My soul is designed for few things. I’d make a wonderful sharkologist, baker, basketball coach or (let’s hope) writer. I consider this a decent spread, all told.
Two weeks ago, on a balmy weekday evening, I sat at my desk in the darkening room and parsed my life enough to see that I could benefit by adding a thing or two that would make me happy. Suddenly, my soul’s skills came together, like blurring streaks of light, like Captain Planet, and aligned in the sky, shooting down to me through cracks between the windowpane and the sill. Whispering together in a silvery, harmonized voice, they hummed three numbers into my ear: 826.
826 National is a nonprofit co-founded by Dave Eggers, a flopsy-haired writer best known for “A Heartbreaking Work of a Staggering Genius,” a quasi-memoir about the semi-sudden deaths of both his parents when he was in his 20-somethings and the subsequent bringing up of his eight-year-old brother. Though I find most of his writing to be self-indulgent, high-handed and too stream-of-conscious for my taste, Eggers has become the mermaid adorning my literary generation’s ship. He’s prevalent enough that I force myself to read one of his books every so often if only to remind myself what I want not to do. 826 National is the overarching name for Eggers’s seven-or-so writing and tutoring centers aimed at students from six to 18. It’s an extremely well-run nonprofit and my job there would be to work with kids on their creative writing skills. As I faced my soul and my computer screen, with the whipping winds of my leanings circling round me, I realized I had to get over my prejudice. I had to volunteer. And it was to 826NYC that I sent my application to work for free.
Maybe it was the heady scent of my abilities or maybe it was just poor judgment, but I decided, since I was applying to be a volunteer writing tutor, that it would be appropriate to have some fun with the application. Whe asked for any non-English language abilities, I wrote “Southern; Spanish-ish.” Under the extra skills section I proclaimed proficiency in knitting and said I could grow a mean cactus.
Now, before you judge me completely clueless, know that I did consider whether this was appropriate. 826NYC seems like a fun, open environment, but it isn’t unprofessional. I worried that my joking would be misunderstood but figured other writers would be reading the application, so why not put the creative in creative writing.
It’s been two weeks, and I have not heard anything from 826 National, 826 NYC, 826 Topeka or any other branch. This potential rejection ranks almost as highly as that one summer when I applied to two McDonald’s, a Burger King, three Hardee’s and one Carl’s Jr./Long John Silver’s and was rejected from all. Clearly I haven’t become more marketable.
So I sit, 14 days later, in my darkening room and laugh as my soul’s true talents fly back out the window and into the New York night.