Every once in a while I’ll hear some fireworks nearby but I won’t be able to pinpoint the source. And that’s frustrating, because I want to see those fireworks. They do two things, explode into a colorful and fiery lightshow, and make really loud noises. Only getting the second part, that’s no fun. In fact, if you simply isolate the sound, if all you’re getting is those loud booms, I don’t think there’s really anything positive about that at all. It’s just annoying.
But the booms with the lights, that’s great. Fireworks are awesome. Which is why I’m so pissed off right now, I keep hearing fireworks go off in ten second bursts, not like any sort of official displays, but just people around the neighborhood setting off some choice works from their own personal stashes.
One time I was riding my bike home from work when these guys half a block in front of me set off this gigantic firework. I didn’t see it coming, and so the loud crack coupled with my not having seen it coming at all actually threw me off my bike. I fell sideways, but even as my body made contact with the pavement, I still made it a point to crane my neck to the side, to look up, to get a good view of that firework. It was awesome, totally worth it.
When I was a little kid, my mother always told me this story about how when she was a little kid, her brother and some neighborhood friends were messing around with fireworks. Guess what happened? One of the kids lost all of his fingers, and my uncle took a firework right to the mouth. Right inside of the mouth. He had to get all of these stitches to sew up the insides of his cheeks.
That’s what my mom told me anyway. She also told me that she swam the English Channel. And I was only in Pre-K, so I totally believed her. I remember asking her questions like, “How did you swim for over a day?” and she’d tell me stuff like, “Oh, you know, someone follows you in a boat and throws you food.” I told my teachers, everybody, I’d always think to myself, why do they keep laughing? Why does everybody think this is such a big joke?
I had such hopes for this weekend. I wanted to get up really early, that was my first goal ruined by my inability to get up on time. I think it was like ten or eleven when I finally turned the alarm off, and when I managed to actually get out of bed, it wasn’t early anymore, definitely late, like all of the restaurants and fast-food places were way past their breakfast menus by now.
Not that I wanted to go out for breakfast. My plan was to make breakfast, my own breakfast, a huge meal, one of those morning feasts. But, even if I had gotten up early, I wouldn’t have had anything in the house, nothing except that bulk package of bacon. But the bread, it was all moldy, I guess I should have maybe gone to the store yesterday and picked up some fresh bread.
And the milk, it was the same with the milk. It wasn’t moldy, but it was the milk equivalent of moldy bread. Sometimes I have to really get my nose in the carton to see if the milk is still good, but this time, nope, all I had to do was open up the top and I knew, my nose knew, the whole house knew that the milk had gone bad.
So now I had all of this coffee brewing, I still wanted the coffee, but black? It’s kind of a warm day for hot black coffee. And so after a few minutes of just putzing around in my pajamas, I put on a pair of shorts and went to Dunkin Donuts. I had a large iced coffee and something like six donuts. I meant to only have three, but I couldn’t even stick to that modest goal, because the lady behind the counter was like, “It saves money to buy six.” And even though I said, “No thanks, I only want three,” she was just like, “Well, it’s the same amount of money, so I’m just going to give you six.”
And of course I ate six donuts. And now I just want to lay down and take a nap. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe I can make something of myself tomorrow.
Every once in a while I get afraid, like that’s it, like I’ve written all that I’m ever going to write, that the best is behind me, and that from here on out, it’s all going to be derivative nonsense. And this fear is always with me to some extent, I mean, I’m not doing this professionally yet, I’m still for the most part writing during my free time, before work, after work, on my days off.
And I’ve been doing it long enough that, well, hopefully I’ve improved somewhat, just through the day-to-day practice. Yeah, I know that I can put words down on a page on a regular basis. But is what I’m doing any good? That I can never really tell. I know that I’ve had stuff in the past fly out of my fingertips, stories that I don’t even know where they came from.
And I’ve had stretches of time where that mysterious sense of creation happened on a daily basis. Of course there’s the flipside to that, where I go on and on for days or weeks and I feel like I don’t have anything new to say, kind of like right now. I’ve been sitting here at the computer since last night. I was committed to writing something, anything. And now it’s the morning and I have nothing to show for it. I don’t know why. Everything was coming up empty.
Finally I decided to just get anything down, which is this, I’m really just kind of going off on how I can’t think of anything to write about right now, about how I’m worried that I’ll never be able to get in that groove again. It’s crazy because even when I don’t have anything specific to say, I still have that feeling inside, like I need to be sitting down at my computer, like something’s about to bubble up, right below the surface.
But, and I don’t know if this is going to make any sense, a lot of the time I’ll feel the ideas down there, but they never breach through to my conscious mind. And so I’m left just kind of sitting at the computer, ready to write, willing to put words down, but unable to make that first step. It’s very similar to that feeling when you have a sneeze coming, you feel it, you scrunch up your face and bring your hand to your mouth. And then nothing. That’s it. It goes away and you’re left with a sense that you just missed out on something.
There are so many more things that I want to do. I’d love to write a comic book, to write a longer short story, eventually a novel. And then I get to days like this where I can’t even get a page down to put on my blog, and that feeling is just so frustrating. Maybe I’m putting too much weight on this blog. I’m conflicted, because I haven’t missed a day in about two years now, and so I don’t want to break that streak. It gives me that added sense of urgency, like right now, when I can’t think of anything, at least I’ll get something, and even if it’s terrible, I don’t know, maybe I need to be willing to just put down something stupid in order to get back to not taking myself too seriously.
I could go on and on forever, overanalyzing this, rationalizing that. I have no idea what’s going on. But it feels like working out, like when I’m training for a race. Some days I’ll go out there and the runs will be so easy. Other days I’ll struggle just to get the bare minimum done. There are so many different factors that go into exercise, writing, working, everything. There’s the time of day, how much I’ve eaten, am I well rested enough?
I don’t know. I’m glad I got this out, because even though it doesn’t seem like much, it was a big deal for me just to get some writing done. I’ve just got to chill out. I’ve just got to ignore that fear, the voice telling me that I don’t have what it takes, that maybe I’ve written some cool stuff in the past, but that was it, and now it’s just going to be boring paragraph after boring paragraph for the rest of my life.
My friend Bret from high school sent me an email out of nowhere. I hadn’t seen him in years. It’s not like we cut the chord or anything, but it went down like most high school friendships went down. We went away to different colleges, sure, I think we might have hung out a few times over the course of the next year, the first Thanksgiving back, stuff like that. But after that, that was it. Facebook wouldn’t be around for another two years or so, and by the time it became massively popular, it wasn’t like I was sitting around thinking, you know what I should do? I should send Bret a friend request.
But that’s how it happened a few months back, all of the sudden I got this friend request, it was from Bret. I said yes. And then the next day he sent me a message. “Hey Rob,” he started off with some introductory remarks, stuff like, “It’s been such a long time. How are things with you?” which, I never really got the whole asking a question via long Internet message. Yes, it’s a mostly nice thing to do, and if we were standing face to face, say we’d just bumped into each other randomly, all right, I can see it happening, “How’s it going?” “Great, you?”
Anyway, after he got all of that mandatory chit-chat out of the way, he got to the crux of the problem. He needed a job, badly, and he was wondering if my company was hiring. And I always kind of clench up at request like this, which is crazy, because how else are you supposed to get a job? It’s not like sending your resume out to the Internet is ever going to work. You have to like know people.
And even though I wouldn’t really say that I knew Bret, certainly not anymore, even though I hadn’t actually clicked all the way through his Facebook page, I was more than certain that, had I given some time into finding out what he’d been up to, I would have totally been surprised as to how different he looked after all these years.
Still, I thought back to all of those times that I needed a job, how I would’ve loved some random acquaintance from way back when to have pulled some position out of nowhere for me. So I said, “Sure, I’ll definitely pass it along.” And I hoped that would have been the end of it, I could have walked in to HR, dropped off a resume, done.
But it wasn’t done. I forwarded Bret’s email to the HR lady, and she wound up shooting me a response right away. “Rob, did you even check this guy’s resume?” And I didn’t, of course I didn’t. I’m not a resume guy. Whatever got me to where I’m at right now, it certainly wasn’t because of my resume. If anything, I’m currently gainfully employed in spite of my resume, that trivial obstacle that I always wind up tripping over as I make it a goal to figure out how to get work.
The back and forth emails were constant, like every two minutes or so, to the point where I clicked print and took the elevator up to HR, maybe see if we couldn’t iron everything out face to face. “Hey,” I told Sarah, I think her name was Sarah, she interviewed me when I was applying, but I don’t know, I hadn’t really been up to this floor in a while. And I could never really gauge how to approach HR, like what was the relationship? Back when I was still a potential employee, she held all of that power over me. It’s not like she was my boss, but that feeling of seniority still felt very present, whenever there was an email, or a face to face, like right then.
“Yeah, sorry, look, I haven’t seen this guy in like ten years. So I didn’t really feel right going through his resume. I kind of just wanted to do him a solid, pass along the document. You know what I mean?”
And she shook her head no, like she didn’t know what I meant, “Rob, look, if you want to network, and I get it, OK, I get the whole networking thing, it’s really important. But if you’re going to do someone a favor, do them a favor. Look at the resume. Do you see all of these typos? It looks like this thing’s current as of 2012. If you’re going to pass along a document, if someone’s reaching out to you for help, you should try to help.”
And this is exactly why I didn’t want to get involved in the first place. Like I said, what was I going to do? What if I tooled around with his resume and it wound up backfiring? What if whatever skills I brought to Bret’s resume wound up negatively affecting whatever chances he’d have not only at gaining employment here, but everywhere? Especially since he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy that actually updates his resume, I couldn’t bear that, the idea that I’d be permanently hindering this guy from getting a job, all based on good intentions, it doesn’t matter.
Sarah looked at me, she was still kind of shaking her head back and forth, but eventually she did this sigh before looking up at me and saying, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to do you a favor. I’m going to call your friend Bret in for an interview, but you have to spend some time helping him with his resume. OK? When I see this guy next week, I want to see something polished, is that cool?”
“Yeah, that’s cool,” I didn’t know what else I was supposed to say. Maybe she was doing me a solid, but she definitely felt like a boss in this situation. Worse, when I got back to my desk, there was another email, it was from LinkedIn, a message from Sarah, she wanted me to join her professional network. And that sigh that she did when I was up at her office, I was doing it right now, I tried to log on to LinkedIn to accept her friend request or whatever, but I couldn’t remember my password, or my username, I couldn’t remember which one it was that I couldn’t remember, it had been so long since I’d signed up for that site.
A week later, Bret shows up for the interview. I had to meet him for coffee and we had to go over his document and it was just like I knew it would be, I barely recognized him. And the part that I did recognize, it just sort of jostled in my memory how Bret and I, we weren’t even like direct friends. We hung out with the same group of people, but I never did anything with Bret one on one, it was always within the context of the larger group.
Even weirder, Bret wound up getting the job. Sarah made a comment to me, something like, “Nice work!” And I couldn’t tell if it was my resume-building advice, or if she meant like nice work on finding such a great hire. But Bret got hired, he was joining the HR team. And so now, I mean, I never see Bret, he works on a different floor. But every time I run into him, that thin veil of old friendship, it’s totally overpowered by the slightly thicker veil of is-this-guy-my-boss? And I don’t know? Is he my boss? What’s the HR relationship with the rest of the company? I wish we had a flow chart like I see at other agencies, like an organizational hierarchy, because it’s so weird, I don’t know how I’m supposed to address anybody, and I worry that I’m constantly coming across as too standoffish, or not serious enough.