You have every right to be angry with me.
Yes, you heard that right.
Compare my blog to the Minimalists (“get rid of your excess stuff and become happier”), Humans of New York (“random people sharing personal stories”) or themakeupblogger.com and you will notice that NoMoreMovies lacks a clear message. I did make an attempt at describing a vision and mission in my first piece: Halfway There. I ended up writing something about getting our priorities straight, listening to ourselves, being more aware of the world around us and helping others where we can.
Pretty vague, right?
Bear with me
As a graduate in online journalism I am fully aware of the fact that I should be clear and to the point in all my writings. I realize it is hard to connect to people or build an audience when your message is not crystal clear. That being said, Halfway There also pointed out that I prefer taking you along for the journey. Even though I do not quite know where it is going…
Only a handful of you may know this, but I got a bachelor’s degree as an online journalist back in 2004 at Thomas More in Mechelen. Only now, writing this piece, I realize how many years have passed since then. Twelve years! That’s the same amount of time as primary school and secondary school combined! How is it possible that it still feels like yesterday to me? Was I really so busy finding my way in the world? Making a career?
Whenever you are not really sure of where your are headed, it’s always a good idea to stop and turn around. Just look back and see how you got here in the first place. That’s my sole intention for this piece. I write it mainly for myself, as I ponder the question: am I too old for this sh*it, or should I keep on going… But it’s also for readers interested in knowing more about me and why I started writing in the first place. So bear with me on this one.
Back to the stone age…
For those of you under the impression that I must have learned everything there is to know about blogs and WordPress at college, I would like to point something out: we are talking about 2004 here. Back then we published articles using HTML and Dreamweaver. Admittedly, during our internship we had the luxury of working with a rudimentary content management system (CMS). Clicking the publish button always led to one of two possible outcomes, the odds were about fifty-fifty. Your article would either be published or it would… vanish into thin air, leaving you only an unforgiving error message.
Does this sound like the stone age to you? Well, in terms of the Internet, you’re probably right. I graduated before Facebook or any other social media were invented. As streaming services such as Spotify were pure science-fiction, everyone still used WinAMP for playing downloaded MP3’s. Come to think of it, even purchasing music downloads through iTunes was not yet mainstream in 2004. Also, people were massively sending funny (cat) videos via e-mail because there was no YouTube. Think of classics like this one popping up in your mailbox:
Graduated, now what?
As soon as I got my degree – with honors mind you – I stood there, asking myself: now what?
I never felt confident – or good – enough to really try my luck as a writer of sorts. Those of you below thirty may find it difficult to believe but back then there were no photoblogs or vloggers on Youtube. The notion that young people could be making a living as fulltime travel bloggers was waved off by experienced journalists like a fantasy or fairytale. Journalism was pictured as a hard world where not much money could be made.
Consequently, rather than pioneering a way for myself as an online travel writer or photographer, I chose to use my IT knowledge to make a living. I got a job as an IMAC agent at EDS (Electronic Data Systems). Mind you, IMAC had nothing to do with Apple products. IMAC stands for Install Move Add or Change. Simply put, I had to handle and redirect requests for new pc’s, create new accounts, manage access rights etc. As boring as it may sound, to me it was the perfect match at the time. This job didn’t have too much responsibility and the narrowly defined tasks meant I could master them to perfection. I have always loved striving for perfection and making as few mistakes as possible.
Your cup of tea
Oh, did I mention the textbook rule about how online articles should never be overly long? Well, I couldn’t care less today… So be warned… reading this one may take a while… Don’t worry though, it’s fall, so chances are that it’s raining outside. May I advise you to make yourself a nice warm cup of coffee, hot chocolate or tea, take something sweet from the cupboard and make yourself comfortable? Yes, fluffy blankets come highly recommended too.
Journalism for a living
Where were we? Oh yes, after two years at EDS, I did try to make it as an online editor. I got hired at Zdnet.be, the Belgian division of Cnet.com. In fact, that move also made sense at the time as Zdnet combined my two main interests: IT and writing. There were a few setbacks though.
Firstly, it took me over one hour to drive to the office and more importantly: I got no feedback on my work whatsoever. Looking back, I probably wasn’t ready for an independent job like that. I was still very insecure and needed heaps of confirmation. I’m talking about a pat on the back at regular intervals to keep me going… If I would not get it, I had the tendency to shred my work – and myself – apart with my insecurities. That’s exactly what happened.
Lastly, and certainly not least: the job paid peanuts. This mainly shows I wasn’t a very good contract negotiator back then either. We were twenty-five at the time and Sofie and myself could hardly put anything aside for traveling or buying a house.
Journalism couldn’t seem further from the satisfying profession I imagined it would be and quite frankly, it just did not seem worth the effort.
Disappointed, I quit…
Back to square one
Following some advice of a good friend of mine, I applied for an IT job with Antwerp University. I did some tests and got offered the contract. Coincidentally, my first employer also got in touch with me, offering me the chance to come back. My confidence having hit rock bottom, I chose to return to familiar territory. Some argue I made a mistake by not taking the more responsible job. To them I was returning to square one. From my point of view I got to learn two important lessons about myself over last the year: firstly, it was IT, not journalism, that would provide me with the means to go where I wanted to go in life. And second, I was not ready to start working independently, I needed to be part of a team to be happy.
The years that followed I gained experience in my field and must have met over fifty awesome colleagues. Service Desks do get a pretty big staff turnover, so you get to meet a multicultural mix of all ages, temperaments and backgrounds. Most of those people still keep in touch on Facebook. Some became friends for life. One of them left Belgium behind and is now running a successful Same Same Bungalows in Bali, Indonesia! Go ahead, take a look… if you ever want to plan a visit to Paradise!
Another co-worker and friend of mine chased his life-long dream and moved with his wife to California. He writes his own blog here (in Dutch). He visited me when I was in Las Vegas for a business trip, earlier this year. It was so good to see him again. And finally one ex-colleague managed to build a whole new life for himself in Finland and met his soulmate there. They’re planning to get married. They invited me to their wedding in Helsinki next week! So I’m going, of course!
It was a colleague who helped me set up Nomoremovies. If it wasn’t for him, you wouldn’t even be reading this! You may thank him for that (or blame him ;-). Or you can visit his own pet project. Anyway, thanks N!
As you can tell by these stories, I was never bored at EDS. Then it got taken over by HP and career opportunities were slim. After a year or three, I managed to start climbing the corporate ladder but there was never much in it for me, financially. One year earlier the financial crisis had just exploded over corporate America and there were serious budget cuts at HP. That being said, I was patient and gradually took on more responsibility, not for they paycheck but for getting the experience. In hindsight, I’m still glad I did, because I learned a lot: not only about the job itself, but about working with people. Most importantly, I learned about my own shortcomings, misgivings and (many) pitfalls.
In the meantime Sofie and me were finally able to buy that house. Renovating it was far more difficult (and expensive) than we imagined. We ended up in debt. Apart from one short trip to Turkey, we spent several years not traveling. “Luxuries” like going out for dinner or buying new clothes had to be avoided. It took us about three years to get out of debt. In fact, we even needed two more to get in a more comfortable position.
Steep learning curves
In 2013, still struggling to get out of debt, I decided to take a risk and apply for a new job at my current employer. I got hired! At that time I took notice that, despite my usual self-doubts, anyone who invited me for a job interview ended up hiring me! So I must be have been doing something right…
The new job was challenging and the learning curve was steep. The amount of work that needed to be done was intimidating to say the least. In hindsight, it was all worth it. Firstly, up until today I receive many chances to expand my knowledge and skills. Second: this time I get paid what I am worth! Apparently, I had been seriously underpaid for many years. So that was good to know…
Another free piece of advice: never sell yourself short. If you have the feeling you have been working your *ss of for peanuts, you’re probably right and it’s time to get out of there. Sooner better than later.
A game of ladders
Go ahead, time to take another sip of that tea of yours… What’s that? You are wondering why I am telling you (and myself) all this?
I guess I do it to stress the downside of working too hard towards your goals. As a perfectionist it is easy to lose track of time and, in the process, forget what you actually like doing. Like myself, you may have been sacrificing a bit too much to get to where you want to be. Maybe you are delaying parts of life that should never be abandoned. For me, those things were traveling and my creativity. But also my family and yes, at times even Sofie. As I mentioned in Halfway there, I was able to entertain myself by playing games and watching movies, but I did nothing during those years that made me grow as a person.
Think of life as a bunch of ladders you can climb. You are free to make progress on whatever ladder you choose. There is a career-ladder, but also wisdom, love, security… And don’t forget: creativity, family, adventure, travel. Society tends to push you towards climbing the one labeled “Career”. But be careful of making too much headway on one, chances are you have been neglecting all others.
So here is the deal: perhaps you have this insight already, good for you. Perhaps you are still young and ambitious and really want to work hard at your career for a few years. That’s OK too. Or maybe you are in your thirties or even fourties and start to realize there should be more to life than just long working days.
Whatever the case: always remember to fully enjoy the present moment and get your eyes off that infamous (and non-existant) point you need to reach to reach in order to be completely happy. I had the tendency to keep working at “that next thing” for years, even though Master Yoda warned me multiple times:
This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm?
I assume some of you, my dear readers, are in your thirties, fourties or even fifties and beyond. If you are, it is not unlikely that you recognize this feeling. I bet you had aspirations and hopes too. Dreams you neglected to chase. The reasons for that may differ.
You may have thought your dreams or creative ambitions were not realistic. Maybe you were convinced you were not talented enough. Perhaps you met someone who made you shift your focus. There’s a chance you became a parent sooner than you imagined. Or maybe you just needed to earn money, lacking the time for creative endeavors.
Life itself is harder on some people than others. You may have had to take care of someone that got sick. Someone may have passed away unexpectedly, leaving you responsible to take care of someone else. Instead of following your dreams you chose the right thing to do.
Only you can tell whether you have some regrets over things you left unfinished. Ladders you left unclimbed, untouched for too long.
Inevitably, as time passes, a day comes when you start to think it is useless to keep hanging on to those old dreams… and that very moment, like a balloon filled with helium, you may decide to let them go. The next minute, you see them drift off towards the horizon, towards the setting sun. Disappearing forever.
I was not ready to let go just yet.
Back to the drawing board
Realizing I had been too focused on advancing my career to get out of debt, I started thinking about the ladders I had left untouched for so many years. One of them was labeled: photography. I saved enough money to buy my first real camera. A Canon 600D for those who would like to know. I enjoyed the basic photography lessons I got when studying journalism.
I am finally writing this article on a decent laptop too. Can you believe I had not bought a new pc between 2000 and 2014! I kept upgrading the poor old thing with budget-parts until it was something like Frankenstein’s monster. It whispered “kill me” every time I turned it on. Whispering is not even the correct word, it was groaning and moaning at me.
From 2012 onwards, we started discovering the world, something Sofie and myself had been dreaming about since we were dating, back in 2000. And what a beautiful world it is… I will share some of our travels in photo galleries, slideshows and travel articles.
It didn’t take long before something else began stirring within me. After twelve years I got this uncontrollable urge to start writing again…
Previous writing endeavours
During my EDS years, I made a few attempts at writing: I started a blog back in 2010 in Dutch (BenJeMee, translation: RUwithUs?). Don’t look for it, I took it down 🙂 My posts were limited to a few movie reviews (ironic, isn’t it?). My take on the news was not that successful either. In one post I wrote about how wonderful the Arabic Spring would turn out to be for the Middle East. (ironic, isn’t it?)
The most ambitious story I have written has been 22 years in the making and I’m still adding chapters! It is a fantasy one, think Tolkien but with humour. But that one is a group effort and a completely different story. Look up: Dungeons & Dragons. I’ll write more about that part of my life later on.
Finally, I did write one short story that still holds up today. It began as an improv piece to prove to Sofie I was capable of tackling the predictable chick-lit genre she was reading at the time. When I finished it, more than six months later, it ended up much closer to the spirit of Nomoremovies than anything else I had written. I guess, subconsciously, the story reflected my inner yearnings to travel more than I had originally intended. You know what, when I feel like it, I will make the effort to translate it and publish it here.
Let me conclude by saying I never wrote anything worthy of being sent to a publisher. So why take it up again? What do I hope to accomplish?
My view of the world and myself in it has changed completely over the last few years. Writing a book always seemed like something only insanely talented people could pull off. Recently I started reading some inspirational, non-fictional books. And you know what, the best ones are actually the ones that are most straightforward. I’m not claiming I will ever be able to match their level, but writing this and realizing how natural it feels, makes me wonder why I didn’t put more effort in writing before. Or for that matter, all the things I really liked doing as a teen.
Why did I usually give up before really starting?
The first thing that pops into mind is my family, saying that there was no money to be made from writing.
Or as my old uncle used to say:
“99% of writers are so poor they sleep under bridges, sipping bottles of booze… do you want to end up under a bridge?”
Well, actually, I didn’t. I kinda liked owning a bed… and a computer. And a tv.
Besides these discouraging words, my main obstacle to get ahead in writing were my own high standards. Whenever I couldn’t reach the level of quality I had set out to reach, I gave up. Whenever someone intimidated me with their own talent – and believe me, there’s always someone way better than you – I dropped out. Come to think of it, that made me drop out everything I tried my hand on, thus squandering all my creative potential for a very long time.
I loved writing, I loved dancing, I loved playing basketball, I loved photography, I loved making music, I loved DJ’ing (see mixtapes), I loved drawing, I loved hearing and sharing people’s remarkable stories, oh yes, and I wanted to change the world for the better, somehow.
Today, after letting them gather dust for over twelve years, I realize I STILL love all of these ladders.
So I started Nomoremovies.
Enter the Millennials
Meanwhile, all over the internet, young millennials run professional looking YouTube channels. Not only do they write a lot better than me, they post jaw-dropping photographs on a daily basis and edit together Hollywood-style roadmovies. It is said that millennials, or Generation Y, will be the next Great Generation… That remains to be seen, but the potential is definitely there.
Frankly, even though we have no kids, my 40-hour workweek with heavy commuting times keep me from spending the time I would need to really become equally good. Even now that I often use my commuting time to write.
I don’t know about you but I often feel having been born too early. I would have made a great millennial: posting all my creative endeavours on social media as a teen: early pictures, own music, first writings, fantasy drawings, my own DJ mix tapes. But sadly, it was the nineties mixtapes were still on actual tape 🙂
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my teenage years in the nineties! I just feel that it’s easier for Millennials to develop their creative talents into something they can earn (some) money with. The Internet seems like a huge playground which can help them with career decisions later on.
For example: I just saw National Geographic Traveler magazine announce an internship on Facebook. Keeping social media updated with articles on traveling. How cool is that for a first job?
Too old for this sh*t
Lately I have been hearing that voice in my head again. It’s telling me that all of this is pointless. That I’m too old to be doing this. That it will take too much time to really connect to readers. That no one is interested in my personal journey. That there’s a lot of people out there doing a much better job at this than me.
I admit, it’s not really helping your confidence if you’re constantly amazed by people’s work and then see they are 10 years younger than you.
Just the other day I did my first interview for NoMoreMovies. I realized it was more than ten years ago since I last interviewed someone. All in all, it went well. You will see the result here in a week or two. At the same time, I did feel a bit rusty. Like this was some old path I revisited that had been overgrown with roots and bushes in the meantime. My mind keeps telling me to get off the road I should have taken twelve years ago, in my early twenties.
I literally hear Danny Glover saying: “I’m getting too old for this sh*t.”
And if you know what movie(s) this is from, you probably agree with me.
To quit or not to quit?
From the moment I started NoMoreMovies, I knew I wanted it to be as good as I could make it. At the same time I realized that would be the pitfall again: comparing myself to all those energetic millennials out there. So I asked myself following questions:
- Should I stop writing about traveling because there are so many better travel bloggers out there?
- Should I stop posting photographs because there are many younger people that do it so much better?
- Should I stop writing because I have no clear message?
- Is nothing in life worthwile unless you still have a shot at being the best? Or at least excellent?
I have decided: no.
This is me. This has always been me.
I overthink stuff and then I have to write it down, adding some photographs or music as I go. For as long as I remember, I have always been writing…
For the love of the game
To protect myself, I restrained from making any commitments when starting this blog. Halfway There stated I would write one year. If I got tired of it, or disillusioned, I would stop. No failure. It would have been a temporary project.
I realize now, by writing this piece that I will keep writing until I die. I don’t care if NoMoreMovies will ever become “a success” or not. I just love doing this way too much.
Nowhere do I feel relax as when I’m wearing my headphones, listening to chill music, a drink nearby and allowing these fingers to rattle over a keyboard. It feels natural! I love it and I don’t care what the results are.
So… Nomoremovies may have no specific mission or message… But I know for sure that climbing those writing / photography / video editing ladders again makes me a lot happier than when I was passively watching movies or playing games.
And in the end, if one or two of my readers get something out of my writings, whether it’s joy or a useful insight… that will make me very happy. I cannot ask for more.
Dear readers, more tea?
You actually made it this far? I bet you finished that cup of tea a long time ago…
Congratulations… here’s a little something for you! Time to wrap it up now…
Just a regular guy
Admittedly, I am slightly envious of those bloggers who get to experience these groundbreaking insights or bigger than life adventures in their twenties and are able to write inspiring stories about them. Those of you who expected NoMoreMovies to bring you earth-shattering stories about traveling the world for a living… or about how I sold everything I own and very selfishly start living an minimalist life… prepare to be disappointed. I’m not that kind of person.
I’m just a regular guy, not unlike you. Unless you’re a girl or a woman of course… But you get my point.
My current job and finally reaching my career goals made me more confident and independent. This newly found confidence I intend to put to good use in my blog.
Some of you might argue that building a career in IT before picking up writing again is a very long detour. I disagree. Without this detour, frankly, I would not be the person I am today. This means I would not have anything to write about. In the end, having lived a bit longer before picking up writing, might be the only thing to give me the edge on millennials.
Besides, not having to worry about paychecks or mortgages anymore gives me a freedom I would never have felt if I started writing right away, in 2004.
The message being?
Oh, yes… that message. If there has to be one, let me start by saying this:
Remember that balloon we talked about earlier? Did you recognize that feeling of letting go at some point? Did it make you feel sad when you pictured your dreams floating away like a balloon?
I have some good news for you: there are plenty more balloons where that one came from. In that bag over there… Go ahead, just get a new one. Don’t be shy! Now start inflating it. Yes, the new balloon might not look exactly the same as the balloon you let go so many years ago. It will probably seem a bit smaller now that you’re older… You may even feel a bit silly, holding on to a balloon at your age… but remember this:
You may have had to let go of your creative ambitions or dreams at one point in time.
But that does not mean you cannot pick them up again in a modest way, later in life.
No matter how old you are, you can always breathe new life into your old dreams!