I hit enter right before my computer locked up for break. I sighed heavily and hung my head as I slumped back into my ergonomic desk chair that Joja had so graciously given us after several reports of back spasms wound their way through the office.
Lunch time...finally. Today was especially abysmal, I walked into work this morning through the gray drizzle to find my quotas had been upped. Now I had to fill out five hundred forms a day. Shit .
Still, thanks to a great 80WPM and the overbearing need not to disappoint my team lead I was already three hundred in. I had thirty minutes to rest my aching wrists before getting back to the grind, and in my haste to make it to my early morning meeting, I had forgotten to pack my usual snack for work.
I paused and looked at my darkened screen. Joja was very particular about clocking in and clocking out. So much so that it was done for us automatically, now. The computers locked when you weren't supposed to be inputting information. It was annoying seeing as how you're always finishing up an application right before it turns off.
“This sucks,” I muttered. My hair pressed flat to the back of my head as I leaned back further into the chair. I hated my job. The only thing it was good for was paying back my parents for the two years I had spent in college. Other than that, it was mind numbing and awful. Eight hours a day every day at a desk typing in the same information over and over again. I was over how easy this data entry job was about two weeks in when I realized I would be doing this for years.
Seven years later and I was right. I had just paid off school a few months ago, and now I was saving for my own place. My parents had been nice enough to let me live in their basement while I worked—but I could tell my father was getting antsy about me not flying the coop yet. He would purposefully walk around in his old PT uniform, (T-shirt and short shorts) and then get all huffy if I was around to see. Like I hadn't seen a hairy man thigh before, Christ.
Still mom kept the peace as she usually did. She always welcomed me in the kitchen in the morning, and kissed my cheek like I was still ten years old. It was always embarrassing, and always endearing. It was something she said her father, my PopPop used to do when she was little.
Crap. PopPop . I side eyed the top drawer of my desk with its little silver keyhole. I usually chose not to think about him since he passed--it just made me too sad. He was an amazing man. Plump, white hair and beard, the perfect candidate to play Santa at Christmas. Oh and he did--every year from when I was a toddler to when I was twelve, he would make the drive from the sleepy little town he lived in and set foot in the city to give me a taste of magic.
A bead of snot hit the back of my throat as I sniffed it back up my nose. He had passed away when I was seventeen in an assisted care facility in the city far from his beloved farm. Pneumonia got him and just never let go.
The night before he died he had given me an envelope and told me not to open it until life in the city was too much to handle. Too chaotic. He said to keep it secret, and keep it safe until then. I promised that I wouldn’t look and I hadn’t even taken a peek in the decade since.
I never thought I would have to look at my Grandfather's note. I never thought I'd get tired of city life. I have a job that most people would think is good for someone in their late twenties. Corporate, lax dresscode and great benefits. I have friends, not many but a few okay ones that I get together with every few weekends to share giggles and drinks, and my family that I love dearly. It was a decent little life, Nothing too exciting, but it was comfortable and it was mine.
I pulled the bungee cord on my lanyard that connected to my desk key and unlocked the drawer slowly. The casters of the drawer rolled smoothly as it opened. The envelope PopPop left me was yellowed and worn. Until recently it had been kept in a fireproof safe in my parent's house just to make sure nothing happened to it. That was up until a couple weeks ago when I had the unexplainable urge to move it to my locked drawer at work. I grabbed the envelope and turned it over in my hands. The paper was wrinkled and soft, not unlike my Grandfather up until nearly before the end.
He had lived by himself out on a farm for decades. My Grandmother had died young in an accident and he never re-married...or I guess it is more appropriate to say, he was married to his farm. The day after Grandma’s funeral dad said he packed up his things, sold the house and moved there.
I had only ever gone to visit him at the farm once. I remember that it was during Spring, and I remember being in awe at how lush and green everything was. All the plants were aligned in their little mounds of Earth in perfectly straight rows. The fences were immaculately kept, and the animals, though unused to children were sweet enough. I wanted nothing more than to help PopPop feed the animals, and then go play in the warm sand on the beach South of town.
Years later, when Grandpa got too sick to work my father made the executive decision to move him to the city. Grandpa hated the idea, but after he fell trying to pen an escaped chicken and broke his ankle he realized he couldn't do it himself anymore. He sold all his animals, and his last harvest and packed his things to live in an assisted living facility.
Assisted living was hell for him. Grandpa hated feeling useless. He wanted to work with his hands, he wanted to do something that mattered. I never understood how that felt until recently.
A computer could do my job. I do data entry for Joja Corporation memberships. At first i relished the high pay for low effort, but eventually it became mind-numbing. The same six fields every time. Every hour, every day.
This mind numbing emptiness I felt as soon as I passed under the royal blue Joja sign had begun to follow me home after work and on weekends. I just didn’t want to do anything. I just stayed locked in my basement room staring at the popcorn ceiling dreaming of the day when I didn’t have to type the same information over and over again.
I had been trying to look for work for a few months now, much to my father’s dismay. Nothing here pays as well as Joja. Its utterly ridiculous how far the pay gap is. For a while a friend of mine, Celia, took up witchcraft to try and find out what deal the Joja founder had made to be able to pay his workers so much. We all laughed at her for trying. That was how it always has been. Joja on top of the world.
With my needs for a new job, my time spent at work, and my mood being so low, I hadn’t seen my friends in a month or so. The first few weeks they called trying to get me to come out, but after repeated denials on my part they had stopped calling altogether. I saw their adventures on social media, and I smiled when they posted funny pictures--I just didn’t feel the need to be there, ya know?
I turned the envelope over to stare at the glossy red wax seal Grandpa used to keep the contents hidden. I was only to open it if I was craving change, if I was needing something new. My computer screen cast a faint blue glow over my cubicle. It was filled with pictures of good times with family and friends. Everyone had big beaming smiles in every single photo save for one person: me.
I had a smile, sure, but it was a half smile--an empty smile. These pictures showed me the truth. I had been unhappy here longer than I would care to admit. My gaze fell back upon the letter. It seemed heavier now--filled with import.
I slid my thumb under the flap and popped the wax seal off of the envelope. It gave way easily as if begging to be opened. My hands shook slightly with anticipation while I pulled two slightly whiter folded pieces of paper out of the envelope. Maybe it was a holdover from childhood, but Grandpa always gave the best gifts, and I was hoping this would be no different.
I slowly parted the two halfs of the papers and looked at the bottom where my Grandfather's lavish signature took up the bottom right corner. Interesting. I parted it the rest of the way and one word jumped out at me right away: deed.
What the fuck? I quickly skimmed the paper. No . I read it again slower. No . I read it outloud to myself. Shit....
My Grandfather, my wonderful, caring PopPop had left me the deed to his farm. The entire property was mine--and the property from what I remembered was huge. It was mine to do with what I pleased, but I was very aware his intent was for me to live there and work the land like he did for so many years.
I turned my attention to the second piece of paper:
My dearest Caitlyn,
If you’re reading this, you must be in dire need of a change. The same thing happened to me long ago. I’d lost sight of what mattered most in life...real connections with other people and nature. So I dropped everything and moved to the place I truly belong.
I’ve enclosed the deed to that place....my pride and joy, Crystal Stream Farm.It’s located in Stardew Valley, on the southern coast. It’s the perfect place to start your new life.
This was my most precious gift of all, and now it’s yours. I know you’ll honor the family name. Good luck.
I looked at my fuzzy reflection in the screen of my computer through teary eyes. Pasty white skin, a shaggy bob that was dyed a dark forest green, thick black eyeliner and a heavy chain necklace. You have no business owning a farm, much less working one, the cynical side of me screamed.
Of course that was all fair. I am a pasty goth-leaning city girl from the concrete jungle. My only experience with farming was watching my Grandfather work the farm when I was twelve, and I hadn't so much as helped my mom garden since.
Still, my fond memories of the farm were swimming about in my head quickly drowning my cynicism. It would be so cool to have my own house, grow my own food, have cows, and chickens...so what if I don't know anything now. Isn't that what the internet is for? I could always take the time to research before I go so that when I get there I am prepared.
There was a loud 'bzzzzzt' from the intercom. Break time was over. Another shot of snot hit the back of my throat as I sniffed and folded up the deed and letter before putting it back in its yellowed envelope., I slid that back into the top drawer of my desk locking it quickly after I closed it, fearing I would spend the rest of my shift just staring at the deed and daydreaming.
I frowned at the stack of papers next to me--at least two hundred more memberships to fill out before I could go home.
I need to get out of here, I dutifully pulled the top paper off the pile and set it in front of me to begin transcribing. I need to do something more with my life , I set about typing the name of the customer into the blank field on my screen.
There was no way I was going to do this for the rest of my life. The repetition of wakeup, work, home, socialize, bed wasn't enough for me. The hollow connections I had made here weren't enough for me. The fact that I am in my late twenties and still living at home isn't enough for me.
If I put my mind to it and treated learning to farm like studying for school, I would be ready in no time to pack up and leave this place. I just had to be diligent, and make sure to learn something new every day.
It was nearing the end of winter--there was only about twelve days left and then it would be Spring. If I could wait twelve days--study for ten days, (leaving two days for travel), then I could be ready to plant the first of Spring.
That settles it. My frown slowly turned into a smile--a true smile. I would learn what I could over the next ten days and then head off to my new farm.