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Never Underestimate the Power of a Cowl Neck Sweater

Whether fueled by a few fingers’ worth of Glenrothes scotch, or a flip through a yearbook, each of us, at some point, casts a retrospective glance to the past–seeking out some sort of rationale for how we ended up drunk, flipping through a yearbook.

No?

Well, then maybe a friend, or instructor, or belligerent heroin addict reminds us of some inherent ability we have–something we don’t readily acknowledge because we don’t really think it’s a big deal, it’s nothing to be celebrated or nurtured.

***

And it just so happened that when Andy and I got accosted by a familiar belligerent heroin addict this past weekend, my first thought–“She’s really added layers to the story about why she needs $44.01 this week”–reminded me that I remember odd details.

And that, usually, I like remembering them.

Because every weird detail is a story in and of itself.

And someone has to write it down.

So why shouldn’t that be me?

***

For whatever reason, last night I dreamt that I bumped into my favorite high school English teacher. Who, coincidentally, was on the same grocery aisle as my soon-to-be BFFs Brad Goreski and his partner Gary, a renowned sitcom writer.

And while it was amazing that none of them cared that I happened to be loading pallets of Sour Patch Kids into a tiny shopping cart–yes, it’s my dream!–seeing that shade of my former English teacher reminded me of his class and how much I’d enjoyed it.

And then, a few synaptic misfires later, my dreamy mind jumped to my college English Lit instructors–Ms. Hogan, a whip-smart nurturer, and Dr. DeFrancisco, a lanky, imposing sort whose chiseled, constantly clenched jaw rarely contorted into a smile.

While so seemingly different, each of them had pulled me aside after the first few classes to encourage me to take a higher-level Lit class–Ms. Hogan kindly suggesting, Dr. DeFrancisco directly ordering.

Each time, I’d thought about it. Then promptly decided such classes didn’t mesh well enough with my schedule to warrant their accommodation.

And, anyway, I didn’t see any reason I should.

I mean, sure, I liked to write in my spare time. But that writing and writing-for-grades were completely separate processes, ne’er to be tied together through a writerly thematic thread.

Plus, I had archaeology. It was a cool major with a whip and a fedora and a Harrison Ford. Not the ho-hum alternative with an argyle sweater and a dog-eared copy of Shakespeare’s finest works.

***

But after waking up this morning to the reality that the job I just left was the nail in my archaeology profession’s coffin, I’ve thought about a lot.

Regrets.

Mistakes.

Oh, and yeah, my past instructors’ suggestions that I cultivate my writing.

Mostly because I’m finally going to try to make this whole writing thing work. Even if it’s a long shot. Enough people have told me that I should go for it. And if I’ve learned nothing else in life, it’s that I probably should take others’ praise and advice more seriously, and stop assuming they’re just being kind.

Because maybe they’re right.

Just like they were about a particular cowI neck sweater of Andy’s, er, mine. The first few times I tried it on, it seemed oddly shaped and frizzy. So I just threw it back into the sweater pile. But then, one of those days didn’t afford me the luxury of being picky, so I threw it on and trudged to work.

Trying not to make Weezer references...

And I got compliments on it the whole day.

Not only that, but I got stopped and told how great it looked from all sorts–from soldiers to soccer moms, grandparents to hipsters. So I figured, huh, maybe I can pull this thing off.

***

And sure, while treating a cowl neck sweater like an fortune-telling eight ball isn’t the most sane way of anticipating the future, it can serve as a reminder.

To use stain remover on balsamic vinaigrette drips.

And to make myself uncomfortable.

Push my boundaries.

Use writing to explore all of the things tumbling around in my mind, even if I don’t think they’ll translate well to written word. Because, who knows, maybe that one turn of phrase, that one saying of mine will be exactly the bit to spur me forward.

It’ll be my cowl neck sweater.

Something that’ll work despite my best efforts to tell myself that it won’t.

That’ll show me that, just maybe, I’m pretty put together after all.

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