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It’s an odd title for a post on this social analytical blog, an odd sentiment for the perennial optimist with an impressive if unusual resume (see About Steve Harvey). But, as I’ve often said, and have even occasionally highlighted in my own case, we are not just disembodied minds cognitively engaging with an infinitely yielding world; we are also fallible and vulnerable human beings struggling with the sometimes terrifying challenges of life on Earth.

But I would not use this blog for this purpose, to address this theme, if it did not also serve some informative function, did not in some way contribute to the large, complex, multifaceted map of our social institutional landscape and our role in it that I am, brushstroke by brushstroke, attempting to paint here. Sometimes, broad understandings are best illustrated by particular examples, and as the voice of Colorado Confluence, it may be that all of my moods need to be expressed for this ongoing opus to develop most completely.

The irony is that the challenges I am currently confronting are trivial in comparison to those of most of humanity, and yet they are crushing me under their weight, particularly because I have an eight year old daughter who depends on me absolutely, and who I can’t bear to let down. We don’t measure our circumstances against global or historical standards, but rather against our own expectations, our own sense of what is “normal,” that of those similarly situated, and can, at times, jump out of Wall Street windows for losing what few ever dreamed of possessing in the first place.

The worst that is imminently threatening me and my family, at least for a while, is that we may have to sell our house and possessions and move into an apartment. But we love our home, our “Casa Azul,” with it’s brightly painted walls and beautiful little garden, as if it were an extension of ourselves, and losing it doesn’t even feel like an option I can contemplate. I can’t accept that it’s one I should have to.

As a teenager, I tried, with imperfect success, to take to heart Thoreau’s admonition in Walden not to live a life of quiet desperation, and not to come to the end of my days wondering if I had ever really lived. (Ironically, in Walden, he also mentioned the burden of having a costly house, the absence of which made one far freer, a lesson I had also lived by until starting a family.) After spending the first quarter century or so of my adulthood serving that commitment by pursuing my dream of writing an epic novel that would distill and express some aspect of the essence of our existence in beautiful and eddifying form, and doing so by pursuing experiences and studies that I thought would best prepare me to discover such a novel amidst the swirls and eddies of our collective consciousness, I’ve spent the last ten years or so (since the novel’s completion) in transition, seeking a path toward more robustly affecting human consciousness through the social institutional landscape which is its embodiment.

To do so, first I taught high school, then went to law school, then did some short contracts addressing child and family and mental health services. But I find myself now both unemployed (or nearly so) and apparently unemployable. The institutional world assumes I have no place in it because I dared to live a life which frequently deviated from the well-worn paths signalling to institutional actors a readiness to play a prescribed role in an adequately ritualized way.

At the risk of sounding bitter (which, unfortunately, I am, a bit, at the moment), little happens of great significance without imagination and a touch of bravado, and yet the institutional captains of social change cling to their unimaginative and safe check lists instead, and, by doing so, virtually guarantee that they will at best facilitate marginal improvements even under circumstances in which dramatic transformations are possible. That, of course, leaves me, with great talents and passion and a particular insight into how to ply those social systemic opportunities to maximum effect, and a desire to put all of that to work and to feed and house my family by doing so, out in the cold, almost literally, for not enough squares next to my name are ever checked off (though the squares next to my name that would be, were the producers of such checklists able to imagine greater possibilities, far exceed in value and scarcity and difficulty of being reproduced any of the superficial and easily rectified deficiencies that disqualify me). It’s enough to make one scream, which I am clearly in the process of doing, at least virtually.

I know, profoundly and absolutely, as most who have seen me in action or have read my musings know almost as certainly, that I have something unique and valuable to contribute to this human endeavor of ours, that I am able and eager to do so with intense discipline and contagious enthusiasm, and that my impressive but atypical resume is part of what recommends me for positions that that same impressive but atypical resume prevents me from getting.

It is that last fact that is driving me to the brink of despair. As I wrote recently on my Facebook page, I’m stuck in the mud on the road less traveled, hauling a cartload of esoteric cognitive wares. The night is deepening, the weather worsening, and those cherished trinkets serve no purpose unless I can get them to market, and get out of this desolate place.

Most recently (and the catalyst for this musing), I was invited first for a phone interview for a position that would be perfect for me, as the program director for an educational initiative whose logic I am intimately and professionally familiar with, and whose potential I am keenly aware of. I misread the signals, mistaking an invitation the next day to schedule an in-person interview, despite being told on the phone that such interviews would not be scheduled for a few more weeks, as an indication that they were particularly impressed with me, and wanted to move forward more quickly.

I decided to spend all of my limited political capital to seal the deal, excited and relieved to have finally found both the perfect position (which I had not yet encountered in a year and a half of looking) and an apparent reciprocal recognition that I was the perfect person to fill it (a recognition which, at least on their part, turned out to be illusory). I emailed friends and acquaintances who hold or had held public offices (including one U.S. Senator who generously came through for me), particularly those associated with education, executive directors of nonprofits and other prominent public figures, and asked them to contact either my interviewers or members of the board of trustees of the organization to which I was applying, which most did, effusively praising me. Some of them, I cannot ask again. Others, I’m embarrassed to continue to impose upon. It was capital spent and now depleted or diminished.

I arrived at the interview yesterday, unfortunately completely sleep deprived (unable to fall asleep at all the night before, something that rarely happens to me, but happened this time), only to discover my error; whatever the reason for the accelerated interview schedule, it was not some particular enthusiasm for me as a candidate. One of my interviewers, it seemed to me, was looking for candidates that satisfied the conventional check list, which I never do. I was thrown off, answered a couple of questions badly, became too animated when expressing my passion for the mission that the position represented to me, and was thanked at the end of the interview for my interest, and told that I would be contacted by the end of the week as to whether I would be invited for the next round a week and a half later.

I fell from the brink of salvation to the depths of despair in the blink of an eye. My dream job seemingly within reach was a mirage that shimmered and disappeared in the hot desert sun. I have been unable to recover from the disappointment. Even if, improbably, I am invited back for the next round, it was clear that the criteria to which I will be held are the criteria that discount me. My unique talents, my ability to rapidly learn whatever knowledge and skills are required, my passion and creativity and social institutional savvy, my leadership qualities and organizational acumen, all are irrelevant at the levels at which I must enter, because they’re qualities too valuable to be valued, in too short supply and too hard to measure to be placed on the check list of criteria to be considered.

So writing this is my therapy and my refuge. It is my note in a bottle, flung into the sea, giving me hope that maybe someone will find it and send a ship out to fetch me. When you find yourself stranded on a desert isle, you grasp hold of what hope you can.

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