Just For You
On my first week as a freshman in college I marched up to the editor of the school newspaper and said I wanted to write for him. At that time I thought I would like to be a journalist, something writing for a college newspaper would soon cure me of. Still, once on staff I found I liked Adam, the editor, a senior with earnest liberal politics, and that I liked hanging around the scruffy, smoke-filled newspaper office with the other would-be journalists, ambitious young men and women who believed they were making a difference.
One of the people who sometimes came around was Tim. I’d heard of Tim before I met him. Kathy, my first and only real friend at school, explained to me that Tim was a genius and that he knew he was genius, which made him a little annoying but still no less a genius. I was skeptical of her assessment. I did not believe I had ever met a genius. I was sure I could recognize one, as they would be conspicuously different from all the non-geniuses. Also, I was still trying to figure out if I was one. I sometimes felt conspicuously different, an awareness that on most days did not please me at all – so the whole genius thing was still very much under review.
The first time I met Tim he had come to pitch – nay, describe – an article he was going to write for Adam. He was at once stocky and sprite-like, appearing in the doorway like an excited vagabond, a messenger bag slung over one shoulder and dressed in his tattered Keds, rumpled khakis held in place with blue suspenders, and sporting a brown fedora, which at that time I had only ever seen on old men.
“The piece is going to be great,” he told Adam, his head bobbing in a subtle, continues nod. It was hypnotic, his nodding. Watching him, I felt compelled already to agree with whatever he was saying.
“Oh, yeah?” said Adam. “What’s it about?”
Tim hopped up onto the old couch Adam kept by his desk and began bouncing up and down on the cushion like a gymnast warming up for his trampoline routine. “The L. A. Raiders and heroine addiction.”
Adam pursed his lips while Tim kept bouncing. “Yeah, okay. Fifteen hundred words. And easy on the couch, okay?”
With one last bounce Tim launched off the couch and out of the office. Adam shook his head and returned to his desk, where a mountain of unfinished editing awaited him. I had intended to introduce myself to Tim, but the couch-bouncing had thrown me off. On the one hand I thought, “Get the hell off of the couch,” while on the other, “I should probably bounce on more couches. Why don’t I ever bounce on a couch?”
I read the piece when it came out. It was really good, though I found myself both admiring and disagreeing with it. I then read my own piece, a report on a small fire at one of the dorms, which had bored me even as I wrote it. I threw the paper aside when I finished it. It was exhausting trying to assess oneself through the lens of other people. You go to college to learn who you are, but I felt like I was learning mostly who I wasn’t.
I collapsed on my little bed in my little dorm room and began thinking about the girl I knew who had moved to Seattle, and my good friends who were still in Providence, and then, because I was starting to feel better, nothing at all. This was my favorite moment while drifting in thought – the alive, curious, open, stillness into which something just for me would soon arrive.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual coaching and group workshops.
Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write With Confidence.
You can find William at: williamkenower.com