The ‘B’ Story

by The Writer

Jack of All Trades.  Master of None.

Mastery implies completion of learning, followed by death. How many Jedi ‘Masters’ are alive and well?

The woman I loved for years decided we are no longer compatible.  Fortunately, this became a huge distraction for my other huge problem. Unemployment. How in the name of the cross-baring messiah, did I end up living back at home with my parents in my 30’s? I remember in my high school days thinking that once I graduated, I would move far away from these crazy people I call family.  Regrettably, it seems fate is not without a sense of irony.  Kathryn Schulz, gave an interesting lecture at TEDTalks about regretting regret. Before I can decide if my current situation is something I regret, I must retrace my steps to get to the bottom of my shameful truth.

In high school, I was one of those ‘just say no’, over-achivers that secretly tried too hard to be cool.  Education was held in high regard in my family because it was the key to a better life.  Drinking the kool-aide, I pushed myself to get the high grades and found I didn’t have to study too much to get that A. It became expected of me. Then, if I brought home an A, I was told an A+ would have been better.  The Inner critic choir sang loud with it’s cracking pubescent voice, “You’re not good enough!” Being the good little middle child, who didn’t want to make waves, got boring. I needed a new challenge.  I needed to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life because I would soon graduate.

There was a creative writing course I signed up for because I thought it would be easy.  It was, and it wasn’t.  I enjoyed writing and creating stories, but my teacher didn’t enjoy what I wrote. I recall an incident where I had to rewrite pages of my story because my teacher assumed I had plagiarized it.  The experience derailed any thought of a career in writing, but thinking about it now I guess that’s almost a compliment. Because I was a bit of a clotheshorse my career goal was to become a fashion designer; they were stylish, they hung out with models, and they made tons of money!  I had even started a small clothing business a couple years before graduating (which was a near miss with a major department store).

With my entrepreneurial spirit I was university bound, and couldn’t be happier; freedom from my crazy family and a chance at a fresh start in a new city!  Arriving into a class of approximately 140 students, I was 1 of 10 male students.  I’m thinking, great odds, but I’m sure the girls are thinking, he’s probably gay.  And to this day, I still believe my dad was worried I was gay.  Pursuing a career in the fashion industry back then could have put me in violation of breaking the cardinal rule of masculinity: Don’t appear feminine. I had a blast, but I soon learned that fashion wasn’t where I wanted to be when I was ‘old’.  A chance meeting with another student lured me into the exciting world of film studies.  I finally found a place where I belonged, career-wise.  This is the part where I would blame mainstream education for my poor performance and lack of preparation, but that would not serve my soul.

I dropped out of university in my sophomore year. I remember waking up early to go to an exam and just as I got to the doors, I looked inside at the large group of eager students waiting to prove what they had learned over the past year.  It frightened me.  For some reason I just kept thinking ‘I’m just a number in this bizarre system’, and kept questioning what I had really learned.  Pacing the halls I thought about what brought me to this moment and why I wanted to go through with it; it was an epic case of test anxiety. I didn’t walk, I ran away.  Do I regret this monumental moment? Not at the time because I was going to transfer to the School of Hard Knocks.  I’m pretty sure Jay-Z graduated from there, and he’s doing reasonably well…

I would share the reaction my parents had to the news of my transfer, but that would make this post exceedingly long.  So I’ll just say it wasn’t good.  I decided that I’d show I could earn an A++ at the School of Hard Knocks. The curriculum at the SOHK is tough, and through a series of service jobs in various capacites, I earned good grades and learned many valuable lessons I am extremely thankful for.  However, the voice of my inner critic matured to a resounding symphony.  ‘I wasn’t as good’ as my peers who had graduated’.  But I would show them…

In the SOHK I neither passed, nor did I fail.  The report cards are irrelevant, but after many failed screenwriting attempts, I returned to school for an education in social work.  Kathryn Schulz suggests that of the top things in our lives we regret, education is #1, career #2, and romance #3. If you’re keeping count, that’s three strikes: I’m out.  Fortunately, Schulz leaves us with hope stating not all our regrets are as ugly as we think they are, and that regrets shouldn’t remind us that we did poorly, but instead that we can do better.  My issue with mainstream education is that it strips away creativity.  Don’t believe me? Watch ex-university professor Ken Robinson lecture about education, which is the #1 viewed TEDTalk video with over 8 million views.

I feel formal education is purely for economical purposes (not all together terrible), while institutions like the SOHK are for the education of self (absolutely necessary).  I mean what repeatable brick and mortar institution offers Enlightenment courses and legitimate degrees in Self-Awareness?  What kind of lame jobs can I get with those credentials anyway? Will I return to school for something else? Possibly.  At the moment, a successful screenwriting career seems as likely as Jesus returning on the Mayan Calendar’s end date. What to do? What to do?