Dropping out…of everything

Its-Not-Goodbye-Its-See-You-Later

I’m dropping out in a few days.

Out of social media. Out of much of my social life. Out of a lot of responsibilities.

As some of you know, I have been on a journey the last couple of years, and recently, I have come to feel that I have hit a wall.

I have a ton of wonderful friends and acquaintances, both in person and online; people who nurture and support me in everything I do, and I am grateful to each and every one of you.

I am also working on some amazing projects. In fact, I have more projects than I have hours in which to work on them.

But as I say, I have recently felt like I’ve hit a wall. That I have replaced personal development with personal engagement. That I have sacrificed productivity for volume.

So, I am letting go and dropping out for a while.

No more Facebook or LinkedIn. No more Twitter or Stage32.

And no more blogging.

If you need to talk to me, it’s back to emails.

And the disconnection will not just be electronic. I’ll also be disengaging from a lot of projects, and only hope my partners will understand.

I don’t know how long I’ll be gone, but I wanted to let you how much I appreciate your indulgence and remind you how awesome you are.

Do what you want to be

University grad Xingyi Yan, 21, has taken a placard to the street in a bid to land a job in advertising or marketing. (Credit: MARTA IWANEK / TORONTO STAR)

University grad Xingyi Yan, 21, has taken a placard to the street in a bid to land a job in advertising or marketing. (Credit: MARTA IWANEK / TORONTO STAR)

This past week, I read an item in The Toronto Star about a young university graduate who was finding it difficult to get a job. To highlight her availability, she took to standing outside Union Station, Toronto’s main transit hub, wearing a placard.

She’s hardly alone, unfortunately, and I applaud her moxy for putting herself in the middle of the pedestrian business traffic, but I question how effective her plan will be.

The young woman is interested in a career in marketing and advertising. Unfortunately, her sign suggests she does not have the creative talent for such a job. It’s a white sign with black letters that tells me her problem, not how she’ll solve mine. Even her choice of location tells me she doesn’t understand modern marketing and advertising.

>99% of commuters at Union Station not in a position to hire

>99% of commuters at Union Station not in a position to hire

More than 99% of the people walking past her every day are not interested in her goals and cannot do anything for her. She’d have been much better off jumping online for a couple of minutes to learn the locations of all the major marketing and advertising firms in the city and camping outside their doors.

That’s what I did when I was looking for a job years ago, after completing my M.Sc. studies. I didn’t wear a placard, but I did post “Lab Technician Available” signs around the research wings of the universities and teaching hospitals around Toronto and nearby Hamilton.

And the signs didn’t just announce that I was available. They also listed the laboratory techniques in which I was proficient, and therefore, how I could help your lab.

I got a lot of interviews out of that campaign and landed a couple of job offers.

Just over a decade ago, while working for a couple of science magazines in Washington, DC, my group needed to hire a couple of writers. As one of the hiring managers, I met all of the candidates and routinely participated in the same conversation:

“I’ve always loved writing,” the candidate would gleefully tell me.

“Well, that certainly helps with this job,” I would smile. “What have you published?”

The candidate’s smile would waver.

“Well, nothing,” he or she would hesitate. “But I love writing.”

“Great. Do you have any samples?”

An embarrassed shuffle in the chair.

“Um, no,” the candidate would visibly shrink in the seat. “It’s mostly just personal writing.”

By this point, I would have been willing to look at that.

To a person, I would offer the same advice at the end of our conversation:

“I can’t say how this process will go, but if I can make a recommendation: If you want to write science, write science…for anyone…whether paid or for free. If I can’t see your writing, how do I know you can write?”

If you say that you’re dying to do something, then prove that to prospective employers by actually doing it.

I would never apply for a job as a screenwriter without several screenplays in my pocket. And I’m pretty confident that it is not enough to stand on the corner of Hollywood & Vine in Los Angeles offering my services (at least not screenwriting services).

hollywood_and_Vine3

And when you do the thing you’re dying to do, make sure you do it well.

If my screenplays are shit, why should anyone hire me? If the placard you’re using to market yourself is unimpressive, why would a marketing company hire you?

Your effort doesn’t have to be professional-grade necessarily—what individual had that kind of budget?—but if it’s not exceptional in some manner, why would I make an exception and hire you?

I wish the young student well. She has taken the first step, but has so many more to go before she is likely ready.

Sights unseen (a short story)

Invisible_1

The waitress strode by Jerome for the third time in less than 20 minutes, giving him nary a glance as she shifted another tray of plates and a pot of decaf coffee. Jerome watched her swoosh by, hoping to make eye contact but without any luck. It’s not even like the restaurant was busy.

But then, this is the way it was for Jerome, who was still getting used to being invisible.

Being invisible didn’t come naturally to Jerome. In fact, it was fair to say that he was struggling with the idea. There was a disconnect, you see, between how he saw the world and how the world saw him.

When he looked at his hands, he saw five fingers on each. His feet both had five toes. He had legs and arms, hips and shoulders, pretty much everything that every other person on the planet had. And yet, when other people looked at him…

Well, there it was.

Nobody ever looked at him. They didn’t know he was there. He was invisible.

Although the revelation had only come to him recently—partly the reason he had yet to wrap his head around the idea—it did begin to explain a lot of things.

Why people bumped into him on the Metro. Why teachers never called on him in school. Why his parents always ignored his questions. Why women never returned his smiles.

All of these things bothered him, even made him angry. Now, at least, he understood that it wasn’t personal. They simply didn’t know he was there.

Unconsciously, he raised his arm as the waitress blew past him before disappearing into the kitchen.

Personal or not, being unseeable could be irritating.

Jerome had wondered briefly if he wasn’t perhaps dead, a ghost wandering the streets. He’d seen a movie once about a guy who only ever spoke to a young boy and slowly realized that…

Outside the window at Jerome’s left elbow, a young woman appeared to be having a stroke. Well, in truth, she was staring right at him while applying lipstick, but her mouth movements were so exaggerated that he wouldn’t be surprised to learn her left side was completely frozen and her speech was slurred.

He pressed his nose to the glass. But for the glass, she could easily apply lipstick to his mouth, one way or another. But no.

He had dismissed the idea of death because the guy in the movie had a wife and a medical practice, neither of which he had. And besides, he didn’t know any young children, boys or girls.

“I’m not saying I want a relationship,” the woman at the next table said to her male companion. “But I don’t think we can ignore the fact that we slept together after the party.”

Jerome shook his head. You heard a lot of stories like this when you were invisible. People simply had no sense of privacy.

“And we had a great time,” the guy responded, gingerly placing his hand on hers, his body tensed to flee at the first sign of reciprocation. “But the fact that we work together complicates things.”

No matter how closely Jerome sat to the next table, no matter how obviously he ping-ponged between the speakers, the conversation never became more hushed. He heard every morbid detail, and no one seemed to care.

His attention to the burgeoning telenovela was distracted, however, by a furtive motion at another table. Several feet away, an old man in torn trousers and stained t-shirt palmed a tip left on an adjacent table.

That’s not kosher at any time, Jerome thought, but especially not a couple of weeks before Christmas.

Jerome wanted to say something but then the man used the funds to pay for his own coffee before snatching a ratty knapsack from the floor.

Was he homeless?

The waitress scooped the coins as she vaulted past Jerome with someone’s bill.

Grabbing his unopened book from the corner of the table, Jerome rose from his seat and fished through his pockets.

I don’t know why I even come here, he thought. Still, it didn’t seem right that the waitress should lose out simply so a homeless guy could keep warm.

From the far side of the restaurant, Tula watched Jerome drop a few coins on the table where the old man had stolen the tip. She smiled as she bookmarked the page she was reading, the melodrama at the next table making it too hard to concentrate.

She would have liked to have complimented the man on his beautiful gesture, but there wasn’t much point in even trying.

Tula, you see, had recently determined that she was invisible.

National Hockey League to address shoot-out debacle

Florida Panthers centre Nick Bjugstad celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal (Alan Diaz/AP)

Florida Panthers centre Nick Bjugstad celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal (Alan Diaz/AP)

New York–The National Hockey League governors have initiated emergency talks in wake of last night’s game between the Florida Panthers and the Washington Capitals that took an unprecedented 20 shootout rounds to be settled.

“This is completely unacceptable,” said one league official who refused to be named. “Had this happened on a Saturday night, we might have been able to simply shrug off the length of this contest, but it happened on a Tuesday night, when fans need to work the next morning. To have a game go this late into the evening just won’t work for today’s fans.”

Thus, the governors are meeting to discuss ways to further hasten the end of regular season games and reduce the likelihood of such events happening again.

While an official list of possible tactics has not been released, sources close to the central office of the NHL suggest the following are being considered for games that fail to resolve after 5 shootout rounds:

  • Removing the goaltenders and turning the net toward the boards.
  • Strapping the goaltender’s hands and feet to the posts to prevent potential blocking motions.
  • Allowing two shooters to skate on the goaltender at the same time.
  • Resolving the tie on the basis of overall shots on goal, followed by fewest penalty minutes.
  • Awarding the win on the basis of whose fans cheer loudest.
  • Awarding both teams 1.5 points and going home.

The NHL has not set a timeline for resolution of this problem, but they hope to have a solution in place and activated before the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend, which takes place January 24-25 in Columbus, Ohio.

For more on the game between the Florida Panthers and the Washington Capitals, please see:

NHL record for shootouts set as Panthers outlast Capitals after 20 rounds (!)

 

500 followers (plus one)

500 followers

I can’t believe I missed it, but a couple of days ago, I achieved my 500th direct follower on my blog (as opposed to those poor people on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook who get inundated with my inanities).

Thanks to all of you for finding my ramblings sufficiently interesting to sign up and then actually stay as I wander all over the freaking map.

Unlike so many other blogs out there that seem to have clarity of focus, mine is truly a rambling mess—Creative Chaos, if you’d rather—and yet you all come back time and again to visit and chat. You are brave and incredibly indulgent people.

I hope to continue to confuse and amuse (but hopefully not abuse or contuse) you for quite a while yet.

DSC_2101

See also: New Beginnings (my first post on March 8, 2013)