Saturday, March 19, 2016

On Rejection

I recently saw a very interesting tweet by writer Monica Castillo:


As a writer, I can definitely relate. As a human being, I can relate even more.

Last year, during my incredibly arduous job hunt, I applied to over 150 jobs. Some I felt I was extremely qualified for. Some I felt I was moderately qualified for. Some I took a chance. Out of those 150, I had a few interviews and few call-backs. But not one offered me a full-time job.

When it was all said and done, my 15 years of work experience and 1.5 master's degrees had to settle for a $15/hr internship. Great opportunity and great people, but I was a bit bitter at being only recognized as an intern.

One year prior to my job hunt, I shopped around the novel I wrote while I was in Afghanistan. I pitched the book to agents and publishers. I looked up their profiles, wrote personalized pitch letters, and waited for months. Of the 40 or so agents and publishers I emailed letters to, I received four rejection letters. I got nothing from the other 36.

I knew publishing was going to be tough, but to not receive any interest out of 40 letters was discouraging. I thought at least one person would want to read the first few chapters. I was proud of my work and still want to get it published. After I finish my MBA I intend on re-engaging the novel and write creatively again.

Since my first crush in 8th grade, I've had my failures with the opposite sex. I once read that guys should think about lions in regards to talking to women. According to biology, lions only catch 1 of 20 gazelles they chase. They don't catch every gazelle. Likewise, every guy has his failures. But I was the guy who wrote an editorial in his college newspaper about carrying an unused condom in his wallet for four years. (Not going to mention how true that editorial was.)

(Come to think about it, I am glad it was unused. Because carrying a used condom in my wallet would have been absolutely disgusting. But I digress.)

The bottom lines is, like most guys, I've had my share of rejection with women. Women I liked who were not interested in me, women who were interested but not in a dating way, and women who were interested in me and I was interested in them, but the timing wasn't right. I'd suspect I'm not too out of the norm.

Interesting aside: while I was job hunting over the last few years, I've kept dating to a minimum. The emotional toll of the job hunt was too much. I didn't think adding any social rejection on top of professional rejection was a good idea.

But when you tally all these rejections up, especially over the last few years, there is a lot of failure. I've been reading a lot about creativity recently. Most "experts" say you have to know how to fail. Failure is part of the effort. Inventors, artists, and writers always learn from their failures. They learn what to do, hone their craft, and attempt again, smarter and more dedicated.

After several hundred rejections, I've become almost immune to it. The best part about having a heaping hoard of rejections in the past is when people try to coddle me through a rejection or assume I am upset about a situation. During those times, I just shrug. I'm more focused on finding what will work and learning from my effort instead of dwelling on what went wrong.

Rejection is a diminishing bump in the road. A crawling baby struggles with a bump in the road because it is not coordinated enough to navigate the landscape. To a baby, the bump seems huge. An adult runner leaps over the bump in the road without losing their stride. Even if the bump makes them lose stride momentarily, in two or three steps they are running at full speed again.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A conversation with Mabili about Kenny K

As part of my on-going project to chronicle the life of Tampa’s first hip-hop DJ, I’ve been interviewing many people in the Tampa Bay area. Although at first, I was interviewing people via audio recording, I figured video might be a better medium to share.

This my second video conversation on the subject of Kenny K. I had the opportunity to chat with long-time radio personality Mabili of WMNF 88.5FM. Mabili has been a good friend for a while and has been key in helping me align other interviews.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Explaining Leia's hug of Rey through PTSD and General George Patton

The first time I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens I walked out of the theater excited, happy, but also confused. The whole movie was great, I thought, except for one scene. One scene didn't fit.

"The hug"

After Chewbacca, Rey, and Finn returned from Starkiller Base (sans Han Solo), Chewbacca helped with Finn, but Rey stood beside the Millenium Falcon. From the bystanders awaiting the ship's return emerged General Leia Organa. Leia walked past Chewbacca and embraced Rey.

At first this didn't make sense. Chewbacca and Han Solo had been friends for over 40 years, Leia was Han's former lover, Chewie and Leia have a history as friends, Leia knew Han was killed, so why did they not mourn together immediately?

The scene bothered me until the second time I saw The Force Awakens. Then I looked at the scene from a totally different angle.

On two separate dates in August 1943, General George S. Patton, one of the most decorated and esteemed generals in American history encountered two US military members facing "shell-shock", or as we call it today "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder". These two young soldiers were in medical treatment centers despite not having any physical injuries. When General Patton asked them what was wrong, both answered that they couldn't fight any more. As a battle hardened officer commanding troops during a World War, Patton refused to accept that answer. In both incidences, Patton slapped the soldier, yelled at him, and in the second incident, threatened to shoot him if he didn't rejoin his unit. From the History Channel:

From what we know about Rey, before joining Finn and BB-8, she hadn't been off Jakku since arriving as a child. She hadn't been shot at, hadn't had to fight a Sith knight, never handled a lightsaber, and never been involved in the detonation of a planet. And it is very possible she had never seen anyone close to her killed and had another friend near death.

For Chewbaccca, the only thing new was the death of Han. He was an old hand at battle, having experienced war and its tragedies since the days of the Clone Wars.

After they landed on D'Qar, emotion probably hit Rey like a brick wall. Gone was the adrenaline of combat. Like the soldiers under Patton, Rey was tired, hurt, and confused.

Like a great military officer should, General Organa saw past her friends and saw someone standing by herself, someone she did not recognize (although there may be some inferred Force bonding). Most importantly, General Organa saw someone who might be suffering from the first symptoms of PTSD.

And the general hugged the young soldier.

Of course there was time for Leia and Chewbacca to mourn, and I'm sure they did. I'm also sure Luke felt Han's death from where he was. And I'm sure Leia and Luke will have a moment to mourn, whether on screen or in a backstory.

But at that immediate moment, it was Rey who needed support more than anyone else.

JJ Abrams shouldn't apologize for that scene. It wasn't "a mistake". From a military perspective, it was exactly what should have happened.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Conversation with Paradox about Kenny K

As part of my on-going project to chronicle the life of Tampa's first hip-hop DJ, I've been interviewing many of the veteran performers in the Tampa Bay area. Although at first, I was interviewing people via audio recording, I figured video might be a better medium to share.

This my first video conversation on the subject of Kenny K. I had the opportunity to chat with long-time hip-hop performer Paradox aka Spike La Rock. Spike has been a good friend for a while and has been key in helping me align other interviews.