The Challenge

Aren’t you a little too old for that?


On the further side of thirtysomething and gray hairs starting to add salt to my pepper, I have decided to begin again. Personally. Professionally. I’m lucky though. This isn’t the kind of situation where I was perp-walked out of the building in front of colleagues and into involuntary vocational re-evaluation. I wasn’t laid off. I wasn’t  “let go” or “downsized” or “reassigned” or the victim of “market trends” or “organizational restructuring” or “unavoidable economic cutbacks.” I’m not a member of the new “white establishment minority” (seriously O’Reilly?) who’s getting theoretically screwed over by Obama’s election or re-election. I’m just a guy who wanted a challenge. Needed a change. I wanted to remind myself what it is like to start out with nothing, to build a life and career in these times. And I’m not alone. College graduates pour out of institutions of higher education every semester and are facing the same situation. Successful professionals with years of experience are being forced to face it too.

So, late one Kuala Lumpur night, staring bleary-eyed into the bathroom mirror, here’s the challenge I issued to myself: After ten years living abroad working as an international school teacher in Venezuela and Malaysia, you’re going to move back to the US at one of the most problematic economic times in recent history and try to create a career in publishing, an area many consider to be a “dying industry” (I don’t agree with this at all, but more on that later).  Oh, and you’ll do it in New York City, not only one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in but also a city that draws the best of the best in every industry to vie for work in a job market that’s experiencing George Costanza-style shrinkage. Your experience in teaching will basically be considered worthless since most people have no idea what teachers actually do and yet because they have gone to school feel they know exactly what teachers do (more on this later too, as I feel a rant coming on), and you know all of about two people in the city, neither of whom works in publishing.

Now, you may be thinking what many of my teaching colleagues actually said in the same tone of voice that Merlin uses near the end of Top Gun when Maverick says he’s going to bring the Mig in closer, “You’re going to do what?”

Yes, I’m beginning again. I gave my notice to the boss (a fantastic Australian who smiled at the news I was leaving and in typical Aussie fashion told me to “fuck-off”), put all my belongings into storage in Malaysia save what could fit in a duffel bag and a suitcase, and came to New York. Please refrain from picturing me throwing my hat into the air Mary Tyler Moore-style upon arrival, that was Minneapolis anyway, or associate me with any song about making it in New York, that includes both Frank and Jay-Z. The whole situation sounds cliché enough.

So here I am, starting over. And that means going at it like I’m starving and fresh out of college (or starving and fresh out of a job…which is actually more accurate). I may have a few more years of experience, a few more stories to tell, but, like every other rube around, I’m still the new guy. I’m still begging for work. I’m still saying yes to anything, and I mean anything, because whether you’re starting out or starting over every opportunity is a chance to grow.

And that’s how I’ve become…the gray-haired intern.


15 thoughts on “The Challenge

  1. Reblogged from

    Where’s My Quasi-Agent?

    Tuesday, November 20, 2012.

    Dearest 23:

    Just read Travis Temple’s blog. He’s my quasi-agent, or I’m his quasi-client…we haven’t really decided how this works, yet. He’s in New York. I’m in Malaysia. I married. He’s sort of single, but he’s a terrific hound-dog. He’s got this ridiculous mop of hair; I’m bald as a beet. I’m unpublished; he’s not published anyone. I’m stoic. He’s…Travis. I think it will work out well. I responded to his blog and signed on as a follower. I care about what my quasi-agent is saying; after all, he could be slandering me.

    I think Travis should be signed up as a follower of my blog. Don’t you? What the hell kind of quasi-agent doesn’t want to read the blasphemy and corrupt spewings of his quasi-client? I bet Maxwell Perkins would have been regularly logged onto Fitzgerald’s blog (which would have been a masterful work of messy drunkenness). I bet he would have cared about what sneaky Hemmingway was writing in his, and Ring Lardner, and Thomas Wolfe. I know that Runkle is logged onto Hank Moody’s, and I bet Jann Wenner would have logged onto Hunter S’s ramblings…man, the possibilities of those dudes on blogs, frightening and grand. But back to my quasi-agent: why isn’t he logged into this? Is it too self-possessed for him? Too self-indulgent…wait, that’s what blogs are for…what the hell does blog stand for anyway? Is it an acronym? It’s certainly not a word, is it? some sort of hybrid newspeak that’s dragging the Queen’s English down the torrid gutter?

    So there it is.

    On the writing side—and off the rambling—I will be sending quasi-agent Temple a copy of the difference? tomorrow, as it edges its way towards completion. The plan is to create a modern adult picture book out of it with the help of skilled German artist, Will Kempkes. I’m quite excited.

    The kindly advertising lady at the Salmon Arm (Salmon City) newspaper has again asked if my ad for the meaning is to run before the end of the year. I really don’t know how to respond. Chur-iste. Is it ready? Am I ready to send that child out into the cold world?


    Where’s my quasi-agent when I need his stalwart guidance? (In a shitty bar, I hope, as I wouldn’t want a quasi-agent any other way.)

  2. Ok, Runkle-Hank-Perkins, you’re there, and its silver-haired, not grey: grant yourself that much dignity, please. Yes, you’re the new guy, so kick some new-guy ass; my children are depending on you, and when they get old enough, and if you fail me, they’ll shred you like inbred pit bulls ( I’ve already hung an old tire from the Volvo in their room which they hang of till all hours of the night).

    I’m the first pony in your pony train–buddy-boy–so I’m the closest to your ass, that be as it may (and as unsavory as it seems), it also allows me the best view of your direction. Get the move on, pony, giddy-the-fuck-up. You may be the silver fox, but I’m the bald-eagle and I’m watching you. Get me a contract. I’m dying, here.

    Move-’em-out, little doggie. It’s been four months in the city that never sleeps. Let’s roll.


  3. Considering how often I meet with people who at 50+ have yet to explore the possibilities that life holds, congratulations on being WAY ahead of the curve!

  4. I think this is an amazing idea, if even half the adults I knew had the guts to do this they’d be much happier people. I dont deny its crazy, and its going to be difficult… but Ive always said to everyone that I would rather be hungry and broke than stable and bored.

  5. I’ve seen you do insane daring and crazy things ever since you leap into a fountain with all your clothes at age 4 just for the fun of it. You WILL land on your feet and survive to thrive and tell us all about it. p.s. I’m still saving your punching bag, assorted books, a bed, and some china you said you wanted. So when you have a house, you know where we are. Love, Mom 🙂

  6. What you need to do is get a job in the mail room of a top flight publishing firm and then locate a vacant executive office where you will execute your ideas and eventually impress everyone.

  7. Good for you for taking such a huge risk (and sharing your journey with us all.) Change isn’t easy but it’s how we grow. At least, this is what smarter people have told me.

    You’ll do amazing things in NYC. It’s the city where magic happens, if you let it.

    Leap and the net will appear, GHI. It always does…

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