I was being contacted (apparently a lot) by the alumni association to update my info so that they could publish a directory of people’s whereabouts. Since my only intention was to find a couple of long-lost friends, I decided to give them a call to update my info.
The phone was answered by a woman and the interview, of sorts, went at first, as I expected. Has your name changed since graduating, where do you live, etc…
Then she asked, “What is your profession and title?”
Something within me reared up and whinnied. The question sounded like it was masked and really saying, “How successful have you gotten?”
“I’m a freelancer,” I replied.
“A freelancer?” she asked. I might have just said ‘bounty hunter’ or ‘animal proctologist’ and I’m betting she would have understood better and probably not have answered with as much disdain. I apparently threw her a response she wasn’t really expecting.
“What kind of freelancer?” she asked.
“Content,” I replied.
“Content?” she asked. By this time, I was quite aware it was a complete mistake to have called.
“How long have you had this position?”
Here we go.
“About a year.”
Even though there was no video, I could see the look on her face. 17 years after graduation and this is where you are at?
By this time, I was downright flippant. I happily gave her information I knew wouldn’t be correct within a year’s time and then, she pitched the alum book “so that you can see what other classmates have been up to.” Really? That sounds like trying to one-up someone else. She continued by describing this hardcover book that would be a beautiful addition to a mantelpiece. Or did she say fireplace?
“Would that be of interest to you?” she asked, as she finalized her pitch.
“I couldn’t be bothered,” I remarked.
She tried again, trying to pitch a paperback edition.
“Nah, I kept in contact with all the people I want to be in contact with.”
She mentioned that should I change my mind, I had until November to order. In one ear and out the other.
“Would you like to be a mentor to a current student?”
As much as I like assessing a situation and giving advice, I was pretty tired of this woman, by this time. And as I thought more about it, I will be a student myself soon. And in that future, I think my time is better spent with my own classmates.
Maybe I’m being too hard and difficult. Maybe I should give back. But as I listened to this woman, I realized the necessity many people had to finding that one lovely moment in life, which was normally encapsulated in high school or college. What happened to the continuation of creating those moments? I graduated in the 90s, about the time when I came to Mexico. I plan to go back to California, not to regress, but to pick up where I left off and progress forward.
It dawned upon me then how people define themselves by one activity and by means of that classification, you are gauged. It has been something I have always repelled, especially in Mexico City, when all I was to those on the street was what I looked like and not the content of my character. I could not readily accept being defined by those terms, by any stretch of the imagination. Because although my past is the firm foundation upon which my character and personality were built, I have long since placed many a brick on top and have cities flourishing on that very plot of land.
I tell you I am a freelancer but you will not know that I am a free spirit, a law unto myself, a celebrity of sorts or a dreamer. You will not have known I write screenplays, swam with sharks and sail fish, do triathlons, dream of rally cross racing, head-bang to Zeppelin while I work or want tattoos. Instead, your perception of me will be reduced to a very remote and obscure part of my life called “work.”
I’m not a rebel. And I am also neither a liar nor a moron.
Tim Minchin with a brilliant commencement speech.