GET A THERAPIST, NERD! Like, what is this? Is she applying to college, or is this part of her book? Why do I picture her inconsolably wailing while she typed this? Why is she doing this to us? What? Is wrong with her?
In Which I Regale You with a Laundry List of My Failures so You Feel Better About Your Life
“My entire life has been one ridiculous mistake after another.” – GIRLS
“Ditto.” – Julia Allison
I spent most of my childhood in suburban Chicago sitting in the corner at recess reading. In sixth grade, in order to avoid that awkward moment in which, holding my plastic lunch tray, I couldn’t find anyone to sit with in the lunch room, I would go hide in the library. But library passes were only given out once a week per student, so I came up with my first “life hack” experiment. I figured out that if a student were to walk, chin up, eyes ahead, purposefully striding into the library,the teachers rarely – if ever – questioned her. Thus, my career in pushing boundaries30 began.
30 Pushing boundaries = aka skirting the rules, aka bullshitting, aka “problems with authority.” Sigh.
Asthmatic and an academic geek, my 7th grade report card reads all A’s (a feat I wish I had continued – but didn’t – in college), and one B – in “kinetic wellness” (aka gym). Below it is typed the following line: “needs to develop self-confidence.” Zing!
It stands to reason that I naturally gravitated toward extracurricular activities which A) did not require any sort of sweating and/or athletic prowess and B) did not involve “cuts” of any sort. Thus, I joined the Latin team and the Debate team, where I lost nearly every debate, including one rather infamous round in which I was getting trounced so badly, I decided to read an excruciatingly awkward poem I had written, instead of making a closing argument. If I couldn’t win, I figured, why not entertain the judges a bit? My debate partner refused to speak to me for weeks.
Debate was followed by the synchronized swim team, which wasn’t so much of a team as a group of girls attempting not to drown simultaneously. Even my parents chortle derisively when I recall our shows nostalgically. They were – how shall I put it? – reminiscent of an SNL skit, if SNL characters had access to a questionably clean aquatic environment.
Obviously, being a loser, there was no starring in the school plays for me. Instead I joined stage crew, given the critical job of painting sets and later – when I really came into my power – as “the props mistress.” Nary a prop went astray with me in charge!
I also managed to participate – for several years – in AV club. “Participating” entailed me operating the video equipment for the band at band performances. If you have ever wondered whether any activity could, in fact, be dorkier than high school band (shout out to my band geeks!), I’m pretty sure being in charge of VIDEOING high school band ranks below it on the Mortify Scale.
The final nail in my high school lack of coolness coffin was an embarrassing propensity toward getting kicked out/off/around. I was kicked off the high school radio for the one-two punch of papering the building with unauthorized flyers for my feminist, only-songs-by-women radio show31
31 “The She Thing Show” – and yes, I came up with the name myself and no, I’m not making this up. I read Betty Friedan at age 13 and was an active and outspoken teen feminist, something that did nothing for my popularity with 14-year-old boys in mid-90s suburban Chicago, as you might imagine.
and actually playing a song that involved “inappropriate expletives.”32
32 Damn you, Salt n Pepa!
Later I was unceremoniously relieved of my duties in the Global Exchange Club, after planning a successful school dance called “An Evening in Paris” which involved an actual red carpet and corny keychains involving the Eiffel tower, which are now populating landfills throughout the midwest. And although I managed to become President of the Animal Protection Club, no one – people or animals – backed me for future terms.
Of course, high school wasn’t my only place to fail. I was kicked off of my college paper for threatening to have my dog pee on the editor’s pages (an empty threat as my dog was not yet potty trained, and wouldn’t pee anywhere I instructed). I actually thought that was a pretty good reason to get fired, quite possibly my favorite, almost fun, in a “terrible at the time, but entertaining to retell” sort of way.
As a senior in college, I applied to Teach for America – you know, the non-profit that sends qualified university graduates to exceptionally impoverished schools across the country for two years, a sort of homeland Peace Corps. My unbearably incompetent attempt at teaching math during the interview ended with me cracking a bad joke about long division being outdated anyway, due to the cutting edge advance of … calculators. I was, as you might imagine, not hired.
I moved to Manhattan, like so many do, just out of school and incredibly naive, with no money, no friends and no career – just the highly original idea of “becoming a writer.” I was promptly rejected from a job as cashier at Bath & Body Works. Then I was fired as a receptionist at Fortress Investment Bank (for not “taking ownership of the position”). Shortly thereafter, I convinced an editor33
33 I literally – LITERALLY – sent him 14 emails over the course of 6 months until he finally gave me me a column out of sheer exhaustion from deleting them.
at the Manhattan newspaper AM New York to begin running my weekly dating columns, for which I was paid the sum of … $50.
But it was a start, and that’s all I needed. One of my critics once wrote, “Cockroaches can learn a thing from Julia Allison.” [EDITORS NOTE: I believe that was me, the devastatingly handsome Julia’s Publicist. If that’s the case: CEASE AND DESIST, DONKEY!] And I will treasure that comment until the day I die. I just don’t accept defeat, even if it takes years, and trust me, it usually does.
So I’ve learned to treasure my mistakes as the stories that are (usually) the most fun to tell. I’m proud to say that I’m the only person I know of to have been banned from Northwestern Debate Camp, the Time 100 Most Influential People Dinner, and FOX News34 (which I actually consider to be a badge of honor).
34 I wrote a blog post about a certain self-tanner loving anchor throwing up in front of me between takes, which I assume didn’t go over well with the execs. Sadly, that was years ago, so I think I’ve been un-banned since. But it’s a lot more fun to pretend I’m on their Official FoxNews Enemy List.
I kinda wish I had been banned from a state (I’m thinking South Dakota), but I’m pretty sure you have to do something involving prison, which I’m not entirely interested in adding to my resume. [EDITORS NOTE: Why? Everything else seemed fair game. Jesus Christ!]
I could go on for several more pages about my failures, firings, and fuck-ups (which have continued to the present day), but then this book would have to be retitled “I Give Up, God,” or maybe just “Don’t Occasionally Just Stop Believing.”
And frankly, that’s not really the message I want to give you.
Let’s just put it this way: if “the spiritual journey is continually falling on one’s face,” as Buddist monk Ram Dass says, then I have a headstart. In fact, I believe that every experience, relationship and obstacle comes into our lives to teach us lessons we need to grow into the people we’re meant to become. Even if those experiences are really, really unpleasant at the time.
The physicist Niels Bohr once defined an expert as “a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.”
I consider myself an expert in many fields. Right. So what does my past35 have to do with you – and with happiness?
35 I mean, really, who gets rejected TWICE from the Georgetown tour guides?!! Or maybe the better question is: why does anyone want to be a tour guide badly enough to apply after being rejected? These are some of life’s great mysteries.
Donkey, I mean this sincerely. You and your tranny elbows need help. A cursory glance shows that she spelled “Buddhist” incorrectly and she wrote “me” twice in a row. But the latter was most likely intentional.