Tag Archives: All About Me

Lessons in Multitasking

Busy, busy, busy winter.

  • 2013 is off to a fabulous start – I’ve transitioned into a consulting role with a super-neat startup in the Boston area to work on pushing the company to scale with an influx of multi-sided users.  It’s been a whirlwind and with quick, significant progress  – I’ve finally found the women’s restroom no less than eight weeks into the game.  There’s incredible potential for the technology they’ve developed, and we’re going to take this thing far & wide.  The visionary & strategic aspects of my role are incredible, and it’s caused a deep realization that hey maybe this is what I should have been doing — not the process-oriented roles I’ve filled in the past.
  • Timing is good too – a smart friend recently left his comfortable job for greener pastures in the world of marketing convergence.  What is this magical term I speak of?  It’s the first time anyone has linked together all marketing activities directly to business activities and directly to consumer activities. It’s a closed-loop system. Our tool is super easy to use and – best of all – doesn’t require the coffers of the Catholic Church to implement & maintain.  I’m proud of it, excited about it, and ready to introduce much much more in the coming weeks.
  • I’ve been writing, albeit slowly, working on an old/new project.  You remember Notes from the Field, right?  It’s undergoing a reboot and when I finish the intense outline, it’s hitting the publisher circuit.  (Another one you’ll be hearing much more about in the coming months.  I’ve dedicated nearly all my flying time to writing – except Superbowl Sunday and when I get jammed next to someone who insists on invading my space, brain, and consciousness with their nosy inquiries.)
  • Commercial and residential real estate is also on my radar, though I seem to spend more time kicking the tires than finding what I want. Essentially, I want to build out some decent commissary kitchens for up & coming chefs, home bakers, and those who want to break into the catering, food truck, and other food-types of business.  It needs to include a small cafe and a market (ideally), but finding the right-sized warehouse space that I can purchase & get up to code hasn’t been an easy task.  From the residential side – it’s time to put down some roots, if only so I have somewhere to come home to on the weekends.  I just don’t know where (yet).
  • And, of course, this past Saturday  marked the beginning of the soccer season!  Pictures & stories forthcoming — though I’m excited to coach another season with the girls. (They’re now 7 1/2 years old.  It’s our eighth season and going strong.)

Yep, this year is shaping up to be a game-changer.  Let’s make it happen together though — tell me what you’re up to!

Twenty-Four Hours

It was a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more I listen to (read: dance to) Katy B’s “Louder,” the more it seeps into my day-to-day life.  The more it seeps into life, the more the underlying philosophy guides the days, weeks, and months.  Where I’ve previously described the angst of the ‘quarter-life crisis,’ it’s not the memories of my youth that I mourn, but quite the opposite: that instead it was wasted.

Listen for yourself:

(It doesn’t help that I looked like that at 16.)

It was a handful of weeks ago that I was driving to work, thinking to myself “is this what being grown-up is?”  The constant nagging feeling that I don’t really have any answers to the same questions that plagued me years ago, just a a few glimmers of insight.  I feel exactly as I did at 16, but with a few additional responsibilities and a whole lot more freedom.  I still drown out my thoughts with loud music; I still drive fast; I still escape situations where I’m awkwardly uncomfortable; I still coach (and play) soccer; I still adore the same things I did then (though the list has expanded some over the years).  And while I appreciate the present tense moments, I’ve never given in or been seduced by them, at least long-term (momentary weakness: yes; reckless addictions and compulsions: no.)  Which leads to an quirky question: did I miss out on an undefinable something called youth?  And worse yet: is that why I still feel 16?

I think this is a good thing, albeit odd.  Going through photos of friends, a handful of them have grown up – they’re married, some with kids, they have houses and mortgages, and have piled on the responsibility and sacrificed (some) freedom.  And they’re happy, happier than our parents were.  Yet it’s not about the rite of passage-style events anymore – it’s all about whether they’re still in touch, moving and shaking in some way.  It’s been made much easier to move toward and from the edge, in constant, dynamic flux with the use of social technologies.  ‘The man,’ as previous generations have declared, will get you, bogeyman-style, when you lose your cultural edge. Now, there’s no excuse.

My millennial generation has grown up in a period of unraveling and fragmentation in the cultural sphere, yet we’ve always been cared for and protected through this instability.  It’s said that we were the generation who elected Obama; it’s said that we can’t function alone, but only in teams.  We’re coming of age, not necessarily into adulthood, but into a larger role as we become the dominant power in this sphere. And given our predilection for optimism and energy, we’ll be the generation to redefine, fight, and expand our cultural power.

Certainly I’m part of that.

I’ve been working on a couple proposals for two serious – and high-minded – projects that can and will change the face of education, utilizing technology and the social space.  These projects address the continued fragmentation of education and the crisis of insurmountable debt (and the uneven impact to show for it).  I’ll be the first to say that my undergraduate education gave me the skills and abilities I needed – and the network to back it up.  My graduate education gave me the clout and discipline of responsibility.  I use none of my degrees in their narrow fields; it was never my intention to do so as none of them are vocational-level degrees.  I want to share this freedom with the world; I want the world to have the same opportunities I do and to be able to take these opportunities at any point in life.  Friedman and his disciples call this principle “flattening” – I call this necessity for a world soon (if not already) in the midst of cultural crisis.  Education isn’t a magic bullet, yet it is a stepping stone in the right direction.  The ability to think, to read, to write, to create, to analyze – these skills are priceless as the foundations of any existence.  A government is only as effective as its citizens; a culture only as pervasive as its citizens; an economic system is only as strong as its citizens.

And I have the heroic impulse (and 16 year-old indefatigable, youthful optimism) to take on the challenge.

My voice is getting louder.

A Funny Thing Happened Today at Cartier

Or at least it will be funny when the new watch I ordered comes in and is fitted to my left wrist and highly satisfying to take a hammer to the one I’m currently wearing because god help me if I’m ever that mortified again.

And in the same vein,

I love that I’m independent.  I love that I have the ability and fortitude to rectify this and any other situation.  That no matter what I can take care of myself – and do so without pretense or fabrication.  I love that I can spend Saturday running errands, then indulging in a little bit of retail therapy without buying things as a salve for a deeper emotional issue.  I love that I can come home late Saturday afternoon, strip to my skin, and throw myself a mini-spa hour (and a half) – and I love that I can then order a pizza with pepperoni, sausage, canadian bacon, meatballs, prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, ricotta, sun dried tomatoes and spinach — with extra garlic.  I love that it’s Saturday and I can stay home, curl up with a book – or I can go out and have a glass of wine alone – or I can wander the aisles at Whole Foods and come home with a odd mish-mash of really good food.  That I live by myself in an apartment I really love (even if I don’t love the management company) and that I can provide fully for myself and my family and those I love unconditionally.

Maybe it’s just been awhile since I’ve been in a good mood.

Maybe it’s just that I’m settling into a good groove and I’m optimistic about what’s coming next.

Maybe I’ve let go of the hidden worry and fear that I won’t be loved again – because I will.

And I’ll even tell you why: because there was a moment yesterday afternoon when I (finally) saw how important it is to love myself, if only because I’ve made others suffer because I haven’t.  I’m not the enemy of myself, though I’ve sure as hell waged a damn good twenty-something year battle of self v. self.

Cliff’s Notes version: I’m the problem.

And because I’m the problem, I’m the only person who can change it or fix it or do something about it, whether it’s straight up abatement or temporary injunction or imperfect compromise.

Which brings me to a related issue:

I’m a creative person who likes – no, needs – to be immersed in collaborative work.  Simply, I need to work with smart, creative people.  Who are not like me — who are more than me.  More visionary.  More creative.  Smarter.  Faster.  More more more to combat the collective weaknesses (my own included) and enhance the collective strengths (my own included) and achieve the common goal.  This isn’t a lofty abstract desire; this is a need.

The problem with collaboration is that it requires true commitment.  Discipline.  Passion.  Attention.  Even habit.  And the emotional, personal connection with collaboration is crucial – you gotta be a believer or it all falls apart.  You take make anyone play on a team, but if a single member’s heart isn’t in it, the whole collaborative process is a sham, a ruse, a shell of false idolatry.  Add in an inability to effectively communicate (ahem, honestly and openly), add in a layer of politics, and add in a disaffected attitude, and welcome to disaster.

Also known as my personal hell.  The wide-eyed promise of collaboration for an amazingly awesome goal torn apart because the discipline, attention, and passion of one single team member rings hollow.  To see the house this team has built is a case study for the gods – yet this house will be bulldozed because we didn’t choose the perfect wallpaper in the living room and there’s a leaky faucet in the bathroom, that…it destroys me.  It disrupts the collaborative process – that discipline, that habit, that passion – and for what?  Something trivial.

Maybe it should be seen from another perspective – that I allow the destruction of this one house to distract me from the neighborhood of houses previously constructed.  That I’m the disruption on the team rather than the guy sitting in the ‘dozer.

Problem is, the guy sitting in the ‘dozer doesn’t know how to operate heavy equipment…and probably doesn’t realize what’s going on or what he’s about to do.  Yet another sign something is in rotten in Denmark, another indication of poor communication and inadequate leadership.

And here we come to another rampant weakness of mine: reason and precision.  Always tell me why.  If only because it’s the only thing that will convince me that at minimum you understand what it is you’re doing and see the scope of things as something slightly larger (at minimum) than yourself.  Or you don’t, but are still okay with things not being larger than yourself.

And another weakness: trust.  I’ll trust you until you give me reason not to.  You can earn trust back after that point, but not without a considerable amount of effort and energy, at least to partially compensate for the time, effort, energy I expended in cleaning up the mess I trusted you not to make.  (An honest “I’m sorry” typically does the trick.)

Despite the weaknesses, I don’t know what to do about the breakdown of collaboration.  Smear a layer of frustration and disappointment on as well; it brings out the troubling flavor from the overmasticated texture.  Some say go to the mattresses; others say mercy; still others wonder if there’s a trusted resource able to do anything.  I fear the die has been cast and only now are the implications of betting everything peaking through the veil of a hasty, backed-in-a-corner decision.

Learning the Hips

I’ve started into dance classes this month as part of my grand plan to learn something new every month this year, matching interests with curiosities.  (This is a habit/trait/characteristic I learned from my father, by the way.)  Go resolutions.

But among my most favorite of songs is the one below.  It was featured this morning and it’s amazing how much better I feel just to “leave it on the dance floor” – and, of course, its always a great reminder that the exuberance of love still rings true.  And now, watching the music video, I’m reinvigorated for Brazil, yearning to get down there.

But enough yammering – here’s the video:

(And a preview for what’s next on the list!)

A Question Answered

On a fairly regular basis, I’m asked about the nature of ideas.  More specifically: where do your ideas come from?

Typically I laugh and make a snide-to-snarky comment and lop-sided grin about the birth of ideas akin to the birth of babies – one more titillating, one more compelling than the other.

But seriously.  Like babies and boyfriends, they come when you least expect them.

I’ve killed weeks and months at a time in a reverie and daydream, just drifting out in the doldrums.

And I’ve murdered weeks and months at a time drowning in anxious-yet-mundane tasks guaranteed to kill the spirit and livelihood of creativity.

I’ve slaughtered time reading, observing, hearing, watching others’ great (and not-so-great) works, studying their miscues and brilliance.

Time was never really the difference to my great surprise.  No matter how I spend my time, the rate or quality of creativity doesn’t change.

And then, while talking, I launch into a monologue proudly proclaiming that it’s different for everyone.  That everyone has their ‘ah-ha’ moment no matter what they’re in the middle or beginning or ending or purgatory of.

And then I pause,

And say,

But for me,

it’s the welling up of an emotion deep inside me, to the point that if I don’t stop myself, I’ll scream or cry or demons will burst from my abdomen or angels sing from my head and I think I don’t/can’t take another breath – it’s that moment right there I look for because

then,

right then,

if I step out of the catharsis, lean back in my chair, close my eyes for a long, slow blink,

that’s when it happens.

It’s simply that ability to purely reflect on what you know and what’s going on around you- all together instantly and without any self-interest other than to get to just one more breath — and shazam, there it is.

it’s then I approach a theory, perhaps as selfish validation:

Nabokov described inspiration as two parts (though he didn’t assign ratios) – the first half as rapture:

“a combined sensation of having the whole universe entering you and of yourself wholly dissolving in the universe surrounding you.  It is the prison wall of ego suddenly melting away and the non-eogo rushing in from the outside to save the prisoner – who is already dancing in the open.”

The moment where time ceases to exist.  Where there’s no conscious purpose in existence.  The idea.  The moment lightening strikes shock through the air.

The second half he describes as the recapture – the conscious work of construction.  The idea in practice.  The thunder following the lightening.  As you blurt it aloud and start to reflect on what it is you’re saying and continue in a babbling way trying your damnest to position the idea, put boundaries – it’s always with sparkling eyes and increased tempo (in a gentlemanly fashion – others I’ve known fancy more toward crazy eyes and irregular tremor through the body).

The issue, I pointedly say, is finding your ratio – balancing the lightening and the thunder to fit you.  I’ve seen too many taken down by rush for one direction or another, whether by drugs or alcohol, by gluttony or avarice, by talent or lack thereof.  All in the hopes of finding something they thought they needed, even though it was there all the time.

In all, I believe, the storm will come.  No matter the singing or dancing, the lollygagging or grind.  Just be open to more than rain.

Who Says?

Franzen writes …”the one thing nobody can take away from you is the freedom to fuck up your life whatever way you want to.”

Mayer sings “who says I can’t be free from all the things I used to be – rewrite my history – who says I can’t be free?”

And as I sit here, quiet and comfortable in my city apartment, opportunity brightly (and insistently) knocking down my door, I find myself a smidge lonely.

It’s been a very long year.  And in nine months, I will turn 30.  And if there’s one thing these near thirty years has taught me, it’s worrisome independence and careful compromise.  I have very little tethering me, save for the ticking clock and its seemingly increasing tempo.  Days go by faster, no matter whether I think of you or anything else.  Nights occur in the blink of an eye regardless of whether I finish the tasks at my fingertips.  Plainly:  I’ve slowed down.

Perhaps for the better.  Certainly the angst that roiled inside of me has mellowed, aging into an increasingly complex wine, nipping each olfactory nerve, smoked fruits eliciting an inaudible (yet enjoyable) sigh.  Give it a few more years, the experts say.  Or at least another day, then another, then another.  Seems its better for me to take things one day at a time.

It’s freedom – and revolution – binding my mind.  Franzen’s treatise threw a book at the complexities, though mired in the inanities of present-tense American life, told primarily from those of “adults.”  Mayer’s opus echoes the inanities of present-tense American life, told primarily from those “transitioning.”  The difference?  How you wake up everyday – and when and why – and what happens next.

Stay tuned.

Giving Thanks

This morning I crawled out of bed, my eyes still crusty with sleep but my heart aflame.  Said goodbye and safe travels to a guy whose role in my life is to be determined as you’ll see below.  We’d fallen asleep last night next to one another recognizing our blessings and thanksgivings, a squeamish activity for me primarily in the outward sharing with someone who, yes, I’m thankful for, but who has little context with which to pair my words and sincerity.  Still, we slept soundly.

And yet it was this morning, while making coffee and eating pieces of baguette with creamy cheeses and grapes, while lighting a cozy fire in my living room, while scrolling through an ipod for the music to fit my time, place, and manner, while sitting on my couch with a fantastic book that this particular realization sprouted: this is exactly what I’ve always dreamed of, wanted, desired, and worked for.  Today, this morning.  Cozy solitude, the perfect morning for me to glide through the rest of the day.  The ideal morning to open up my mind and body and spirit.  What I want every morning to be.  What I’ve wanted every morning to be since I was six years old: warm, halfway between absorbed and reflective, quiet but for the sounds of typing, a melancholy saxophone, hissing fire, and the slight puff of a chilling draft from the windows. Dressed in an oversized gingham pearl snap shirt.  Comfortable in my otherwise bare skin.  Wrapped together in nothing less than appreciation and true gratitude for the path I’ve taken to get here and for the moment of stark, blossoming epiphany.

Come what may for the rest of the day – I am content this morning.

And thankful for it as this peace has been too long in coming.

I didn’t think it possible.  My eye steals away to the other end of the couch where I keep expecting to see him with each stolen glance, worn flannel pajama pants, a navy Smith College t-shirt, absorbed into the Times or a book of similar weight and magnitude, enjoying the quiet solitude with me.  This is what he always wanted from me: quiet, steady comfort, yet always found a reason to disrupt it for the thrill of spontaneity.  Until today, this morning, I thought it was my fault; believed I’d never achieve this.

Yet here it is, and I have the recipe now.  I can create it whenever I want it, I know how.  And I can’t express that particular relief.

Which brings me back to my current situation, complete with a man thankful for his freedom and who has unilaterally opened my eyes to see again: with the recipe for quiet, steady comfort emblazoned to knowledge and memory, it’s time to break out again, seek fertile experiences, a fresh (and refreshing) view of life at its molten core.  I can always come back to this (says the optimistic and entitled American); it’s time to let all this go, every last drop, and start fresh elsewhere.  I’ve previously promised myself Columbia as the next destination.  Instead it may be Russia or Panama or Venezuela or Brazil – or a meandering wander through these countries and more.  The dream of embracing that adventurous, Gypsy-minded streak running through my spirit has caught me as a red-handed romantic.    I’ve been placid in my existence far too long, frustrated by an nameless yearning for something greater, a grain of redemption for my past misgivings and deeds.  Where before I’ve turned a blind eye only to have the malfeasance and their wretched consequences seep and ooze through my dreamy subconscious as a monster we all know as guilt and contempt, today I am content, not only thankful for my past struggles to get where I am presently, not only for the blessing of all the skills, abilities, and experiences I present, but for the recognition that I have the freedom to choose my adventure, my freedom, my content and displeasure – and the single-handed aptitude not to passively be – but to actively do.

Blinking Eyes

Anne Hollander & broken
Broken

A very wise man said to me a few weeks ago “slow down, take your time – or you’ll burn out.”

I admit I’ve heard this many times before; my version of patience allows for a fully streamlined perfect execution gliding gracefully into a deadline – no screwing around or wasting time once the decision(s) have been made.

Had he (or anyone else) admonished “slow down, don’t do everything – or you’ll break something,” it may have caught me off-guard just enough to take a couple eyeblinks in consideration.

‘Cause in the blink of an eye Saturday morning, I lost functionality of my right arm.  A freak accident on the soccer fields, my five year olds laughing through my starry-eyed daze.  Hours later, it was declared I’d broken my arm in two places, smashed my elbow to smithereens, and disrupted the delicate musculature of my shoulder.  And so I was immobilized and provided sleep courtesy of a narcotic bouquet.

Today the appointment with the orthopedic specialist was serious.  My career with the piano may be officially over and in two weeks, I will return to have more photos taken (x-ray and MRI) along with a determination as to whether surgical intervention is necessary to reset the bones from my hand to my shoulder.  In the interim, a soft splint from my knuckles to armpit, a lightweight design to allow the shoulder to heal, but with the determination of molded fiberglass locking my hand, wrist, and elbow into stationary place.

Then it was home to sleep through the trauma and its slow tedious repair.

A particular sadness has swept through me to the tune of “this is what it takes – still?”  Bodily trauma has been my wake-up call again and again – and again and again.  Now that I look at up to twelve weeks (!) of healing followed by therapy, now that each and every action I take has attention and purpose, I have an overriding need to determine whether purpose and action align elsewhere in life.  Frieda Kalho evaded depression by painting.  I avoid the same with writing.  Now that it takes me longer to physically write or type the words, what will happen to my frenetic style as I now have several blinks of consideration before the word fully forms or appears?  Add the strengthened desire to write despite the exceptional pain, however modulated, and suddenly I’ve developed a new (improved?) voice and style.  With that, can we expect new (and improved?) action and purpose?

Time will tell.

In Praise of Quitting Your Job

This is my constant struggle, but said much much more eloquently.  Original by Ben Pieratt, available here; shamelessly reposted by me; comments in blue are mine.

Update: just as a little bit of background, I’m back in the interview process for a few different positions, one of which I’d kill (or seriously maim) to have.  To be perfectly frank, I believe it would be perfect for me, especially considering this post below.  Too often I’ve worked with those who weren’t inspired nor inspiring.  This position, company, and people I’d work closely with would radically change that experience – already I’m inspired and thinking and the job isn’t mine (yet).  Regardless of what happens concerning the job, it’s affirming to know that I can still be inspired by those I work with AND that I’m appreciated for my skills, talents, and abilities, and especially for my creative, problem-solving mind.

Now back to your regular programming:

In Praise of Quitting Your Job

(Alternate title: The New Work Ethic)

I wrote this email to a friend a few weeks ago, and then the topic came up again last night with an old buddy who was frustrated with his work. He seemed to appreciate what I had to say, so I figured it might be worth sharing:

– – –

Thinking about your comment at the end our call. Thought I’d put some words down. Apologies in advance for the presumption.

The reason I’m so supportive of you quitting your job is that I’m intensely empathetic to your situation and I believe that you’re doing everyone a disservice by sticking around.

I’ve worked for a handful of companies over the course of the last 6 years. I started all of them with a fair amount of enthusiasm, but within 5 months of each I dipped into a depression. By 7 months the work was having a tangible effect on my mood and outlook, and by nine months, I’ve quit almost every job I’ve held. The longest was 12 months at [Redacted], and that was only because I wanted my options to vest. I handed them my resignation on my 366th day.

I always feel like a waste of space in these situations. Part of the depression stems from being so useless. Why do I hate this job so much? What is wrong with me that I’m so entitled? People the world over have jobs they don’t like, why am I unable to stick this out?

I could wax on this for a while (and I did, but then deleted all the paragraphs), but I think it comes down to the fact that, for some people, work is personal. Personal in the same way that singing or playing the piano or painting is personal.

Totally agreed on this point, and I beat myself up about this (and how I shouldn’t take it personally) each and every day. Every. single. day.

As a creative person, you’ve been given the ability to build things from nothing by way of hard work over long periods of time. Creation is a deeply personal and rewarding activity, which means that your Work should also be deeply personal and rewarding. If it’s not, then something is amiss.

Okay, small point of disagreement: things are not built from nothing.  It comes from something existing (usually many things), but re-ordered or re-expressed or re-done or re-concepted in a new, inventive, innovative, creative way.  Usually these “things” are solutions to problems; the more complex the problem, the more nuanced the solution(s).  Creative folks relish the fact that there isn’t just one way to do something – there are millions.  Don’t believe me?  How many poems, songs, paintings, books, expressions are out there with the singular goal of telling someone that you love them?  I rest my case.

Creation is entirely dependent on ownership.

Ownership not as a percentage of equity, but as a measure of your ability to change things for the better. To build and grow and fail and learn. This is no small thing. Creativity is the manifestation of lateral thinking, and without tangible results, it becomes stunted. We have to see the fruits of our labors, good or bad, or there’s no motivation to proceed, nothing to learn from to inform the next decision. States of approval and decisions-by-committee and constant compromises are third-party interruptions of an internal dialog that needs to come to its own conclusions.

I’d like to state for the record that I’m not anti-committee and approval.  In fact, I need others’ feedback regularly in order to keep the process going.  It’s a struggle to balance out the need for stimulation (creative partners and decision-makers) versus the need for isolation (to actually get something done) however, and I do agree that interruptions in the process are creativity killers, especially when surrounded by morons who either can’t wait for an idea to develop and see a drafted product OR who can’t make a decision or provide feedback.

Your muse can only be treated as the secretary of a subcommittee for so long before she decides to pack up and look for employment elsewhere. If you aren’t able to own the product and be creative, then you aren’t able to do your work, and if you’re not doing your work then you’re negating a very real part of your personality, which is no good for anyone. No good for you and certainly no good for your employer.

I’ve come to terms with my own inherent work issues simply by recognizing that my weaknesses in one context are strengths in another. When I am able to own a project or product, I work hard and I work well, and I like to believe it shows in the results. Not everyone can do this. Not everyone is willing to spend stupid amounts of hours on a project simply because they believe in it. This is worth recognizing.

My strengths: problem-solving.  Give me a challenge, something complex, and let me run with a white board and several marker colors.  Once we’ve got it figured out and approved by necessary parties, I’ll oversee the implementation, but if you don’t give me another problem to solve, I’m gonna get bored.

My weakness: when I believe in something, I pour myself fully and entirely into it.  I’m not a typical 9-to-5 employee; I don’t leave my brain in my desk at work, and when I’m faced with something where the solution we need isn’t clear, I’m probably not gonna be at my desk.  I’ll likely be outside, or running at the gym, or drinking coffee and watching people, or listening to music or driving or drawing – something that requires just enough attention to let my brain focus on what I’m doing physically and not  overanalyze a problem or possible solutions.  Amazingly, my ideas percolate best that way.  And if I have no ideas initially, research research research in the veins of good art is copied, great art is stolen.

My point is simply this. From what little I understand of you and your situation, I feel like I can empathize. I would guess that you’re juggling a handful of self-loathing with a justified sense of entitlement. This is something that I came to peace with after I left my last job, and I get the sense that you’re still struggling with it.

Bingo.

I suspect that eventually our culture will catch up with our evolving understanding of work ethic and the personal nature of work in creative fields. In the meantime there’s going to be a lot of wasted talent pushing too much effort in the wrong directions. It is clear to me and anyone who interacts with you that a misplacement of your energies is at everyone’s loss. I hope that you’re able to recognize this fact and move forward accordingly.

It’s encouraging that not only am I not alone in these feelings, but that this other blogger gets it, publishes it, and makes it less my fault.

~ HUGE thank you to Ben Pierrat!

Voice

In the last few days, I’ve spent countless hours watching people, seeing how they interact and speak with other, the gesticulations and turns of phrase that lead to familiarity.  I’ve been quiet, almost uncomfortably so, just to listen and watch, to experiment and experience something akin to the present moment.

And in what can only be described as a metaphysical nightmare, I’ve found myself watching others, then watching myself, floating hazily along the surface of perception, then diving into the murkiness of turmoil.  I’ve always dreamed in third person, resolving my acts and thoughts, to the point that doubt crept in and camped furtively – and now the master of a small community.  Whose life am I leading, I wonder, as it certainly can’t be my own.  My life is dull, muted, unattached, yet this person I watch, she’s charming and smiling and at ease in her own skin as though nothing horrible or awful has touched her, yet approaches others with a friendly grace only learned from experience.  Where I haven’t heard anything in seemingly years, she sees everything, eyes wide open, the shapes an and sights with delicately curved edges and vivid hues.  For her, danger is far away because it does not exist; for me, danger is far away because I hide behind locked doors.  For me, I equivocate anything, everything to avoid disappointment; for her, she fights the necessary battles yet avoids bloodshed.  She is my hero whereas I’m just one in the crowd of people who never thought to believe.

And so it is my birthday, an auspicious occasion full of celebration and condolences, and I approach with such an unsoiled voice that it is my cross to bear.

Two Emails

It’s Monday.  This day is associated with a variety of negative connotations, but for today in particular, even Hitchcock couldn’t come up with a day quite like this one.

I’d like to state for the record that I could not survive without email and I’ve maintained a GMail account for the past six or seven years and archive just about everything I’ve ever drafted, sent and received, even the stuff I’m “supposed to” legally destroy.  (I have a common name –> common email handle –> commonly receive emails not intended for me, though most are from the same ten people who can’t get it through their skulls that no, they’re not reaching the person they’re looking for, and no, I’m not interested in the inane forward you’ve just sent me that displays your chronic inability to think for yourself.)

Today’s adventure in reaching the wrong person via email (though, as you’ll see, I’m not convinced I was an unintended recipient) came from an email address I’ve never seen before and from an otherwise anonymous source: no name, no true identifying information, though the headers and IP address indicate Dallas, Texas.  Came straight through to my Inbox, never triggered the Spam filter.  No text in the email, just an embedded YouTube video.  After an eye-blink debate, I clicked the link, not thinking of potential consequences of clicking on things in weird, unrecognized emails.  Something about it just didn’t ring warning bells – just curiosity.

Here’s what I received:

I have to say: it’s catchy.  And I’m a Cee-Lo fan.  And there’s no missing the point in it.  But the question remains – was I the intended recipient on this one and if so, I gotta admit it’s a great way to get me into a Russian countryside full of ancient yet deadly landmines.  So, to you dear reader: respond or not?

The second email is related to the job search.  I’ve been in an email blizzard due to recruiters who “came across your resume” and “believe you’d be a great fit for” their organization.  I understand that for the access and ability to put myself out there, I gotta give up some modicum of privacy in order to find what I’m looking for (much like the first few dates with a new person).  But…first, if you can’t seem to proofread your emails recruiting me, it’s probably not gonna work out.  Second, I’m a writer with marketing experience and a JD degree – how does that qualify me to give financial advice or sell cars?  Not to be snotty, but not only would those occupations cause me to put forks in my eyes, you probably wouldn’t/couldn’t/shouldn’t pay me enough to compel me not to find the nearest spork and threaten to do so.  (Must stop with this imagery, I’m grossing myself out.  Moving on…)

But, as I mentioned before, today was odd.  I got a response back for a freelance writing gig.  I was driving at the time, just saw there was a new email in the chain.  Now, my email to them, sent yesterday, was duller than the knives in my kitchen – basically the quick, simple “here’s the position you’ve advertised, I’m uniquely qualified – just look at my resume, let’s talk why not how’s this week for you.”  No showcasing or showboating, just a ‘please don’t reject me but if you do, it’s okay ’cause I didn’t too much effort on this even though I should and do actually think we’d both get some great work from this’ email.  Needless to say, I was pleased just to see something back.

And when I arrived at my destination (thanks, GPS navigation!), and opened this email response, the spring breeze of pleased approached the nuclear blast of shocked.

The response (identifying information redacted; green color added for effect):

Anne,

I’m going to be honest in a way that is rarely expected when considering someone for a job position (in the sense that tact and professionalism typically impose stipulations to the contrary); your writing is absolutely enthralling. I checked out your blog to get a feel for your writing style and I was blown away. I want to say that you have a way with words but it is certainly more than that. It is painfully evident in your writing that you possess a degree of sincerity and the ability to think and feel in a way that I think most people try to avoid for simplicity sake. When I read your post about your former co workers failing to invite you for lunch or your separation from your boyfriend I felt true empathy for you. That’s no small feat considering that I usually find the typical self-reflective blog post to be disingenuous, pseudo-poetic and trite. Basically what I am getting at is that if your goal was to spill your guts about your personal life so that you could impress a semi-elitist jerk who has no discernable creative writing abilities or technical skills of his own yet he still likes to criticize the work of others, well, then mission accomplished.

In all seriousness, I am very impressed with your writing but it may be too good. What we are looking for is someone that can generate rather banal and repetitive content. Certainly the content is informative and helpful to our clients but it is by no means fun or edgy. The ideal candidate can take what has already been written and regurgitate it in such a way that it stands apart as unique but still delivers the same feel and message. Where I’m ultimately going with this is that if you are interested then I’d like the opportunity to discuss the possibility further. However, I suspect that this is something that you ultimately would not find to be very engaging and there are a ton of other potential writers who write just good enough to achieve what we’re after. On the other hand, maybe you can wear many hats and writing this stuff is second nature to you. Just let me know what your thoughts are. Keep up the good work. The internet needs more writers who actually have something to say.

Here’s hoping you’ve got a good sense of humor…

Come on, say it with me: holy. f#$&*#@. shit.

I don’t get a whole lotta feedback on my writing – I instead get feedback on the fact I’m a writer.  Exchanges typically go like this:

Stranger #1, at some break in conversation: “So, whatd’ya do?”

Me: “I’m a writer.”

Stranger #1: “No shit?  That’s cool.  What’dya write?”

Me: “Mostly fiction…published a book of short stories back in January, working on a novel and a screenplay at this point, though it’s taking a little longer than originally expected…” (I’ve stopped telling folks that I keep a blog or website UNLESS specifically asked or I think it will lead to some type of commissioned work – the advent of web browsers on smartphones usually leads to instant mortification when my blog is read aloud, with alcoholic intonation, at the bar.)

Stranger #1: “Awesome, where can I get your book?  What’s your name again?”

Me: “Really, anywhere – Barnes and Noble, Amazon – here’s my card.”

Stranger #1, who hasn’t read a book in, oh, five years, and shops at B&N or Borders for the latest Maxim: “Sweet – I’ll definitely order it!” Then, to Strangers #2-5: “Hey, this chick is a writer!  We’re all gonna be in a book…”

(end of interaction, typically.  a dirty little secret though: I know they don’t order or purchase the book.  and it’s not just suspicion or playing the odds that a late twenty-something male doesn’t read. I get all sorts of demographic info from the publisher and from retailers.  I’m kinda big in Japan.)

But to get feedback on my writing – even if just from this very source – is exhilarating.  Maybe you missed it though: SOMEONE OUT THERE THINKS I’M GREAT!  I mean, there’s only so long one can listen to her mother (“I think you’re a good writer, you just need to find the right material…now go be a lawyer and don’t bring shame on the family.”) or to friends (“Sure, you can write, but why do that when you can help me with my dreams instead?”) or to critics (“writing is dead.”).  And if we extrapolate this email, for each person who comments and tells me I’m great, there are 25 others thinking the same thing.  Twenty-six people!  We’ve just made my millennium – and renewed the spunky vigor to get back to the Molly project and finish before the close of the year.

I Think This is ‘Writing Face’

The ‘Blog Face’ – I’m gonna need some voodoo-style wrinkle cream in the next five years.

For a day that’s been fairly productive, I’m now wading through the muck with ‘Travels with Molly.’  Trying to write the beginning – and going back to the original music I listened to during the development of the original idea back in 2005-2006.

[Yes, I can chronicle my music autobiographically.  Yes, you can call me Rob Gordon (though I also make obsessive lists, I have little need or desire to revisit past relationships – once was probably more than enough for me).]

The time period was full of genre jumping – but what I remember most was the commute to work in the mornings.  I was a cool kid: I had a first generation iPod (god, how did I live life before an iPod…oh wait – with a MiniDisc player), and I’d listen to it all. the. time.  I rediscovered music, wallowed in favorites, branched out and found new and different tracks, provided gratis from my fine musician and audiophile friends.  Vinyl was still a cherished medium, don’t get me wrong – but now I could stand outside in sub-freezing temperatures, waiting for the train, dancing along to Jet and the Black Eyed Peas and the Caesars…you get the point.  It was a big deal, you whippersnappers.  It brought color and vitality to an otherwise frigid grey day met with dark icy night.  It brought reprieve to the lab job I worked (read: slaved); brought sanctuary to the cubicle job I held (read: became disillusioned with); brought joy and gratitude with each play of Ok Go’s “Invincible” and “Don’t Ask Me” and “It’s a Disaster” – among several hundred other favorites.

That iPod met its untimely death when I dropped a 20lb weight on it at the gym.  It was pitiful.  I cried at Boston’s only Apple Store (and couldn’t show my face there again…until I bought a Nano in January 2006 – which still accompanies me to the gym).

But I digress.

It was January 2006 I remember best: standing on the platform, waiting for the train at Davis Square, stressing as both the train and I were to be late yet again, sick with anxiety, wondering how many other people waiting there on the platform were in devoured in their own personal hells as I was.  I’d known for three months I couldn’t continue as I was; I’d applied to a full-time law program; I’d applied to a variety of new jobs, new hopes, new titles, new responsibilities: and I waited, the clock ticking. slowly. in. my. head.  There was one particular day I got to work early, stimulated by an idea of Langston Hughes – I’d woken before my alarm, thinking of dreams deferred – and without a glance or word to anyone, sat down in my cubicle, opened my laptop, and searched.  These were the days before absolutely everything was on the internet, and I couldn’t find it.  These were the days before coffee (my birthday, September 2006).  This was a day that I gophered above my cubicle, looked over at a co-worker’s empty chair, and made an executive decision: I’d be right back.

And to the Boston Public Library I went.  To the expertise of a librarian, through the stacks, to just the collection: and there it was.  A dream deferred.  And then I wanted to see Allen Ginsberg.  And then Kerouac.  And whisked away through the byzantine library, surprisingly populated for a Tuesday morning.  I absorbed and analyzed and lingered and with sycophantic pleasure, I pursued, now on the hunt for just the right written words.  The clock in my head stopped ticking, the clock on the wall finally flying after months of dreary monotony.

I returned to work the next day without explanation, I think.  I’m sure there was some laconic excuse – there usually was.  It wasn’t worth sharing the truth, that finally I’d pieced together together the puzzles of my despair.   It wasn’t appreciable, not in such a raw, pornographic form.  All I shared was a singular idea, just before leaving in May.  I thought I’d never feel as free as I did that departing day – turns out the albatross evaporates with every good decision, every good move, every personal stand and victory.

And I love it.

Next anticipated date of freedom: maybe July 30.  Maybe August 8.  Maybe sometime in September.  Consider me in full state of preparation, just like the old days, from here on out.

Zola the Chopper

For the first time ever, I was on a motorcycle this past week. Allow me to introduce Zola, a beautiful fiery red chopper, and her owner, Stephen:

The experience was incredible.

And that’s all I’ve got for you at the moment – it was incredible.  We traveled through Grapevine, opening it up out on the access roads paralleling the highway, crossed Grapevine dam, wound our way through downtown.  I got into my car the next morning and something was off; the car wouldn’t respond or go like Zola (nor its driver) did.  I found myself speeding excessively, windows down, in a subconscious attempt to feel as open and free, thrilled and submissively trusting – as I had the night before.

It’s still riding on my mind, the wind through my hair, forcibly filling my lungs and etching my face.  And that type of submissiveness – to the driver, to the bike, to the elements – yet still maintaining a dominant presence.  Hmmmmmm….

It’s a perfect experience for a shift in a person’s outlook, if not being.

Hmmmmm…

And After a Long Intermission

I know. I’m sorry, really I am.

I shoulda called.

I shoulda written.

I shoulda let you know what I’ve been up to.

I’ve just been behind. Colossally behind schedule with just about everything.

Today is no different, though I’m trying my damnest to catch up. Kinda.

I’m in New York this weekend to let it all hang out before I head into the abyss. Mid-May to early August will be a huge void on the calendar as I struggle and fight to wrap up as many projects as I can – except for the writing. Those won’t be touched and will fester until they get my undivided attention.

Is it necessary? Yes, yes it is.

Is it desirable? No, no it’s not.

But.

It’s only a couple of months, right? And just think of what happens when my attentions aren’t spread so thin among ten different projects – but can focus on one or two!

…I know. You’ll miss me. And I’ll miss you too. And I’ll be sure to call and provide quick updates and it’ll be like old times soon. Promise.