Liebster Award

Recently, I received a nomination for the Liebster Award. If you’re not familiar with the Liebster Award, it’s the blogging equivalent of chain email, though with fewer ads for Viagra1Though it does depend on the questions., less politically driven fear-baiting, and (generally) better spelling. That said, it’s been several years since I’ve done one of these. On top of that, one of the writers/bloggers that I respect the most in the world happened to be the one who nominated me, so I’m going to take the time to answer the questions.

First, let’s take a look at the rules of this game.

  1. Acknowledge the blog who nominated you.
  2. Answer the 11 questions your nominator asked.
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers.
  4. Ask them 11 questions.
  5. Tell 10 random facts or things about yourself.
  6. Let them know you have nominated them.

I won’t be following rules 3, 4, and 6, mostly because I don’t have 11 blogs I still follow at this point. With that said, if you are a blogger and wish to partake in this exercise, feel free to do so and link back here. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 11 questions from Esoterica.

What is you philosophy on life? Do you adhere to religious texts, philosophical teachings or a personal code of ethics?

My philosophy is loosely based on a combination of three ideas.

This philosophy is a relatively recent development (in the last 3 years or so), so it’s something I’m still working on actively living out. That said, I feel like adopting these ideas have helped me to be a better person.

What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

I recognize that it’s absurd and odd, but I really love the combination of childhood imaginative games and Formula 1 style commentary that’s found in the sand marble rally races on Jelle’s Marble Runs. Their Marblympics are good too2Go Limers!, but the marble racing is much more entertaining to me.

If you were to combine two of your top interests to create a brand new career, what would that job be?

Wait. I get to be a professional video game fiction writer? Isn’t that just fan fiction for profit?

If you were one of the planets in our solar system, which one would you be and why?

Neptune. I feel like it’s an often forgotten planet, particularly since the two planets3I recognize Pluto isn’t a planet, but just finish reading the sentence. surrounding it are so notable, what with Pluto’s demotion from planet status and Uranus being Uranus. That said, Neptune is one of the few outer planets that we can observe semblances of weather on, which is really amazing considering how far away it is. It’s also a terribly cold place, and while I clearly wouldn’t be able to survive temperatures of 55K4Around -218 C or -361 F. like are present on Neptune, I do enjoy the colder places on Earth. Due to all that, I think I’d be Neptune.

What is the most bizarre or unusual food you’ve ever tried? What did you think of it?

I feel like this is a tie between two things. The first was the squid ink pasta I had while I was in the Philippines a few years back. It was fine tasting, though I got sick nearly immediately after, so I don’t exactly put it high on my list of foods I’d like to eat. The other thing that fits this bill was the time I had hamburger with peanut butter on it. I feel like most people wouldn’t find this all that bizarre, but the protein overload was surprisingly good.

In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?

This video by John Green on personhood genuinely changed the way I view humanity on so many levels. Just watch it. Humans, no matter who they are, are complex individuals.

What is your favorite blog post that you’ve written?

Soma, one of the short stories that eventually made its way into my book, An Epilogue to Innocence, was originally a blog post and is probably the best single sitting post I’ve ever written. My favorite non-short story post I’ve written is my thoughts on Pokemon Go and how nerd culture is — and isn’t5Oddly enough, I had an interaction the other day where I was looked down upon because I play Pokemon Go. — being accepted as part of mainstream culture. That said, I think my favorite post I’ve ever written is a short story I wrote early last year called Awaiting Assessment. It was a story that got submitted to multiple different contests and wasn’t accepted. That said, I really like how it turned out in spite of that.

When you think of the word successful, who is the first person that comes to mind and why?

Jen Glantz comes to mind. I remember when we traded guest posts on our blogs 5-6 years ago. She’s gone on to have A TON of success.

If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say and why?

“University education deserves to be a basic human right. Everywhere.”

I understand that college is not for everyone. I get that not everyone has a great experience with college. I’m fully aware that the United States has a massive student loan debt crisis that is crippling the country’s economy and is particularly harming the millennial generation and younger. With all that said, if it were not for my university education, I would not be the person I am today on so many levels. I would not have the same level of financial or career success that I currently do. I would not be as caring and open-minded toward others as I am. I routinely hear people say something to the effect of “why even bother going to college when you can learn so much online?”. And yes, learning is critical. But a university education provides so much more than just book smarts. I cannot recommend it highly enough. And the best way to provide that opportunity to everyone is to treat it like a basic human right.

What is your all-time favorite book?

For the longest time, this was “1984” by George Orwell. That said, over the past couple of years, I’ve watched Orwellian realities become more and more common, making this book hit a little too close to home. It’s still one of my favorite books, and I can objectively say that “1984” is objectively one of the best books ever written. I think that “Feed” by M.T. Anderson has supplanted it on the top of my list.

What is something everyone else seems to love, but you can’t stand?

Ranch dressing. I grew up with countless people who poured ranch on their pizza like it was milk on cereal. But it’s disgusting. Sour cream and mayonnaise provide a similarly visceral reaction on my part, however other people’s love for those two items was never quite as in my face6My mom has a huge love for sour cream and was quite vocal about it in my childhood. But she’s the only person I know like that. as ranch dressing was from middle school through college.

Mid-Month Short Story Challenge #11

We’re semi-permanently in double digits for these prompts. That’s exciting. If you’re into numbers and that sort of thing. Not that I would ever have a thing for numbers.

I actually wrote this prompt before prompt #9 came out, but I rearranged some of the prompts for various reasons, meaning this one fell out of the first ten. That said, it’s a prompt I’m excited about. This will become clear for reasons you’ll (hopefully) see below.

Your prompt is for this month below. Your story should be posted on July 1, 2018. Be sure to link back to this post so I can see your story and share.

  • Suggested number of words: 1000-2000 words
  • Seven words to work into your story: Waddle, impetus, serene, porcelain, terror, young, positions
  • Genre: Documentary/research paper style. Exactly how you achieve this is up to you.
  • Rating/Content/Perspective Limitation: No limitations
  • Topic: Mundane first-world problems explained to an alien

It’s Over Meow

This post is about the worst — and best — job I’ve ever had.

Two thousand, three hundred and twenty-two days is a long time for anything. According to snarky non-millennials on Twitter, that’s an eternity for a millennial to keep a job for. Apparently we’re a generation prone to job hopping, despite the data proving out otherwise. Yet the perception still remains.

For me, however, those 2,322 days is a long time. It’s six years, four months, and ten days, which is…

  • Longer than every relationship I’ve had save for one
  • Nearly double the amount of time I spent on my undergrad and graduate degrees combined
  • Almost three years longer than the next longest job tenure I’ve had…and…
  • Just under four years longer than the next longest full-time job tenure I’ve had

To me, it was an eternity. I don’t mean that as a bad thing either. It was just a really long time to be in the same place.

In October 2011, I was in the first group of people let go in the few months before my then-employer closed its doors. I applied to tens of jobs daily. I didn’t care what kind of job I got. I just wanted to pay my rent and my student loans. In what was a short, but frustrating, job search, I went on somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty interviews before landing a job as a temp1I was on a 90-day contract. This period is one of the most frustrating parts of my employment ever, as my now-former employer refused to count it toward my job tenure, despite the fact that I was doing work for them (not to mention being promoted nearly as soon as the temp period ended). doing front-line customer service and data entry for a technology company. It was a long, though not unmanageable, drive for low, though not terribly low2This statement is mostly reflective of my temp period, however it did three promotions to get back to the pay I was making at my previous employer., pay. But it was a job, which was exactly what I needed.

Over time, my role evolved from being a customer service professional into a trainer, manager, and instructional designer (depending on when we’re talking about). I helped bring on numerous folks into our local office, watched many people — both locally and remote — grow and develop thanks to training programs I designed, and proudly saw numerous folks I helped mentor move up into positions within the company with more responsibility and visibility. For the first four years or so I was there, I genuinely enjoyed my job. I could comfortably say it was the best job I’ve ever had.

There were three main reasons the best job I ever had became the worst job I ever had. The two reasons that I felt the most regularly weren’t even the most major reason to occur3We’ll get to that one in a minute.. It started with being overworked. While there was never anything formal said about this, it felt at times like there was an unwritten expectation that if you were a salaried employee, you should work from home throughout the week in addition to your time on the clock. Though I’m sure the thought process behind this was “in case of emergency only”, I’ve always subscribed to the theory that if there’s still work to be done, you keep working on it. As a result, most of my six years with the company featured my forty hour weeks looking much more like fifty, sixty, or (in rare cases) eighty hour weeks. Though this did improve slightly in my last two years with the company, by the start of year four, I was getting burnt out.

In addition to getting burnt out, I often felt like I wasn’t getting the recognition I deserved for doing my job well. And I was doing my job very well, as I always graded out in the highest grade for my position. But I didn’t want more money. Don’t get me wrong, getting a raise, a bonus, or some kind of additional stipend is wonderful and exceptionally helpful. But when you’re a one person department for four years, the best way to show that department that they’re doing a great job is to help them grow. It was a promise I heard year after year. It’s also a promise that never came. Couple that with the fact that I had to watch someone else get honored for projects I created, designed, and (in many cases) ran, and I felt like my work didn’t matter.

All of those things were bad enough by themselves. Then, a year after the company I worked for was bought, we got told our office was shutting down.

While the employees in our office were (mostly) given a good bit of time to search for a new job while keeping their current one4This was incredibly kind of our new parent company. The fact that they kept telling us how generous it was of them that they were doing this felt like a mocking statement, however., it still felt like the end of something special. Our main office closed down in October of last year, causing most of the remaining employees to move to a temporary office space. I was one of the last people in the building at the main office, allowing me to sneak upstairs to where I had started my career as a temp in early 2012.

Though my off-centered picture was necessitated by boxes that had been moved upstairs late that afternoon, it was a surreal moment to see the place I’d been to every day for (then) almost six years so empty. My very first desk was the one directly across from the empty desk on the left5Not the one with the chair. The one further back as if you’re moving away from the camera.. My last one (in this building) was a closet-like office where I could hear every toilet flush in the building thanks to the pipes running through the wall in front of me. It felt somewhat like leaving a home I actually liked, even if I no longer enjoyed the job itself.

Between October of last year and April of this year, the vast majority of people left the office. Some left because they found a new job. Others were there until their company-designated last day. But by the second week of April, I was able to take a similar picture of our new space, though with much crappier sight-lines due to five-foot-tall cubicle walls.

I had to stand on top of a desk to take that picture. It was a lot more work by the end…both to take that second picture and to come to work each day.

In six years, between a few moves my wife and I made as well as the temporary office move, my commute length had more than doubled. I had lost the boss who I truly feel was the best boss I ever had. The team that I had developed, nurtured, and watched grow, was mostly gone from the company6A small number of them were fortunate enough to be able to relocate to Chicago for new jobs there.. Meanwhile, I found myself sitting in my car crying against my steering wheel at 7 in the morning most days because I didn’t want to go in. It was, by that point, the worst job I’d ever had.

I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that the job was either the best or worst I’ve had. At times, it was both. There were even days where it felt like both of those things at various points in the same day. But it was time for a change. My mind needed it more than anything else (as evidenced from my post a couple of weeks ago).

I would love to say I left when there was no more work left to do, in keeping with my own mantra. That definitely wasn’t the case. There’s more work to do than ever. But I left when I reached the point where there was nothing left I could do while also remaining sane.

Despite that feeling, I can also recognize that I grew so much while I was there. I kept up with a job that felt like constant pressure for more than six years. I made some friends and got to watch some people grow into exceptional employees and people. It was just time to turn off the lights and leave.

I Would Like Your Support, Please

If you follow me on social media, you might have noticed garbage cryptic images like this one going up over the last couple of weeks.

So, fun fact. I’m absolutely terrible at marketing. And graphic design. And social media. And really any of the logical things that a blogger, writer, or author needs to succeed within the modern landscape. And even though I’ve been fortunate enough to make a little money1And I do mean a little. Even when taking into account the money the book has made that has gone to charity, I believe I’m under $100 gross profits still. off of my book, I’d like to be able to do more with my creative work than I’m currently doing.

It’s not like I’m doing nothing creatively either. I have this blog. I have my book. I have a second book I’m working on2Said second book still has a ways to go. I’m hoping to have the first draft done by Q4 of this year in an effort for beta readers to look at it in early 2019. We’ll see though.. I have a sports podcast3And am still trying to work out an idea I have for a second podcast (non-sports).. I even have an editing service that is, at least recently, getting a lot more traction than I would have expected.

That said, I do all of this aside from the editing service for free. Doing all of that work, creative or otherwise, for free, only leads to that work being looked at as a hobby and nothing more. That’s not what I want. I want to be successful in the creative work I do, whatever that may be. I love the creative work I’ve been able to put together over time. The act of putting that work together is far more enjoyable than any job I’ve ever had. That said, because it doesn’t make me much money, it’s hard for me to eschew my normal, adult responsibilities in favor of doing something I love.

I would like you, dear reader, to help me to start the process of changing that.

On July 2, 2018, I will be launching a personal Patreon to help fund my writing and other projects. For those of you unfamiliar with the service, Patreon allows individuals to give money to support artists and creators they love. Like me. I’m lovable. Like a kitten with tiny, sharp kitten claws. You can pledge money each month to support those creators and then, if the creator so chooses, you can get rewards from them. The video below from Patron explains how what they do works a little more.

I’ll have a more formal announcement about rewards and specifics around those tiers when the July 2nd launch happens. That said, here’s some of the rewards I’m planning on.

  • A quarterly Q&A where patrons can submit questions
  • Another special Q&A once I hit a certain number of patrons
  • Signed digital pictures of not me4I swear I’ll explain this more once the page launches.
  • A monthly Patreon-exclusive blog post
  • A monthly Patreon-exclusive podcast5This will likely be a short podcast.

While I’ll reveal the tiers and what not at the time of launch, know that all of the launch rewards will be for pledges of $10 a month or less. That’s right. For less than the cost of a Chipotle burrito, chips and salsa, and a non-water drink, you can help me to be able to put more time, energy, and creativity into the work I love to do. I’m not making the pledge amounts very high each month because I don’t think it’s fair to ask a lot of people. That said, I promise every little bit will help.

There’ll be a post going up on July 2nd where I’ll recap all the specifics of the rewards and be all like “Hey! You! Support me!”. That said, until then, if you’d be so kind as to spread the word and (hopefully) get people interested in supporting me, that would be lovely. Also, if you have ideas for future rewards, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

Carroll and Carroll

This post is a response to May 2018’s mid-month short story challenge. Click on the link in the previous sentence to read the prompt, share your story, and read those written by others.


“There should be a reservation for two under Carroll down for 7pm,” said Troy.

The maitre d’ scanned through the book at the host’s stand, his eyes darting back and forth across the scribbles on the page.

“Ah yes,” the maitre d’ said, “I see it right here. Good evening Monsieur Carroll.”

“Good evening,” replied Troy. “Is Gustav around? He usually waits on me whenever I have dinner here.”

“I’m so sorry. Gustav won’t be in for a few weeks.”

“Is everything alright?”

“He’s fine. I believe he’s home taking care of family. His daughter got hurt by an escaped kangaroo at the zoo last week.”

“I didn’t realize that was here!” Troy exclaimed. “If you talk with him, please let him know that I’m happy to help him out however we can. My firm has some fantastic injury attorneys if he’s in need of one.”

“I’ll be sure to do so, Monsieur Carroll,” replied the maitre d’. “Please, let me take you to your seat.”

Troy followed the well-dressed host to a white linen cloth-covered table about two-thirds of the way back in the restaurant’s main room. The maitre d’ pulled out a chair, offering Troy to sit down.

“Thank you,” said Troy. “My other party should be here soon. If you could bring them back when they arrive, I’d greatly appreciate it.”

“But of course.”

Troy had been coming to this restaurant for years. His father had helped him to make reservations here for a pre-prom dinner with friends back in high school. Since graduating college and joining his uncle’s law firm, Troy had brought countless clients and dates here. Most of the client dinners were successful — he wouldn’t have worked his way up to being a partner without at least some positive meals. That said, the dates were hit and miss.

He was hopeful for tonight though. It was a blind date, yes, but Troy trusted the instincts of his assistant, Monique. If Monique said someone was a good person, they nearly always were. Her faith in this date gave Troy confidence. He needed it. It had been months since he’d had anyone to cuddle up with, let alone have a serious relationship with.

After a few minutes, the host led a tall man in a dark grey suit back to the table.

“Monsieur Carroll,” the maitre d’ said, “your guest has arrived.”

“Thank you very much,” replied Troy as he stuck out his hand to shake. “Troy Carroll. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“Asher Wetzel,” the man in the dark grey suit mumbled back in a gravelly voice.

Troy and Asher sat down at the table and began looking at their menus. A waiter came by and began filling their water glasses.

“If you’re looking for something off menu,” said the waiter, “the chef’s appetizer for the night is honeydew chunks with a sweet and spicy lime drizzle. The soup of the day is chicken and escarole. The entrée of the is our Friday standard, Matzetti’s famous prime rib with glazed carrots, grilled asparagus, and a potato puree. And, if the mind or the body desires dessert, we have freshly made carrot cake or tiramisu. Might I bring you two some wine?”

“I’m fine with water,” Asher quickly responded.

“Are you sure?” asked Troy. “It’s on me.”

“I’m sure,” he replied.

“Just leave us water for now,” continued Troy. “Perhaps we’ll decide on some wine once we’ve decided on food.”

“Very good, sir,” replied the freckled waiter as he turned on his heels and walked away.

Asher picked up his menu and held it closer to his eyes. Troy gave him a few moments to review the menu before breaking the silence.

“Monique has told me that you’re quite the exciting person.”

“She said that, did she?” retorted Asher.

“Indeed,” Troy replied. “She said you’re the regional vice president of sales for your co…”

“Vice president,” Asher interjected. “No regional. It can’t be regional when your region is the entire world. Why have the extra words at that point?”

“I…I guess that would make sense. That’s pretty exciting.”

Asher flashed a small smile towards Troy and went back to looking at his menu. In his suit pocket, Troy felt his phone buzz. Likely Monique checking in on how the date was going, Troy figured.

“So,” continued Troy, “what do you do for fun?”

Asher looked up from his menu, his face covered in a perplexed and frustrated look.

“Do you run all of your business meetings like this?”

“Excuse me?”

“There’s a reputation to the firm name Carroll, Carroll, Holmes, and Trumbull,” said Asher. “If you need a shrewd, hard-ass lawyer to protect you or your company from an untimely downfall, that’s how you contact. It doesn’t matter why, they’ll take care of you. That’s what everyone told me. Yet here you are cozying up to me like two teens at a slumber party.”

“I…”

“I’m going to step away and use the restroom. Either have your shit together when I get back or I’ll become someone else’s client.”

Asher got up from the table and walked across the dining hall toward the corridor that housed the restrooms. Once he was out of sight, Troy grabbed his phone from out of his pocket and peeked at the screen. Sure enough, Monique had sent a simple ‘good luck’ just a few moments prior. Troy quickly unlocked his phone and dialed his assistant.

“Hey!” Monique shouted excitedly on the other end of the line. “Aren’t you on your date?”

“I am,” replied Troy.

“Then why are you calling me?”

“Because he doesn’t seem to think this is a date.”

“What?”

“Asher. He thinks this is a client mee…”

“Ohhhhhhhh fuck.”

“What?”

“Oh fuck,” repeated Monique. “Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Oh fuck.”

“Got it. There’s a lot of fuckery going on,” Troy stated. “Care to let me in on it?”

“You and your uncle both had things at 7pm tonight. Your date is supposed to be with a guy named Paul.”

“And I’m going to guess Asher is my uncle’s business meeting?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, this is easy enough to fix,” said Troy. “Is Uncle Rick here?”

“He should be,” answered Monique. “Do you see him?”

Troy stood up from his chair and scanned the room. He knew his uncle’s face anywhere, what with having seen it on a near-daily basis for the past forty years. Yet picking out one bald white guy in a suit in a sea of bald white guys in suits wasn’t nearly as easy as he expected it to be. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Asher making his way back from the restroom.

“I’m not seeing him,” Troy said, his rate of speech growing faster as he began to panic. “What’s Paul look like.”

“Taller guy.”

“Everyone’s sitting, Monique.”

“Right. Latino, I think? Curly black hair. Probably the only non-staff member there under 40.”

Troy scanned the room and quickly noticed Paul, as well as his uncle.

“Found them.”

“Good!” Monique replied. “Now just go over and explain the mi…”

“And now they’re kissing.”

“Wait what?”

“They’re kissing.”

“I…I’m sorry. I’ll sort this out.”

“What should I do about Asher?” asked Troy.

“Tell him there was a mix up and that he was supposed to meet with your uncle? Offer to comp his dinner and tell him that we’ll sort it out on Monday.”

“And how do I get the image of my uncle making out with someone thirty years his junior out of my head?”

“I’ll send you some kangaroo mating films,” deadpanned Monique.

“I’m not sure that’s an improvement. I need to go.”

“Okay bye.”

Troy hung up his call and watched as Asher sat down at the table across from him.

“Are we ready to talk business?” asked Asher.

“Yes,” replied Troy. “Well, no. I’m very sorry, there’s been a mistake.”

“How so?” asked Asher as he raised his water glass to his lips, the small ice cubes floating within it clanging against the walls of the vessel.

“I’m one of the Carrolls of Carroll, Carroll, Holmes, and Trumbull. I’m Troy Carroll. I just called my assistant and it sounds like you were supposed to meet with my uncle, Richard Carroll.”

“That would make a lot more sense. So where is he?”

“He wasn’t able to make it,” replied Troy.

“So they sent you in his stead?”

“No. I was here waiting on my date. A blind date. That I wasn’t given a name for.”

Asher sat his glass down and began to chuckle to himself. After a few moments, his light chortle grew to a hearty, full-bellied laughed that nearly brought Asher to tears. He did his best to regain his composure and talk.

“Oh, that’s so good,” Asher said between breaths. “My daughter is prophetic about these kinds of things.”

“I’m sorry,” replied Troy. “I don’t follow.”

“Every time she sees me in a suit, she asks me if I’m bringing her home a new mommy or daddy.”

“Did something happen to your wife?”

“No, my wife’s usually in the room when she says it. I just have a snarky grad student for a daughter.”

Asher lifted the water glass to his lips and downed the remainder of the drink before setting the glass back on the table.

“Listen,” said Asher, “I’m sorry to interrupt your date. Have your uncle give me a call on Monday.”

“Would you like some dinner?” replied Troy. “I’m terribly sorry for the confusion. It’s the least I can do.”

“I’m going to get a greasy hamburger on the way home. It sounds better than chicken and escargot or whatever the soup was. Good luck on your date.”

“Thanks.”

Asher shook Troy hand, then walked toward the exit of the restaurant. Troy reached into his pocket and grabbed his phone, hoping to tell Monique that everything was alright. As he did so, he felt a hand touch him on the shoulder. He turned to see the curly haired man who had been sitting with his uncle a few minutes prior standing next to him.

“Hi,” he said, “I’m Paul. If you’re half as fun as Monique has said you are, this will be a great evening.”