed so much of your happiness and self-worth on exterior circumstances, and hopefully by taking an inventory of your life, you'll find happiness from within.

I know that this blog is a diary of sorts, but what I found to be most helpful when traveling is to keep a journal nearby so that you can capture your thoughts, feelings and emotions in real-time.

Best of luck, and I hope you are able to find the Broncos-Patriots game somewhere in the capital of Ethiopia.

12:58 AM  
Blogger Spencetron said...

While I hope you enjoy giving back it would be absolutely foolish for you not to take some advantage of this trip for your own personal gain. Immerse yourself in Ethiopia and enjoy all the splendors that culture and the unique geography has to offer. Also, don't go to Somalia.

5:27 PM  
Blogger Tanya said...

Please don't feel selfish for pursuing your own happiness. One thing I came to terms with in 2011 was how much my own happiness can effect others. When I'm happier, I pass that happiness on to others.

I personally have found a lot of comfort in The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, as she takes a very analytical approach to increasing and appreciating her own happiness.

Anyway, have an awesome experience in Ethiopia.


12:09 PM  

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