I met - well, sat and then stood really close to - an amazing man yesterday. My husband took me to hear one of his favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, speak. I'd read one of Gaiman's books, "American Gods," and almost finished another, "Good Omens." I wasn't a fangirl of epic proportions, but I was excited to go.
The 45-minute wait in the broiling South Florida sun for the doors to the lovely temple in Coral Gables where Gaiman spoke to open melted some of that excitement, but it returned when I began reading his newest book, "The Ocean at the End of the Lane," while waiting for him to appear. Gaiman writes fantasy, if you must slap a label on it, but it's richly detailed, down-to-earth, entirely believable and emotionally invested fantasy.
He's also a rather goofy-looking man with a full head of startled, curly hair and large, emotive features. He wears all black, but seems about as far from pretentious as a best-selling author can get. He joked with the huge crowd, told funny, heart-rending stories, read from his book and answered questions, then signed books for who knows how long. My husband and I waited about two hours, and we were in the first-in-line group.
(He also signs his books with ink he buys himself. How cool is that?)
I left a much bigger fan than I was going in. I was particularly struck by a story he told about reading an essay about wasted time, words that convinced his 20-something-self, as he said, that elves weren't going to come and do the work necessary to achieve his dream.
I must admit I've been waiting, to some extent, on the elves. I finally, with no job prospects on the horizon that stretches to infinity here, I finally banged out a book. I hesitate to call it that, because I know it needs so much work, and people like Neil Gaiman write books. I found a person in my head that I liked, and she had a lot to say, and I wrote down what happens to her.
Now she's stuck, because agents are harder to come by than insights, and publishers ... ha. And I want the elves to step in, to rewrite the parts I suspect don't work, to add the layers I suspect the story needs, to fire off queries to 20 more people who'll send me rejection emails worded in varying degrees of polite insincerity.
I want the elves to explain to the universe how talented I am, how much I can do, how none of that really translates to the resume I must have sent out 100, 200 times.
I'd never really worked to find a job before. I'd have one, and then someone else would call me, and I'd make a little handwrittten list of pros and cons to decide if I wanted to stay or go. That, I thought, was how the world worked.
What I've discovered is that the world also works by somehow, someway not recognizing how fantabulous you are. It works by the people who conducted interviews you thought went well never calling again. It works by places you'd never thought you'd try to work for telling you you're not a fit for their companies. It works by a nice young man standing outside a gas station, explaining to you how, in addition to rapping and writing poetry, he spends his days approaching complete strangers pumping gas to extol to them the virtues of this amazing car wax. And he's not telling you this because you're interviewing him for some sort of profile. He's telling you this because this "opportunity" was sent to you in your inbox, labeled an entry-level marketing job, and you're standing there in your fuschia dress and black sandals because you came to this, your "second interview," looking for a job.
So I get pissed off and discouraged and the self-pity runs through my veins like acid rain. It's so unfair. Why won't somebody give me a chance? And I know that perhaps I have to make my own chance. But I don't know how. And the fucking elves refuse to show me.
Earlier this week, Vin Scully, the venerable and venerated Dodgers announcer whose still-clear, never-cluttered voice makes me believe in the innate kindness of people and the possibility of world peace, took to Twitter, live-tweeting a 6-0 L.A. win at Yankee Stadium. Scully poked some gentle fun at himself, a grand master of the game, now somewhat reluctantly leading the technological charge into the future. And then he proceeded to handle himself with grace and humor, professionalism and insight, sharing personal stories while delivering scoring updates.
Why can't I do that? Why can't I adapt so seamlessly to change, my wants and abilities and dreams mere rocks around which the rushing stream of time flows? Why am I sitting here on the couch yet again on yet another afternoon, a girl who first went to work when she was 14 in her cousin's peach shed now rendered as useless as a bicycle for a salmon?
I don't know if I'm supposed to throw myself into making my book a book, and self-publishing it come hell or high water or total draining of my savings account. I don't know if I'm supposed to pound the pavement in a dogged, relentless search for the job that will offer me some self-fulfillment while allowing me to help pay the bills. I don't know if I'm supposed to concentrate on being available, emotionally and physically, for a changeling almost 14-year-old whose needs and wants are more important than mine.
I just don't know, and the elves are no help.
But what I do know, after listening to Neil Gaiman, is that they're likely to remain so, and that whatever answers are out there, I'm going to have to work - and work through some icky, stubborn, viscous stuff - to find.