My life rebooted in July 1996; the day I decided to drop out from college, to get my driving license, to start going out at least twice a week, and to take a sabbatical from everything. Yes, I pretty much took all of those decisions at the same time.
My life in the summer of 1996 was a mess. I was alone, failing all my exams at the university, and every time I got home, I had to endure the mood swings of an alcoholic mother going through her second divorce.
I didn’t have anyone in my life to share all of these things with. I was a rather solitary person feeling like a misfit in most circles. I didn’t feel at home with other nerds, I didn’t feel at home with non-nerds, and I didn’t feel at home… at home.
Tough cookie. Not me, the situation.
So I did the only sensible thing that I could come up with: getting rid of stuff that didn’t work.
University was definitely a boring place. I was there stuck studying a subject that I wasn’t particularly interested about anymore. So I dropped it. Went to the admissions office (or should I say repudiation office?), signed a paper, walked away.
(Funny story: in spite of not being a student anymore they didn’t shut my Internet access down until early 2001, to the point that I published there my first ever personal home page in August of 1996. That website, as humble as it was, would become a key element of my future. But at that time, it was just the coolest thing ever to have: a “web page.”)
I loved electronic music, so I started going out. Besides, I wanted to find a girlfriend to hang out with, and I figured out that going out was the best way to reach that goal.
But the most important part was that I missed Argentina. I missed my friends down there, and most importantly, I started asking myself questions about a father I did not know, like, at all.
I went step by step. Going out was far more convenient to do in a car, because Geneva’s bus system is quite terrible during the day; imagine at two in the morning.
Hence the first step was to learn how to drive a car. I had tried learning to ride a motorbike a few years earlier, but two things stood in the way of me reaching that goal: passing the driving exam (which I failed twice) and then not killing myself (which also almost happened.) So I said, get rid of that motorbike, and focus on cars.
Thankfully that decision worked out pretty well. By July 1996 I was borrowing my mother’s car every Thursday and Saturday evening, so as to fulfill the second step in my transformation: to go out.
And go out I did. That did not lead directly to the third goal (finding a girlfriend) but hey, can’t say I didn’t try.
In the meantime I was working at Swissair–no, not Swiss, but its older incarnation, the airline that went bankrupt in 2001. By 1996 it was still up and running, filled with hubris and arrogance, but I couldn’t care less. I was working 3 to 4 hours a day loading and unloading aircraft in Geneva Airport, accumulating hours to be able to buy a discounted plane ticket to Buenos Aires.
I could buy a discounted ticket to any European destination with just 200 hours of work; an intercontinental one (any destination in the world serviced by Swissair, actually) for 400 hours.
And discounted it was: for a round-trip Geneva–Buenos Aires I would only pay 180 Swiss Francs, which was 10% of the standard fare. That’s around 210 Swiss Francs or 200 US Dollars in 2023. Of course there was always a catch: that ticket had absolutely no priority, so I would only fly if there was a free seat on the plane after everyone had boarded. The good news was that Swissair was so badly managed, and its tickets prices were so high, that there were always free seats available; in my 3 years as employee of that company, having flown 5 times across the Atlantic and much more around Europe, not a single time did I have the problem of not being able to fly.
(Heck, I even got upgraded once from Buenos Aires to Zurich in Business Class, can you imagine?)
So that’s how I landed in Buenos Aires on Wednesday, December 4th, 1996, at around 9 AM local time, to stay in the country for almost two months. That trip changed my life in so many ways that it’s worthy of a few more blog posts.
To make a long story short, I fell in love with the wrong girl, and I somehow met my father. Back in Switzerland, I moved out of my mother’s flat in March 1997, renting my own place. One of the best decisions I’ve ever taken.
The important takeaway of this article is the following: if you’re feeling stuck in your life, if you’re unable to move and find a better situation for yourself, you should consider dropping everything. I know, I know; it’s easier said than done. And in my case I didn’t have many responsibilities back then, either, which made everything easier. But still, I did it, and people should consider the option when the time comes.
PS: I’m about to hit 50 next Monday, hence the introspective post.