Thursday, 31 May 2012

Make Your Comfort A Priority...

Hello Friends.

When I was little, maybe 7 or 8, I found a wounded baby bird in our backyard. I ran into the house and breathlessly reported this to my dad, who came outside to assess the situation. He placed a small amount of grass into the bottom of a shoebox, and then shoehorned the bird, who could not fly or flap little wings, inside. With the fascination of a boy, but concern of a girl, I insisted on monitoring our bird friend constantly. This would be my job, I decided. Dad agreed, and after making me promise I wouldn't touch or kiss the little bird, went back inside to get the bird some water or maybe a tiny hat.

As looking after this bird was my job, and I wanted to do my job well, I made the executive decision that the bird was not too comfortable. This small amount of grass barely covered the bottom of the shoebox. This couldn't have been satisfactory for my wounded friend. Baby birds are used to forests and trees and nests, I thought, and determined that I would do my part to replicate that environment in his intensive care unit. That involved tearing up fistfuls of grass until I had a hearty pile and then, making sure not to actually touch the bird, filling his shoebox habitat with it. Soon the baby bird was surrounded, nearly covered, with grass. I thought I had improved upon nature. I'd given him the softest grass bed upon which to lay until he was happy and healthy. After a few minutes, dad came back outside, and I showed off my efforts. "Ohhh buddy..." he sighed, and gingerly removed what he could of my deluxe bird comfort condo accessories, but it was too late. My new little friend was dead.

I cried and cried, and couldn't be soothed by dad's assurances that the bird was sick, it was hurt. I knew, deep down, that my actions killed that bird. All I wanted to do was make him comfortable, I sobbed. That was my only job.

Dream: When it comes to my job, don't get too comfortable.

Goal: Achievable, it least it always was in the past. Like so many of my contemporaries, I've spent most of my adult life working at jobs I've been overqualified for and haven't liked very much, but needed to do in order to pay my bills. Various retail jobs where the work was some form of drudgery and, though I counted on the 40 hours a week to get a cheque, I'd always secretly hope that I would arrive one morning to find a burning hole where the building used to be, or boarded up windows and a closed forever sign, or just a lot of empty space where coworkers used to be.

To that end, I've never gotten too comfortable in the "I could see myself doing this job forever!" sense. The transitory nature of the McJob doesn't allow for that. But there were times when the work was easy enough and all the co-workers got along, and I started to see why workplace comedies were so popular on television. The work itself is secondary to the environment and the people surrounding you, was the message that sitcoms like The Office, or Cheers, or ER seemed to suggest, and there were times when I totally bought into that conceit. Those days where work flies by, you're genuinely happy to see your friends at the beginning of the day, genuinely excited to see them tomorrow, oblivious to notion that anything could ever change. Days when you're too comfortable, and then you end up paying for it.

Plan: Pinpoint times when I was too comfortable in the workplace so that I might avoid that pitfall in the future.

I once worked in a restaurant and bar co-managed by a married couple. I was in university at the time and so legitimately didn't want serving shifts that would keep me up until 2 am. Instead, I happily hosted, giving people menus and showing them to their table and holding a clipboard over my potbelly. Being a host that was not vying for a serving position made me rather well-liked among the competitive servers who would commiserate with me on slow nights, and invite me to join them at the bar after busy ones. I turned down most of the bar invitations because of the aforementioned late nights I sought to avoid, but found myself there on Friday nights, connecting with every server, joking with the bartenders, buying a round for kitchen staff after we had closed for the night. Having a real sense of community and belonging made me see why people make serving their entire lives. For a moment, it was perfect. And then I started losing hours to young hostesses who may have not been as good with a clipboard, but were infinitely prettier than me. Co-manager wife started fighting viciously with co-manager husband, accused one of the waitresses of sleeping with him, and slapped her across the face. She and a few bartenders all walked out. I put in my notice.

I once worked in a video store for a well-meaning but unstable manager. Suffering some unidentified anxiety, Unstable Manager would let tasks pile up, become overwhelmed by them, panic, and retreat to his office, leaving whomever was working with him that day to do his job for him, and deal with customers, and be subject to his criticism whenever he returned from his office. By contrast, Frick was a kind, affable, funny guy who was our assistant manager and often bore the brunt of U.M.'s missteps. We all loved Frick, but no more than his best friend Frack, an equally kind and funny guy who came to work with him and the rest of us. Besides Frick and Frack, there was Glasses, a young university student who didn't care about work and made me laugh through eight hour days; Grey, an "old" man in his 30's with a wicked sense of humour, ease with customers, and cute 7 year-old daughter; Girl, an unbelievably sweet girlie-girl I'd happily gossip with when the testosterone levels got a little high behind the counter, and eventually Mike, a guy who's friendship has far transcended any workplace. Anyway, despite numerous complaints against him for missing shifts, neglecting duties, and other shady behaviour, U.M. remained a tense presence in our otherwise harmonious workplace, until he stupidly got caught violating a strict rule by upper management and was fired, to our absolute delight. Frick took over for U.M., Frack for Frick, and the days started to fly by. After close, a few or a lot of us would end up at the bar behind the store and laugh late into the night. For a moment, it was perfect. Then they brought a new manager in, and then another, and then another. And they started telling us to sell more cell phones than movies. Customers started getting mad at the shift. I started working less and less shifts. I put in my notice.

I once worked in a 24 hour drugstore where I'd take the keys from a nice lady in the early afternoon, and trade the keys off to another nice lady in the late evening. Despite being women in the forties, Rose and Daisy were both my buddies. And while swinging the keys from hand to hand, I worked with pharmacists who told me what they made for dinner the night before and kept me abreast on renovations to their condos, sweetheart postal workers who traded stories with me in the cashroom, cosmetics girls who giggled with me about their boyfriends or told me stories about their kids, or that guy who played guitar at a Foo Fighter's concert once, or the charming fourth grade teacher who picked up a few shifts to make ends meet, or the girl with the tattoo on her wrist who does that rollergirl thing, or funny Cassie, or clever Emily, or tired Adam, or hard-worker Jen. Conversations with Lindsay where the hours passed like minutes. Notes compared with Matt and Brent, local actors treading the boards. The time my best friend got a job as a cashier while another good friend worked the Photo department and they met and now they're getting married, thanks to me. Perfect. Then I came in one day and Rose told me Daisy had been fired for stealing hundreds of dollars in cash. And countless cashiers walked off the job or stopped coming in. And managers suddenly quit and sued the company. People got fired for harassment. Inventory was stolen constantly. I got a part in a play. I put in my notice.

I worked in a second video store, a second drug store, and a bookstore, for awhile simultaneously, when I moved to the big city. The video store started to receive less and less videos, honour fewer and fewer coupons, file for bankruptcy, and announce just before Christmas that they'd be closing on January 5th and could we please work through the holidays (I declined). Drugstore 2 brought me in to cover a maternity leave, and then another, and then another. Three new moms came back, looking for hours, and so mine were reduced but I was asked to stay (I declined). Bookstore hired me for the holiday season, with the option to extend my contract in the new year (they declined).

Now I work in a job that's not beneath me. I apply some kind of learned writing skill every day. I see my copy improving, fewer edits coming back to me, more satisfaction on all sides. And oh, the pals! There are fancy Christmas parties with photo shoots, and house parties with nerf guns, and ridiculous email chains, and candy jars, and YouTube clips, and long lunches, and coffee breaks, and so much darn laughing. Were I to get into specific people, you'd be reading on for pages and pages, but suffice it to say, I've made a friend of every person in our gang of fourteen. A picture of us is my desktop background, we're all posing for a group shot and look genuinely happy to be there. It documents, I feel, the perfect moment. On Monday, all but five us were called into a meeting, and all but five of us were laid off in an instant. When they came out of the boardroom, in various states of disbelief, I watched, horrified, as they began packing up their desks, reassuring me that it wasn't a joke.

The five of us that remain in a now completely slashed and burned organization can barely face the empty space where our friends used to be. We're still there and they are gone, we were told, because we make the least amount of money. Those who worked hard, went above and beyond, earned raises, were punished for their ability. Rumours abound that our company is simply a wounded bird, waiting to be swooped up by a stronger bird, or die in a box. I can't speculate, mostly because absorbing the work of 9 people leaves little time for speculatin', but it feels like this job won't last much longer for any of us.

Looking back on the bird story, I'm sure my memory is faulty. Would a wounded bird really submit to being put into a shoebox? Did my dad really say looking after the bird was my job, and leave me to it? Could the bird have been dead from the get go and could dad have not known how to tell me? Actually that last possibility is sadistic as it suggests that he didn't know how to tell me the bird had died so instead decided to attribute his death to the fact that I filled a shoebox with grass. In any case, it's rare that we remember things as they actually happened, especially where emotions are concerned. Surely my happy times at work were never so idyllic, they must have been always hampered by some coworker I'm forgetting, some dumb double-shift, some lousy customer. Plus, I'm certain I never realized how perfect those perfect moments were as they happened. And as happy as I am to have this current job, it's always had its drawbacks (though it's ten times better than standing at a till), even before the carnage.

One thing I know is true is my fondness for those friends, past and present. There's something so unique about the friendship that at least takes root in the workplace, because it's often the simple result of forced circumstances. I'll get to know you because we're stuck here until quitting time. But if you're lucky, as I've been lucky, those friendships transcend punch-cards, shift-changes, and lay-offs. Co-manager husband and wife divorced and gave up the restaurant. Frick and Frack each have wives and babies now. Rose is still handing her keys off every day. I still have our group portrait on my desktop, for I know that I'll see these people again. People far too talented to be shoehorned into a limiting box. Whatever you're doing next, I wanna come with you. I'll do everything I can to make our journey forward more comfortable, because helping a friend is a good job indeed.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

The Great Escape Pod...

Hello Friends.

This is going to sound depressing, as if I've endured terrible circumstances, but it's not meant to because I haven't. I have always wanted an escape pod. Some kind of space vehicle that would appear whenever I wished it, open some sort of top hatch, and fly me into the air, hermetically sealed from the world around me.

Again, this would not be to escape actual bad things, like drunken beatings, hungry nights huddled by a hobo-fire, or outdoor music festivals. Rather, just to have at the ready during slow school days, endless meetings, awkward small talk, or helping a friend move. And it's interesting to me that, though the mind-numbing circumstances warranting the pod have changed (long day in seventh grade versus long day at the cubicle), the design and features of my pod are basically the same.

Dream: Have an escape pod.

Goal: Achievable. I guess the idea was born, like so many futuristic but impractical notions, out of The Jetsons. Remember in the opening credits where George Jetson has his family in that pod and they descend in individual pods wherever they're going? That's what I want, except going upwards, not down to the Space Mall or wherever the hell Jane Jetson went for her “job”, which was shopping. According to Wikipedia, The Jetsons lived in 2062. If the show's creators are prescient, and I'm hoping they are, I will be nearly 80 when they are created. Just in time to zip away when the grandkids visit and start pulling on my neck for fun.

Plan: Elaborately describe the pod I desire in the hopes that some ambitious tech geek stumbles across this entry and decides to devote time and money towards creating it for me.

The first time I remember really putting thought into my escape pod was the seventh grade. I had a particularly heinous teacher riding the crest of her final year before retirement. Short-tempered and snappish, she ran a tight ship where no one raised their hand, talked out of turn, or enjoyed themselves. It was a nervous and crampy year for me, filled with the pointless busywork of a dragon's victory lap. I remember spending an entire day doing some kind of project where we stuck pins in a bar of soap, then wound ribbons around the pins, then more pins, then more ribbons, to create some kind of useless decoration. My friend Ryan remarked, “Hurry up. We have to get these to the streets of Taiwan by morning.” That still makes me laugh, fifteen years later. Anyway, Ryan and I somehow determined which car (as in make, model and license plate) belonged to our mean teach, and whoever got to school first would inform the other if she was in that day or not (blessedly, she took lots of days off to smoke and plot genocides). Anyway, after hearing the bad news in the schoolyard and waiting for the bell to ring and another tense day to begin, I first began dreaming of my escape pod.

As I envisioned it, the pod was long, but narrow, with a clear bubbled top like an alien spaceship but also pretty casket-esque, if I think about it. Anyway, when called on for a question during French, being told we were going to spend gym class “practicing our running”, or looking up at the clock, praying for 3.30 and finding it was 9.07, in an ideal world, the pod would suddenly appear, and open the top “hatch” part and I would get in and the hatch would close up over me. I'd have enough height to sit up, but not stand, and more than enough room to lie down and stretch, because the base of the pod was my bed. Depending on my mood, the hatch would then tint so I could see out, but no one could see in, or I'd keep it clear to give the finger to my stupid classmates, and start my ascent to the skies with a spaceship sounding “be-be-be-be-be-” (or, if you prefer, “boo-boo-boo-boo-boo-”). In a stroke of design genius, I made the pod completely soundproof. Thus, I would watch my terrible teacher rage and fume, screaming at me to return “maintenant!” and I would just laugh at her dumb face. Other kids would regard the pod with a mixture of confusion and total envy. “How come he gets a pod?” they would mouth, as I effortlessly broke through the ceiling of the classroom and way up into the sky. I guess the pod would have a television and a stock pile of preferred snackables, but the fact that it was predominantly bed meant that I would usually just play some soothing music and drift off, my problems light years away, drifting through space.

I'd probably want WiFi in there now, but otherwise, the design would be essentially the same (though regrettably wider, to accommodate my adult girth). How I'd love to leave crowded subway platforms on it and cruise over horrendous commute traffic. How I'd have it idling near the till of my old retail job, so when an angry custy came up with a broken product and a tattered receipt expecting a refund, compensation, service, I'd tell them quietly to go fuck themselves, and while their rage face went from red to purple, the hatch would open and then “be-be-be-be-be-”. In my current job, I'd lie down and snuggle up during discussions of “volume and velocity strategy” in endless meetings, or when last minute changes come down the pipeline with the condescending instruction, “This needs to be done yesterday,” boy oh boy, a pod would be nice.

I guess the funny thing is, though daily life now technically presents more urgent challenges than those faced by a crampy seventh-grader, I feel like I need the pod a lot less. We tend to romanticize childhood with the benefit of hindsight, but how quickly we forget those endless days of doing exactly what you're told and engaging in pointless activity at the whim of some adult. At least now, if I really hate my job, my commute, my circumstances, I can simply choose not to take part in any of it and suffer the consequences. Luckily, I've got things pretty good but that's because, at least in part, the choice is always mine.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Lukewarm Child in the City...

Hello Friends.

Well it's that time of year again! We're in that golden period where it probably won't snow tomorrow, but it's not so hot as to be insufferable. Not officially summer, but really my preferred few weeks. I never used to be a giant baby about it being too hot until I moved into the top floor of an apartment with no air conditioning in a humid place. Now I'm a sweat-stained infant. So really, this is my summer in the city. Break out your lighter sweaters or heavier t-shirts. Plop an ice cube your Ovaltine to take the edge off. Go swimming in an indoor pool and leave with your hair still kind of wet. It's tolerable spring.

Dream: Have a blast this tolerable spring.

Goal: Achievable. Every August, with a bag of frozen peas dripping on my pizza gut, I always think, “Why didn't I appreciate those last few weeks of May? That's when it was perfect.” Well now it's that time, and I'm going to celebrate it.

Plan: Enjoy summer activities before everyone else wises up and tries to join me. Activities like:

Sitting on a patio. This is an awesome way to enjoy passers-by and marvel at how heat lamps just don't set places ablaze. If it gets cool at night, ask to move inside. Pretty sure servers love finding a place for you.

Going to the beach. It's too cold to swim and definitely not warm enough for shorts, so I recommend setting down a blanket, then an anti-sand layer of garbage bags, then resting your be-kakhi'd legs for a quick read of an old magazine and then you're done.

Outdoor concerts. The beauty part is, you don't have to actually attend, and watch those weird, crunchy earth mother types with babies on their hips doing that swaying dance way to close to the speakers. Instead, when a friend asks you to a potluck where everyone has to bring something vegan-friendly, you can say, “Oh! So sorry, I have tickets to an outdoor concert.” Avoid both activities and download episodes of Bob's Burgers or Veep or whatever.

Wearing a blazer or sportcoat over a t-shirt. This was my jam in high school (I was not popular in high school). A great way to tell people you're all business (or are you?), the t-shirt and blazer keeps your arms warm and your pits moist (but who cares, you've got a jacket on). And when people see you coming they think, “Oh it's just another businessman and, hey wait! His t-shirt advertises a novelty product or service from the olden times! Definitely more hip than square, pals!”

Walking where you once did drive or, in my case, take transit. Considering commutes, it's nearly impossible to do away with all transportation entirely in favour of walking, but I recommend getting off a stop or two early and avoiding the mad crush of people all trying to get on or off at the same time. And if you have a really short distance to travel before a bus gets to a subway stop or the end of the line, just walk it. I take a really crowded bus when I get off work at 5 pm, and everyone is trying to get to the subway station. It gets so full that, as the bus gets closer and closer to the station, it will stop picking up those lazy, stupid dinks who can't walk two blocks to the subway. The assumption is that another, less-full bus will be along shortly, or that they should just be able to hoof it that short distance. Trust me, non-transit-takers, nothing is more satisfying than watching someone see a bus pull up to them, only to not open their doors and bypass them entirely. They get all mad and make the “what the fuck?!” open-armed gesture instead of merely walking five minutes in beautiful weather. I should mention, though, that elderly people, moms with young'uns, and folks with reduced mobility are always picked up regardless of location, as they should be. Every bus patron stands to offer a seat, or moves further back and gets even cozier to allow these people on. It renews one faith in persons. But the healthy folks who can't put one foot in front of the other? Enjoy your walk, suckas!

Eating ice cream. Trust that I have ice cream year around, but there's something about eating it in cold weather that just feels stupid. It's like you've insisted on wearing pajamas to school, or including the dog's name on your outgoing answering machine message. Both things you certainly can do, but should you? But when it gets even a little bit warmer outside, no one can fault your indulgence in an ice-cream treat. I'm particularly fond of frozen yogurt this year too. Recently, a friend introduced me to Menchie's, this frozen yogurt chain where you do everything yourself. You load up a cup with a flavour of your choice (and they have cutesy fun ones like Birthday Cake, Peppermint Lime, Barbecue Maple) and then the fix-ins! The fix is in for these fix-ins! Crumbled up toffee? Yes. Sprinkly-dinklies? Sure. Marshmallows in pastel colours? Affirmative. Dates? Fuck you! There aren't any dates! It's all CANDY! Cram your sweets hole with candy you sugared tramp! Then they just weigh or measure your bowl and determine a price arbitrarily. “Total's $3.75 but a few more sprinkly-dinklies would have run you eighty dollars.”

These activities and more are why I look forward to the coming weeks. Summer is such a short time, really, and the pressure to fill it with fun is immense, so why be beholden to specific dates? Summer is more a state of mind than the proper time to wear shorts (which is never, by the way). So slip a blazer over that tea and meet me on the patio of Menchie's, unless it gets coldies. Let's have fun that can't be measured.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

When You're Down, and Troubled...

Hello Friends.

I'm very much like a succubus when it comes to friends. That is, if we're friends, we probably have been for quite some time and/or our intimacy level is pretty high. This is not to say we've slept together or sobbed in each other's arms, but you've probably seen me in my sweatpants with food on my face. I'm not very good at keeping acquaintances casual or pals on the periphery. If we get along, I'm strapping myself in forever. Sorry Friends.

This does present problems, however, when I do meet people genuinely new to me, whether at a party, or through friends, or at work, or whatever. Even though this Big City is filled with people, I'm afraid, thanks to my existing connections with friends old and new, I don't know how to meet them anymore.

Dream: Meet and befriend a stranger.

Goal: Achievable. Though it feels like I've known the friends I have my whole life, at some point they were strangers to me. I must have said or done something to bridge the initial awkwardness of talking to a stranger. I suppose it's not all that different from flirting, but easier because there's less pressure to take your dink out at the end.

Plan: Stock up on tips and tricks necessary to win new pals should Ryan and Dana move to France, or Jonelle takes a trip in a hot air balloon and is never seen again. I need some spares! Here's a few surefire methods.

  • Smell good. A malodorous person is never the hit of a party, so keep your breath fresh and your sweat somewhat contained. For a great signature scent, I recommend baking Christmas cookies and have someone crush them above your head and just “walk through” as they're doing it.
  • Avoid talking sex or politics, but you can't go wrong with sexual politics. Try introducing yourself as a power-bottom to someone at the grocery store. Pick up a brand new friend with your milk and eggs.
  • As soon as you learn someone's name, repeat it back to them. People love hearing their own name. “And what do you do, Kandi?” is a great follow-up if you meet a Kandi (although, spoiler alert, she's probably a stripper).
  • Know your current events, but choose your topic judiciously. Did you hear about the real-estate prices in the south end of town? Great opener! Did you hear about the closing arguments in that child murder case? Way to bring the party to a halt.
  • Tell someone he or she is such a great listener, even if they aren't. People love hearing they're great listeners, even if they don't hear another word you say.
  • The more uncomfortable a woman's shoes, the more she wants to hear how good they look on her.
  • Never mention how good a guy is at holding his stomach in. As a guy who routinely practices this move, I can safely say I never want to be called on it.
  • Don't wear a tie the same colour as your shirt. This is not a joke or a bit. I can't even tell you how many people I see on the subway, at the office, at various funerals wearing a tie and shirt that literally match. Not co-ordinate, but match. Come on!
  • If you're in a bar, don't bond over how loud it is. Everyone says that. Be more original, if only to garner more interest. Try, “I don't separate whites and colours when I do laundry. Just throw it all in there!”

I'm a real lucky guy because I rarely have to employ these techniques anymore. I feel like when God or Oprah or whoever was handing out bud-buds, I got the mother lode. But I'm a greedy so-and-so who could always use another movie date, drinkin' buddy, TLC doc-watcher, dining companion, shopping helper, brunch squad, book-exchange comrade, sleepover pal, and member of the karaoke coterie, and I'll bet you could too. So employ those techniques, or some of your own, and I'll see you at the grocery store.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Leggo My Ego...

Hello Friends.

Forgive the week-long absence but I was away from the Big City for a trip home that was embarrassingly focused on me. Everybody kindly makes time to see me whenever I travel back the prairie way, which I'm so grateful for, but on this particular trip, a group of high-schoolers were doing a performing a play that I wrote, and on Sunday, a book that I wrote for received a Saskatchewan Book Award. All of this in addition to dinners out, drinks at home over long catch-ups, sleeping in every morning, and all kinds of attention from my parents' dog. All of this leads me to one, incredibly important Dream.

Dream: Avoid become an insufferable egomaniac.

Goal: Achievable. For as long as I can remember, the worst trait a person could have, according to my parents, would be an excess of ego. Anyone, from self-important celebrities, to acquaintances and friends, could be assessed and dismissed with a, “Well, he's a little too proud of himself, don't you think?” Consequently, an obvious display of assurance or self-interest has always come off as cocky posturing to me, never suave confidence. It's a trait I deplore in others and hate even moreso in myself. So hopefully it's something I can avoid, by virtue of my own hatred for it. Unless I'm already deeply ensnared. Read the last three sentences and highlight the personal pronouns there. It's happening!

Plan: Become aware of the behaviour that comes off egotistical and knock myself down a few pegs. For instance:

A picture is worth a thousand yous. I love everyone's Facebook, but I'm so tired of everybody's stupid face. Including my own. I admit that I pore excessively over photographs of myself and deem whether or not they are tag-worthy. Worse yet, I take pictures of myself to show people that already know what I look like in a vain attempt to fool them. “I know you saw me the other day shoving slice after slice of pizza into my acne-scarred face, but I actually look like THIS!” Why? To what end do I do this beyond my own narcissism? I mean, nobody looks consistently better than a good picture of themselves, we all look much worse. Really, if Facebook wanted to lose members but maintain honesty, a webcam would snap your pic every time you logged in. Then, instead of posed, perfectly lit pictures in our finest garments, they'd see how we really look, clad in sweatpants and a holey t-shirt, covered in Doritos, leaning on our sides because sitting upright is so harrrrrd. I'd go to greater lengths to talk smack about some of you that have photos of yourselves in the thousands, but it would contradict my next paragraph.

Stop shitting on everything else. Ohhh man, this is really tough for me. I wish I didn't talk shit about everything and everyone, but its just so easy and fun. And, cliched as it sounds, it is always solely to make myself feel better. Decrying something is a lot easier than creating it, which is why we're so adept, I suppose. People have built careers out of being professional detractors. Snark is a precious commodity, it seems, and there's cachet to be had in trashing someone's business, artwork, project. But ultimately, isn't it all just boost our own ego? I don't have a webseries, but I can make up for that by talking massive shit about your webseries, right? Oh, I can't? Drag.

My success has never just been mine. There's nothing I've ever accomplished worth a damn that I can attribute just to me. Nothing is original, and I've shamelessly borrowed, imitated or stolen from everyone I've ever met when it comes to creative endeavours. I've also been given breaks at every turn. Could I take time to write freelance if I didn't have a life that allowed it? A family that kept me fed, watered, sheltered and loved way beyond the time that I deserved it? A boyfriend who does the same? Friends that listen to me whine and deconstruct every little goddamn thing in the hopes of making something interesting out of it later? Why be egotistical about my abilities or accomplishments when they have very little to do with me, and everything to do with the people that helped me get there?

It's not just me out there, he writes on his blog devoted to his Dreams that he plugs every week from his Facebook and his Twitter. As much undue consideration I give to my own victories and challenges, I must remember there are other people I ought to slow down and listen to, even learn from. As involved as I am in my own life, I get pretty sick of James as the narrator. I hope that I take enough time to see the world in prisms other than my own. That the bus driver does not exist on this earth solely to get me to work and pick me up after, that the paranoid lady who lives downstairs must have endured some terrible trauma or have some kind of severe problems to be so continually disturbed by the world around her. I guess that's just being empathic, which we're all capable of, but maybe forget how to do (it's like the opposite of riding a bike).

Finally, I secretly wonder if we're all egomaniacs and some of us are just better at hiding it than others. I know this woman who is lovely and smart and really funny, but comes off so transparently narcissistic, it's unbelievable that she has any friends at all. She has literally thousands of pictures just of herself on the Facebook. Some are posed, some are candids, but all are up there, without a trace of irony. Every encounter with her is just hours and hours of what's going on in her life, at her job, with her family, but as I say, she's sweet and funny about it, and completely un-self aware. I think if she knew the impression she gave off, she'd at least try to curb the impulse to cover her apartment with pictures of herself (seriously). By contrast, I know a really accomplished guy who might as well leave his work unsigned for all the credit he takes. Humble almost to a fault, he genuinely cares about other people's lives perhaps even more than his own, which is probably what makes him such an amazing writer.

In any case, I promise to get back to goofy stuff soon. All of this self-examination can get pretty heady, and only continues this train of self-absorption I need desperately to derail, lest I end up completely alone, writing every week to no one, surrounded by pictures of myself. Can you believe that? But enough about you. Back to me.