My favorite professor in college once told us our twenties were for asking as many questions as we could, and then following those answers until we found another question, another rabbit hole to fall down. Don’t feel guilty about this, she said, jump in and dig around and make as many holes as you can. By the time you hit your thirties, you’ll have narrowed your curiosity down to a couple of areas and you can spend the next decade turning your curiosity into a passion so that by the time you’re in your forties, you’ll be an expert in your chosen field and able to move the needle and really make an impact, leaving the world a better place.
She never explained what happened after your forties, presumably because she was still living them whilst delivering this memorable monologue to a class of mostly twenty-year olds, to whom the concept of ever being forty seemed as inconceivable as Donald Trump one day assuming the presidency.
I held onto this advice tightly as I swerved around my twenties, jumping in and out of rabbit holes and leaving piles of dirt in my wake. New York! South Korea! New York again! China! Newark this time!
My brother asked me once if interviewers ever laughed at my resume, trying to find a theme like sailors looking for a fog-covered coastline and only seeing brief flashes of a distant lighthouse. Public relations! Teaching! Writing! Wait — was that an interior design business?
Yes it was and yes, it was called “TNT Explosive Interiors” because it was with my friend Tori, so obviously the TNT stood for Tori and Travis and no, we didn’t realize “explosive interiors” sounded more like a slogan for a laxative and less like an interior design business because we were too busy following all the questions to notice. (During this time, most of the answers were found at IKEA.)
People have definitely laughed at my resume.
One of my first interviews in New York after college was with a nonprofit called Do Something. I got the interview because I sent in a creative PowerPoint presentation I made while sitting at Johnny Rockets in Queens. All summer long, two other newly graduated and unemployed friends and I would takeover a booth, split a side of fries and use their free wifi for the entire day. By the end of that summer we didn’t have jobs but we did have the songs and choreography performed by the waiters memorized.
This was my first real interview and as I was very busy eating fries and perfecting my Johnny Rocket dance steps, I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been for the world’s easiest, most banal interview question: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”
I looked the CEO right in the eyes and told her all about my favorite college professor’s instructions and how I planned to spend my twenties just exploring questions and five years? Wow, who knows but definitely not in an office job — probably writing or performing comedy somewhere, maybe on SNL.
She handed me back my resume and asked if this was my first interview. How could she tell? She leaned back in her chair and broke into a long, satisfying laugh before composing herself, letting me know I wouldn’t be getting the job and wishing me luck on my comedy career.
I left, grabbed my shovel and started digging.
This is post #19/30 in a 500 Words-A-Day Challenge. Read them all here.