Things on my corkboard: Fortune cardboards.

Several (probably nigh on a half-dozen) years ago—when I was first applying to grad school, actually, a round of applications that were all rejected (edit: I think it was before this, but really I have no fucking idea—who remembers shit like that? Not me)—I’d purchased a few cases of Jones Soda for some party or other that we were having.

A bottle of Jones Soda has a fortune printed inside the cap, but since cans don’t have bottle-caps, Jones prints (or printed at the time—I think the packaging has changed?) the fortunes on the cardboard case the cans come in.

On this day, whenever it was, two of the fortunes jumped out at me as particularly significant (though I know, of course, that their significance is primarily a function of my decision to see them as significant—as relevant to my specific situation, &c, whatever).

They were: “You are headed in the right direction” and “Ask yourself why.”

I cut them out. They went, as a pair, onto my corkboard. They helped me get through the application process and the soul-crushing stack of (six) rejection letters that the process resulted in. They were, also, a factor in my decision to go through the application process again—successfully, this time.

At some point, I took the corkboard off the wall, took everything off of it, and bagged it up: the wall space in the room it was in had been … redistributed.

When I got (more-or-less) permanent office space on campus—in the fall of 2010, a full nine months before I started writing this post, and more months than I want to count before the actual posting (with some revision) of this post—the corkboard had a new home, and (almost) everything went back up on it. New things, too, as I acquire or unearth them (like a one-armed LEGO ninja that I found on the sidewalk, and a Return-of-the-Jedi-era stormtrooper action figure from my childhood).

One thing that didn’t make it was the “You are headed in the right direction” fortune: it disappeared somewhere, into the æther, into nonbeing, into the trash, who knows. I no longer know if I’m headed in the right direction—most days I’m not even sure what direction I’m headed in at all. I still have the other one, though, and it’s still on my corkboard. “Ask yourself why.” I try to, and I try to teach my students to do the same. Never stop asking, even when you get answers—the answers should just produce new questions. Ask yourself why.

It’s fucking exhausting, just like when a kid does it to you.


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