Month: February 2011

How a robot and Cincinnati's Hottest Bachelor taught me that anything is possible

Picture a thirty-something Asian man from California who went to West Point Academy and served as an Army Captain in Afghanistan. Now picture him living in Cincinnati and working with my boyfriend. Picture them hitting it off through a mutual love of practical jokes and other ridiculous things (like a giant poster of David Hasselhoff as Knight Rider, or Ascot Friday). Now picture my boyfriend nominating that man for a radio station’s contest to find Cincinnati’s Hottest Bachelor.

You have just pictured the last two weeks of my life.

What started as a prank turned into an all-out, world-wide campaign for J.W. (I’ll use his initials to spare him any (further) embarrassment.) At first Andy sent the email and link to vote to only a handful of close friends and colleagues. Each of them in turn forwarded the email to (I’m sure) only a handful of close friends and colleagues. From there, things began to snowball, and by the end of the first day of voting, J.W. was neck-and-neck with 2 other men in a field of over 40.

That’s when Andy got serious.

Andy has always been one of the most focused, dedicated, hard-working people I know. (Robot, I may have called him on occasion.) But he tackled this challenge with more passion and childlike excitement than I have ever seen. Every morning he would wake up and ask me, “Who’s in the lead?” Every night when he came home he would say to me urgently, “Did you vote yet? You have to vote!”

Vote we did. And after a couple days, J.W. and some guy named “Dreamboat” had taken the lead. They were unreachable.

Then something changed. The radio station hid the vote counts. They wanted the winner to be a surprise. Andy got nervous. Would our friends stop voting if they couldn’t see a direct correlation between their click and J.W.’s odds of success? Would Dreamboat take the lead without us even knowing? Were all of our hopes and dreams about to come crashing down?!

Instead of just sitting around, worrying and moping, Andy took action. He appointed himself J.W.’s campaign manager and sent out daily reminders to vote, full of rousing language and embarrassing praise for (or jabs at) J.W. He created a slogan. He even recorded an audio ad based off the Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man In the World” commercials. (FYI, it is AMAZING. He sent it in to the radio station but I don’t think they ever played it.) And he did all of this while working full-time, going to MBA classes at night, reassuring his girlfriend that her decision to quit her job and write wasn’t insane, cooking dinner, playing with the dog, and watching Syracuse basketball games.

(See? Robot!)

At last came the night. The night. The night of the radio station’s “Little Red Dress” party, where women could mingle with the bachelors and then Cincinnati’s Hottest would be announced. The night was last night, and let me tell you, Andy was as fidgety as a kid on his way to Disney World.

You may have already guessed this, but I’ll say it anyway: J.W. won. Andy’s efforts were rewarded. We all lost our voices cheering with glee. (We had the largest fan contingency by far.)

After we went home that night, I couldn’t help reflecting on the series of events that had led us to that glorious victory. I realized that what had started as a mere joke, a little email, had spread like wildfire, and erupted into a story that I think Andy will tell for 100 years. Was J.W. the most likely candidate? No. But he had friends, and his friends had faith. One friend in particular went the extra mile. And that’s all it took.

Anything is possible. Even this:

dsc_0490

Happy things

coho-cookies
Cute & delicious sendoff cookies from my coworkers

working writer sleeping pup
Me and the pup on my first day as a full-time writer
(One of us was working hard, one of us was hardly working…)

Last days

1.

I can’t even begin to tell you how ready I was to leave Texas. To put high school behind me. My senior year was unusually full of Suck (although in fairness to my friends, there was a decent amount of Wonderful too) and I needed a fresh start. So my parents and I loaded up our Jeep with all my books and clothes and bedding, and we headed for Pittsburgh. For the next stage of my life.

I don’t remember a lot about the drive, but I do remember one particular moment really well. We were on the freeway, just leaving Houston city limits. I was sitting behind the passenger seat, leaning into the corner, with my knees pulled up to my chest and my head against the window. Outside, telephone poles and used car lots were flying by. Soon they gave way to low, empty grasslands.

I wasn’t feeling scared. But I wasn’t happy either. I was just ready. For something new. And as I stared out the window, the sky gray, the ground flat, I had no clue what that something would be like. I didn’t really care.

2.

College was, as promised, the best four years of my life. I know that isn’t how it turns out for everyone, but I guess I got lucky. I made friends, I had fun, and I learned a ton about writing. I also met the man I plan to marry, and at the end of my senior year, he invited me to move in with him.

So on a hot day in May, I walked across the stage and got my diploma. The next afternoon I loaded up the Jeep once again, now with even more books and clothes and bedding. Alone, I made the short drive to Cincinnati, where my boyfriend was waiting in our new condo.

I cried as I pulled away from my dorm. I didn’t want to let go. I wanted to keep the past, even as I was looking forward to the future with Andy. I thought giving up one thing for another meant losing it forever. Losing that part of myself.

3.

I have purposely not talked much about my job. After all, that can be a dangerous thing to do on the web. But as I announced a few weeks ago, I recently resigned, and yesterday was my last day. I think it’s safe to say that I loved the company where I worked, and I especially loved my coworkers. They were my first friends here in Cincinnati; they made this city feel like home.

I did cry as I drove away from the office. But then a couple guys in the car next to me looked over, and I didn’t want to share my tears with them so I pulled myself together.

After that, it was easy not to cry. Because I wasn’t sad anymore. I realized that I’m embarking on a new stage in my life — a new chapter, if you will — but that doesn’t mean the last chapter isn’t still there, that it isn’t still a part of my story. It is. My coworkers aren’t going anywhere; I’m the one that left. But I can still go back, and I will.

Every last day is also a first.

This is the beginning of my life as a full-time writer. This is a celebration.

Shedding

On the eve of my last day of work, and on the first day of the Chinese New Year, I came home to find my leopard gecko shedding her skin. The symbolism didn’t escape me.

(Please ignore my obnoxious commentary…)

My mom called me during dinner and said, Gong xi fa cai! That’s the standard Chinese New Year saying and means, more or less, Best Wishes, Make Money! Then she said, “Well, I guess you’re probably not going to fa cai this year.” No, Mom, probably not.

Heart flutter

I’ve got to admit that I’ve been happier than I have been in a long time. And it’s not because I have deal prospects or whatever. It’s because I love what I’m writing, and my opinion is really the only one I can control. So I will write what I makes me smile, what make my heart flutter, what keeps me up at night with ideas and characters and dialogue.

– Natalie Whipple, “You’re the Artist — It’s Your Job to Write What You Love”

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