Chapter Two: No Free Meals

The Reinhardt family of Cupertino, California were pleased that they were what was considered to be of ample means; one that was both in the know, and of that particular socioeconomic class that have, as opposed to that unfortunate lot who could be classified as have nots, as the expression goes, thank you very much. In the public opinion, they were generous in nature, and it was as if they were of such the type that could do no wrong.

Don Reinhardt was know as the towns computer guru. He worked at that particular computer conglomerate which is located at One Infinite Dr. in Apple Inc.’s main headquarters. In his spare time he acted as a computer consultant, which, in his own words, it was his job to, ‘Solve problems that other people couldn’t.’ As for his wife Eva, she shared his entrepreneurial spirit, and it was one of the many reasons that they had fallen in love with one another.

Eva Reinhardt was a business typhoon to whom had transformed her love and fascination for thrift stores into a thriving enterprise that consisted of a chain of some six plus stores under the name St. Francis. Her friends envied her business savvy personality, and the fact that her family business had not collapsed in the first year as most family owned business do, but mostly of the success that it had encountered.

As for their children, the Reinhardt’s had four children, three of which were adopted; something that only bolstered the fact that the public eye viewed the family as a bunch of saints. There was Anton who was both the eldest and only biological son, in addition to Anthony, Aurora, and Anastasia Reinhardt; Anastasia and Anthony being adopted from out of the same family, which is to say that they were blood relatives. As the fine young individuals that they were, they were easily the Reinhardt’s proudest achievement.

Anton embodied all of the characteristics of millennials his age at some twenty years old. He was actively enrolled at Stanford University, some several miles away from their family home; something that illustrated how those in his age bracket were slowly becoming the most educated generation. His major was in the liberal arts, more specifically in English, as he aspired to be a writer, and he shared the same liberal political views as the majority of his professors. When he wasn’t busying himself with his studies, or his prose for that matter, he worked as a regional manager at the Target in town. However, he always felt that there was more out there in the world for him, and it was his greatest, most insatiable urge to self-actualize himself and his aspirations. Just as his parents wanted nothing more than for him to view things from a different perspective, other than those that were greatly challenging to their conservative state of mind.

Although only in their early to late teenage years, each of Anton’s siblings shined in their own way. Anthony for one was being offered a full ride scholarship for his achievements in football and wrestling, just as Aurora and Anastasia were honor role students at the high school that they attended. Outside of school, they each helped their mother with differing tasks at their mothers varying stores.
Now, it was an unusually cold, crisp autumnal night at the family thrift store located at 3333 Profit Way. The fallen leaves trickled across the empty parking lot, save one blue SUV parked out the front with its high beams on, which cast their gaze on the frontside of the families large, and recently purchased commercial lot. The building was of a log cabin like design, with green awnings hanging forth from each of the various doorways.

Inside, the whole family acted as one in preparing the store for its’ grand opening which was scheduled for the Monday following the upcoming weekend. The girls preoccupied themselves with hanging up clothes on the various clothe racks. Meanwhile, Don attended to the more technical features of the store such as setting up the cash register and installing security cameras throughout the store, and Anthony busied himself with stocking books along the bookshelf in the back most corner of the store. As they did so, Anton watched over the family from the second story landing overlooking the storefront likened to a fly on the wall observer.

‘Anton, there’s no such thing as a free meal, why don’t you come and make yourself useful,’ his father shouted up to his son without so much as adverting his attention from the current task at hand. Upon being beckoned, Anton made his way down the staircase slowly but surely.

“I’ll be right there,” Adam shouted back down at his father as he made his way down the staircase. Once downstairs, Anton preceded to make his way over to the front counter in which his father was busying himself with installing a camera that overlooked the cash register. As he made his way throughout the store, he would pick up various items from off their display cases, and inspect each one before putting them back in their proper place. ‘What would you like me to do,’ he inquired once he was on the other side of the counter from his father.

‘What I would like, is for you to act a part of this family. This is our job, its one of the things that we do to make this family some money, unlike your little writing thing.’

‘My writing is my work, I’m just not getting paid for it, yet.’

“Look Anton, you really need to abandon such childish notions. I don’t think you see how unrealistic that you’re being. You really need to grow up and stop chasing such Peter Pan like dreams. I wanted to be an astronaut at one point, but at the end of the day, you need something that will put bread on the table, and I just don’t think you’re going to see any return with your writing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good thing to have hobbies, but you shouldn’t quit your day job in pursuit of them. It’s just too risky.’

‘Too risky? Didn’t you take a calculated risk in starting your own business, just as mother did in launching her thrift store franchise? It’s part of the entrepreneurial mindset that you two condone such activities, I don’t see how this is any different. This is something that I am good at, and I don’t see the harm in trying to capitalize off of it.’

‘There’s a big difference and you know that. Take this thrift store for instance, we have to sell two-thousand dollars worth of merchandise just to pay off the lease for this place, and that doesn’t mention the pay roll for our employees. That’s all before we start to see any sort of profit, and that doesn’t include other expenditures for the place. Besides, the product that is being sold is donated by our customers. As for your thing, the end product is your writing, and there is no telling whether it is good enough to sale, which with the heavy competition, its most likely that it’s not. Therefore, you can’t really argue that you’re taking a calculated risk, when the likelihood for failure is so high. I’m just saying that you have to grow up a little, there’s nothing wrong with that. Let me ask you something though. Are you really willing to go all in on your writing, what would you give to make it a reality?’

‘There is nothing that I want more, nor is there anything that I am willing to sacrifice in order to do so. It’s what I love doing, and I think that that is what’s most important; doing work that you’re passionate about and that you enjoy. It’s not about how much money you make, but how you make your money. While all that is true, we only have one at bat in life, and we might as well be spending it on the things that we enjoy. Cliche as it may be, its like Confucius said, find a job that you love, and you’ll never have to work a day in your life. That’s what I want. Life’s too short to do otherwise.’

“Life isn’t necessarily about finding happiness. You have to make a living. Here’s just one example of a problem that me and your mother have to figure out, and I’ll tell you what, I’ll let you manage the place if you can solve it on your own accord. How do you suppose that we create enough traffic to this store to keep things afloat? Should we advertise in the newspaper, on the television, or by what medium? What marketing and advertising strategies would you utilize in order to do so?’

‘Thats easy. There is a booming market that can be found online through social media management. If it were my decision, I would set up a social media platform to bring in customers that are already interested in thrift stores.

‘See, that’s the problem with your generation. You’re always looking for some out of the box creative solution, rather than putting in the hard work that needs to be done, and yet you expect that you’re going to make some kind of impact. You can’t honestly expect me to believe that creating a Facebook for the store is going to bring in more customers. Nice try though Anton.’

‘Don, try not to be so hard on the boy. He has everything that someone his age could want; a managerial level job, a proper education, a girlfriend that loves him, and the likes. He’s doing everything that he can possibly do, and he’s trying, and that’s all that matters,” Eva chimed in from behind the clothing rack.

‘I’m just trying to prepare the boy for the real world. I think its great that he has something that he is passionate about, I just don’t think that such creative endeavors are enough to make a living, and that’s all I want for him.’

Chapter 3: Destruction Breeds Creation

The following morning, the previous nights conversation was burning in the back of Anton’s mind. He felt that his father was right, in the sense that he was not taking his passion seriously enough. For hours he reflected on how, while he had a job, great academic standing, and all the things that his mother had mentioned the night before, that none of these things were conductive to the type of life that he wished to have for himself, and he wanted nothing more than to do something about this fact.

Anton recalled from one of his classes how destruction was a means to creation, and that was the type of mindset that he was in on this given morning in specific, and he was going to act on these feelings of him.

It takes a great deal of time to create a type of life for yourself, but only an instance to destroy it, and that’s exactly what Anton was going to do so that he could live the life he had always wanted. In one hour, Anton had managed to call his place of work, and quit his job, after which he logged into his online student portal which he used to drop out of school. He even went so far as to call his girlfriend, and break up with her, knowing very well that she wouldn’t be supportive of the decisions that he was making for himself, and he didn’t want to include her on a journey that she wasn’t ready for.

When he had finally created a blank slate for himself, he used the rest of his morning to look at places on craigslist in search of an office space that he could facilitate in order to pursue the things that mattered most to him. At the end of the hour, he found a small office space in San Francisco that was only four hundred dollars a month. He liked that it was in San Francisco, as he felt that it would be a more conductive environment for his creative needs. After talking with the owner, he set things up that he could take over the space as an art studio as early as by the end of the week.

Once he was finished, Anton lingered at his writing desk, thinking of the best way to communicate what he had just done to his family. After much thought, he figured that being bold, direct, and completely honest with them was the best way that he could go about it.

Anton utilized the rest of his afternoon to working on his writing, and when the time came that his mother and father came home from work, he felt butterflies in the pit of his stomach as he nervously prepared himself for the conversation that lay ahead of him.

By the time Anton heard his mother call out, ‘Dinner’s ready,’ he was sweating bullets, and felt paralyzed from overanalyzing how on earth he was going to tell them what he had done. He knew that they would be upset, and that they wouldn’t be supportive of his decisions, but it was something that he had to do.

Anton descended from his room at the second floor of the Reinhardt family home towards the kitchen, where the smell of Eva’s signature meatloaf filled the house. As he sat himself down at the kitchen table, Anton took a deep breath. The anxiety that he felt was all but a palpable tension that was noticed by the rest of the Reinhardt family members.

‘What’s up Anton,’ Eva asked once the family had finished with saying their prayers, ‘you seem worried.’

“Well, it’s just that I have something to tell you all, and I’m not quite sure how to say this.’

‘You can tell us anything Anton, what is it,” Eva continued, her paternal sense of nurturing all but on high alert.

“Okay, here it goes. I sort of kinda quit my job, and school for that matter, and I’ll be moving into an office space in San Francisco by the end of the week,’ Anton blurted out, without moving his gaze from off the plate of meatloaf in front of him.

“You did what,” Don roared from the other side of the kitchen table, to the sound of his silverware clattering against his plate. ‘You had so much going for you, how could you just throw away your life like that?’

‘I thought about what you said yesterday, and I decided that you’re right. I’m not taking my passions seriously enough, and I feel that all these various different responsibilities are weighing me down in terms of living the type of life that I want for myself.’

‘Well, you obviously missed the point that I was trying to make. You did the exact opposite of what I was hoping that you would get out of our little conversation yesterday. How could you misinterpret it so drastically?’

‘Anton, is there anyway that you might be able to call and get your job back,’ Anton’s mother inquired with a worried look etched across her face.

‘You guys, I’ve thought all of this out. This is what I want for myself, I wish that you could be more understanding and supportive of my decision,” Anton replied.

It’s a good thing you’ve found a place, because no son of mine is going to live here without having a job, or at the very least going to school full time. Its like I told you yesterday, there is no such thing as a free meal. How many times have I told you that something never comes from nothing. Well, that’s exactly what you can expect from me, nothing. Good luck to you, you’re going to need it,’ spat Anton’s father.

‘I’m doing as we talked about yesterday. Were we not discussing my growing up, and coming to age? That’s exactly what I’m doing. I wish that you all could see that, and have a little more faith in me. I’m scared senseless about doing this, but I know that if I don’t then I will be left with nothing more than regret in my later years in never having tried for myself to do what I want with my life. I guess I’m just saying that I could use your support.’

‘Oh, you have my support alright. I’ll be the one driving you to the train station so that you can pursue this little fantasy of yours, but, don’t come crawling back to me when everything goes south and belly up, and know that that is exactly what you’re going to end up doing when it does.’

‘Anton, it’s not that you don’t have our full support. I think what your father is trying to say is that maybe you could have thought this through a little bit more, instead of going out on a whim to make such a drastic lifestyle change. If you want, maybe you can stay here and work at the thrift store until you find another job to fund this project of yours. Besides, its probably best when considering that you don’t know anything about San Francisco, or living there for that matter,” Eva commented, the concern all but apparent in her voice.’

‘Mom, my minds made up. I’ll never know what I can accomplish if I don’t try. I have to do this for me. I can’t live at my parents house, and work at the family store for the rest of my life. Dad has his thing with computers, you have your own thing with the thrift stores, well, this is my thing, and nothing that either of you can say can change my mind.’

Don Reinhardt rose from his chair as soon as those words had parted Anton’s lips. ‘If you don’t mind me, I’m going to excuse myself. This conversation has lost me my appetite,” Don let out as he picked his plate off of the table. He then proceeded to wash his plate out in the sink before setting out into the other room.