In Memoriam

Say not in grief, “He is no more,”
but live in thankfulness that he was.
–Hebrew proverb

Oh, sweet paycheck, our time together was so brief. I feel I barely knew you, and yet you gave me as much as you could. That’s the kind of paycheck you were: one of hope, one of spirit and good intentions, yet, like all things, ephemeral.

I remember the first time I saw you. I don’t normally go for blind dates, but when I heard about you, I knew I would love to meet you. And though I expected to see you in my bank account that day, I was surprised at how you fit in so seamlessly. You were just there for me, as though you were always supposed to be—like some cosmic force had intervened, like every decision I’d ever made was leading me toward you.

Oh, paycheck, I was selfish! I know that now. It just all started off so innocently. I needed your help with some light holiday shopping. And you were so resourceful, so helpful and wise. Supportive. Perhaps that’s the one fault you possessed: your inability to tell me no. I was your weakness almost as much as you were mine. But you gave and gave and I took and took, and that’s why you will always be greater than me.

Now that you’re gone, I can’t help but reflect on all the things I could have done better, all the things I could have done for you: did I really need to have sushi for lunch? Was the $10 glass of wine at the restaurant really any better than the $10 bottle I had at home? I would take back the gingerbread latte if I could, dear paycheck. I would if I could!!

A part of me would like to believe that you’re still watching over me, from paycheck heaven, sending me sage messages about fiscal responsibility via the gentle breezes that brush over my face. But what I truly believe is much more beautiful than that: that you’re everywhere, that a piece of you is in all things, that when my friends and family politely thank me for their Christmas presents, I will see you in those presents and think of you, and when those presents get continuously re-gifted at future workplace holiday parties, I will hear you echoing in eternity.

Advertisements

Being THAT Person

Here’s the thing about archetypes: they spring from truth.

I’m not particularly good at a lot of things. I’m not athletic, I’m not musical, I’m not artistic, and I have no charisma. These are the realities of life and I’m okay with it.

But when you’re young and you’re desperately searching for your place and purpose within the world, as if those things exist so simply, when you’re walking around blindfolded and swinging a stick around, looking for a piñata filled with passion, chances are you’re just gonna focus on the first thing you hit.

And my first hit was the English language.

I’m a nerd. That much is certain. But I’m not the cool kind of nerd (i.e. the ones who grow up to make a lot of money, and it turns out, the whole time, if you’d just taken off their glasses, you would’ve realized they were good-looking the whole time). I’m a word nerd. A grammar nerd. I have fiercely strong opinions about hyphens, apostrophes, and em dashes—opinions that could be summed up with the statement, “They should be used properly.”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about individual creative style. Huck Finn is my favorite book, and you can’t act like there aren’t any conventional violations in that text. Style serves a grand storytelling purpose and for that reason, it deserves utmost respect.

It took a very long time for me to get used to colloquial speech. I guess I grew up thinking that people wanted to be corrected: that my interrupting them mid-sentence to say, “You mean Mary and I,” was extremely helpful and educational, and they would walk away thinking, Not only is Jillian a considerate and charitable friend, she is also so polished and intelligent. Mary and I. Who knew?

I did realize, embarrassingly late, that they were more likely thinking, Bitch.

I remember the first time it occurred to me that I might be a bit uptight. It occurred to me because I went to a party and this person I kind of knew said, “I’m surprised to see you at a party. You usually seem pretty uptight.” Then he walked away and left me to reflect.

And the conclusion I came to was that I didn’t want to be THAT person. The person who, in the year 2008, every teenage boy came up to and said, “Why so serious?” (RIP Heath Ledger). The person who couldn’t physically handle ending a sentence with a preposition. So I set out to make some changes. As history has pointed out, you can be happy or you can be right.

It’s amazing how much actually working in the book business helped with this goal. It made me realize that while people can do their very best with quality control, no one is infallible. A book contains a lot of words and thus a lot of ways to screw them up. And while I thought I knew a lot about this language we call English, I really was ridiculously ignorant.

Then, one day, one of my interns told me she was going to write a letter to a publishing company about a typo she found in one of their books (an irrelevant typo. Not an unfortunately funny, context-changing one like public policy vs. pubic policy). My response?

“C’mon. Don’t be THAT person.”

While calling someone out for being the exact THAT person I used to be could be construed as hypocritical and bitchy, I saw this as more of an important transformative moment. Like God was moving me into the “Maybe” pile.

Here’s the thing about old habits: they run deep.

While I can’t recall a time I have outright corrected anybody in the recent past, I can say that I have made it clear that I value pristine written communication in the workplace. At work the other day, one of my colleagues got a load of my Interview Dos and Don’ts board.

She said, “Can you fix this board? ‘Dos’ should be apostrophized.”

I said, “No, I don’t believe it should be. An apostrophe indicates possession or omission of a letter. In this case, ‘Dos’ is plural, not possessive.”

“Well, thank you for the grammar lesson,” she deadpanned.

When I went home later that night, my father asked me about my work day.

“Oh, you know, just had a chat with my coworker about proper apostrophe usage.”

My brother overheard and rolled his eyes.

“Congratulations, Jill. You’re THAT person.”

The Top 5 Things I Want to Learn About in 2017

Welp, because of my last entry, I feel a need to comment on the GG revival (well, that, and I have feelings). As expected, Emily and Paris were beautiful, wild forces of nature. While I found faults in many aspects of the revival (as I do with anything; frankly I’m not sure if I’ve enjoyed a movie or TV show in years), those two characters made it worth it for me. However, (SPOILER!!!!) it ended with Rory writing a book about her life called Gilmore Girls, so I have to hate it forever now. This is one common storytelling trope I simply cannot get behind. Dear writers, why must all these writer characters have their masterpiece be the thing you wrote? That is not interesting. That is not poignant. That does not cause me to reflect on the circular nature of time. That is lame. And a bit narcissistic to say that the great work of this writer character’s life is your work. If you must write a writer, write a good writer; one who can think outside their own life story. Do not write a writer character with the hopes of seeing a better-looking version of yourself on the big screen one day and so you can further reassure your audience that your story is a GREAT STORY.

End rant.

The New Year is creeping up on us, and I’ve been thinking a lot about all the things I want to accomplish over the next 12 months. I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately. I’m grateful for my new job (can’t turn my nose up at a steady pay check and health benefits) but it’s definitely been a pace adjustment. My last job was 24/7 with phone calls, emails, planning, reading, and stress. This new job is legitimately one I can leave at 5pm on the dot and not have to worry about until I come back the next day at 9am. All well and good. No complaints. It’s just not what I’m used to. It doesn’t present me with crazy challenges every day. There aren’t any fires to put out. And because of this, I feel like I’m not exercising my mind enough. I can feel my brain turning to mush.

The bad thing is I haven’t been using my spare time to challenge myself either. There’s been a lot of sitting around and watching TV and not enough of doing the things I promised myself I would do; the things I want to do.  I want to get more serious about writing. I want to read more and experience more. I want my life to be more than sitting on a couch, watching shows I’ve already seen and/or don’t really like that much, having fleeting thoughts about my mortality and making a mental note to get a life as soon as this episode is over.

I’m a pretty curious person with a lot of interests and a desire to learn as many things as my head can carry (probably in part so I can whip it out in conversation and continue to strive for the “insufferable know-it-all” status. I am disgustingly competitive. Repartee is my men’s locker room). I am often completely overwhelmed by the amount of things I’ll never know, the amount of things I will know, and the amount of things I probably did know and have forgotten.

I’ve recently realized that there are certain broad subjects that I really just know nothing, or very little, about, and as part of Operation Non-Mush Brain, I have decided these are the things I am going to learn about in 2017. If you know about these things, feel free to share in the comments, email me, or come to my house and we can drink champagne with our pinkies out and laugh at ignorance.

Geography

I don’t know where anything is. That’s the truth.

The first test I ever did poorly on was in the 4th grade. We had to memorize the location of every town on Long Island and write it into a map. I am not a visual person. I am miserable at the “find the differences in the picture” puzzles. So this test was my nightmare. And because I am a crazy perfectionist who spends a great deal of time trying to drive memories of imperfection out of her head by screaming profanities, the results did not sit well with me. I think maybe this resulted in an aversion to geography.

That, and I have no sense of direction. I have never gone somewhere for the first time without getting lost. I feel like I only recently got the hang of North, South, East, West.

I don’t know the names of mountain ranges, seas, capitals. Let alone where they are. It’s incredibly embarrassing when I go to trivia night.

So this will be the first thing I learn about. Where things are.

How Things Work

There are so many things I use throughout the day, but I have no effing clue how they do the things they do. Because I am a serial anthropomorphizer, I am often filled with guilt for not knowing and understanding these objects better. Like I’ve been driving my car for 3.5 years now, but I don’t really know him/her. I just use him/her (my car, Victor Victoria, is gender fluid). I intend to use this upcoming year to learn about the parts that make up the whole.

Finance

I have a bank account! Why does it have to be more complicated than that?! Heck, why does it have to be more complicated than a shoebox full of cash under your bed? We should all take a leaf out of my crazy, dead aunt’s book and hide our money in paper napkins.

Investments, stocks, bonds, the economy. Not exactly my forte. The only math class I had to take in college was called Survey of Mathematics, and we didn’t really do math in that class. We just thought about it. How to manage and move your money is probably useful information to have so I guess I should get on that.

Guitar

I have magnificent fantasies of me sitting around a campfire with all the friends I am going to make once I learn to play guitar, and I dazzle them with my amazing guitar skills. In this fantasy, my fingers move swiftly and seamlessly over the strings, and not at all like they normally have the dexterity and steadiness of an alcoholic leaning on a washing machine. Plus, my singing voice becomes inexplicably awesome. While many of these things are unachievable, I have had my guitar for over a year now and I could be/would like to be a lot better at it.

Self-Care

I don’t put myself first and I spend too much time assessing my happiness to actually let myself be happy. I let people take advantage of me because I want to be loved. I’m hard on myself. I beat myself up over things that happened a long time ago and that most other involved parties don’t even remember. I need to keep myself healthy, both physically and mentally. I need to eat well and exercise but not get upset with myself when my pants are a big tighter. I need to remind myself that there is no right way to do this, that bad things happen, that good things happen, that sometimes I will be right and sometimes I won’t be, and nobody else is expecting anything of me otherwise.