Friday, July 21, 2017

When anxiety catches up to the career dabbler

What do you do when you feel like all you've done hasn't gotten you to where you want to be?

That's a tough question. But I feel it is applicable to me right now. Where I am is in an unstable career pattern of seven jobs in seven years, and only one (the latest) for long than seven months. And this job ends at the end of the year, and is only part-time with no benefits and lower pay than I would like. But I took it because I needed something.

That's part of the problem.

I've taken every job I have ever had because I needed something. I got a job at McDonalds because I need to pay for a car. I joined the Army because I couldn't afford college and it seemed like a good idea. I moved to Tampa to take a job at on a military base because I needed a job and I had the qualifications. I went to Afghanistan because I couldn't find anything stateside and I was running out of money.

On and on it goes.

Years ago, I had a friend who is a doctor. She knew she wanted to be a doctor since she was five years old. Everything she did was in that direction. I find that impressive and incredible. Also completely foreign.

I'm not saying everyone should know what they want to do for the rest of their lives when they are in Kindergarten. That's super rare. But to be a mid-career professional with no career direction, but with diplomas and acclaim and a resume full of accomplishments is equally odd. At least I think it is.

Now that I am settled in my living situation and it has been seven months since my MBA graduation, I have the time now to take stock in what is important to me. What is it that I want? What is it that will make me happy? Is it in marketing? Is it in administration? Is it in something else? Is it trying to start my own business? Is what makes me happy here in Tampa?

I have determined I need responsibility. I need to be responsible for something. I need to be The Guy in charge of something people want. Someone someone goes to when they need something.

This is even lacking in my personal life.

Maybe I need a dog.

I would say maybe I need to have kids, but that brings up a whole other can of worms that is also probably affected by my lack of career focus.

It is incredibly hard to be motivated to date when you can't sell stability. My mind is too focused on the future than on trying to build a strong present relationship.

"This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away, to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was, hmm? What he was doing. Hmm. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things." - Yoda

Having your mind on the future is ok to a point, but constantly re-evaluating your five year plan isn't the most stable way to go. Bringing back the Yoda quote, once Luke Skywalker committed, he became the most sought after Jedi in the galaxy.

My problem is that I am not confident in where I am. I am Luke Sywalker in the beginning of Empire Strikes Back - a guy who did some awesome stuff, but hasn't figured out where he fits in the overall picture. Like Luke, I am confident in what I have done, definitely. I am confident that I will do something in the future. But right now is a bit unstable. That's not easy to sell to a member of the opposite sex, especially combined with the lack of being responsible for anything - not even a dog.

So I have to find focus. I have to find a direction and run that way. If that means shedding non-productive ventures, so be it. I'll still have my fun and still work on creative projects, but the focus needs to be on building a base, the roots of a strong tree that I can hinge every other career decision on. Without that strong career base, my future will be blowing in the wind.

A few days ago, I read an article in Fast Company entitled "The Most Common Career Advice that Graduates Should Ignore (and what to do instead)". Instead of "Keeping Your Options Open", the article suggests "Commit to Something".

Commitment is tough. Whether in a career or a relationship, you have to decide beforehand what you find important. As I mentioned earlier, some people know what they want in a career very early. Some people also marry their high school sweetheart and stay committed forever. They found what they wanted and stuck with it through thick and thin.

While sticking with jobs hasn't always been an option for me, thanks to contracting, lay offs, and part-time/internships, here are a few things I have decided are important to me:

  • I need to be part of a bigger something. This is why the Tampa Bay Seminole Club is so important to me.

  • I need to be in a fast-pace place where information comes quickly and thinking on my feet is valued.

  • I would like to be somewhere where international issues are discussed.

  • I would like to be somewhere where analysis and possibly pattern recognition is important and valued.

  • I would like to know what is going on behind a headline.
And I want a dog.

Based on these qualifications, I am narrowing my career paths. I am reaching to people in different fields to learn what it is like in that field. Sometimes how I think a field might be is nothing like how it is.

I am also shedding different ideas, even if I am qualified to do something. If I can't see myself doing that job 9-5 for the next three to five years, I will turn it down. That's tough to do when I am still trying to make ends meet. It's like hooking up with someone just because you are lonely or because it's been a while. Both sides have to be honest, or it might end up awkward.

I still have a lot of work to do until I'm where I want to be. I need to be open to still learning and growing. But at the same time, I need to focus on what I want to do, or at least the two or three major options that interest me the most.

I'm a little worried, but a lot excited. Instability can be scary and sometimes I do feel like I am falling behind my peers, but I have to remember, I'm in a lot better shape than I was last year.

Monday, July 17, 2017

My letter to late Mets pitcher Anthony Young

A few weeks ago, former New York Mets pitcher Anthony Young passed away. Several baseball websites discussed his death and career, from Fangraphs and their statistical analysis to Faith and Fear in Flushing and their insightful look at emotional connections to Mets players, times, and spaces.

Anthony Young was unique. He played at the top level of Major League Baseball but held a record no player should ever want - most consecutive losing decisions. Young lost 27 games in a row from 1992 to 1993. His career record was 5-35. Based on that, Anthony Young was one of the worst pitchers in Major League history.

But AY's personality, determination, and grace under the circumstances never showed signs of a loser. Who AY was helped show people that losing in baseball was far too subjective. A player could do well, but throw one misplaced pitch, could be branded a loser.

Baseball, like life, is rarely fair.

Personally, Anthony Young was one of my favorite players in the early 1990s. Not only because he pitched for the Mets and I was a Mets fan, but on a human level, I related to AY.

I was never a born winner. Especially athletically. I was typically on the Little League teams that struggled to win one game a year. For several Little League years, I was a pitcher, and struggled not to get upset when a teammate threw to a wrong base or failed to catch a fly ball. I might not have been an all-star, but I always thought I deserved a little better.

Following my Little League years, I played countless games of pickup baseball on my block. Mostly against my friend from the adjacent subdevelopment. We used a tennis ball, a pitchback for a backstop, and automatics to determine the type of hit - weak groundballs were automatic outs, flyballs past a light pole were a home run. The end of my block was our field and we had a mutual understanding of the ground rules.

There were no fielders and no teammates to point the finger at. I pitched and I hit. If I did neither well, I lost.

I lost often.

(From what I hear, kids today don't play street baseball like this any more. Of course, there is video game addiction, but beside that, kids are told not to pitch as often as I did. Maybe I burnt out too quick. Maybe I could have been a left-handed relief pitcher in the Majors. I guess I will never know.)

My friend and I would play every day all summer. He was stronger and threw harder. I lost at least 50 in a row.

Then, on one lazy summer day, I won. If I remember right, the score was 2 to 1, or maybe 1 to 0. I never scored many runs, but on that day, I had my friend off-balance with a mix of well located average fastballs and decent change-ups. I might have even tried to slip in a bad slider or a forkball.

Regardless of the mix of mediocre offerings, I won. And it made my summer.

With the Mets mired in their own malaise and Anthony Young's win total still stuck on zero, I wrote AY a letter. I told him if could win on the streets of Melbourne, Florida, I was sure his day in the sun in New York City would come eventually.

Being the fan I was, I included an early '90s Topps baseball card and a safe-addressed stamped envelop with my letter. At the end of my letter, I asked AY if he could sign my card and send it back to me. He did.

(Looking back, that seems like an awkward request. Hey, best of luck, I'm rooting for you. Can you sign this card and send it back to me because I sent you best wishes?)

A few weeks after my card arrived, Anthony Young got a win over the Marlins, finally breaking his dubious losing streak. Amidst the voodoo dolls, good luck trinkets, and other knick-knacks AY received from Mets fans with the intent to change his luck, I like to think a letter of encouragement from a fellow struggling pitcher had a small part in helping him remove the zoo from his back.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Wrestling Fan’s Review of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity

Last month, Stageworks Theater in Tampa performed the wrestling themed play "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity". Written by Kristoffer Diaz and locally directed by Karla Hartley, the play told the story of Macedonio Guerra, aka "The Mace", a technically sound wrestler who "does all the heavy lifting" for THE Wrestling.

Disclaimer: I had an indirect role in Stageworks Tampa's production of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. I introduced the cast to local wrestlers who helped them with the nuances of pro wrestling psychology and they facilitated the acquisition of the ring the play was performed in.

Although other local writers saw "Chad Deity" as theater critics (see here and here), I went as a wrestling fan - even wearing my afro wig, as I do to wrestling matches. No matter how much I've watched and talked with wrestlers, I am and will always be just a fan. But that fandom has made me more knowledgeable about wrestling than I am about theater. As a matter of fact, there are many, many, things I am more knowledgeable about than theater. So what follows is, as the title states, a wrestling fan's review.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity takes place in a world that is part-present day WWE and part past-stereotype WWF. While theater fans may not know the difference, for wrestling fans, it means Chad Deity is entirely fiction and the storyline is unrealistic, even for wrestling, which hurts the play's overall message.

But I must digress for now, lest I blow the finish.

While theater fans might feel more comfortable with the social message Diaz was attempting to convey in "Chad Deity", wrestling fans are surely more familiar with the wrestling side of the play, particularly the interaction with the cast. By it's nature, wrestling is highly interactive athletic theater, where athlete action draws crowd reaction which then may drive more athlete action. One of the marks of a good wrestling match is how "in to it" the crowd is.

In "Chad Deity", the theater crowd becomes part of the show. They are told to suspend belief at certain points and cheer and boo as if they are at a wrestling show when the play's action is the wrestling matches. When the cast breaks kayfabe and speaks out of their wrestling character and in the voice of their play character, the audience breaks kayfabe as well - laughing, gasping, or clapping for the words or actions of Macedonio Guerra, and not "The Mace". They act as a typical audience to a performance would.

That dynamic makes The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety very unique. However, it brings to mind situations where wrestling crowds assume another level of fan consciousness. Wrestling crowds can either cheer along with the storyline - cheer the good guy or boo the bad guy - or they cheer the performance the wrestlers are putting on. Personally, I am not a fan of "this is awesome" or "this is wrestling" chants, but many fans feel the need to opine about the overall performance of the match, not the characters or situations in the ring.

While the audience watching The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity plays two roles: wrestling show crowd and play audience, some of the cast members are playing three or more roles. The actors portraying Macedonio Guerra and Vigneshwar Paduar play these characters and then assume the in-ring personas of "The Mace" and "Che Chavez Castro" for Guerra and "VP" and "The Fundamentalist" for Paduar. Their awareness of their wrestling character while in performance character gives the play a very "Tropic Thunder" feel. The performers are a dude playing a dude (Guerra) playing another dude (The Mace) then becoming another dude (Castro).

Thank goodness the play is written well enough to make sense of that.

That brings me back to the end of the play. The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity concludes on a very inconclusive note, at least for a wrestling fan. In the final scene, we are told Macedonio Guerra dumped his heart out to an unseen wrestling crowd through a personal in-ring/in-event promo. After he finishes, crowd favorite Chad Deity enters the ring and powerbombs Guerra. The impression the theater audience gets is that Macedonio was put back in his place and Chad Deity - wrestling hero - would continue to be cheered.

But that doesn't make sense to a wrestling fan. Modern day wrestling fans would react as VP's neophyte girlfriend does: they would assume Deity is now playing the "corporate" heel role, holding down the hopes and dreams of a plucky, talented, aspiring, and honest wrestler. Modern wrestling fans admire honesty and hard work in their good guys. Bad guys cheat, lie, and do what they need to keep power.

In order to succeed in the "Chad Deity" world, The Mace would need to assume the Daniel Bryan role, someone management believes is unfit for the title, but the fans root for. I would be curious what Kristoffer Diaz believes happens in the next wrestling event. While theater fans leave the performance thinking Macedonio Guerra did not create his own story, wrestling fans know wrestling is perpetual, every moment can be incorporated into a storyline, and good eventually defeats evil, no matter what race, creed, or gender the good people are.

Modern fans want fairness to boil to the top of wrestling's scripted reality.

For a wrestling fan, Macedonio Guerra did create  his own story through the sacrifice of VP: The Mace became a face, and he will eventually have his own elaborate entrance. "The Fundamentalist" as a character becomes a prop not for THE Wrestling to reaffirm Chad Deity's All-American greatness, but for The Mace to break the fourth wall a la CM Punk in his famous promo rejecting WWE and Vince McMahon.

The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity isn't a perfect wrestling story. It is not The Wrestler. Chad Deity relies too much on past stereotypes of what wrestling was juxtaposed into the modern appearance of pro wrestling's corporate side while not understanding the social norms of modern professional wrestling. Much of this can be attributed to the fact that The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity was first performed in 2010, and so much of wrestling's progressiveness has occurred in the last five years.

But the performance of The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, when considered in its own alternate reality of wrestling's already alternate reality, is a fun experience. I would highly recommend checking it out if it is performed in your city.