Shadow sleeps at the base of a chair, curled up beneath the coffee table, waiting for my next movement so that she might carefully track me should I decide to visit the kitchen. She is a scavenger, keeping distance and hiding in the shadows, staying true to her name. She uses telepathy to beg. It's quite effective.
I have been on the same page of a job application for almost three hours because this application asked me to describe my volunteer experience. I usually only mention what I did during college, but lately I've been feeling the need to connect with the greatness of the distant pass as opposed to only ever mentioning what I've been doing for the past few years.
A couple weeks ago, after a long day at both jobs, I ended up at The Brass Rail to visit my friend who works as the doorman for every event. The conversations at hand were mostly about relationships, as usual. It was within that mindset that I was suddenly grabbed by a tall stranger, who wrapped his arms around me as quickly as he'd entered. I realized that both he and the two people he'd walked in with were old, old classmates of mine. I hadn't seen two of them since high school, and the other since the fifth grade. One of the first questions they asked me was if I still draw. I scoffed, saying that I didn't. They looked shocked, then asked if I still sculpt. My reaction was similar to the first.
Then I realized that that was something I had abandoned. A skill set that I felt I had moved away from. Physical art production. I suddenly remembered that they had all thought that I was going to become a famous sculptor. A famous illustrator. I remembered their awe. I remembered my last formal art class, taught by a woman who created boring art and sought to change every idea I produced, who either denied or threatened to deny the A+ I rightly earned during each project. I remembered the sudden feeling that emerged in high school that I would never perfect those skills, and that there was no use in following them if I didn't intend to make a career out of it. I remembered the panic-stricken deadline-chasing and last-minute instructor-pleasing in my high school journalism classes that turned me off to the pursuit of journalism. Then I remembered how easy college felt by comparison. I wondered if it felt easier because I was so much more confident in my skills and purpose, or if it was because it really was much easier, and had lulled me into the state of forgetting my obsessive pursuit of perfection.
In the middle of attempting to answer the question about my volunteer experience, I felt compelled to go upstairs and find my senior yearbook, as I couldn't remember that Key Club was called Key Club. I read the list next to my photo aloud to myself:
Rifle Team 9, 10, 11, 12 (Captain 11, 12); Newspaper 10, 11, 12 (Editor-in-Chief 12); Yearbook 10, 11, 12; Key Club 11, 12; National Honor Society 10, 11, 12; World Culture Club 12; Tutoring 12; Mentoring 12; Speech 10, 11; Academic Super Bowl 11, 12; Band 9, 10, 11.
On the next page, in the center of the senior superlatives layout, I contemplated the implications of having been voted "Most Unique," and thought of other ways I might have attempted to pose for that photo. I had worn devil horns over my cascading long hair, shown in a rare down state and enclosing my frame to the waist, wearing a Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness shirt, strapped with my Ibanez Artist guitar and throwing up the sign for metal, my tongue stuck out and obscuring my chin. I was visibly cocky, but I knew that I deserved that superlative. That photo had found me at the point of comfortable seniority. A point at which I was beginning to accept that I was special, that I had earned acknowledgement and entitlement. Next to me, in a separate photo, was the boy they had also voted as Most Unique, contradicting the title in his very presence, and sporting a nondescript "emo" appearance that was appropriately popular at the time.
Here I sit, once again attempting to describe myself. Once again, noting changes, or expanding upon preexisting definitions. All in the hope that someone will find me worthy enough of occupying a position that would still not produce a yearly income above the poverty line. A yearly income that would be double my current.
I've been aware that I have been significantly humbled in the past year by the hiring process. I only realized tonight how drastically more humble I have become since high school.
Shadow is six years old now. I'm almost 18 years older than Shadow.