Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pivot, pivot, pivot

This week, a loved one found out that she did not get a job for which she'd applied. I feel terrible for her, and I told her what my brother told me in the winter of 1998. I had interviewed for a design residency at The Chicago Tribune. I had tanked that little event so badly that they reposted the job without telling me. In a final act of self-humiliation, I phone-stalked the AME, calling from different numbers until I finally got him (by calling another number and getting an inside-line transfer). It was clear he had been dodging my calls. 
I can remember sitting there on my single futon mattress on the floor of my little apartment, just crying and crying. And I called my brother, who asked me, "Is there any chance you could end up in prison over this? Well, then it can't be so bad." 
As I was thinking of that incident, it occurred to me that it led to a pivotal moment in my life. I've always thought of just two such moments as the full list: when I skipped fourth grade, and when I couldn't get into Dr. McMann's third-period philosophy class in tenth grade. Because of the former, I had already graduated college by the time my mom got cancer. If I hadn't, I'd have been a senior when she got sick, and I can't imagine I'd have been able to pull it together to graduate. I was having a tough enough time as it was. And because of the latter, I ended up in Mrs. Ecker's journalism class, which I was not even considering. And, you know, here I still am. 
But when I think about the crying and crying, I remember that there was a little bit more to how I got here. The editor where I worked knew I was ready to leave, and he knew that I had been crushed by The Trib. So he called up the news editor of his old paper and handed the phone to me. The first thing he asked was why I hadn't applied for the open position. I told him the truth: I never believed I could get a job here. It was one of the premier design papers in the country. But we talked, and I sent my stuff, and they invited me out for an interview.
The day before I was set to fly out, I found out that my mom's cancer had metastasized. I called the news editor and told him I wasn't in the right frame and couldn't come. He told me to come anyway. So I did. And while I was out here, I made the decision to come home and take care of my mom. I remember telling her and the rest of the family on a conference call. I thought she'd be thrilled, but she seemed kind of cold to the idea. It kind of hurt my feelings. I asked her later, "Mom, aren't you happy I'm coming home?" She said, "Are you crazy? Of course I am." But now that I'm a mother myself, I get it. She didn't want me to have to.
So I went back, quit my job, and hauled home. And the news editor kept in touch with me periodically to see how I was doing. And as it turns out, the day that my mom died, there was a position open. Someone had come to interview and had gotten an offer but turned it down at the last minute. 
And more than 15 years later, here I still am. I could never have imagined, when I was feeling humiliated and horrible, that it was going to be OK. That I would do the things that I needed to do and -- with help -- find my way.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

No resolution

TMBG comes up on pretty heavy rotation on my iPod. I've been a fan since my friend Brian played me Lincoln after a boy broke my heart freshman year. I sing along every time. 

So when I heard "Road Movie To Berlin" last week, it was probably the 500th time I'd heard it. And like every other time, I sang along:

Time won't find the lost; it'll sweep up our skeleton bones.
So take the wheel and I will take the pedals.

I really have no idea what that song is about, but those lyrics really hit me on that day. Time won't find the lost. It'll sweep up our skeleton bones.

It made me think of the billions upon billions of people who were born, and lived their entire lives and then died, and the people who remembered them who then lived *their* entire lives and died. It made me wonder, what does it matter what we do in this time? We will be gone. All the people to whom we're meaningful will be gone. It's not morose, I don't think. It's just a fact of time and reality.

I don't have anything particularly revelatory to say about that; I don't have any neat resolutions. It's just something that's been eating away at me. All of my life I have just wanted to do good. I wonder if that will change.