One-way tickets

Shayan Kashani
7 min readAug 24, 2021

“The idea is to remain in a state of constant departure, while always arriving.”

— Richard Linklater

April 19th, 2007

Suddenly, it just came to me. The idea, that is.

There was absolutely no premeditation.

I don’t know how else to describe it. One minute I’m sitting there, tense and agitated, equally annoyed with myself and the world. And then, boom, out of nowhere: A lightbulb moment.

I knew exactly what I had to do.

I jumped up, tossed the rest of my lunch into the bin, and headed for a washroom where I stood in front of the mirror and stared at my reflection for a few seconds.

Three. Deep. Breaths. You can do this, Shayan.

If I was going to, it was now or never. This was it. The adrenaline was already flowing. My body was on fire. My mind, on another planet. I pushed open the double doors to emerge onto the fourteenth floor and began running down the hall, screaming at the top of my lungs.

* * *

The Princess Margaret Cancer Center, downtown Toronto, where we lay our scene.

I had been working there as an orderly on in-patient units 14A&B (Leukemia & Lymphoma) for about a year. It was a good gig. Easy work, low stress, minimal oversight, full benefits, excellent pay. I also happened to look good in scrubs. For a recent undergrad with an English Lit degree, it was as good as I was going to find.

The problem was, I didn’t want to work there anymore.

This was the thought that had invaded my mind that day, in that office.

I don’t want to work here anymore.

I can’t exactly tell you why. I’m not even sure I knew why at the time. Maybe it had something to do with the view of the city — the concrete jungle — that made me yearn for the Rocky Mountains. It was a view I usually loved, of a city I loved, but in that moment, I wanted to be anywhere but there. Perhaps it was working so closely with the ailing and dying (and the delegations of their suffering families) that had gotten to me. I’m not sure. All I knew was that staying was no longer an option.

Okay. People leave their jobs all the time. You don’t like it? Quit. What’s the big deal?

An excellent question. But at the time, it did nothing to sate my true desire.

You see, it’s not just that I wanted to leave my job. I didn’t want to be there any longer, at all. Not another week. Not another day. Not another goddamn minute. I was done. I wanted to get up and leave, mid-shift, just walk out the door.

But that’s not how things are done, are they?

It’s not as if anyone would stop me, but it would be a foolish move. Things like that usually happen in a fit of anger, an eruption of emotion that has you flipping off your boss on the way out. Not very professional, and certainly a stunt that won’t earn you any affection, admiration, or work references.

These mattered to me. I had gotten the job because someone had put in a word, so there was that to consider. Also, I was a full-time employee; people depended on me. I didn’t want to be an asshole and surrender to a foolhardy whim, leaving my colleagues in a lurch and having them hate me.

No. That wouldn’t do.

I could’ve gone to my manager and given my notice right then. This was the most level-headed course of action. All I would’ve had to do was wait two weeks and I’d have my freedom.

I was twenty two. Immature — impatient and impetuous.

That wouldn’t do either.

Sitting in that office, the notion of walking out had washed over me in a way that’s difficult to explain. It permeated through me. It was suddenly all I could think about, the only thing I wanted. Realizing how childish it was made me want it even more. Like a game quest that’s hard and hardly worth it, but you covet it all the same. I wanted to be reckless and irresponsible, but not be perceived as such. It was a full-fledged fixation. I wanted to walk out of my job and never come back. I didn’t even want to finish out the rest of the day. The thought was intoxicating.

But how?

* * *

I remember it like it was yesterday. The shouting. The jumping. The mania.

“I won the lottery! I won the lottery!! I won the lottery!!!”

My yelling was visceral. Completely uninhibited.

Within seconds, the operations of the cancer ward had come to a halt as everyone came to see about the commotion. A crowd of people — doctors, nurses, patients, visitors, colleagues, anyone within ear shot — had gathered around me, expressions of surprise and disbelief frozen on their faces.

The show was on.

I lowered my voice, but continued with the same declaration, repeating it over and over.

“I won the lottery. I won the lottery. I won the lottery.”

I put my hands on my head.

“I won the lottery.”

I closed my eyes.

“I won the lottery.”

I walked in a circle.

“I won the lottery.”

People were starting to smile, saying congratulations and asking questions, but I ignored them. I was in another world. A man possessed. I just kept muttering the same mantra.

Oh, I was good.

My supervisor had pushed her way to the front of the crowd and came right up to me.

“What’s going on, Shayan?”

I looked her dead in the eyes and said it again. Slow. Measured.

She stared back, incredulous.

I gave a little shake of the head and said, “I’m not coming to work tomorrow.”

The goosebumps were legit.

“I’m not coming to work tomorrow. I’m not coming to work tomorrow!!! I WON THE FUCKING LOTTERY!!!”

I’d like to thank the Academy.

My supervisor broke into a big smile. She regaled me with congratulations and pulled me in for a hug. Then she looked at me and said, “Go. Get out of here. I’ll take care of everything.”

Mission accomplished.

I ran to the elevators and headed down to the staff room, my heart pounding. Quickly changing out of the scrubs and into my street clothes, I emptied the locker of my personal belongings, ran out the front door of the hospital, and never looked back.

Just like that.

* * *

The story that I’m telling is true.

I’m not necessarily proud of it, but I also don’t regret it. That inspired bit of lunacy was the impetus of everything to follow.

For months, my growing sense of discontent had become more and more apparent. I’d grown deeply unsatisfied — simultaneously restless and listless — unable to find pleasure in the things that others seemed to enjoy so much.

The ceremonious end of my undergraduate studies and subsequent entry into the job market was in no way a prospect I looked forward to. The motivations that drove my friends — career advancement, romantic relationships, financial stability; a sprint towards a marriage and a mortgage — didn’t excite me in the least. The problem was, that’s as far as I knew. I didn’t have a plan. The only thing I was sure of was that I didn’t want what other people wanted, though I wasn’t sure how to find what I did.

I wanted adventure. To travel, be independent, feel the texture of reality. I wanted to have affairs. Learn a new language. Take risks. Break rules. Get high. Hitchhike. Trespass. Something. I wasn’t sure what, but it was something. It had to be something.

* * *

The way I quit that job taught me a rather fundamental lesson about myself.

I realized that what I did for work wasn’t that important. It was to most people, and that was fine, but not to me. Finding work simply became a means to help get me to the next destination. It didn’t matter how good a job was, or how well it paid, or if there were opportunities for advancement; after a while, all I wanted to do was leave.

It wasn’t them. It was me.

A week after the hospital, I had sublet my room and left for Vancouver and the Rockies. Eight months later, I was in Bangkok. After that, Seoul.

My wanderlust was insatiable.





One-way tickets all the way.

After two or three years of this, my family became concerned. They thought there was something wrong. That I was running away from something, that I had a fear of commitment. They accused me of exhibiting signs of Peter Pan syndrome. A friend said that it was fear of failure. Another said it was fear of success.

But they were wrong. I wasn’t running. I’m still not. There isn’t anything to run from. I was moving, I still am, and there’s a difference between the two.

The prevailing ethos of our society is predicated on settlement. On having a family. Furthering a career. Growing a business. Creating a community. And those are great things. But when someone chooses an alternate life — one of movement, of constant change, of isolation and impermanence — it’s no wonder that so many fail to see the value. I like moving around by myself without a permanent home. I like not having things. It allows me more mobility. More flexibility. Everything I own, I can carry up a flight of stairs in a single trip. There’s something profoundly exhilarating about that.

* * *

The business in the hospital, that was silly. A ridiculous ruse for which I can’t think of a more inappropriate setting. But the very eccentricity of that act ignited a flame that hasn’t been extinguished since. A flame that burns to this day.

I didn’t win the lottery fourteen years ago. But pretending I did, just to walk off a job in an inoffensive way, had an indelible, invaluable impact on my life. It led me to discover who I am, what I want, and what makes me truly happy. It gave me the courage to colour outside the lines from time to time, and the confidence to forge my own path. It shaped the person I have become, a person I am proud of. A person I am happy with.

In the end, isn’t that what winning really is?



Shayan Kashani

Writer — Philosopher — Teacher — Runner — Reader — Nomad.