My 90 Year Old Grandpa Runs a Greenhouse and I Can’t Even Write a Damn Blog Post?

After almost a month of radio silence on here, I didn’t think my first returning post would be about my grandpa’s horticulture habits but… Here we are. It’s the only thing I could get excited about on this Friday afternoon. I know it’s St. Patrick’s Day but can I just admit that I don’t give a shit? I’m not even a little bit Irish and frankly my European genes resent this holiday on principle.

Let me give you the scoop- I thought it was a thing for EVERYONE’S Grandpa to have a massive garden full of vegetables in their backyard. I thought that was just what grandpas did… Pop Pop had his… and my Opa had a massive swampland surrounding a ramshackle barn filled with uncategorizable paraphernalia, there had to be a garden in there somewhere right? The obligatory grandpa garden?

Pop Pop lives in Wisconsin in a podunk village called Greenville. The most exciting things happening in this village are A.) Anything pertaining to the Green Bay Packers B.) The massive Costco a couple miles down the road and C.) Tractor style lawnmowers (both in practice and as a concept.) Wisconsin is booger-icicle cold for 75% of the year and for the other 25% (I really had to think about those percentages… Math is hard for me) so humid that your tears of anguish mix with with your sweat and blood to form an unrecognizable fluid that even renowned doctors don’t have a word for.

In case you haven’t gathered- this is not the ideal climate for gardening. Unless you’re really into pine trees and other coniferous fare (Pop Pop is not into that type of fare.) Pop Pop was in the Navy and he doesn’t take no for an answer. He also worked at a meatpacking plant back in the Upton Sinclair days (I’ve asked him how accurate that hot dog description was and he wouldn’t tell me.) Pop Pop will defeat mother nature while still maintaining a Midwestern Charm that makes him such a threat to society. Pop Pop scoffs at impossible, because really, nothing is impossible for Pop Pop.

I was the pickiest eater in the world when I was younger, I blame it on not having a sense of smell but honestly I was just a finicky turd. I’d pretty much only eat pizza, chicken tenders and peanut butter. Somehow, though, Pop Pop got me to eat green beans from his garden. And when I say this I mean the man literally got me to eat the entire pod raw and covered in soil. To the point where my mom was like “Is that even healthy?” And Pop Pop told her it would help my immune system and make me big and strong (jokes on you, mom, he was right!) I didn’t really like the taste, I just really wanted Pop Pop’s approval and I hoped that someday I could inherit his garden AND rare coin collection.

“How does Pop Pop’s garden survive the winter?” You’re wondering with concern…

You probably figured Pop Pop didn’t think about that… But what did I tell you? Nothing is impossible for Pop Pop. He spits on “impossible.”

He turned his entire basement into a greenhouse. If you didn’t know it was Pop Pop’s basement you’d think it belonged to a serial killer, an aspiring and confused surgeon, a museum curator who takes his work home with him, or really anyone who feels the need to hang fluorescent lights from every inch of their ceiling in hopes that they will stimulate the growth of another lifeform by providing synthetic sunlight. I don’t really know why Pop Pop trusted us kids to go down there back in the day, because all we would do is take running leaps onto his plant wagon destroying everything in our path. Except the plants. Somehow.

Today I got a text from my mom letting me know she’s planting in the basement garden to prepare the seedlings for spring harvest. She told me they’ll be cleaning out 75 pots whilst listening to soft classical music (AKA Pop Pop music.) Pop Pop has every detail about the garden plotted in a tattered looseleaf notebook that only he can read. Not because it’s in code, but because his handwriting is so horrendous that he’s the only living human who can interpret it. He keeps this precious notebook locked safely in his “Coin Room” a room that my brothers are often dragged into for unsolicited rare coin lectures. My dad goes in willingly and is secretly lobbying to inherit the coin collection (even though he’s not blood related.) A battle for another day I suppose. Just beware… I see you, Alex.

In all seriousness, I’ve been complaining about not having any inspiration to write for weeks now. I claim that writing is my passion and I want to make a career out of it. I claim it comes naturally to me and that I’d do whatever it takes to succeed with it. But I just went a month without posting to this blog, with no valid excuse for it. I’ve been the prototypical “uninspired writer” with the insufferably cliched “writer’s block.” And if I’m being totally honest, I’ve felt pretty damn insecure about everything I almost posted.

Pop Pop is 90 years old. For the last 10 years my mom and her siblings have begged him to stop gardening. They don’t want him to get injured walking down the steep stairs to the basement (they’re VERY steep, no joke I’ve fallen down them several times.) He assures them that he’ll tone it down, but he continues to sneak in there day after day to tend to the glorious Wisco Greenhouse he’s worked tirelessly to perfect. The only time Pop Pop won’t garden is when he PHYSICALLY CAN’T.

Yet, here I am. Living in Los Angeles, spending hours on Reddit saving memes to a folder on my desktop at work called “Dank Memes” and sending them to my friends on iMessage. Here I am buying Kombucha on tap for $4.00 at work and still living with myself. Here I am getting stoned, eating an entire pint of ice cream and watching the Bachelor on Tuesday nights to feel better about my life. Here I am, afraid to write about things that matter because of how I believe people will react.

All of us unmotivated pieces of shit need to live like Pop Pop. Pursue your passion until your body refuses to let you do so anymore. And even then, keep doing it and do it well. There’s no excuse for giving up on something that you claim to love doing. If you really want to be successful you have to devote yourself to doing so. No more of this month long gap bullshit. No more fear. Chips Are Back in Town.

And as Pop Pop loves to ask “Whaddya say to that!?”

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The man, the myth, the legend… And the woman who constantly keeps him on his toes.

 

I Was Wrong About My Career Path

It has been a few weeks and naturally, it’s Wednesday, so I am mustering up just enough little travel-sized fucks to give in order to write something arbitrary. As much as I’d love to write something heartfelt about my triumphs and tribulations in 2016, I know for a fact that none of you want to read that. How do I know? Because literally every time I see one of those manifestos on my Facebook feed and I have the option to click “See More” I click it just to see how unbearably long it REALLY could be, then when I’m met with the wall of text that follows I start inevitably hating the person who wrote it. I don’t need to read any of it, I just hate you for sitting down writing it out and thinking that it’s important or relevant to another human being that you got super “woke” in 2016 and then you also went apple picking with your grandma for the last time before she died. 

My only valuable information to bestow upon the minute demographic who consistently reads this blog is that 2016 was the year I finally admitted I was wrong about a lot of things. (Everyone loves to read about another person’s failure, right?) In fact, I was so wrong that I lost sight of who I was and fell into what some wonderful people in my life will refer to as “a downward spiral.” Call it what you want, it wasn’t fun and if I can help you avoid it by writing this post you’ll thank me later. Or maybe you won’t because you’ll never have to find out what happens when you eat too much of your friend’s edibles in Vegas.

I tell people all the time that I’ve known I wanted to be a writer since I was around 7 years old. That sounds absurd because let’s be honest, can seven year olds even write coherently? (No they cannot) I actually kept some of my embarrassing kitten covered “cat-lady-in-the-making” journals from first grade so that I can go back and read them. Granted, most of it looks and sounds like something I’d write while blackout drunk in current times. (AKA talking about my cat’s fluffy tail and being really really mean to boys I have a crush on.) I still remember my second grade teacher Mrs. Schwebach pulling me aside in class, intensely staring at me (a la Billy Madison) and telling me that I should never stop writing. She didn’t have to tell me that, I knew I never would.

When you love something so much and derive so much pleasure from it, you want to make it your career. I landed on writing for television because the stars aligned and my dream school (Boston University) offered a highly competitive program. Given my unhealthy obsession with Family Guy from age 12 onward I felt like it was a no-brainer. Writing for animated comedy, bam. Done deal.

I moved out to LA right after I graduated and busted my ass to try to get into a writers room. I got so close I could taste it on so many occasions but if it came down to me and one other person it would somehow always end up being the other person. It was hard not to take all of the rejection personally and keep putting myself out there through the highly uncomfortable interview process. But I did, and I desperately settled for job after job in the unscripted world. For those not in Entertainment, that means Reality TV. Yeah, I know, I shudder at the thought as well. 

I’d go to lectures and hear people I admire discuss what it took for them to succeed. Everyone’s path was different and so much of the journey depended on luck, chance and sacrifice. For many writers their work was their life, and that life was filled with uncertainty and emotional volatility. I identified with these people and I saw so many similarities in our personalities, I wanted so badly to be them. I remember sitting at a panel where Dan Harmon spoke and I drooled over every single word he said. He is still my idol and someone whose career I dreamed of replicating. 

I’m not sure when the doubt first started creeping in, but when it did I desperately tried to suppress it. I never doubted whether or not I was capable of handling the pressure, workload, and dedication it would take if I did get my chance. I just started to doubt if it was really what I wanted.

Over the course of my multiple job changes, I formed a mental list of what I wanted in my ideal job. The list formed as follows:

  • A degree of work/life balance
  • Stability
  • Livable income
  • At a large company with protection for employees
  • Potential for upward mobility
  • Identifiable and healthy culture (not necessarily healthy-living based, but one I can get behind)
  • Respectful bosses and coworkers

This list seems a bit basic, and when I shared it with some friends from home they actually laughed at me.

Well if you’re in the Entertainment Industry you might find yourself reading the list and unable to check off a single one of those items. I know I have worked at multiple companies where none of those things were present. It’s easy to fall into jobs like that because they have a high turnover rate because, shocker: no one wants them.

Bottom line, I wanted to stop hating my job. I wanted to feel like there were opportunities for me that weren’t based on luck. I wanted to stop leaving the office counting down the days until I could finally get the job I wanted. I wanted to find a job where I could actually push myself and challenge myself until I earned the next job in line. While this is entirely possible in Entertainment, it wasn’t lining up for me and the companies I landed at.

It’s still too soon for me to say whether my new career path will work out, but I feel immensely better every day when I come into this office. I feel like I have a shot, and like I can work my ass off and feel good about what I produce. I look around and see people who are happy to be here and who are talented at what they do. I am part of a culture that makes me feel proud, rather than ashamed.

It was hard as hell admitting that I was wrong. But when I finally accepted it and moved forward, some other major things fell into place. (I finally figured out how to carve my own Costco rotisserie chicken without help!) 2016 was a piece of shit year for a lot of reasons, and who’s to say 2017 won’t also blow up massively in my face? As dumb as it sounds, I find that I have a renewed purpose in my life. I am motivated more than I ever have been before. I am beginning to feel like MAYBE, just maybe, I can sort my shit out.

So if you’ve read this far, all I’m saying to you is not to be too proud to admit when you’re wrong. Especially when the desire to be “right” is making you miserable. It’s not worth it. You deserve to be happy, you deserve to feel fulfilled. It’s easy to get comfortable in something you know isn’t right for you because it’s… easy. You’re really fucking good at something and the right company will offer you a chance to prove that to them. Go find that company.

As for writing… I’ll never stop writing. Duh, I have this stupid website. Also, there are a million different jobs that need good writers. I’ll land on my feet, probably. And if I don’t, I’ll sell my soul to Donald Trump.

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