Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The eye has it

Well, I've been writing a lot lately, but for work. This is not a bad thing. Writing in any form is good.

I've also had lots of bumps in my road. Nothing serious, and mostly (okay, all) first-world problems that don't merit a true rant given everything else going on in the world. Syrian refugees, I'm looking at you.

I'm reading a book right now about writing creative nonfiction. Apparently this is what I've been writing for all these years, but I didn't really know it had it's own genre name. I've called it personal essay, mostly. Creative nonfiction encompasses personal essay and includes a lot more, like what I write at work when I interview people and then tell their story. This is one of my most favorite parts of my job. Because when I do it well, my subjects come back to me and say things like, "You made me sound interesting." and "You made me sound fun." And I'm always a little shocked by this, because they really are interesting and fun. There's a creative nonfiction magazine there (entitled, rather uncreatively, "Creative Nonfiction") and the slogan is "true stories well told." Or maybe it's "true stories told well." I'm too lazy to google it. Anyway, that's what I want to do. I want to tell true stories really well. Or maybe, I should say, this is who I want to be. I want to be a storyteller.

So here's my little attempt at a story today.

After fighting for a year to get into The World's Finest School of Journalism, after taking stupid pre-reqs (German, ja, das ist gut, nein!) and knocking on doors and begging and pleading for The Powers That Be to let a former engineering student in, I was about to start my first real honest-to-goodness journalism classes. This was it. Go time. This was when I would finally take courses that would determine my career, the rest of my life. I was on the precipice. It was momentous. This is where I would learn to write, and earn a degree that would tell people in two letters that I can write. I was beyond scared. I was beyond excited. I was also alone, as I didn't know hardly anybody at Mizzou since I transferred in, and no one in my pre-reqs were pre-journalism. That first week of classes, all the scaredness and all the excitedness and all the aloneness manifested itself in a giant, oozing, ugly cold sore. On my eye. Gross, right? Plus the first week of school always meant huge allergy attacks, and since I was too poor to buy actual tissues (even the cheap, near-cardboard kind), I carted around a roll of toilet paper. So there I was, eager and ready and oozing from multiple orifices and holding a roll of TP and wearing sunglasses inside dark lecture halls. I didn't let it stop me, but man, was I self-conscious. First impressions being what they are and all. I got through that week with lots of over-explaining and apologies and sniffles, and no one ever said anything about it ever again nor did I pick up any unfortunate nicknames. I think there's a certain amount of maturity that comes with being accepted to and taking classes at The World's Finest School of Journalism. Or everyone else was so wrapped up in their own stuff they didn't notice. That's probably way more likely.

Fast-forward 21 years. (Jeez, has it been 21 years?!) Several months ago the J-School announced that with Dean Dean Mills retiring (yes, Dean Dean, that's not a typo or sobriquet...the man's name and title were the same, although the class of '96 did call him Dean Dean with some affection), it had searched for and found a replacement. And then a few weeks ago I received an email invitation to meet the new Dean on September 9 at an alumni reception in St. Louis. I signed up. I made the guy who works for me, who is also a J-School alum, sign up. I pestered the woman who works in Development who is also a J-School alum to sign up. "Let's meet the new Dean," I rallied. "Let's go mark up the program with proper editing symbols and split infinitives with wanton abandon and throw Oxford commas around like confetti!" They didn't exactly share my enthusiasm, but since I did get one of them to register I called it a success and gamely waited for today.

Yesterday, after I pestered them incessantly, IT started the OS upgrade on my laptop. I didn't exactly want them to start it at 10:45 a.m., but there it was, and I lost the rest of the day to a machine that slowly and haltingly rewrote itself before locking up entirely at 1:30 and refusing to budge. "Leave it be," counseled the wise IT sages. "You don't want to do a hard reboot in the middle of an update, it could wreck the hard drive and you'd lose everything." I let it be. I let it be all the way until this morning when I returned to work and discovered that the little status bar hadn't budged one pixel. I know this because I stuck a post-it note on the screen where it had stopped, to prove that it wasn't advancing. I can be like this. There be proof in post-its. So I went to IT and they said we'd probably have to do a full restore and that it would take all morning just to get my programs loaded back on. I cringed as I heard the whizzing sound of deadline after deadline flying past. This, in my little world, is stressful. And guess how stress likes to manifest itself at inopportune times? Yeah, my poor eyelid swelled nearly shut last night, as a cluster of little bumps formed and half my face started to hurt. Dammit. It's even the same eye. What are the odds, really? I feel like a first year j-student all over again. And I've forgotten nearly all the German.

My guy has bailed on the event tonight, because he's sick and feverish or some bullshit, so it's just me and my gunky eye. Just like that first day at the J-School.

Ah, memories.


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