By Carly Klassen
I feel like in our society, you aren’t allowed to change your mind. Like, if you worked your ass off at one thing and came out with some pretty great work, it means nothing if you took a year or two off to work on something different. We aren’t allowed to have variation or explore ourselves and our differing interests without employers asking, why did you stop doing X? I’m graphic designer, 25 years old, and although I can more than demonstrate my ability, the fact that I haven’t been formally paid for my work in the last year seems to equal: worthless. I mean I get it to an extent, but it’s just frustrating.
All of a sudden all of that past work is irrelevant because you “deviated from the path.” Oh you better not stray at all. Move in a straight line, and don’t you dare mess up or become attracted to a different field or line of work. Don’t you dare express interest in something different. God forbid someone bring a new angle or life experience to a position.
Sometimes it feels like employers are saying, sorry you wandered off the road to being perfect. Now you suck, and you have to go lie in the grave you made for yourself. It feels like all of my skills and talents have been cast aside.
Also, how are you supposed to get more experience when all of the people with “more experience” get all the jobs? Personality, drive and who you are as a person apparently mean nothing. It’s all about the numbers.
It’s like this vicious cycle. It’s just frustrating when it feels like people aren’t looking at me and the ways I can grow and improve, but rather at my resume alone and the fact that I didn’t “stay the course.”
Alright, I’ll stop complaining now…I’m glad I’m multi-faceted. I have depth and dimension. And I’m not going to apologize for that.
By Alyssa D.
I just had the most wonderful experience talking with a coworker I had hardly interacted with before. Previously, our interactions consisted of forced “hello’s” and “how are you’s,” smiles and nods as you walk past one another in the hallway and mildly uncomfortable encounters in the kitchen waiting to use the microwave or bumping into each other to get to the ice box.
In fact, the very first time we met, I’d managed to completely botch the encounter using my trusty skills in awkwardness. After a number of other awkward encounters (on my part), I was sure from that point forward, there was no hope for this relationship. I even started to assume she didn’t like me—all ridiculous thoughts conjured up in my own mind. Don’t assume you know someone until you really talk to them, and even then, you’re just scratching the surface. Not even scratching the surface—more like filing away at it with a dull nail file.
So while in the kitchen today (of course), I looked at her delicious bright green veggie drink and said, “that looks so yummy,” which sparked a vibrant conversation about eastern and western medicinal philosophies, education, our hobbies, interests and personal projects close to our hearts. We both believe in holistic approaches to wellness, we’re both writers interested in the fantasy genre, and we’re both working the same job, which doesn’t pertain to either of our respective degrees. And yet we find meaning and happiness in our every day lives.
Conversations like this give me life and remind me that everyone has a unique story to tell. If you take a moment to listen, you may find a lot of parallels within yourself and your own life. It’s even more rewarding when it comes from a person you never expected to connect with. Don’t count anyone out. They might be exactly who you needed to step into your life.
By Pao Ling
I entered my mid-20s a few months ago. Well, technically, it was two years ago, but I am still in denial. Growing up, I had a mental roadmap of the life I wanted to have, and every life changing decision I’ve made for the last 25 years has lead me closer to that life. I must admit it has mostly been due to favorable circumstances, but they’ve lead me closer to my end goal nonetheless. Growing up, I was always careful not to make stupid decisions, tiptoeing around choices that would in any way affect the future life I had planned for myself. It was not until I entered my dreadful Quarter-Life Crisis, as I like to call it, that I willingly stomped over all the landmines I’d always been so careful to avoid.
What does it feel like to go through a quarter-life crisis?
For me, it felt like I was out of control. I went through life with a set plan, doing everything I needed to do in order to move forward and accomplish my goals. I married the perfect guy, my best friend in the whole world. I had a full-time job while I went to college, had an amazing relationship with my family and friends, and overall, had a great life. Then, I graduated college and things started to change. Suddenly, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life anymore, and I began to panic.
After graduating college, I was unable to find a job in my field. I wasn’t expecting to find something right away; I knew journalism was not an easy field to get into. But after a few months went by and nothing changed, I was discouraged from working in the field that I had worked so hard to be part of. I kept busy with part-time tutoring gigs, babysat here and there but had no aspirations for anything better.
Then my husband got fired from his well-paying job, and I felt the pressure to get my shit together and work full-time, regardless of whether it was in my field of study or not. Meanwhile, I grew distant with most members of my family, and gradually, my relationship with my husband began to change. Rituals that were sacred to us as a family, Sunday dinner for example, were no longer of any importance. Arguments with them became more frequent, and I opted to stay away. I spent more time going out partying and made decisions I will forever regret.
Social media played a large role in my conflicting feelings. After following some of my friends from high school and college, I couldn’t help but compare my life to theirs. The more I saw their successes, the more I thought about my failures. I thought of the things I hadn’t accomplished as failures because everyone else seemed to be doing so much better than me. Instead of focusing on all the great things that were going on in my life, I focused on how far behind I was compared to others.
I adopted a careless mentality that took me down a crooked path. It wasn’t until I almost lost everything that ever mattered to me—all that I’d worked so hard to achieve—that I finally woke up. Mending things has not been easy. I’ve had to prove myself to those I’ve deeply hurt, letting my actions show how sorry I am about the things I did.
Slowly but surely, my insecurities and lack of self love are dwindling, and I’ve come to learn that everything is about choice. Even though I am not at the place in my career I thought I would be at this point in my life, it doesn’t mean the place I’m in is bad. I am choosing to see all the good things surrounding me. I am choosing to be thankful for my wonderful husband and the amazing life we have. I am choosing to stop making excuses and work hard toward achieving my goals. Even though I may be getting older, I’d like to think that I am getting wiser too.
You pulled me away from the girl I had been working toward sleeping with for the last half hour to introduce yourself. There were no lines, no smooth talking. You stuck your hand out, smiled and said, “Hi! I’m Magdalena.” I fell in love with you then. Your easy grin, shy and awkward yet exploding with a confidence far bigger than you’ll ever know, and the raw beauty of the way you carried yourself made me melt. We spoke for four hours that night, long after the party had died out, far after my roommates had begrudgingly left empty-handed. I was convinced we would have talked into the morning had your friend not thrown up behind you, splashing vomit onto our legs. We were too drunk and glowing to care. We laughed. You gave me your number and I tried to kiss you on the cheek as your friend dragged you out of the house. You turned and smiled the smile I would come to associate with the very feeling of happiness. I walked home that night with butterflies pounding against the lining of my stomach, worried they would carry me into the twinkling, wondrous star-filled sky.
I finally built up the confidence to text you. I made fun of your horrible dance moves, and you told me they were your signature style. We bantered back and forth, and I asked if you wanted to grab tea that night. My stomach seized up in a knot when you said yes. My roommates were convinced that you were fake, that you weren’t the dream I had talked up in the day following our encounter. I was terrified they were right, that it was the alcohol making you so alluring in my memory. My fingers shook with nerves as I buttoned up my best flannel shirt, and I anxiously cinched up my belt through my favorite jeans. I checked and double checked myself in the mirror, took a few deep breaths and walked out the door, prepared for the worst.
I thought I would be way too early, but as I approached the shop, I saw you sitting at a table out front, watching me. We made eye contact, and you gave me the smile that made me melt. I was head over heals for you, and I had no idea who you were.
Over the course of the afternoon, and into the evening, I discovered that the girl I had been fantasizing about over the last day and a half fell far short of the girl I was speaking to. I felt as though I had known you forever, and we immediately grew spookily close. Hours after the sun had set, we planned a follow up date for dinner, kissed and parted ways. The whole ride home I couldn’t stop smiling. I wanted to shout out to the world that I had found my one.
You broke up with me. Well, we weren’t really formally together, but you said that it was too soon after your nasty breakup with your ex, and that you hadn’t fully healed. I was bummed, and a little upset, but I understood. These things happen, and I was happy for the time that we had shared.
I hooked up with an intern at an environmental conference because I didn’t want to remember you. You meant more to me than I was willing to admit.
I texted you saying that it would still be nice to be friends. We had too much in common to let whatever we had go by the wayside. I ran into you on campus that day, and you agreed. We planned on being friends.
I had a huge Halloween party at our house. I was dressed up as John Muir, and a girl who came dressed as a hippie was making out with me in the corner. Our breath stank of cheap vodka from a plastic bottle. She pulled herself close against me, and I took her hand and led her through the crowd to my bedroom. When I turned to acknowledge the laughs and jeers from my roommates, I saw you entering the house, dressed as a banana. We made just the briefest of eye contact before I entered my room and shut the door. I was petrified. What would I do? I affirmed the fact that you had broken up with me, and that I was free to do whatever I wanted. I began to take off the hippie’s costume and declared her body a national recreation area. My roommate began banging on my door, and I heard cries and shouts from the party. The cops had shown up to break up the party. I left the half-naked hippie on my bed and ran out to help break up the scene. As I left my room, you were leaving the house. You turned, locked eyes with me and frowned. I’ll never forget the first time I made you sad. I would have done anything to make you smile, but I just watched you walk out the door.
I told you I loved you. After Halloween, I begged you to take me back. I was so thankful that you let me back in.
Day 107, AM:
It seemed arbitrary, but I asked you to me my girlfriend. You threw your head back in laughter, and said yes. You were getting ready to go home for the weekend, and I helped you load your bags into your car. We kissed passionately, and I couldn’t wait to have you back in my arms come Sunday night when you got back into town.
Day 107, PM:
I texted my friend and asked her to come over to watch Lord of the Rings. We opened a bottle of gin. Before the Ringwraiths tore up the Prancing Pony, she was naked in my bed and I was pulling out one of our condoms. I felt an incredible rush in my stomach, fueled by revolting guilt, trepidation and an excitement that scared me to my bones. After she gathered her clothes from the floor the next morning and kissed me goodbye, I sat naked on my bed for an hour, staring wide-eyed at the blank white wall in front of me. What the fuck had I just done. I started shaking uncontrollably.
We celebrated Valentine’s Day together by cooking a delicious meal in my kitchen. We exchanged gifts in my dirty bedroom. We both had midterms to study for and homework to do, but I was so thankful for the time we were able to find for each other. The best gift I could have asked for came in the form of your smile.
We went and saw a movie together. I held hands with you proudly, wearing you like the most comfortable shirt I’ve ever worn. I was beaming the entire time. Being with you in this moment was a gift, and I was cherishing every passing second. Being with you felt like flying.
I told you I was having a movie night with my friends. That was true. But what I didn’t tell you was that I had been texting the Halloween Hippie, and that the hippie had come over midway through the movie. My roommate and I went out to the pool with her and we all stripped down. It was so cold though, so we sprinted into my bathroom with its waiting hot tub. We started massaging each other, and eventually we made our way to my bed. My roommate started making out with her, and she started giving me a hand job. I freaked out. I made eye contact with my roommate and drew my finger across my throat; we had to end this threesome in the making. He caught the drift, and hastily jumped out of my bed. The Halloween hippie lay naked in my bed, pulling on me to join her. I gave in, and lay down beside her. I couldn’t bring myself to do anything, one way or another, so I fell asleep with her kissing the back of my neck. I was so turned on and mortified by my behavior.
I met you for breakfast. I told you that you looked nice and kissed you tenderly upon meeting and departing.
You started drawing attention to my inappropriate friendships with females that I said were just friends. I told you that you were just being jealous and unrealistic.
I met you and your parents for dinner at the Italian restaurant we liked so much. Talks of marriage were tossed around jokingly. I drank from my glass of wine, laughed along and smiled. You were smiling, and it felt real again. I massaged your leg under the table and felt lost in the night with you.
After a meeting for work, a few coworkers stuck around at my place and we had a few beers. We laughed, joked around, and people started going home after a while. One of my friends stuck around longer than the rest and I pulled her into my room to show her my new bike. She kissed me goodbye early the next morning when she left for class. I discretely threw away the underwear she had left behind in a dumpster across the street.
I broke up with you. I told you I was tired of you nagging me because of your jealous tendencies and your overbearing regulation of my friendships. It was the hardest thing in the world to save face in the face of you being completely right about everything about me.
I invited you over for pizza. After exchanging emails expressing our deep-seated love for one another, we found that we couldn’t live without the other person in our lives. This came after we both spent the last month dating other people—people whom made us feel a self-proclaimed deeper appreciation for love. The reason we went back to each other was the deeper longing we had for the familiar. We both acknowledged that we shouldn’t be together. That what we had felt wrong, forced and generally incompatible with what we each were looking for. However, that didn’t change the way we felt for each other. You requested that I buy garlic sauce.
I’d just returned from Germany, and you were mad that I wasn’t making more of an effort to visit you in Tucson. I told you that I’m spending time with my family, and that I’d see you soon.
We met for dinner and made small talk. It was nice to be back with you, but we felt distant. I started work the next day in Tucson, and you were upset I’d be gone for a week at a time on the trail. We headed to your house and went to sleep early.
Day 399, AM:
You asked if I want to come over to talk. I said no. I told you there’s more about me that you don’t know. There’s more than what I’ve already told you.
Day 399, PM:
I detailed over email every instance of my disloyalty over the last two years. From the first night I asked you to be my girlfriend, to the last summer in Germany when I slept with several of my coworkers. It was the hardest thing I’d ever done to be so honest. Writing out the email made me realize how much I needed help and how poorly I treated you in the face of unconditional love, tireless patience and a complete opening up to me. I can only imagine how bad knowing the truth hurt you.
You called me a disgusting pig, a disgrace, less than human. I agreed.
Over email, you explained that you can’t help me and that you never want to see or speak to me again.
You stuck to your word. I’ll never stop being sorry.
It’s a horribly cruel part of growing up to realize that A) you have control of your life and actions, and B) those actions directly affect the people in your life. I never thought about the repercussions of what I did to you. For me, it was an intense desire to feel love and attention and to have affirmation that the person I was could be the subject of another’s desire. It was a desperate ploy, and only standing outside of our relationship leads me to see how absurd and wrong I had been. In the face of your love and support, I refused to see the reality of the way you felt and instead made the conscious decision to be selfish and cruel to satisfy my own needs. Admitting fault is something I was never good at, but considering this a fault would be to laughably understate the most important misgiving I’ve ever experienced.
We are presented with so many options and opportunities to create a life we believe we would be best suited for, even when we have no idea what kind of life it is we need. It’s sensory overload, and it can be easy to become subdued by its intensity. With this kind of selection available, whether it be schools, jobs, friends, relationships, cities, it’s typical to be overwhelmed with the ever-present allure of the new. In our fast-paced, disconnected society, with Tinder, and Amazon delivering right to your door within hours, when can we consider (and truly believe) that what and who we have is enough to be happy? The greatest irony of all is that I tried desperately to fill a void in my life that was occupied by exactly what I was trying to fill it with. I’m lead to believe then, that the only way to disconnect from the unhappiness is to disconnect with the problem, and be aware that the problem is a problem in the first place.
I’ve found another companion in my life, and with this new perspective, I’ve found myself far happier than I could have imagined before. I can happily say that in the five months we have been together, I haven’t hooked up with, flirted or even implied any sort of romantic interest with another human. The feelings that I experience with her are real, and I have a strong feeling that the growth I’ve experienced since leaving you will carry her and I through life for a long time. The person I am is not the person I was, though I will carry with me the remorse and guilt of my actions against you for a long time as well.
In conclusion, I offer you, and every woman I’ve used along the way, the most sincere apology I can muster. An apology will never be enough.
By Shannen Wright
My name is Shannen Wright, and I am autistic and a writer. I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of eight. Life has not been easy for me as an autistic individual for many reasons, but today I want to focus on the positives! Many people think that because I am autistic I struggle with creativity or empathy and all the usual sorts. However, I have one thing on my side.
I live in my own little world.
As a writer, this is a blessing and one I want to share with the rest of the world, or at least, anyone who wants to take a gander into my world!
I started writing when I was a kid. I honestly can’t tell you how long ago because I’ve been writing and telling stories for a long as I can remember. It’s a part of who I am. Always has been. In a sense, it is my coping strategy. I work two jobs, albeit not easily, and though I don’t look outwardly autistic (or so I’m told at least–I’ve always found that expression highly insulting), I have days when I physically and mentally cannot cope.
I’d like, if you can, to imagine a world filled with noise. It’s not too difficult as the world is full to bursting with it.
Let’s take a supermarket for example:
You have the basic noises: shop radio and customers chatting. That’s two noises fighting for dominance. In the background there’s the roll of trolley wheels. A ssssss of noise against the smooth flooring—flooring, I might add, that is shiny and reflects the bright and harsh halogen lights from the ceiling. Then there are children, crying, laughing, screaming, shouting, running, sliding and skipping around the supermarket, followed by someone shouting at them to behave. You are aware of all of this, including the brightly colored everything on the shelves. It’s been a long day; you’ve been working hard all day, but you are the only person where you work who speaks the language you do.
Everyone at work or school or college laughs at something you don’t find funny, and then sends you strange looks when you don’t laugh along. At least to you it feels like a strange face—you can’t understand that facial expression despite seeing it before. But because of that, you know you won’t be invited to the office party. Okay, you didn’t want to go, but it would be nice to know you were wanted there.
You reach the aisle you’re looking for. It has your favorite snacks in it. Your favorite. And you are really, really hungry. You didn’t have time for breakfast or lunch because you’re behind on work, mostly because it takes a little longer to make sure you understand what is expected of you. And you don’t feel comfortable enough with your boss to ask for help. She might laugh—or fire you. And you need the cash.
You reach the aisle. Everything has been moved around. You begin to panic. You would ask someone for help, but everyone looks busy or mean. No! Wait! There’s someone. Oh, but there’s a tension headache building up because of those bright bulbs and the shouting people. That particular someone asks you something. Maybe it was, “How can I help you?” but you can’t focus. It’s hard to process all this at once. You hope for the best and try to respond.
“Uh, do you know where the….such and such are?”
It turns out they don’t stock them anymore. Very few people were buying it. You’ve bought this product for years though and love them. The taste is unique and not too overbearing on your tongue. You panic. You burst into tears. You cry. Or scream. It’s impossible to deal.
Is this twenty-something-year-old throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get their snack? No. This twenty-something is having a meltdown because they have to deal with all of this on a similar level every single day without the ability to switch off.
So, on the contrary, imagine how it feels to get in. Slip on your noise reducing headphones and play something beautiful. That song with the twinkling parts and the soft, lilting tune that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up on end. It feels safe, comforting. Like home. You boot up the laptop with a soft hum. A gentle vibrating hum that feels nice and warm on your knees. You take a deep breath, your bedroom door shut, keeping out the world. It’s just you and your online friends. No speaking, no body language to focus on— just words and music, mixing together in a beautiful symphony. These are people you’ve added of your own choosing. People you feel safe around. People no one is forcing you to talk to or be around.
And there is OpenOffice, a blank white sheet, desperate and begging for creativity. You can almost see the words before you type them. It’s like meditation, and you write and type down the world you wish you could escape to—the better place where everything fits into one neat little package. Where everything makes sense to you, because the other one does not.
So, imagine how I feel when I finish writing one part of my world, and a publisher emails me back saying yes. Yes, they want to show my world to the world…
Won’t you come and experience my world with me?
Here I am, a 21-year-old who has never been in a relationship. Not even just one sad little two-week relationship. It’s honestly crazy to think that with the big heart I have and how much I want to just completely give myself to someone and invest everything I have into this one soul, I still have yet to experience it.
This doesn’t go without saying I haven’t “dated” before. I have talked to a lot of guys! It’s just that none of them ever seem to work out in the end. When I was younger, and pretty much all the way up until today, I always thought it was me. That it was always my fault. I said something wrong, or I’m too annoying or that I just try too hard to constantly talk to them all the time. This whole time I thought I just had the WORST luck when it came to guys.
Looking back on it now, it took me 21 years to realize it wasn’t always just my fault. Sure there have been some flings in the past where I really saw it going somewhere and it didn’t work out, but there were also many other times where I realized that that person wasn’t for me. And now that I start to count, most of them were because I couldn’t see it going anywhere. Here I have been beating up on myself trying to figure out what is wrong with me—what is so bad about myself that no one can ever see something in me? It’s because I’m picky. I’m not picky because I think I’m too good for everyone. I’m picky because I know exactly what I want.
I’ve spent my entire life observing. Observing friends, family and strangers all with their loved ones. Seeing my friends go through fights, being their shoulder to cry on when they went through a terrible heartbreak. It’s like I’ve taken a relationship training class my entire life. I notice a lot of my friends come to me for relationship advice even though I’ve never actually been in a relationship myself. But I always seem to give them good insight and advice on how to tackle a problem they are facing when it comes to relationships. I’ve never experienced a journey like this in my entire life, but I still seem to know what to do. But having gone through this and constantly sitting back and watching from a third party point of view, I know exactly who I want and how I will be as a girlfriend. Sure this will all be new to me when that day finally comes, but I truly feel like I can make someone super happy one day.
Having said that, I have met a person who is completely perfect for me. And never have I EVER been able to say that. Looking back on the past, there have been some guys who I really had an interest in and thought they were perfect, but I was too scared to take that leap of faith and completely put myself out there. I was too afraid of getting rejected that I just left it how it was, accepted that it wasn’t going to work out and moved on from it. It was hard. But now on this present day, I don’t regret not pursuing anything with them. I am content with leaving them in the past, because as I’m getting older, I realize that they weren’t ever perfect for me to begin with. I was blinded by that hard girl crush I had on them. I was glad I never took that risk to try and make it work, because I know it wouldn’t have worked in the long run.
Now I can honestly say there is a person in my life who has lit a spark inside of me that has never been lit before (only coming to find out later that it also wasn’t going to work out). Not because of me, but on their part. Ending it where we did four months ago was hard. Hard because I really saw something in us. But like I always do, I just accepted it and moved on—well tried to, of course. Recently, I have gotten back in touch with this person. We didn’t pick up back where we left off, but we started casually talking again, and I was okay with that. I thought I was over him, and we could just be friends.
Under random circumstances, I saw him in person again, and we hung out for a little bit. I didn’t think anything was going to come out of it between us, and it didn’t. But that spark inside of me that had almost completely faded away had been lit up full blast this time. When I’m talking full blast, I’m talking like this spark is 10x stronger than it was in the past when we first made that connection. And I’m taking this as a sign that I shouldn’t ignore it this time. I have decided that I’m not going to run and hide anymore. I have decided that I am going to take this leap of faith and completely put myself out there. I am going to tell him how I feel in hopes that he feels the same. I feel that if I feel this strongly about this, then I owe it to myself to give it my all and try. What really do I have to lose?
I’ve never done anything like this before, and I am more scared than I ever have been. I’m scared that this won’t go the way I want, I’m scared that I’m four months too late, but most of all, I’m scared that I am going to completely get my heart broken. But even though I’m scared, I’m not going to get anywhere by sitting back and waiting. I would rather find out the truth of it all rather than be left in the dark wondering “what if.” I’m going to take that leap of faith I was always too afraid to take. If it works out in the end, I know I did the right thing, and I’ll be happy with myself. If it doesn’t work out? Well, at least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I did everything I possibly could to put myself out there and try to make it work.
I’ve never been this bold, nor have I ever been so courageous to take a giant leap like this. But all I have is hope—hope that it will work out for me in the end. It may be just a little spark of hope, but it’s enough to make me brave enough to pursue it!
By Christine K.
It took me a long time to finally decide that I needed to leave my job. Part of it was out of fear and self doubt. Was I good enough to be successful somewhere else? Part of it was the fear of change. What if I end up in a worse place? After I finally left, I realized we all need to take the time to ask ourselves some questions as we navigate our careers.
Am I being challenged and supported in the right way? I was good at what I did, but I really wanted to try something new. I brought this up many times during my almost 4 years with my agency, but I was talked out of it multiple times. I was told that I didn’t have what it took for those different positions. They told me that I was perfectly suited for what I was doing now…
View original post 471 more words
By Kaleb Eisele
In 2012, I became very interested in acting. A fresh arrival to Charleston, I had never lived in a place where film was a viable industry to work in. Not even a month after moving down here with my new wife, I was taking jobs as an extra on indie films and television shows. Believe it or not, it isn’t hard to land those.
My first film experience was great— everyone was so busy with their various tasks, and we drove all around Charleston to different locations. There were only a few extras and the actors really took the time to hang out with us. I ended up working on so many scenes that I was credited as a “non-speaking character.” Fancy right? Nearly four years later, the film has yet to see a big release. So maybe it didn’t make me famous, but it did make me hungry for more acting work. With no training, no agent, and no promise of financial gain, I spent the next few years in a whirlwind of auditions, networking, and film sets. Last I counted I think I’d worked on 36 different sets, mostly as background. During this time I started to get really tired of feeling like a nobody every time I walked into an audition or set. My last name was constantly mispronounced, and I felt like it damaged my chances of landing a role. People in Charleston knew Kaleb Eisele—the Cracker Barrel waiter, the college student, someone’s brother—but I wanted to have a distinct, separate role in the film community. Add to that all of the unwanted Facebook requests I got when people knew me by my personal name, and I decided to come up with my own alias.
My first incarnation lasted about a year before I started hating it. Inspired by rapper/actor “Common,” I tried to make “Kanvas” my new stage name. It bombed hard. Looking back it’s one of those serious face-palm moments. I designed social media sites and a very unprofessional website under this alias. A year later, I was working hard to make all of that disappear. Late in 2013 I was contacted by a hip hop blog in New York that was looking for contributing writers. A friend of mine sent me the information and I applied, again creating an alternate name because I was worried about my personal name being listed in public. I got the spot, a volunteer position that required me to create my own blog and link each post to their website. It only took a few months before they decided that my positive-vibe, genre-inclusive approach to music writing was not what they were aiming for. They quietly dropped my posts from their site.
Meanwhile, my head was spinning. Armed with a new, better alias, a combination of my middle name “Chancy” and my grandmother’s family name “Johnson”, I began contacting people all over the place to see if they wanted to be featured on my new blog, Out of the Woodwork. As I was walking around downtown one day, it hit me just how powerful of a force this blog could be. I could use my opinion to really bolster someone else’s identity. I thought back to the actors I’d met on my first film set. My wife and I had built a loose friendship with one of the younger actresses, Soren Bryce, after listening to her play some original music on the set. Soren had this whole actress/musician thing going on at the time but was primarily working in film with music as a side project. I was a huge fan of the songs she’d posted online, and in my head I started restructuring my website around bringing fans her way. I contacted Soren and several other people I’d met on film sets to ask if I could write about them. I’m surprised they agreed since my original website looked pretty awful.
During this time I felt serious pressure to sound more professional than I was. In a few of my emails I claimed to be “Kaleb Eisele, working for Chancy Johnson.” I was afraid that contacting people as myself would make them lose interest in what I was doing. I don’t think I’ve ever regretted anything more. As the years went by, I stuck with Out of the Woodwork. I met a graphic design student who volunteered several hours to helping me restructure the visual aspects of the site. Eventually I announced that Chancy Johnson was me, Kaleb Eisele, much to the confusion of a few who hadn’t already guessed. Out of the Woodwork became a great success. After watching Season 10 of “So You Think You Can Dance,” I contacted my favorite dancer, Malece Miller, for an interview. Much to my surprise, she was happy to talk with me. After releasing our interview, her community spread the post all over the place, building my first solid audience for Out of the Woodwork. Soren Bryce and her family had warmed up to the site as well, and I featured her multiple times as she evolved into a very successful musician.
My identity as “Chancy Johnson” became a staple in my daily life. I always felt like my personal friends and family sort of looked down on my early work, discounting it as a phase or something that would fail. I understand how it would seem that way, but that’s how most people start. I started getting paid acting jobs as Chancy, started talking with nationally known artists as Chancy. There were (and are) entire pockets of people who knew me exclusively as Chancy Johnson, that actor (or writer) from Charleston. Was I famous? Never. Was I rich? Definitely not, still broke as ever. But I was accepted and had a modest reputation in my area. Chancy was getting thank you cards, CDs to review, and praise all over social media. Meanwhile, my friends looked on with a raised eyebrow.
As Kaleb Eisele I spent the majority of the day in college classrooms and working construction jobs, dreaming all the while about the next big move I would make with Out of the Woodwork. I really did care about the people I interviewed on there. I was (and still am) filled with a passionate desire to spread their music or videos or whatever else around to people who would be receptive. Constantly pregnant with a heavy new idea, I would rush home to give birth to it on my laptop every day for a few hours. I found time to squeeze in all of this somehow. I wrote from my phone while I was on the bus, tweeted news about my past guests over lunch break, emailed and posted major things at night or got up early to make something new. Somehow I still kept up with my college studies as well. I attacked them with the same passionate interest I had for Out of the Woodwork, always asking how I could use the two together. I felt fulfilled and excited for the next day to come. I started scheduling all of my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays so I could have a more flexible schedule. On those days I was in class from 8am to 6pm, but I enjoyed it. Three days a week I spent working in construction, painting, digging, cleaning, doing small repairs, even managing the lawn/maintenance upkeep of a big property. This outdoor work was physically challenging, but I could put myself on autopilot and spend my day brainstorming.
Last summer I took the 48 articles and interviews I had written on Out of the Woodwork to the Charleston City Paper and applied to be an intern. I applied as myself, good ol’ Kaleb Eisele. I was accepted and began writing for the music department. Each week my name was attached to an article—mostly very short event previews but some features as well. People in Charleston started to know Kaleb in a way they’d never known Chancy. My personal life had joined my entertainment writing life, and I could no longer be known by anything but myself. My Twitter name changed. I started an Out of the Woodwork podcast as Kaleb “Chancy Johnson” Eisele so people would still know it was me. Despite the confusion it may have caused for people following my adventures, I feel like I learned a lot from my various personas. It was always me, but each side allowed me to really push and train certain aspects of myself. Chancy taught me confidence and wit, comfort in reaching out to people I’d never met. In a way, he taught me to value my own name and identity more than I think I would have otherwise. So who am I now? I’m the same me I’ve always been. Just like when people change occupations they’re still the same person, just with an expanded repertoire of skills.
Thankfully there are also several people who always knew who I was, name aside. My wife encouraged me to embrace my myriad dreams and remained patient through a constant bombardment of new ideas. My old friend Soren Bryce stuck with the changes and always supported Out of the Woodwork and my ever-changing approach to things, proudly promoting it when she could. My brother and sister made me feel like everything I did was awesome. New name? So cool! New website? Wow man, that’s awesome. You’re awesome. How did you come up with that idea? What’s new with the entertainment game, man? No matter what decisions I made, there was always a core group of people that grounded me and made me feel like no matter what I did it would be worth it.
So now what? For now I’m sticking with the name my momma gave me. Less hassle, less confusion, and more confidence. I have mixed feelings about my past decisions, but overall I’m happy with what I’ve learned from them and I don’t know that I would change them all that much. I can’t even begin to guess at what I’ll do with my future, but I know now more than ever that being me is a good thing.
I was feeling particularly not good today and needed to get these thoughts out. I would really love to know if anyone else experiences similar feelings or issues.
Introvert Problems at Work:
Being quiet for an hour or two and everyone automatically assuming something is wrong.
Not running around talking to everyone at work, so people in other departments have no idea who you are.
People always asking if you’re “new here?”
Not knowing how to possibly introduce myself to everyone who doesn’t know me without it feeling so awkward.
Wanting to socialize when I feel like socializing.
Feeling somehow lesser because people apparently can’t remember you.
People making a funny face when you tell them, yes, I work here.
Wondering why keeping to yourself rather than constantly chatting it up with everyone has to be viewed as such a bad thing.
Feeling constantly misunderstood.
Feeling like the world is made for extroverts, and only your close friends make you feel like there’s nothing wrong with you.
Having to be reminded of the “shortcomings” of your particular personality every day.
Just wanting so badly to be accepted and appreciated for who you are.